True Deterrence Lies In The Path of Life, Not The Arms of Death

True Deterrence Lies In The Path of Life, Not The Arms of Death December 14, 2011

In the news, we see politicians debating what we should do with Iran. The fear is that Iran might soon possess nuclear weapons. They certainly want them. They see the power associated with nuclear arms: those who have them are not dictated to, but rather, listened to and engaged. Those who don’t have them can be bullied – and are bullied – by those who have them. This is the real reason why Iran wants them. It is not about destroying Israel. It is about Iran wanting to be seen as an equal of Israel.

The way many think of weapons, such as guns, should make us wonder about the way we think of other weapons, such as nuclear arms. It is said that guns do not kill people, therefore, we should not feel threatened or afraid when people have guns – it is all for self-defense. The same, of course, can be said about nuclear weapons. It is people who control them; it is people, therefore, who use them to kill others. If the logic used in support of gun ownership is sound, it would make sense that every nation should have nuclear weapons. Clearly, something is wrong. Maybe we can come to agree that nuclear deterrence is not the answer (if it were, we should be happy when other nations gain nuclear arms). Maybe we can agree that the notion of deterrence is based upon a fundamental error. When a tool is created so as to kill, we must realize that essence will be realized. Anything else is nominal nonsense.

We can try to accumulate more and more power, but the truth is that the more we grasp for power, the more we grasp for control, the more it is lost from our grip. The more we try to use our might, our nuclear power, to dictate to the world which has none, the more we will find others creating a nuclear arsenal of their own to respond to us. We can’t rely upon might to make right. Indeed, our actions will make sure that someone will see us as a threat, and they will do whatever they can to take us out. “The weapons of power – coercive physical power – lose because they inevitably encounter some adversary more powerful.”[1] We must realize that the solution is not through might. Rather, it is through humility and apparent weakness. “The only real victory can occur by being conquered (as bait/sacrifice: swallowed by evil) and then coming-into-being, at the center of evil, and this is precisely what true Christianity – in secret – has done; thus it is subversive and invisible and at the center of power in its disguised form (mimesis).”[2]

An ancient Christian explanation for the resurrection is based upon this truth: hades, the realm of the dead, took the bait (Christ), swallowing him up, only to find him greater than it itself; Christ is vomited out, and with him, the rest of the dead are expelled from the pits of hell; death itself (the ultimate semblance of power) is destroyed.  Apparent defeat leads to victory. This unveils the powers that be and shows their true impotence. Power is transitory, and the path to tyranny, the path toward domination always leads to self-destruction. The kingdom of hades has been overcome: everyone who follows its ways will find they will meet the same end, showing us the truth of Christ’s words: “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matt. 26:52b RSV).


[1] Philip K. Dick, Exegesis. ed. Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2011),  801.

[2] Ibid., 801.


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