Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Case For Violence

I'm a big fan of violence. Not in the movies, mind you, but in real life and only when called for. I don't understand those who decry every use of violence with the tired old cliche of "Violence never solves anything." Do these people read history books? When it comes to deciding disagreements, violence solves everything.

Don't believe me? Ask the Carthagenians, the Moors, the Mongols, Native Americans, Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany, etc. Violence may not solve things in the way the losers prefer (or the winners prefer, for that matter) but things definitely are solved. I think history argues that the problem with using violence to solve disagreements is not violence per se, but that too often half-measures are used. The losers aren't convinced they lost, problems crop back up, and the winners have to go and kill lots more people and break lots more things... which wouldn't have to be done if they'd only gone in right the first time.

I ran across this website while perusing information on PalmOS programming (don't ask me how I got there). The author seems to be a good fellow and he's a good writer, yet he gets it all wrong here... not just on why we went to war in Iraq but on the usefuless of war in general. He writes:

But all those excuses, boiled down, equal only this: Oil from the Middle East powers our free market economy, and Iraq sits on the world’s second-largest known supply. Saddam Hussein’s resistance of the western world threatened our financial security. His rumored weapons programs and ties to terrorist groups gave us all the evidence we needed to justify a pre-emptive strike.
Uhhh... that's fine except it all doesn't come down to this. We didn't invade Iraq because of oil. We invaded Iraq because after 9/11 (and before, really, but as a nation we were unwilling to face facts) we could not afford to let an amoral dictator with billions of petro-dollars, the resources of a nation-state, and the willingness to develop WMDs and pass them to terrorists have the freedom and ability to do just that.

If it was all about the oil, we'd have our troops securing the oilfields and pipelines while the rest of Iraq stewed in its juices. Or, we would have just reached an accomodation with Saddam: kill as many Iraqis, Kuwaitis, and Iranians as you want as long as the price of oil stays below $15 a barrel.

But violence can never defeat violence. And Christians who support the idea of a "just war" may not be serving the same God that Jesus called his Father.
Fortunately, violence can, and has, defeated violence. In fact, violence in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. Violence is a tool, and like any other tool the morality of violence is determined by the purpose of its use. Was it immoral to use violence to defeat Adolf Hitler and the Nazis? Even the Bible states that there is a purpose for violence. In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, the Bible notes that "To everything there is a season... a time to kill and a time to heal...." The Iraq War was a time to kill, just as our efforts to rebuild Iraq and establish a democracy despite attacks by terrorists are done during a time to heal.

The problem with condemning all violence is that you end up throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Yes, it is obviously right to condemn the violence of, say, a rapist, just as it is obviously wrong to condemn the violence of the police officer... or victim... who uses violence to defeat the rapist. To believe otherwise is to morally equate the status of rapist with that of victim, or policeman... the sinner is no worse than the one protecting from sin. In other words, equating the acts of a sinner with the acts of a non-sinner. And that obviously flies in the face of everything that Christians believe.

Bismark said that war is diplomacy by other means. It's obvious to any thinking person that when two nation-states disagree about something strongly enough to fight over it, the goal is not war, the goal is to force the enemy to submit to your will. In such a case, if war is warranted by the seriousness of the disagreement (it must be serious enough to represent an existential threat in order for war to be justified), then it well behooves the combatants to use force strongly and swiftly and sufficiently to quickly decide the issue. Further, it is both strategically unsound and immoral to use insufficient force when force is called for. Think of the Vietnam War here; 57,000 American dead, one million South Vietnamese dead, two million North Vietnamese dead, millions more wounded, the US failed to accomplish its strategic goal of keeping Southeast Asia out of totalitarian control resulting in several million more deaths in Vietnam and Cambodia after the war... and it all could have been prevented if LBJ had possessed the courage to invade North Vietnam and capture Hanoi. Or better yet, if Truman had had the courage to support Ho Chi Minh and tell the French Non! when they insisted on keeping Vietnam as a colony after WWII in an attempt to salvage French pride.

I'll end this with a question: what caused pacifism to become more important than confronting evil in mainstream European and American Christian belief? In my opinion, the short answer is the carnage of World War I. I'll elaborate on this in a future post.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Further, it is both strategically unsound and immoral to use insufficient force when force is called for. Think of the Vietnam War hereA better example is the World War (one war with a roughly 20 year intermission). Arthur Currie should have been listened to.