Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Turkey, Iraq, the US, and Just Cause

Okay, let me see if I have this straight:

On the one hand, a rebel Kurdish separatist group in Iraq, the PKK, has conducted raids into Turkey.

While the Turks have fought back in the past, their parliament yesterday voted to officially authorize Turkish forces to cross into Iraq in order to strike PKK targets.

Oh, and George Bush does not approve. "We are making it very clear to Turkey that we do not think it is in their interest to send troops into Iraq," he said.

On the other hand, Saddam Hussein neither co-operated with al Qaeda, nor was otherwise involved in the 9/11 terror attacks; and Iraq neither attacked nor imminently threatened the United States. But Congress and George Bush believed it was in our interest to invade Iraq, depose Saddam and rebuild/occupy Iraq.

Now I'm no diplomat, political scientist or expert in international relations, so maybe I'm missing something here. But it sure seems to me that Turkey has more just cause to conduct military operations in Iraq than we ever did ... but for some reason, George Bush doesn't approve of Turkey's actions.

Why dat is?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Pre-emptive vs. “preventive” war — A vital distinction

In his 1956 short story “The Minority Report,” science fiction author Philip K. Dick considered a future where murders are prevented — and their would-be (but not-yet) perpetrators punished — by Precrime, a system which interprets the visions of three mutant, “precognative” humans or “pre-cogs.” (I've not read the story, but highly recommend the 2002 film adaptaion by Steven Spielberg, starring Tom Cruise.)

It's astonishing that while we consider the idea of preventive punishment absurd and abhorrent on an interpersonal level, we readily accept it on an international level.

Today, the United States operates a de facto Department of Pre-War. Since 2002, we claim not only the ability to see into the future and discern with certainty the eventual aggressive actions of our enemies, but also the moral authority to act upon those visions, and to punish the would-be (but not-yet) perpetrators.

Just War doctrine does, in fact, allow for pre-emptive war. If a nation has evidence that they are clearly in danger of an imminent attack, they don't have to wait to be hit first and then retaliate. They can pre-empt the attack with a counter-attack of their own:
Having a sufficient cause is the most important condition justifying war. Historically this has involved (a) self-defense (b) against an act of aggression and (c) used as a last resort. Initiating an act of war violates this requirement, since the only sufficient reason for warfare is self-defense against physical aggression.

The right to preempt an anticipated attack can be extrapolated from the self-defense principle if preemptive strikes meet a high standard of justification: the attack being prevented must be imminent, not merely conjectured or vaguely feared in the long run.

But with the advent of the “Bush doctrine,” the US has supplanted the lawful (pre-emption) with the unlawful (prevention). This became crystal clear to me when I read the following [my bold]:
The contributors to Hitting First have criticized the Bush administration's 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States of America (NSS 2002), because it deliberately confuses “preemptive” war, initiated in the face of an imminent threat and thus considered legal under international law, with “preventive” war, which, under international law, is indistinguishable from naked aggression. As Tom Rockmore notes: “It follows that defensive, or preemptive, war, which is intended to respond to a clear and present danger, including an ongoing or clearly looming attack, is moral, hence licit or justified. But what the Bush administration calls ‘preemptive’ war, which is widely regarded as preventive, or offensive, war, designed for a situation when an attack is not clearly in the offing, when it may not ever take place, is immoral, hence illicit or unjustified.” [Ibid, p. 146]

According to Mr. Rockmore, in NSS 2002, “the term ‘preemptive’ is being used, perhaps deliberately, in a nonstandard way that extends and broadens the justification for the United States to wage war against real or imagined adversaries. The consequence is to turn on its head the very idea that military action should be defensive only.” [Ibid, p. 140] Although many Americans might remain confused by such slight of hand, the rest of the world has seen through the ruse.

~ Walter C. Uhler, “Deceit About Iraq: ‘Things Related and Not’” (a review of Hitting First: Preventive Force in U.S. Security Policy, ed. by William W. Keller and Gordon R. Mitchell)
A preventive war is not a just war for the same reason arrest and punishment to prevent a possible crime is not justice.

While police (or citizens, in fact) may act to pre-empt a crime that appears to be imminent, they may not act to prevent a possible “future” crime. The same principle holds true for nations. They may act in response to an imminent threat; they may not act to “prevent” some possible future act of aggression.

Knowledge of the future is an attribute of God alone. And when the State claims both certain knowledge of the future and the moral authority to act on that knowledge, it is appropriating to itself this divine attribute.

