War! What is it good for? Absolutely…

Admittedly, I do not keep up with the War in Iraq as many people do. With that said, I have a few questions* that I would like to bounce off of anyone willing to engage them.

1) Is the War in Iraq justified? What criterion are we to use (just war, etc.)?

2) What is it that we are fighting for?

3) Are our efforts really worth it?

I ask these questions because I heard someone raise a very thought-provoking point the other day. Generally, it seems that one reason we are fighting is to protect the present and future state of our nation (there are other reasons left unsaid). But is what we have worth fighting for from a Kingdom of God perspective? Has the American Dream eclipsed our Kingdom mission? While I enjoy having the things that I am privy to as an American, are we promised them? Are they necessary? Are they worth fighting for?

*These questions by nature are over-simpifying. There are many other relevant issues to which we do not have access.

7 Responses to War! What is it good for? Absolutely…

  1. Susan says:

    Clint,

    You write, “one reason we are fighting is to protect the present and future state of our nation”

    To employ war outside of our nation to protect and preserve our own nation is like sending my neighbor off to get chemotheraphy on a chance there might be a cancer cell in his body —because I don’t want to get cancer. Whuh?

    The Bush administration has adopted the “get them before they get us” mentality. Proactive chemotherapy — on someone else’s turf.

    The alternative is to build a secure nation, with more controls on who comes in and out of the country and so on. This of course imposes some inconveniences on our own citizens and makes the US look “unfriendly” to outsiders. But it does not involve war and the expenses involved in war are used for our own infrastructure — maybe to get us off our oil addiction??? but it digress…

    The only other alternative is to do nothing to “protect the present and future state of our nation.” That is certainly an option, but if we consider it viable, we must be ready to say good-bye to the political and economic structure of America. If one really believes there is another system out there that is better, or actually believes no system is any worse than any other…. perhaps this is the way to go.

    I for one, even with all its faults and deteriorations, would not want to live under any other political or economic system. The number of immigrants to our country tells me I am not alone in this desire, and they know far better than I do what its like “out there.”

    Now as for the Kingdom of God…. what has Athens to do with Jerusalem? 😉

  2. Nancy says:

    Clint,

    Here are the three documented reasons for going to war. First Sadaam was a vicious inhumane dictator. When I have time I’ll post some quotes from a book that was published before the war. (The War over Iraq by Kaplan and Kristol) He was a mafia-style hitman. Rape, cutting out the toungues of traitors, slaughter etc. Just another day in the life of Sadaam.

    Second, Sadaam was a bad boy outside of his country. He sponssored terrorism, violated every convention in the Gulf War and I seem to recall he instigated a little 10-year conflict with his neighbor. I also recall that he never followed the toothless mandates of the UN and as such the Gulf War was legally not over and we had legal warrent in institute this conflict.

    Third, yes WMD. Yes we found lots of little WMD but no mass WMD.

    Yes, I followed the arguements closely back then and we seem to have collective amnesia over the breadth of issues that played into the decision. I’ll gladly drop the Kaplan/Krisol book by campus sometime if you like. The authors do a terrific job of documenting the various issues.

    More importantly you raise the bigger issue of the survivial of the US. I highly recommend reading a book or two by Bernard Lewis. He served in WWII and is the nation’s preeminent scholar on Islam. He is respected by Christian, Jew and Muslim. I recall reading an editorial in the WSJ that docuemented the influence of Lewis in our national policy towards Iraq. Here is what Lewis said on Dec 1 2003 (8 months after the war began):

    “The study of Islamic history and of the vast and rich Islamic political literature encourages the belief that it may well be possible to develop democratic institutions, not necessarily on our Western definition of that much misused term but in one deriving from their own history and culture and ensuring, in their way, limited government under the law, consultation and openness, in a civilised and humane society. There is enough in the traditonal culture of Islam on the one hand and the modern experience of the Muslim people on the other to provide the basis for an advance toward freedom in the true sense of that word.

    The forces of tyranny are terror are still very strong and the outcome is far from certain. But as the struggle rages and intesnsifies, certain things that were previously obscure are becoming clear. The war against terror and the quest for freedom are inextricably linked, and neither can succeed without the other. The stuggle is no longer limited to one or two contries, as some Weterners still manage to believer. it has acquired first a regional then a global dimension, with profound consequences for all of us.

