On War

Blogger ate my last post, and it was just enough drivel for me to not want to go back and try recovering it. The eating of my entry was a good thing. On to something with a bit more tooth to it.

I was listening to a local NPR program the other day and actually got motivated to call in. Being a local show it was easy to get on the air with their guests. It was a watershed program for me, though I’m sure not in the way it was intended.

The program was interviewing local peace activists. Basically, these three representatives of three different peacenik organizations were arguing that there is no cause for war. Ever. Or if there ever is a cause, even then war should not be waged. Their solution? “Invest in people.” To a person these speakers were proposing that instead of waging war the US ought to be sending money to these disenfranchised, disgruntled people. This was their solution to avoid war and attrocities. This is their solution for the end of the current war effort now.

So I called in to the show: “So if we had only invested in people suicide squads wouldn’t have flown airplanes into the Twin Towers? There would be peace in the Sudan? Hitler wouldn’t have tried to exterminate Jews and Gypsies?” I got some nonsensical statistic about the cost of war being “ironically” the exact figure it would cost to vaccinate the children of the world against everything from polio to halitosis. Right. Bin Laden just wants Hep. B shots for his kids.

See, I’m a little embarassed to say this. I knew I disagreed with the peaceniks for a number of good reasons, but the underlying philosophy didn’t hit me until that program. They believe that people are inherently good. To them there is no natural depravity inherent to human nature. We’re all products of our environments. If we just invest in people, they’ll do right.

See, I knew this. I did. If only Osama had not been some poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks he wouldn’t have done what he did. If only he’d had someone investing in him. Oh wait.

Osama bin Laden was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in early 1957. His parents were some of the wealthiest people in Saudi Arabia, allowing him an affluent upbringing. He was the seventh son and had nearly fifty brothers and sisters. He made a fortune working in this family’s construction business.

I guess that doesn’t quite answer the question, does it? This guy had nothing but “investments in him,” yet look what he’s done. Chances are, when given the choice, people on their own are going to do whatever they want and think they can get away with.

Of course war is a terrible, ugly, dirty thing. No one in his right mind is going to choose war over peace. But war is often a necessary means in bringing peace. While significant rebuilding efforts must obviously be undertaken and funded in Iraq and Afghanistan, simply “investing in people” who are just as depraved and sinful as you or I isn’t the silver bullet they’re imagining it to be. It’s just a bit more complex than that. The absence of war does not mean peace. Just look at the Cold War years between the US and Soviet Union. Strive for real peace–just peace, which may only come from the spilling of blood.

You simply can’t get there when you naively imagine that human beings are inherently good and nice. Theologically it doesn’t hold water. And it’s been proved time and time again throughout the history of mankind on the earth. Even if you can’t be a good theologian, at least be something of an historian.

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4 Responses to On War

  1. Anonymous says:

    OSC,

    You make an excellent point. This is precisely why passifism in its purest form is simply not tenable. It is sometimes necessary for governments to wage war – and when it does, we hope and pray war is waged justly.

    However, please do not let these particular passifists poison your approach to “engaging people” or whatever you called it, entirely. It is possible, in a very real way, that what we do can affect impressions of us the worldwide. However, I don’t think that simply throwing money at a problem is going to do anything about the bigger issues. I’m tempted to say, “Go ahead and vaccinate children – and then put your money where your mouth is when you show how much you value their lives.”

    Our biggest problems with the developing world (especially predominantly Muslim countries), from a PR standpoint, is A. loose living and the proliferation of Western pop culture and commercialization and B. our insistence on exploiting those markets to hawk our wares and get cheap oil (which, by the way, at current prices is still less than half of what people in western Europe or Japan pay at the pump.) When you confront the American moral and economic imperialism (Hey Bush – for some people there are more important words than ‘freedom,’ ‘democracy,’ or ‘self-determinism,’) against a fiercely guarded traditional culture accustomed to religious imperialism, then you have a problem. You’re right, peace is not quite so simple – but by rethinking our basic presuppositions – (i.e. that democracy is the best form of government in all times and places), Americans might seem less abrasive. Then the cream will really rise to the top – it’s much easier to distinguish between “good and evil” when one side actually comes close to epitomizing justice. I don’t believe we have that now.

    -Derek

  2. Anonymous says:

    Ugh… apologies on the numerous grammatical mistakes and that thing about “cream rising to the top…” I didn’t edit my post, and it sure reflects it.

    As I reread this I’m not sure I made my point as explicit or forceful as I’d like to make it. I am pissed off at a flippant paternalism, an air of arrogance about Americans, in elevating their culturually engineered ideals to the status of natural right. It’s an unfortunate holdover of thoroughly modernist documents espousing that God’s primary concern for creation is, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Bullshit. Whether you call the American form of government a republic or a representative democracy, I don’t really care – I just am sick and tired of hearing that it is the best of all possible forms for all people in any place under any circumstance. We need to get our heads out of our asses and stop meddling in the left-hand kingdom affairs of other nations – governments given their power by God, some of which have corruption or abuse rising to nowhere near the level that gives another country the right to move in and push them around. At what point does a country become too powerful for its own good, so that it forgets that it can learn from others?

  3. OSC says:

    I’ll grant that democracy isn’t Jesus’ own form of state government. I never said it was. My point was merely that the peace movement as it is enacted currently is philosophically and theologically flawed.

    Your point is well taken, but I think you’re misguided on your understanding of the PR problem. With predominantly Muslim countries I think they’ve taken a look around them and then they’ve got to ask, “What went wrong?” Put your heads together and decide that it’s all the fault of the US in particular and western culture in general. I find this to be rather untenable as well. It’s not about democracy or lack thereof. It’s about not being able to work and play well with others, regardless of your system of government. As I see it (please don’t misconstrue this as blind nationalism) it’s about misplaced blame.

  4. OSC says:

    I also want to be clear–I’m not a political scientist. Neither do I maintain that the US has always been above reproach. Thanks for your comments.

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