(See also “A Citizen’s Response to the National Security Strategy,” by Wendell Berry, Orion magazine, March/April 2003.)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

My coins, but not my sons

Note: My regular readers (all four of them!) have probably read the following piece at my other blog, Rabbit Trails. But it occurs to me that it obviously belongs here as well, so I've reposted it.
— • —

A couple of years ago, our pastor preached on Mark 12. While discussing vv. 13-17, he revealed to me a gem — one of those gems that was right there in front of me all along, yet one I’d never noticed before:
Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words. When they had come, they said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?”

But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it.” So they brought it.

And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”

And Jesus answered and said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at Him.
In contrast to the denarius, an ancient Roman coin which bore both the image and inscription of Caesar, Pastor Niell asked us, “Whose image and inscription do you bear?”

Why, the image of Jehovah, and the inscription of the Triune God, I thought. It suddenly occurred to me that, while all men bear the image of God, it is His people alone who bear His inscription: the mark or seal of baptism.

Pretty basic stuff, yes? But something worth considering the next time Caesar claims the authority to conscript citizens to murder for him. (Which claim, I'm sorry to report, I expect to be revived in the very near future.)

And so, a quick note to you who happen to occupy the chair of former Presidents Lincoln and Roosevelt:

Jesus says you can have my pennies and dimes. But neither I nor my children belong to you. God gives you no authority to snatch us up, hand us a rifle, and compel us to violate the Sixth Commandment.

For “whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge” (Acts 4:19).

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Can't have it both ways

We can’t expect to have an educated enlisted corps who will be held morally and legally accountable for their actions in war without their having a say in whether or not they will perform those actions.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Like a man that taketh a dog by the ears

During the Vietnam War a poster appeared with a picture of then-President Lyndon B. Johnson standing on the lawn of the White House in front of reporters and photographers, picking up his pet dogs (which were beagles) by the ears. Superimposed upon this picture was a quotation from the Book of Proverbs (26:17): “He that meddles in a quarrel not his own is like a man that taketh a dog by the ears.” While the motivation of the producer of that poster was doubtless not a desire to apply biblical truth to the questions of war and peace, he nevertheless put his finger in a memorable way on one of the critical failings in our nation's Vietnam adventure — namely, the folly of any nation playing God by trying to become an international policeman, or a savior of the downtrodden nations of the earth.

~ Roger Wagner, “Vietnam: Biblical Reflections on National Messianism”

Sunday, September 9, 2007

An offer of mercy to the fearful

The officers shall speak further to the people, and say, “What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, lest the heart of his brethren faint like his heart.”
~ Deuteronomy 20:8
— • —

So time and the hopeless journey wore away. Upon the fourth day from the Cross Roads and the sixth from Minas Tirith they came at last to the end of the living lands, and began to pass into the desolation that lay before the gates of the Pass of Cirith Gorgor; and they could descry the marshes and the desert that stretched north and west to the Emyn Muil. So desolate were those places and so deep the horror that lay on them that some of the host were unmanned, and they could neither walk nor ride further north.

Aragorn looked at them, and there was pity in his eyes rather than wrath; for these were young men from Rohan, from Westfold far away, or husbandmen from Lossarnach, and to them Mordor from childhood had been a name of evil, and yet unreal, a legend that had no part in their simple life; and now they walked like men in a hideous dream made true, and they understood not this war nor why fate should lead them to such a pass.

“Go!” said Aragorn. “But keep what honour you may, and do not run! And there is a task which you may attempt and so be not wholly shamed. Take your way south-west till you come to Cair Andros, and if that is still held by enemies, as I think, then re-take it, if you can; and hold it to the last defence of Gondor and Rohan!”

Then some being shamed by his mercy overcame their fear and went on, and others took new hope, hearing of a manful deed within their measure that they could turn to, and they departed.

~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King,
Chapter 10: “The Black Gate Opens”

Friday, September 7, 2007

"Love thy neighbor" and national messianism

Appropos of my last post, I just happened across this (italics mine):
It is very hard for any nation, especially one as allegedly well-intentioned as the United States, to resist the messianic temptation, especially when we see the genuine political and social needs of the nations of the world.

But it is very important to remember that the Biblical fruits of covenant-keeping faithfulness to God cannot be exported without first exporting the source of those blessings — the preaching of the gospel of Christ and His life-transforming (and culture-transforming) work. This is the essential difference between 18-19th Century colonialism and the imperialist efforts of the super powers in the 20th Century. The former usually sent missionaries first, where the latter have sent the army.

Nor can we properly apply the Biblical maxim of "love your neighbor" directly to the state. The state, as a "minister" of God for the sustaining of righteousness and justice (cf. Rom. 13:1ff) is strictly limited in the scope of its legitimate use of coercion (the "power of the sword"). To give to one, it must first take from another, and God in His wisdom has restricted the circumstances under which the state can coerce its citizens into helping another nation.