    If freedom fails and terror triumphs, the peoples of islam will be the first and greatest victims. They will not be alone, and many others will suffer with them.” (The Crisis of Islam – p. 146)

    This war is not about protecting our right to iPods and Starbucks nor is it about oil (We use 20 M barrels /day and prior to the war we imported .7 M/day from Iraq and if we drilled in ANWR we would get 1-2 M/day – not to mention oil rich Alberta). For those who live and breath history this is about the preservation of civilization as we know it. Perhaps Lewis and others are wrong. But before dismissing them, we must listen to them and attempt to understand their arguements. Understanding the dynamics of the Middle East requires an understanding of history that goes back well before 700 A.D. Lewis helps us trace the past to understand where we are today.

  3. Clint says:

    Nancy and Susan,

    Thank you for your comments. Sorry I have not gotten to them earlier. I hope you did not infer that I am against the war from the post title. At this point I am simply agnostic. I will reply soon to your arguments. But in the meantime, do you think that scripture speaks to whether or not we should be engaged in this war?

    Clint

  4. Susan says:

    Clint,
    Because Scripture is not a handbook for political policy, I would be reluctant to try to tweak justification for any war from the Logos!

    That said, however; we must ask, “Who is my neighbor?” and do what we can to help those who are oppressed and in slavery. There are times when physical force is the only way to free a captive. But that is not why the war in Iraq was started: it was about the US and its reaction to and “safety from” terrorism, as though protection from more attacks like 9/11 were the main issue. But the US has a bigger problem: dependency on oil. That iaddiction s our real enslavement, and that addiction funds terrorism in the long-run. The US is like an addict who storms the crack house because the dealer beat up one of our friends . …but still buys crack at the end of the day. Go figure.

  5. Ben says:

    One other consideration … had the US CIA not been fooling around in Iran 30 years ago or so, then we wouldn’t those problems there like we do now. Also, if the US hadn’t helped support Saddam 20 years ago, he probably wouldn’t have caused the trouble he did. It does get tricky when we have been a material player in the problems that now face us. For all that, we should I think be very active socially and economically in the international arena but very, very reticent to play in the international affairs of other countries militarily or through “intelligence” agencies. We don’t know what can of worms we are really opening up. Ultimately, that policy worked against the Soviet Union. That would not only increase our status on the international stage, but also save us lots of $$.

  6. Nancy says:

    Ben – good comments, especially with regards to Saddam and our proping him up. But the problem dates back far beyond 30 years ago. The West really blew it after WWI when we chopped up the arab communities into nation states and instilled dictators. That completely countered and misunderstood the Arab/Islamic mindset which was loyal first to the tribe and then the arab community as a whole. The nation-state did not factor quite factor into their culture. But to really understand today’s dynamics demands a good grasph (which I do not have) of history going back several millenia. You bring up a good point with regards to MAD and the USSR. But the problem there is that the people in the USSR had a different view of life than those who buy into martyrdom. It’s a completely different mindset and what worked then against a nation does not necessarily translate against a group that is not a nation-state and can inflict the same degree of harm. You bring up a very key point – messing around with another country via “intelligence” agencies. That is a tough one to think through. We dismantled human intel in the early 90s that would have helped tremendously in understanding the ground situation in Iraq. However, we dismantled it due to the unsavory characters that we had to interact with in order to get the intel. Besides, our technical hubris ensured that we could get the same intel (guess not!). Hmmm… makes me glad I’m just a software programmer in a world that is a little more black and white and not so grey.🙂

    Clint – I haven’t taken the time to see who is writing both philososphically and theologically with regards to Just War theory in an age of terrorism. Any good books to recommend?

  7. Clint says:

    Nancy,

    Concerning your question:

    Robert G. Clouse, War: Four Christian Views (IVP)-good overview
    Stanley Hauerwas, The Peacable Kindgom-haven’t read, but I have heard it is good.
    Paul Ramsey, The Just War: Force and Responsibliity-Will obviously hit upon Just War
    Scott B. Rae, Moral Choices-Brief, yet helpful intro-great for students!
    Norman L. Geisler, Christian Ethics-Like Rae, good intro.
    Helmut Thielicke, Theological Ethics-Ethics classic-I cant remember if this covers just war, but from what I have read, a great book.

    I will say, I don’t think any of these books were written post 9-11. So, I am not sure whether or not they are geared to defending the cause of a just war against terrorism per se. My guess would be, however, that the classical criterion for a just war would not in fact warrant the war we are currently in (nor the Revolutionary War for that matter). Therefore, some adjustment to the criterion would be necessary to contextualize it for our current war, that is if it is possible to do so. I hope this has been helpful in answering your question.

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