Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Hawkish Dove

I would like to be anti-war, but I just can't be.

Here's why - I believe that Al-Qaeda needs to be defeated. I don't believe that Islamo-fascism should be understood or placated or appeased. I think it should be beaten.

What Al-Qaeda stands for is oppression and tyranny. They do not believe in freedom, human rights, liberty, civil rights. They do not believe that people should be given the opportunity for free or personal expression. They do not believe in openness or tolerance.

Their vision of the world is one of domination and forced conversion in which my son would be compelled to pray toward Mecca five times a day and my daughters would be unable to gain an education and succeed. The creativity and passion of my wife would be stifled. And Vintage would not exist.

And this is not just true of my family and church, but every family and church. And because of this they need to be stopped.

But how?

Honestly, I do not believe that the anti-war movement as it currently is constituted offers a plausible means of stopping Al-Qaeda. Rather I think that the stratergies I hear articulated by the Moveon.orgs and the Democratic presidential candidates is one of weakness and defeat. We can't win, they say, so we should just bring the troops home. But what is the result of this? An emboldened enemy that learns that if it holds out long enough, we will simply give up. Does anyone remember Black Hawk Down?

Weakness is not the path to victory. Strength is.

And so I support the war. And I wish it would be fought with more strength. I support the war because I agree with the vision that the President cast in the lead up to the war in Iraq and in the campaign of 2004. He said that Iraq was a front in the Global War on Terror. He said that if Iraq could be free where people were allowed the right of self-governance with the economic prosperity that brings, then a light for freedom and opportunity would be established in the Middle East. He said that this light would grow, changing the climate of repression and hate that breeds terrorists in so many Islamo-fascist countries currently. That's what he said, and I agreed with him.

I still do.

And so I wish we would fight to win the war and then bring our troops home. (Which, on a side note, is why the President's poll numbers are so low, I think. For every dissatisfied anti-war person out there, I think there is a dissatisfied pro-war person who wishes we would fight with more vigor and less political correctness. Maybe the "Iraq is a Vietnam-esque quagmire" mantra is a self-fulfilling prophecy.)

But I also wish that there was another way to create this beacon of light and opportunity in the Islamic world. I wish it didn't take the exerted strength of military resolve. I wish it could take the exerted strength of moral resolve.

I wonder how Martin Luther King Jr. would fight Islamo-fascism.
I wonder how Mahatma Gandhi would fight Islamo-fascism.

I am inspired by the Burmese monks who are currently fighting for their freedom in Myanmar. But these monks are not fighting with guns and bombs. They are fighting with peaceful statements of strength. They are fighting with rose petals in London and masks of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, their leader who inspired U2's amazing song Walk On.

They haven't won yet. But I believe they will. The strength of their moral resolve will change the climate of their country, melting tyranny and bringing a new dawn of freedom.

Could we fight terror in a similar way?

I haven't heard anyone articulate this kind of vision, but when I do, I will be ready to get on board. Love wins. And sometimes so does an ass-kicking army.


A said...

Very well put. Right there with you, bro. We don't need less troops and more understanding, we need to be more like we were in the first few days and weeks of the war. Kick ass and take names, and then come home when it's done. It isn't pretty, but sometimes that's what has to be done. Will it rid the world of evil? Not until Jesus comes back, but in the mean time, we have to stand up at some point and fight for what we believe in.

Robb said...

Yup. I want peace, but I think peace comes through strength. In the absence of a powerful non-violent solution (ala Martin Luther King Jr.), I am all for a powerful violent solution (ala Rudy Giuliani).

Andrew said...

I'm also with Reagan: "Peace through strength." The bad guys must be defeated/destroyed. I think this approach has worked at times in Iraq.

I also think progress in Iraq requires empowering Iraqi army/police and improving the living conditions for local civilians. Leah’s brother-in-law, Tim is a Marine currently serving in Iraq. He tells me that real tangible progress is being made with humanitarian efforts and by empowering/training the Iraqi army. Strengthening relationships with locals is a powerful non-violent solution – and it is working.

Andrew said...

One other thing - it seems to me like an attitude of isolationism/non-intervention is gaining momentum in the US. Like people are sick of being involved in other countries' issues - and maybe if we just leave everyone alone, then everything will be OK. Do you perceive this attitude?

(I do think this is absolutely the wrong approach - especially when the enemy won't stop until we are all dead or converted.)

In the Den said...

I am all for a powerful non-violent solution. I have a hard time getting on board with a violent one, though. Shane Claiborne wrote a book called the Irresistible Revolution in which he discusses his own actions toward a non-violent solution.

He makes me ask the question, "What if my wife were in Iraq?" I would want her to be defended, yet I wouldn't want bombs over Bagdad.

