“I have this belief, strong belief, that freedom is the Almighty’s gift to every man and woman in the world,” Robin Meyers told a 2004 conference in Oklahoma City. As the greatest power on the face of the earth, America has “an obligation to help the spread of freedom.”1
Since peaceful negotiations pay greater long-term dividends than war and military violence, why do we view soldering as patriotic and diplomacy a last resort? Force achieves short-term military goals but does not build political peace, provide positive relationships, or leave funds for human resourcing.
Violence is toxic! Infected by violence and greed, war creates dysfunctional relationships. Nationalism motivates power grabbers, political profiteers, and an arms industry that thrives on broken relationships, untamed hatred, corrupt diplomats, polluted diplomatic efforts, and polarized religious nuances. Warriors decimate humanity by means of ethnic cleansing, genocide, and political purges, while purging the common good in favor of special interests.
America entered the Iraq War, ill-advised, as political War Hawks introduced a new doctrine of pre-emptive strike into American politics. The President quickly announced a military victory, while leading the nation into a political quagmire of terrorism, an escalating war in Afghanistan, and a severe economic depression for which his economic policies could not pay.
Mounting costs of war depleted our resources, ruined our economy, left us hopelessly in debt, and encouraged unregulated speculation motivated by free market greed. President-elect Barack Obama came into office facing the challenges of attempting negotiation, re-building bridges with untrusting nations, and trying to convince Americans to re-invest in the politics of life, liberty and property. The nation has rewarded him by blaming him for the fruits of his predecessor and left citizens deeply polarized. Such are the results of “thinking” war!
Only one man in history ever devoted his life solely and singularly to peacemaking, Jesus, called the Christ. Whereas Jesus spent his life enlisting peacemakers and creating his church as a spiritual Peace Corp, Mohammed followed in the ruts of human thinking by converting others to his Islamic reformation of Christianity through the use of the sword.
Whereas Muhammad took up the sword, Jesus died turning the other cheek rather than compromise. Jesus’ unflinching refusal to compromise may be the greatest fault anyone ever found with him. As a result, his own people--the Jews--rejected him and turned his non-political kingdom of moral righteousness into a political dream in which they would rule the world.
America’s second President, John Adams, voiced deep satisfaction at “having achieved peace.” He concluded: “I desire no other inscription over my gravestone than: ‘Here lies John Adams, who took upon himself the responsibility of peace with France in the year 1800.’”2
Former President Carter spoke out of deep Christian conviction when he accepted his 2002 Nobel peace prize, admitting “war may sometimes be a necessary evil, but no matter how necessary, it is always evil.”3
Whereas an increasing number of people are inspired by the teachings of Jesus, humanity continues to pursue wars and rumors of war.
Wars confuse patriotism while benefitting special interest groups, intimidating politicians, and obfuscating public policies for the common good. Regrettable are the wounded and dead civilians, destroyed infrastructures, and issues of national security, all of which become mere statistical “corollary damages.” Only peacemakers offer hope for the common good of the largest percentage of humanity.
When President Clinton faced his nuclear crisis with North Korea in 1994, his greatest fear was not winning or losing the war; it was the economic impact of the 52,000 American casualties and 490,000 South Koreans projected by his advisors for the first 90 days--not to mention civilian casualties, etc. That offered huge political implications. Beyond that, North Korean would suffer enormous casualties. Without a doubt, the advisors knew America could win, and avoid spreading radiation, but they projected a cost to the nation of $61 billion.
War divides people, destroys nations, and wastes resources. It always leaves some kind of unresolved situation that requires a diplomatic resolution--a peacemaker reconciliation. That is the nature of military conflict.
World War Two’s most popular general and President-elect, General Dwight David Eisenhower concluded in 1953:
“Every gun that is fired, every warship launched, every rocket fired,
signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed,
those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not
spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers,
the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”4
This is not a way of life in any true sense, added Eisenhower. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. With more than 4,400 deaths, over 30,000 casualties, and a host of other collateral costs of the Iraq War, America now finds itself hanging from that cross of iron in Afghanistan.
Thinking peace, and considering people, calls for a radical attitude adjustment. It requires a new win-win model of international diplomacy for replacing the old “I win, you lose” model. Ask any citizen of the world what they want most and they will tell you life, liberty, and the pursuits of happiness, wholeness, and security. The common bond that unites the people of the world is the common need for personal acceptance, and a safe place to live one’s life with family, faith, and a craft.
The military-industrial complex profits from the anti-social behaviors of war that sacrifice blood and prevent nations from partnering in common cause. Peacemaking removes the muzzle from Jesus and elevates a Samaritan outcaste who went out of his way to assist a mugging victim. The Jews hated Samaritans, but Jesus described this man as an exemplary neighbor (Luke 10:25-37), and concluded that we should “go and do likewise.”
We need new international policies of neighborliness when nations around us are mugged, so to speak. We need to become catalysts who think and act outside our global boxes of “hatred, discord, jealousy. . .selfish ambition. . .factions and envy” (Gal. 5:20-21). Paul, that early Christian Apostle, believed there is but one word that satisfies the criteria: “love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one another” (cf. Gal. 5:14-15, 18-22).
Improving international relationships will require creating new partnerships that provide new opportunities for overcoming evil with good. New partnerships that provide more peaceful relationships would offer positive win-win options, as opposed to political greed, economic power,and ethnic hostility.
“He has showed you, O man, what is good” wrote the Biblical Prophet, “and what does the Lord require of you To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8, NIV).
Be Pragmatic and Eclectic
Jimmy Carter’s 1994 unofficial meeting with North Korea’s dictator, when Carter went as a private citizen 6, yielded “general and Korea-specific” lessons that could still prove useful to current U. S. policymakers. “They are especially valuable” wrote Marian Creekmore, “if the employment of the military weapon is to be regarded, as I firmly believe it should be, as the last resort for dealing with international disputes between countries (italics added).
Our ‘War on Terrorism’ has not changed the validity of this proposition.” It remains to be seen how many other international crises “peacemaking negotiations” might defuse without adding the unbearable and non-productive costs of war.
“It isn’t enough to talk about peace,” declared Eleanor Roosevelt, “One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it,” she concluded, “One must work at it.” True peacemakers pick and choose--being eclectic. Carter’s approach with North Korea offered three outside-the-box possibilities:
1. Decision-makers talk directly--unfiltered.
2. The State Department rethink its position denying diplomatic recognition
to rogue states (we seldom help anyone by isolating them).
3. Closer cooperation between elected officials and non-governmental personnel(NGO’s). Wise utilization of an NGO should be sufficient when successful, without a political administration needing to claim credit (politicizing). If unsuccessful, the President loses nothing.
I object to war because Jesus taught peace-making and peaceable relationships. War in the name of God is especially objectionable. I reject the spinning of half truths into defensible arguments for violent means. Profiteering in the name of patriotism, and peddling fear to protect selfish interests, also seem contrary to the teachings of Jesus.
From Warner’s World, although I enjoy living in the greatest country in the world, I question the political assumption that views the world’s greatest super-power--America--as being obliged to spread freedom through forced means … walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com
1 Robin Meyers, Why the Christian Right Is Wrong. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006), p. 118.
2 David McCullough, John Adams. N.Y.: Simon & Schuster, 2001, p.567.
4 General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1953 Cross of Iron inauguration address.
5 Marian V. Creekmore, Jr., A Moment of Crisis. New York: Public Affairs, 2006.