Monday, February 05, 2007

Is War the Enemy?

One of my friends was recently having a discussion with me about the Iraq War. In this discussion I talked about the terrible situation in which the rise of Islamo-Fascism threatens the entire world. But my friend wanted to insist that Islamo-Fascism is merely an illusion and a matter for law enforcement rather than a matter for military action or diplomacy on a massive scale. Instead, he’s very worried about the American military and its power. He said, “To my way of thinking, war is the enemy.”

War is the enemy? I didn’t say much at the time but it occurred to me that this is something like saying “surgery is the enemy.” After all, tens of thousands of people around the world die in surgery every year. Even when successful, surgery causes immense pain and suffering. Surgery frequently has lasting unpleasant side effects. But would we all be better off without surgery? No, because there is something worse. Surgery is how we fight certain kinds of disease. War is really the same sort of thing. If we decided that when any resolute and armed group of people desire to loot, rape and pillage some other part of the world, we would merely let them do whatever they wanted to their heart’s content, there would be no wars. But there would be something worse. There are actually some things worse than war. While there are some wars in which groups mutually bent on pillage fight it out between each other, and while it is also true that civilizations are never perfect or holy, it is often the case that wars occur between one armed group bent on pillaging and enslaving another and a group that is resisting being looted and pillaged. America has been involved on behalf of other countries that are the target of looting and enslavement. To come to the aid of others in this situation is extremely biblical. The entire Bible is full of injunctions to aid those that are oppressed. None of this is to say that war is not painful or difficult, but rather to say that in a fallen world, it is a necessary tool.

I don’t think that my friend is alone though. There are many people who somehow believe that war is a sort of force or thing or entity that compels people to desire greater armaments and to waste their time and effort and resources in pursuing marshal pleasures. But I don’t think that is a realistic view of the world. Totalitarian regimes do occasionally stir up a desire for marshal ardor. And in truth, there is nothing wrong with honoring the just warrior—the valiant knight who protects the interests of the poor, the powerless, the oppressed, and the suffering. The happy warrior is deservedly happy, provided he is a warrior for good rather than for ill.

I suspect that my friend’s misconception arises not really from a belief that war is a mysterious force that robs people of their reason, but rather from a belief that human beings are basically good and are somehow manipulated by their environment or the greed of others into making foolish choices. I think he believes that war is always one of those choices which should be deemed foolish. Undoubtedly he probably believes that if we just gave dictators a little bribery money and treated them with the dignity and respect due to their megalomania, they would live happily with their neighbors and not need to be checked by armed forces. Sadly, I do not think this is the way the world really is. While no human being is perfect or sinless or entirely altruistic, the world is full of people who suffer not merely from run-of-the-mill temptations but from desires more contrary to the will of God and the best interests of their neighbors. This has been true since ancient times when the Bible discusses “Nimrod” who translations often describe as a mighty hunter before the Lord but whose context would seem to say that he was a mighty warrior against the Lord (to the degree one can struggle against a sovereign God). Islamo-Fascism is merely the latest in thousands of years of movements dedicated to bad ideas and forcing those bad ideas on as many human beings as possible. The study of these movements needs to be based not upon wishful thinking or upon the propaganda that they provide to the West, but rather upon an examination of their own ideology and literature. There is plenty of that available to the public and plenty of analysis of that ideology and literature is available as well.

My friend would probably think that the pentagon is full of the very sort of “Nimrods” described above. But that is not my experience. Nearly all of the people in the “military industrial complex” that I have met, or known about second hand, or known from their writings, have been very decent virtuous individuals who really did want peace and justice and liberty under the rule of law etc.

My friend is also concerned that war endangers civil rights. There are certainly some domestic dangers in the fight against Islamo-Fascism. I do worry that because Islamo-Fascism is based upon a sort of fundamentalist religion, the struggle against it will result in a backlash against Christians who genuinely believe in the Bible and the truths of Christianity. I also do have concerns about how our constitutional liberties could be usurped in the name of homeland security and secrecy if the focus of the war changes from offense against Islamo-Fascists to a defensive cordon of security around every one of the millions of possible targets in the United States. But I do not believe that either of these risks is worse than the risks of not fighting Islamo-Fascism itself. This is a case in which the cancer requires surgery or it will kill the patient in the long run long before the patient’s life would naturally expire. And this surgery requires not only a war of weapons, but a war of ideas in which truth is brandished as the greatest weapon of all.


Joe said...

I read your article and I felt I should comment.

I agree that it is probably close to impossible to eradicate war, but aiming at this idea (the eradication of war) is something that every generation should commit themselves. There will be failures (we are only human), but a minimal amount of bloodshed should always be the aim. I doubt we exist on this earth to just keep killing one another. I agree with you that no one should have bad ideas forced on them. The best we can hope for is to live our lives as examples to others and hope they take the lead themselves.

