How does a Christian relate to war and military service.
(c) 2011 by Tom King
- "George W. Bush was evil"
- "We ought to withdraw all troops back home. No one would dare attacks us here because there's too much water separating us from them. Besides we're too big to attack."
- "If we leave the world alone, they will love us again and everything will be hunky dory."
I carefully read the latest piece by a former Air Force pilot turned priest out of respect for my friend. It supports, of course, the idea that we ought to have a military, but just not use it and that Christians should probably not participate in the military at all.
I was doing okay until he blithely cited some revisionist history about World War II and our use of nuclear weapons. He stated flatly that Japan wanted to surrender, but would just wouldn't accept it. He ignores the account of Japanese Army officers' attempts to kidnap the emperor to prevent him from announcing the surrender on the radio. This was after two nuclear strikes on the homeland. I have read accounts by Japanese officers and historians much closer to the action that make it clear that a last ditch, hedgerow by hedgerow fight for the homeland was, not only planned, but embraced by soldiers and civilians alike. It seems pretty obvious to me that the specter of dying uselessly in a nuclear blast, unable to take an enemy with you, completely unmanned the Samuri in the officer corps sufficiently to convince them to accept the ignominy of surrender.
Were we to use total war selectively and with a clearly conceived policy behind it, we would be a far more effective "global force for good" (as the new Navy recruiting commercials put it). Orson Scott Card's fictional "Ender" novels outline what such a strategy might look like. His books are read at West Point by soldiers studying policy issues related to warfare. Card's hero, Andrew Wiggin reacts to any attack with sudden and overwhelming force and insures his attacker can do him no more harm. The policy implications are something I could get behind. I
Extrapolated to the world stage, the policy would go something like this:
- Leave your neighbors in peace. Treat others the way you would like to be treated.
- If attacked, respond instantly and with overwhelming force instantly. Go after the instigators of the attack and remove them. Do not stop till they are no longer able to wage war against you.
- Help clean up the damage caused by the war. Help those caught in the middle to rebuild their lives.
Reagan wasn't always able to consistently follow his own policy. Political expediency forced him to focus on those he considered our most dangerous enemies and compromise with the diplomats and Democrats in other cases. That intense focus on the mission at hand, he successfully eliminated an entire class of very dangerous nuclear weapons and made a "first strike" attack by either side almost impossible.
It is a shame that diplomat types went back to the same old confused military strategy after he left office.
The Jews did a lot of killing at God's instruction. Sounds terrible, but remember that many of the pagan cultures of the time were slaughtering tens of thousands of innocents on pagan altars and in innumerable raids on their neighbors and wars of conquest. Israel became known for cleaning out the corrupt and evil inhabitants of the land as they settled Canaan. That's why there was a huge mixed multitude. Many of those inhabitants, like Rahab and her family, recognized that things would be better without the corrupt kings, sleazy priests and evil gods and joined the Hebrew nation and joined up with Israel.
Two presidents, I think, made an attempt to move our military policy in the right direction. They were both dragged down by politicians and pundits and never able to fully implement the kind of effective military policy that might have brought us peace. Ronald Reagan understood peace through strength and reminded the Russians that "trust but verify" was their own old adage. He defeated a real enemy and almost made them our friends if later politicians hadn't messed it up. We should have shared what we learned during our SDI program with the Russians as Reagan promised. I think we'd be better friends now. Instead, political backbiting killed SDI and left us with only the marginally effective Patriot missile system when we needed it in the Gulf War.
Again, the congress, the political generals at the Pentagon (David Hackworth's "perfume princes") and the military-industrial complex launched a campaign to discredit that whole idea, continued to waste money on big ticket projects and to move massive formations around the battlefields like so many chess pieces.
*Making War: A Christian Perspective by Dr. Robert M. Bowman, Lt. Col., USAF, ret.