I'm especially interested in hearing the biblical support for Wagner's last assertion. (I wonder if I might simply call and ask him?)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Who is my neighbor?

The classic just war doctrine as articulated by the Church does not view all use of force as evil; rather it declares that war can actually be a positive act of love entirely consistent with the character of God. Love of God and neighbor impels Christians to seek a just peace for all, especially for their neighbors, and military force is sometimes an appropriate means for seeking that peace.

~ Dr. Darrell Cole, When God Says War Is Right, p. 7 (my bold)
While I agree generally with Dr. Cole’s assessment of war as expressed in Christian just war doctrine, it is vital that we ask, “Who is my neighbor?”

A lawyer once asked Jesus the same question, trying to find out just how far God expected him to take this “love your neighbor” stuff (Luke 10). But in the context of war, we don’t ask “Who is my neighbor?” to avoid showing mercy and compassion, but rather to determine legitimate jurisdiction in wreaking violence. Binding a neighbor's wounds and putting him up at the inn is one thing. Devastating his community, and killing and maiming countless of his family and friends in the process of “liberating” them, is another thing altogether.

One of the jus ad bellum (“justice in going to war”) criteria is proper authority. I.e., the decision to go to war must be made by the appropriate governing official(s). And of course, where there is authority, there is the matter of jurisdiction — the lawful extent or range of that authority.

St. Paul teaches, “There is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Romans 13:1). But I am unaware of any scriptural support for the idea that rulers have lawful authority to intervene militarily in other nations, even in a just cause. Dr. Greg Bahnsen stated the matter well in his sermon series A Christian View of War:
[T]he circumscribed area of lawful authority for the state is its own citizens, and not the citizens of another land or another nation.

Do nations accrue moral responsibility, in the name of justice, for what happens in foreign regimes? If so, where does God tell us this? Where does God tell us we have the right to intervene in another nation, even in a just cause? And the answer, I think, is that deafening silence — He does not.
Just war is rooted in the right to defend one's family, community and nation against violent aggression. Inasmuch as men have a civic responsibility, then, to defend their own communities and nations, Cole is correct. Love of God and neighbor should impel Christians to come to their neighbors' defense.

Of course, one may legitimately choose for himself to participate militarily in some just cause on foreign soil. But another man — even the president of the world's sole superpower — has no right to choose this for him. Bahnsen continues:
Politicians who choose intervention by war, you must remember, are always expending the lives, money and freedom of others. And they have no right to do that, except where God has authorized. They have no right to take jurisdiction and apply the police, coercive powers of the state [to compel their own citizens' participation], except where God authorizes.
And this is where it seems Cole’s recourse to “love of God and neighbor” may be unduly overbroad — an attempt, perhaps, at justifying foreign military adventurism in the name of Christian compassion.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Considering war itself

I first read War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges about the time the Iraq war began. I found it compelling, yet strangely disturbing. Here was this veteran war correspondent, who'd covered conflicts around the globe and seen the horrors of war up close and personal, and he was describing war itself in terms of a drug, a highly addictive narcotic — and he loved it.

At the time, I was still conflicted a bit about the Iraq war. We'd already went into Afghanistan, and were after Osama bin Laden, but even that effort didn't seem to be going very well, as I recall.

And Iraq ... well, let's say I guess I read too much. I was skeptical about the Bush Administration's claims of weapons of mass destruction, and dubious of any link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.

On the other hand, so many relatives, friends and neighbors were proudly flying their flags, sticking yellow ribbons and patriotic bumper stickers on their cars.

And yet my doubts persisted. I just couldn't join in with the flag-waving crowd.

I picked up Hedges' book ... and looked into the abyss. Sometimes I'd angrily put it down, unable to read another paragraph. But I'd invariably return to it. Hedges knows. This man knows. This guy has really been there.

Hedges' writing in War is a Force has stayed with me since I first read it, so I thought it deserved a second look. I'll be posting excerpts from it over the next few weeks (a la Doug Wilson) and offering some of my own thoughts as well. Think of these posts as an online commonplace book.

This blog is about just war. But as we examine attendant issues like conscription, just war doctrine, the military-industrial complex, etc., we mustn't forget to look at war itself. What it is, what it does to those we call upon to fight. Chris Hedges examines war — places it under a microscope, if you will — for us.
I wrote this book not to dissuade us from war but to understand it. It is especially important that we, who wield such massive force around the globe, see within ourselves the seeds of our own obliteration. We must guard against the myth of war and the drug of war that can, together, render us as blind and callous as some of those we battle.

