Before you read and reply to my musings, please bear in mind as I want to make clear, I am not trying to debate whether pacifism is good or bad in the real world, I am just putting out my interpretation of Tolkien’s writings (both in the books and in his letters) to try and work out how Tolkien himself regarded pacifism, and specifically, whether he himself actually regarded Bombadil as the Hero many hold him as.
Tom Bombadil has a very strong fan base, full of people who claim he holds a secret power. A power used to withstand the Ring- and had a strong heart/power in his choice of pacifism. Some even claiming he had close to the power (in his own way) to Sauron and the Maiar themselves!
It is clear to me, from Tolkien’s writings, that Tolkien did not approve at all of Bombadil’s pacifistic approach, and regarded it as completely powerless in every way- or at least regarded it as a childish stance to take. In his notes he writes,
"But if you have, as it were taken 'a vow of poverty', renounced control, and take your delight in things for themselves without reference to yourself... the rights and wrongs of power and control might become utterly meaningless."
After reading this a few times, I can only think that Tolkien is casting pacifism in a negative light, saying it means you no longer care about rights and wrongs. And this goes completely against the overarching theme to his stories, that good is worth fighting for.
"Power to defy our Enemy is not in him, unless such power is in the earth itself. And yet we see that Sauron can torture and destroy the very hills."
Gandalf's own words, showing that it isn't power or resilience in Bombadil that make him "withstand" the ring, but actually merely a total lack of interest in the lives of others- hardly a noble trait in a world of good vs evil. Even in Bombadil’s history it is clear he was the First to come to Middle Earth, the embodiment of the Earth and the Animals, both of which are also indifferent when it comes to the War.
In this respect, Bombadil is actually painted as the most useless person in Middle Earth, in need of being looked after by those who WILL fight for good. Even the Ent’s went to battle when battle came to them, yet a true pacifist, which Bombadil is, would not raise a weapon even to save themselves-
"Bombadil will fall, Last as he was First"
~Glorfindel makes clear. It is also made clear that he is above the events on Middle Earth not through secret power, but through ignorance- if all the free folk of the world begged him to look after the ring
"he would not understand the need"
~Gandalf. Again, not a positive take.
Furthermore, and my second main point, it has become accepted that the Ring really struggled to find a hold over Bombadil and likely despaired at not being able to corrupt him as he toyed with it like a trinket. However this passage is very open to interpretation, and based on my understanding that Tolkien was not one to suffer pacifism (all the Heros’ in his stories literally fight for good at one point or another) I do not believe the Ring struggled at all to find a chink in Bombadil’s armour. I believe the Ring did not care for Bombadil the same amount as Bombadil did not care for the Ring. It saw Bombadil would be of no use whatsoever in its quest for power, and therefore did not bother to influence his mind, or even make him invisible. It allowed Bombadil to play like a child, knowing it would be handed back over to Frodo.