War and Peace

War and Peace January 24, 2010

The little piece I wrote on Christians in wartime has elicited more comments than any piece ever. Phew, there’s some sparks flying over in that combox.

I don’t often blog on politics because, to tell you the truth, I’m not particularly interested in politics. I think it is the Mennonite in me. I come from seven generations of Pennsylvania Dutch folks, and their pacifist attitudes run deep.

I feel politicians are essentially men and women of this world. They have worldly concerns and want to achieve worldly ambitions using worldly means. While I am sure there are some who are self sacrificing public servants, I suspect they are very few, and I expect politicians to be either puppets of powerful men behind the scenes or self serving, ambitious and greedy men who will do most anything for money and power.

When it comes to war, I’m against it. I believe most wars are not fought for idealistic aims of liberty and freedom and justice, but because rich and powerful men want to protect their wealth and power and become more rich and powerful. I believe this is as true of the United States as most other world empires down through history.

However, it is also true that sometimes there is a real evil in the world which needs to be fought. At that point medieval theories of a ‘just war’ may need to be adapted in a modern, complex and global situation. Military men may have to act quickly to take out a real threat to the security of their nation and to protect their country’s vital interests. In other words, sometimes the world needs policemen. While I believe America’s motives for war have often been mixed, I think American leaders do, at least, take these moral questions seriously and attempt to assert ideals of justice and freedom.

Finally, I regard politicians and armies as necessary evils in a fallen world. I want them to be ethical, just, self sacrificial and moral, but I am not surprised when they are not. I want them to keep their idealistic promises, but I don’t think they will. I want their wars to be just and noble and true, but I fear they are too often cruel, intentional and planned.

As a result, I have little patience with people who become indignant when politicians turn out to be corrupt and venal breakers of promises. Why were they so naive as to put their hope in a politician in the first place? When these people are Christians my patience wears even thinner. Are they not to be looking to another country whose maker and finisher is God?

I have even less patience with those who self righteously protest a war in which they and their lifestyle are being defended by men from a country other than their own. When Europeans squeal about America going into Iraq and giving the tired old sophomoric argument, “It’s only about oil you know!” I reply, “Yes, of course it is partially about oil, but your country lives on cheap and accessible oil just as much as ours does. We’re not stealing the oil but we are ensuring that the marketplace remains open and the supply continues. Unless you’re living in a hovel in the countryside with a well, a windmill and eating your own cabbage and knitting sweaters from your own sheep, then don’t please complain about the soldiers who are ensuring that the oil continues to flow to help you maintain your lifestyle.”

Was the war in Iraq just and necessary? I’m worried that it wasn’t. Maybe there were no weapons of mass destruction. Maybe the people in charge decided that we needed to occupy a country over there to ensure the flow of oil continued and that we could keep an eye on the enemy just like we did when we occupied Germany. Maybe they used the dictator’s atrocities as a pretext. If that is true, I’m not surprised and I don’t like it, but then I realize that my freedom and my lifestyle depend on it, and I’m going to swallow my pride and shut up and be aware that my rich and comfortable life relies on such difficult decisions and repent of it, for when I stop to think, I realize that I and my family have benefited from this military action, and so I am in the same stinking boat as the politicians I like to look down on. Furthermore, I and my family have benefited from the sacrifices of young men who have gone out to fight and given their limbs and their lives to guarantee this life I lead– and in the face of this I am humbled and ashamed.

And may the Lord have mercy on us all.

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