We were humbled in Vietnam, purged, for a while, of a dangerous hubris, offered in our understanding and reflection about the war, a moment of grace. We became a better country. But once again the message is slipping away from us, even as we confront the possibility of devastating biological or nuclear terrorist attacks in Washington or New York. If the humility we gained from our defeat in Vietnam is not the engine that drives our response to future terrorist strikes, even those that are cataclysmic, we are lost.

The only antidote to ward off self-destruction and the indiscriminate use of force is humility and, ultimately, compassion. Reinhold Niebuhr aptly reminded us that we must all act and then ask for forgiveness. This book is not a call for inaction. It is a call for repentance.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The citizen militia — a third way of national defense

Did you notice anything unusual about Gen. Lute's comments from last Friday?
I think it makes sense to certainly consider [returning to the draft], and I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table, but ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation's security by one means or another.
Sorry for the trick question. There wasn't anything unusual about Lute's comments. Although Lute didn't explicitly say it in so many words, implicit in his remarks is the defense-policy assumption which always goes unchallenged, to wit: there are only two possible means to "meet the demands for the nation's security" — either an all-volunteer, professional military; or a "mixed" Army of conscripts and volunteers.

But there's a third option that is virtually never discussed today, even though it is precisely what our nation's founders had in mind since the beginning: Armed neutrality, which combines a foreign policy of non-interventionism with a militia-based national defense.

An army comprised primarily of every able-bodied male, supported and augmented by a small corps of full-time military professionals, has supported Switzerland's policy of armed neutrality for centuries — and it is what our founders had in mind 200+ years ago. I intend to introduce and discuss in future posts the concept of a militia-based national defense. I think it is the biblical model for a just national defense — the best way for a free people to defend their nation without becoming entangled in foreign affairs and conflicts.

But for now, I commend to you "The Swiss Report," a paper on the Swiss militia system written in 1983 by retired Generals George S. Patton (USA — son of "the" Gen. Patton) and Lewis W. Walt (USMC). (I also just stumbled upon this rather detailed Wikipedia entry: "Military of Switzerland.") Read about how the Swiss do it, and consider how we might do it ourselves.

Consider also just what kind of national character would be necessary.

He said/he said: Draft chatter

As noted in my last post, President Bush's "War Czar," Lt. Gen. David Lute, made the following comments re. a possible return to the military draft in an interview on NPR Friday afternoon:
I think it makes sense to certainly consider, and I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table, but ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation's security by one means or another.
Gen. Lute's remarks garnered much discussion and speculation in the mainstream — and not-so-mainstream — media last weekend.

But then on Monday, the Pentagon said, No, we're not even thinking about a new draft:
"I can tell you emphatically that there is absolutely no consideration being given to reinstituting the draft," said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman. "The all-volunteer force has surpassed all expectations of its founders."
My, my, look at all the pretty superlatives: Emphatically! Absolutely! Surpassed!

Yep, smells like administrative Bravo Sierra to me.

Now, I was but a humble USAF jet engine mechanic from 1980 through 1983. A running joke of mine is, "No, I wasn't in the military. I was in the Air Force," so I don't claim to have any special insights into things pertaining to ground combat forces.

But when I see what appears to be the sad condition of our military, and when I hear American leaders thumping the war drums against Iran, and when I read this genius saying he thinks another 9/11 would be good, because it would unify America ... well, you don't have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.

US intelligence agencies routinely monitor open and clandestine communication channels looking for "chatter" — messages that could indicate current or pending enemy activity. Americans should be similarly attuned to a recent increase in US government and media chatter that may portend a possible return to a military draft in the near future.

Friday, August 10, 2007

"War Czar": It "Makes Sense" to Consider Draft

In an interview broadcast today on NPR's All Things Considered, US Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute said he shared the concerns of his fellow military officers that repeated and extended deployments of US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are straining the military to the breaking point.

Gen. Lute, assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan (a.k.a. President Bush's "War Czar"), also said that from a military standpoint, it makes sense to consider reinstating the draft.

Ever since the "battle for Iraq" ended and the occupation began, it has become increasingly clear to me that our military forces are being severely strained. To very near the breaking point.

Re-enlistments are down. Recruiting is down. Recruiting standards (re. age, health, education level and even criminal history) are down. "National" Guardsmen are routinely deployed internationally. US Air Force airmen — e.g., pilots, loadmasters and other aircrew — are receiving ground combat training at Ft. Dix (an Army base), then being sent to help soldiers and Marines fight in Iraq. It seems like we're just barely covering our commitments in the Middle East.

Thus, I've long thought that they could very well reinstate the draft sometime in the next 3 to 5 years, in order to rebuild our military while maintaining (or further expanding) our force level in the Middle East.