It is sad that many people do not spend time to think about the values that they live by, and how their value system can harm others. Your views, though molded by the christian religion, must in the end rest in your hands. Obedience without self-analysis is a cowards path. As with all great battles, the battle begins with ourselves.

Islam, Christianity, and Judaism all share one person in common. Abraham. He is the father of all of these monotheistic religions.

Nimrod is sometimes portrayed as the antithesis of Abraham. If this is true, then we can assume he would have issue with all three of these religions. Nimrod was not a godless man, he just had contempt for god. In the end his Babylon failed not due to lack of effort, it just grew too large for one arrogant man to command. I guess if someone wanted to re-build Babylon they should start with a fleet of well trained translators to make sure that communication did not become a problem. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Well, I would have expected a little better cognition of the teaching of Jesus from you, considering how you promote yourself. But oh well, can't have His words getting in the way of secular political positions, now can we?

You seemed to skirt the issue of the pacifism of Jesus while you upbraided mere humans for the selfishness of their own pacifism. He could have helped those crucified along side of him or did you conveniently happen to forget that? Now that pacifism of Jesus was one neat trick there, quite a neat trick, don't you think? Considering Jesus knew right well he had eternal life during His Passion and Crucifixion but no human possible could know that with such certainty. So what you call "selfish" in mere human beings would be the ultimate offering of faith, a faith that burned so bright that it would burn away mortal life; yet you would call that "selfish?" Sure smells like an attack on pacifism because you just happen to like the war the pacifists are currently against.

Of course war is the Enemy. But your attempt to wrap it in swaddling clothes as a defense against other aggressions is a weasel-way to ignore what madness warfare is in the 21st century.

Attempts to mollify aggressions without resorting to armed conflict ought to be done with the same fervor, devotion, and commitment a soldier or nation itself employs for battle. But you don't seem to think it is important enough to spend your time pursuing peace as an alternative to making war, 'cause it just happens and you can't ignore it? What a sad attitude. What a gallant belief you appear to have in humanity.

It is quite a peculiar pessimism you have in your fellow man, more akin that atheist HL Menken then any man of Christ I know.

But then again perhaps we know different Christs?

I don't see anything of God in your writings and believe your secular beliefs cloud your view on war. It is as if your desire of mammon is your starting point and you move entirely to protect that regardless of the spiritual conflict and inconsistencies it brings. You use the imprimatur of Christianity as moral fig leaf to hide your true intention.

You seem to rationalize war as a logical response to aggression without calling for a total integration of life devoted pursuing peaceful ways of living; and you refer to yourself as a Christian?

How so? Its pretty obvious from your other writings, so don't bother, you use an alleged "Christian" stance as mere prop to sustain secular positions of a modern-day greed-head Pharisee. I consider that a true blasphemy of the spirit.

I am not a pacifist, nor would I call myself a Christian. Likely, I would sock you right in the nose for an offense, but I do have faith in a spark of godliness in the human heart that believe peace is greater than war and that if we work hard enough for peace whatever god there is will show us the way to a peace that resides in the spirit of the Creator of the universe.

But then again, there ain't much money in that sort of belief system, so likely it wouldn't be much to your liking.

Too bad, because in that lies the message Jesus taught.

Professor McConnell said...

I don’t see why you associate my position with greed. Preparation for defense is expensive and has very high opportunity costs. It makes life less comfortable for everyone. War is bad for economies and corporations as well as people. The problem is that in a world were human nature is both unchanging and destructive apart from the intervention of God, human evil must often be opposed and checked by force.

There is nothing wrong with “working for peace.” But we must work for justice too. It is just that in a world with people like Stalin, Hitler, Lenin, etc. working for peace alone does not always work.

As for Jesus pacificism, Jesus planned to be, and was killed in our place to satisfy God’s just wrath against human destructiveness. Jesus was on a mission to die in our place, and that mission required non-resistance. When Jesus returns to judge the world, he will use force. Jesus used force to clean out the temple. Jesus, even in the Sermon on the Mount, did not reject the judicial use of force. Jesus never was critical of the several Roman soldiers who professed faith in him. The Bible teaches in Romans that human government is supposed to be the representative and forerunner of God’s justice. To do so, government must use force.

Neither the teaching of Jesus nor the rest of the Bible opposes all use of force, nor do they claim the solution to human evil is to renounce the use of force for good or to abandon distinctions between good and evil.

Jesus and the Bible reject selfish force – the use of violence to further our own individual interests and rights. It demands the use of just force to defend and protect others. Jesus told individuals to turn the other cheek when struck. Jesus did NOT say “when you see a bully beating an innocent person, do not interfere; for the bully is innocent in his own eyes and driven to his deeds but a bad environment.” That is the sentiment of our time, but not of Jesus or the Bible.