SAN DIEGO, June 16, 2012 — Fatigue with the Iraq war and a pending economic meltdown ushered in a radically different administration under President Obama. The ensuing push to bankrupt our financial future while imposing a massive, nation-wide healthcare takeover has put defense issues on a backburner. Right or wrong, dialogue with our sworn enemies has often replaced a strengthening of our defense resolve - and this while naively expecting good faith negotiations on our adversaries part. Because of our anemic role in the Libyan campaign and a dangerous misunderstanding of Islamist influence in the “Arab Spring”, our standing as a defender of responsible liberty is eclipsed by a dangerous immaturity towards evil.
Weakness emboldens tyrants who want to harm us or our allies (such as Israel). This is particularly true when we look impotent toward Syrian brutality against its own people and the Iranian bloodlust drive for nuclear weapons. Because of our mixed response to dangerous regimes it’s critical to re-examine Biblical principles to guide our national decisions concerning any potential war. Make no mistake; war commits our precious blood and treasure and destroys the lives and wealth of others.
Nuanced agreements and economic sanctions may appear to influence ungodly regimes, but without a resolve to justly use force these Band-Aid measures only embolden and allow time to strengthen those seeking to ultimately destroy us. History demonstrates that peace comes through strength and justice, not through good intentions. Given an uncertain future, Christian thought developed over millennia concerning Just War (i.e. war limited by moral principles) are worth re-considering as we look to the future in the Middle East.
First, there must be “just” reasons to go to war. These include: self defense against physical aggression; redressing a serious wrong against us that can’t be resolved any other way; and defending allies against a clearly unjust attack. However, the peace sought thru armed conflict must be preferable to the outcome had the war not been fought. In addition, war must have a just intent: either to clearly advance the cause of justice; or avoid destruction by an aggressor while ensuring a hopeless cause on our part is not in the offing. Obviously, strong pre-emptive actions can be taken when the enemy’s intent is clear and imminent. But going to war for selfish gain or interest, power, revenge, or to inflict cruelty is never justified. Lastly, war must be conducted lawfully and by legitimate authority.
Once just reasons are assured, war must be conducted using “just” means. It’s the last resort after all other sensible, non-violent options have been exhausted (e.g., compelling economic sanctions, enlisting world opinion, providing effective incentives for peace). Next, war must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. It’s patently unjust to indiscriminately target those not engaged in the conflict or to destroy non-war related resources needed to sustain life.
In addition, it’s unjust to use unnecessary brutality, force or wanton violence in a conflict. Unfortunately, it’s virtually impossible to prevent innocent people from suffering and dying in war. However, contrary to anti-war rhetoric, the United States has consistently invested massive military technology resources and exhaustive war planning to protect life during conflict, and has routinely (though imperfectly) demonstrated a much greater respect for life than our enemies have ever shown.
An inability to consistently articulate and defend just war principles for the Iraq war helped bring about a new administration. Since Iran’s Shia theocracy wants to “wipe Israel off the map” and ultimately eliminate the great Satan (us!) through surrogate terrorist groups, it would be irresponsible to not clearly identify which principles obviously apply and can be proven with facts before we take any military action.
For us to be good counselors to our nation (Proverbs 15:22), we need a reasoned application of a Biblical worldview to any potential conflict. Though the human condition (Jer 17:9; James 4:1-2) virtually guarantees destructive wars until the Lord returns ( Matt 24:6-8) our nation’s current soft treatment of adversaries and questionable support of friends is a cause for real concern.
As we face the future, we also need to diligently pray for our national safety, and that our leaders will clearly understand the threats around us and seek out and listen to wise counsel in the days ahead. Obviously, any possible lose of innocent life should bring caution, but to not directly confront evil when it seeks our destruction is to invite our ruin.
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