But if the feces hits the blower before that — whether here or someplace else in the world — I think a new draft is a slam dunk. The president would probably be announcing it live on TV and radio within a month.

Thus it would behoove parents to start discussing this matter with their sons and daughters, so they can consider how they'll respond to Caesar's fraudulent claim on their lives.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Ethics — Grounded in the character of God

In portraying the development of [the traditional Christian just war] doctrine, I rely a great deal upon two preeminent theologians in history, Thomas Aquinas from the thirteenth century and John Calvin from the sixteenth.

Why these two?

First (and most simply), Aquinas and Calvin are untainted by modern liberalism's distorted views of both religion and war and thus provide a useful Christian antidote to these distortions. Second (and more complicated), Aquinas and Calvin offer an approach to war that motivates Christians to be shaped morally and spiritually so they can act well on the battlefield and also in everyday life, which is something missing in almost every other modern perspective on war.

Aquinas and Calvin present an account of just war that is grounded in the character of God ...

~ Dr. Darrell Cole, When God Says War Is Right, p. 2

Day Zero — What would you do?

A couple of weeks ago, Di was surfing and learned about the new indie film, Day Zero. The premise: The military draft is reinstated to fill the ranks for the war on terror. Three best friends in New York City — a novelist, a lawyer and a cabbie — receive their draft notices, and in the 30 days before they must report for duty, they confront their beliefs about duty, honor, courage, friendship and love.

I e-mailed Lew Rockwell about the film on 27 July. He blogged about it on 2 August.

When Day Zero's website saw a surge in traffic, producer Anthony Moody traced it back to Lew Rockwell's blog — you just gotta love the Internets, right George? — so he contacted him. Rockwell invited Moody to write a piece about the film for his website.

Moody's piece appeared on LRC today. He writes:
... Of note, the trio of writer, director and producer included (in no particular order) a liberal, a conservative, and a centrist. So how did we collaborate to make a "political" film? The answer, for my part at least, is that we didn't make a political film in the traditional sense which, to me, is one that takes a biased stance and attempts to persuade the audience to its argument.

Instead, we made a film meant to provoke thought, introspection, discussion, and debate. Mandatory conscription is a concept and practice that dates back literally millennia. Day Zero asks the simple but universal question: What would you do if called to serve? It's a question, like those surrounding guns or abortion, about which people tend to have extremely strong opinions. It's a question whose answer is ultimately rooted in all that is deeply personal.

Is it influenced by one's view of government (left or right), war, class, or religion and morality? Of course. But it is also shaped by who we are, how we perceive ourselves, how others perceive us and interact with us, and how we live our lives. These latter, most personal factors are ones we rarely stop and think about (for the most part).

With Day Zero, what we've tried to do is to get people to stop and ponder for themselves — not a knee-jerk, but a consideration ... when you come home from work, check the mailbox, and sort through the pile — you see that envelope from the Selective Service Administration ... what do you do? How do you feel? How do you respond? How do you treat others around you? And ultimately — what choice do you make?

What's been most gratifying, in this age of disposable entertainment (when was the last time you chatted about a blockbuster beyond the ride home from the theater?) is how the audiences at our screenings let us know — by email, phone, blog posts, reviews, etc. — that Day Zero stayed with them. They continue to think about the characters and how they would respond in their place long after the credits rolled. Even better — they continue to discuss it with their friends and family. In that regard, I'm extremely proud and feel like we did our job.
Before a person can answer the question, "What would I do," I think he needs to answer (as Moody alluded to) the fundamental question, "Who owns my life?" Me? God? The polis (state)? The demos (people)?

Moody writes, "Day Zero is due for a small-scale theatrical release later this year. If successful it will be rolled out to more screens in more markets. It will also eventually be available on DVD." If you are interested in seeing this film, don't wait around for the DVD! Contact the management of your local theaters (especially those that screen documentaries and indie films) and encourage them to get the film.

And when they do, be sure to take some friends along.

I look forward to seeing Day Zero, and hope it provokes a vital and long-overdue discussion in our nation about the proper relationship between the individual and Caesar.

Welcome aboard

This weblog is dedicated to a biblical consideration of war and the waging of war. Anticipated topics:
  • foreign policy
  • principles of national defense
  • raisng, training and equipping an army
  • conscription
  • individual ethics in war
  • Just War doctrine
  • international law

... etc. & so forth.

As a Christian, it is my view that God is the final measure of justice, and that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are given to man by inspiration of God to teach us, among other things, how to do justice and live justly — whether in peace or in war.

I invite you to join in the discussion.