How do we defend people we love from other people we love?

I highly suggest you take a look at that book. I think you would realy enjoy it.

Robb said...

I've read Irrestible Revolution and enjoyed it a great deal. It didn't convince me of pacifism, however.

In my mind, here are the options, ranked in priority to me:

- Nonviolent Victory over Terrorism
- Violent Victory over Terrorism
- Defeat by Terrorism but going down fighting
- Defeat by Terrorism while not doing anything about it

Like I said, I haven't yet heard a nonviolent victory plan, so I've got to back the violent one.

Matthew said...

Oh my. My initial instinct on this one is to not touch it with a 3 meter cattle prod. But since when do I ever stick to the sensible course?

This could actually lead to a very long and fruitful discussion, covering all sorts of fascinating things, but I don't have time to do it now since I really need to at least maintain the facade of doing something use today, and I spent the previous two weeks have a very long and elaborate email conversation (or rather, arguement) over this very thing as well as the proper role of government in society and even our respective opinions of Jesus's view on such things. Anyway, I'm exhausted

In short, put me down as a "dissatisfied pro-war person who wishes we would fight with more vigor and less political correctness" not because I love war, or am a neo-con, or hate Muslims, or want to enforce our culture and views on the world, or believe in nation building, but because I continue in the vain hope that the more our troops get done, the sooner they can come home, and that they hopefully won't have to leave again because Iraq fell into a distablilized mess that necessitates our return.

I may come up with more later if the pressure in my head lets up, and I can come up with something that's actually insightful.

corexian said...

I used to agree with everyone that's commented so far. I don't anymore. Politicians can't make this world a better place. If they could have, it would have already happened.

Only Jesus can. Nothing short of Jesus can. My pacifism has less to do with a distaste for war, than a distrust for any particular government. I think that Derek Webb put it well, "my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man. my first allegiance is not to democracy or blood; it's to a king & a kingdom"

A said...

Yes, but that doesn't absolve us of the responsibility to stand up for what is right and defend ourselves against those who would seek to kill us or oppress us as those who we fight in the war on terror.
The logical end of your position is a throw up your hands defeatism that has no good end.
While I would agree with the idea that all solutions aren't found in politicians or armies or governments, I would disagree with the statement that "politicians can't make the world a better place." They aren't the ultimate answer like Jesus is, but they can, and I would say do daily make the world better.

Matthew said...

I have a couple of quotes from some WWII era leaders I'd like to throw up for comparison's sake.

"I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity. You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions.... If these gentlemen choose to occupy your homes, you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourselves, man, woman, and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them."
--from Non-Violence in Peace and War, Mohandis Gandhi

...and on the other hand we have this.

"If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without blood shed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves."
--attributed to Winston Churchill

To be quite honest, I'm glad the the rest of the U.S. and British leaders leaned more towards Churchill's attitude on war than Gandhi's. If Gandhi had had his way, I doubt we would even have the option of having this kind of conversation and would probably be required to salute a red flag with some variant of a swastica on it, and the god of our attendance-madatory, state church would quite possibly be "Wotan" and communion would probably entail drinking the blood of some animal.

War is a terrible, monstrous thing, but on occasion, the alternative is far worse. Admittedly, the situation these days isn't as nearly as clear-cut as it was then, but I have lingering mistrust of most pacifistic movements, contemporary and otherwise, because of their refusal to admit to the fact that in this sin-drenched, fallen world sometimes war is necessary if one would not live as a slave or prefers to simply live at all. Pacifism fails utterly in the face of a sufficiently ruthless opponent who is completely convinced of the rightness of his cause.

What the question comes down in our more recent predicament is "do we trust our leaders to have made reasonably appropriate decisions regarding Iraq?" For myself, I (fool that I am) believe they did, and even if they turn out to be utterly mistaken, I believe they were trying their best to protect this country with the information they had available to them at the time decisions needed to be made(if the information was flawed, seems to me the fault for that belongs to previous administrations--for the record, I was convinced that Saddmam had WMDs and was a significant threat in the region that desperately needed to be removed, not by the Republicans, but by the Democrats; does anybody remember Operation Desert Fox? Anyone?). In hindsight, I think Iran was more of a threat and was probably a more appropriate target of military intervention, but I've noticed over the years that nobody consults me on matters of national security. Perhaps there's a good reason for that?

I can understand people who don't trust this administration, though (mistrust of goverment was a defining trait of the men who founded this country). While I do not believe that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld are the absolute devils that they are commonly portrayed as being, I will concede that there has been a disturbing and--dare I say it?--unacceptable degree of incompentence displayed by this administration. One can can only hope that the Lord will have mercy on this country and that the next administration will be slightly less bad.

I believe that the Lord appoints our leaders and believe they are appropriate to the time and place, but I am sometimes inclined to wonder, having witnessed the leadership here for the last 20 years or so, if this country isn't in the process of receiving some degree of divine punishment. ;-)

corexian said...

A, the difference is I don't share your estimation of the situation. And Matthew, I agree with those amazing quotes from the leaders of that time period, but unfortunately, there is very little about this war that can be compared to WWII.

This is a different situation altogether and should warrant a completely different approach, but alas, we did the same thing we've always done, just with more toys.

This war has been misaligned from the get go and everyone involved stands to lose because we didn't contextualize. We're going to try and set up an American style gov't in a foreign setting; doesn't work with church planting or gov'ts or very much else at all. Just look at the former U.S.S.R; Russia is the only country to come out with any kind of economy and even that is saying a lot.

We're hurting ourselves and others by not learning from the past. Everyone is watching us do it, too. Who's going to trust us after all of this?

Matthew said...

"And Matthew, I agree with those amazing quotes from the leaders of that time period, but unfortunately..."

Heh. It might be a little hard to agree with both of them at the same time since I chose those particular quotes to contrast their opposing perspectives. ;-)

As for comparing WWII with the present war in Iraq, that wasn't my intention. My intention in mentioning WWII was to attempt to offer something of a modest (very modest apparently) rebutal against the general idea of "pacifism at all costs" which I don't really agree with. I believe we are to live at peace with all men as much as possible--it's just that sometimes it isn't at all possible.

But, no, WWII and the Iraq war (and the overall war on terrorism for that matter) aren't really comparable; although, I do sometimes wish people would approach Iraq with more of the "can-do" attitude that was present in WWII, I realize and further concede that this hope of mine is unreasonable.

I also will concede that I did have a subtext with Churchill quote in that I was thinking that Iraq might represent a situation in which we fought and it wasn't too costly (the war itself wasn't too bad--it's the nation building part that is as expensive as Hell) as opposed to WWII in which we almost waited until it was too late (the Germans came very close to winning, in spite of our entrance). Upon reflection, though, I don't know why I would have wanted to bring that up at all (and, in my defense it WAS a subtext) since, ultimately, I still believe that Iran was (and still is) the real problem (God willing, though, Iran might fall apart on its own--I think sanctions might actually be working on that regime).

I agree that Iraq requires a different approach from the one used in WWII (and possibly a different approach than the one the U.S. actually used), I myself haven't been able to come up with a practial or ethical one that's much better than what we did, but then coming up with a better approach than what's going on now is what Robb's original posting was about in the first place.

What do you think we should have done? What type of government should we have helped install other than a Western-style government (the Iraqi government differs from ours in that it is a parliamentary system [executive branch is dependent on the approval of parliament]wheras ours is a presidential system [executive branch is independent and comparitively stronger])? A monarchal system? A tribal oligarchy? A caliphate (hah! wouldn't that be ironic? ;-) )? Perhaps a dictator like Saddam except answerable to us? Pure anarchy? Just let Iran absorb them? Split them into 3 partitions resulting in the further destabilization of the region by strengthening Iran and really pissing of Turkey and Saudi Arabia in the process?

I was originally in the camp that was against any kind of nation building and that said that after we remove Saddam Hussein from power, we should withdraw and let the cards fall where they may (if the Iraqi factions slaugtered each other with the survivors being co-opted by Iran, so be it). I had a wiser friend explain to me that my perspecitve was basically unethical, and that it was in our best interest (and even our ethical duty since we displaced the government in the first place) to do everything we could to install a strong, vaguely democratic government that might become an ally to us someday. I do not know that what we have done has been appropriate, but I, like Robb, haven't really seen any viable alternatives but am dying to hear one.

As for "who's going to trust us after all of this?", why in the Hell should they trust us in the first place? I believe the U.S. generally (not always but usually) tries to behave ethically these days, BUT I don't know that it always will. I strongly think all the nations who don't have one should equip themselves with as strong an army as they can manage...just in case. I have no reason to believe that the U.S. has or will go rogue, but there are other threats out there, and I really think the nations of the world should help us reduce our "world police mentality" by being prepared to handle their own damn problems--particularly military ones--without our help. Not having an effective military in this climate is beyond insanity.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised to hear this from someone that thinks world peace can be achieved through the likes of pacifist emergents in the vein of Rick Warren. Seriously you believe Guiliani will protect us? God is the only one that can protect us. Not Hillary, not Rudy, not Fred, not Bono or Rick Warren, but God and God alone.o

Robb said...

While I certainly can't speak for him, I think that Rick Warren would be very amused that someone was calling him a "pacifist emergent."