Re: Theological reflection on Just War

From: Jonathan Clarke (
Date: Thu Oct 25 2001 - 18:07:20 EDT

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    Perhaps you have missed my point. I am not convinced that a primarily military
    response in this case is justified. Certainly not on the evidence that has been
    publicly presented. If the US administration wishes to lead a coalition of
    democracies in this war then it needs to convince the people of those democracies of
    the justifiable nature of its actions. It has failed to do so, so far.

    In the bigger picture, you may be right. So far it is mainly extremist groups of
    Muslims who advocate holy war against the western war. If this should become the
    policy of most Muslim countries then the world will be in for a torrid time. I grew
    up in a country with a substantial Muslim minority and have known Christians
    threatened and shot, for being missionaries or converts. I have no illusions about
    Islam and regard it as being anti-Christ in a most profound sense.

    I am heading bush for two weeks so you may have the last word, should you wish.


    george murphy wrote:

    > I could respond point by point to Chuck's comments but have already done
    > so to some extent with Jonathon's. But details aside, I think that both simply
    > miss the point. Yes, there have been a lot of things wrong with US foreign
    > policy. But the basic reason for Islamic terrorism directed at the US, and for
    > the support of it in much of the Islamic world, is that many Muslims want a
    > jihad of the sword against a culture that is alien to them, that is incompatible
    > with the closed & static society that they desire, and that (though they
    > wouldn't admit this) works better than their's.
    > The whole idea of the "holy war" is quite different from that of the
    > "just war" or "justifiable war." I do not want a holy war with Islam. I do not
    > want a holy war (in the military sense) against anybody at any time. But the
    > radical Islamists want a holy war with the culture that they perceive the US to
    > be the prime example & leader of, and the Islamic tradition provides plenty of
    > support for that. This war was already started well before 11 September.
    > Arguing now about whether or not we should go to war makes as little sense as
    > arguing about whether the Soviet Union should have gone to war after Hitler
    > attacked it - cf. Ps.120:7.
    > I don't think a global war between Islam & the west is inevitable, but
    > if it doesn't happen it won't be for lack of trying by the likes of bin Laden.
    > & it's naive to think that they will change their minds if a Palestinian state
    > is established and/or a stable government is established in Afghanistan and/or
    > more penicillin gets shipped to Iraq.
    > Shalom (really),
    > George
    > George L. Murphy
    > "The Science-Theology Interface"
    > "Vandergraaf, Chuck" wrote:
    > > Like many, I'm very uncomfortable with the current US-led military action in
    > > Afghanistan, even though I'm now getting first-hand accounts (by e-mail)
    > > from somebody who is involved in the cleanup in NYC. It's not a pleasant
    > > read. In fact, even now, some six weeks after the terrorist attack, and
    > > having seen the replay of the attack numerous times on TV, I still can't
    > > comprehend the carnage.
    > >
    > > Still, I can't help but having some grudging admiration for the way the
    > > terrorists pulled this thing off, no matter how despicable their act was.
    > > It was innovative, well-planned, and sufficiently well executed to be
    > > considered a success. In fact, if the goal of the terrorists was to
    > > destabilize the US and to instil fear in the hearts of the average American
    > > and, in general, the average Western, one could argue that the terrorists
    > > have won the battle: airlines are experiencing financial problems because
    > > people are afraid to fly, and many US citizens are afraid to open their
    > > mail. (even "up in Canada," fear - some would call it common sense - is
    > > becoming apparent: I received a textbook the other day, shipped via
    > > Greyhound, and my wife noticed that the parcel had been opened for
    > > inspection.)
    > >
    > > One may wonder what the military action in Afghanistan can accomplish.
    > > Let's assume that bin Laden is captured, brought to the US (or the UN),
    > > tried, convicted, and sentenced. What will this accomplish? Will this send a
    > > message to terrorists and terrorists-wannabees that there's no future in
    > > their line of work? I doubt it. There are apparently enough candidates to
    > > supply a nearly endless stream of terrorists who feel that they will be
    > > rewarded by sacrificing themselves in the "line of duty" as they see it.
    > > Let's assume, instead, that bin Laden is killed by a guided or misguided
    > > bomb. What will have been accomplished? He will have been turned into a
    > > martyr and be a shining example to misguided terrorists.
    > Let's assume that the Taliban are defeated (whatever that means). What type
    > > of government will fill the vacuum? The "Northern Alliance" hardly appears
    > > to be an improvement over the current lot. (as some commentator has
    > > mentioned, their beards are a bit shorter and (Dr) Mohammed Mohammed's
    > > English is pretty good).
    > >
    > > But let's assume that a benevolent government takes over in Afghanistan
    > > (whatever is left of it). Will this solve the problem with the terrorists
    > > or will they simply move to a new location? Keep in mind that many
    > > suspected terrorists lived quite openly in Hamburg and that many of them
    > > apparently entered the US legally.
    > >
    > > Although I would probably not go as far as our friend Jonathan, a lot of the
    > > US action has very much been a matter of "might over right" and not so much
    > > a matter of justice. The US had apparently no problems with invading
    > > Grenada some years ago. Grenada did not really present a danger to the US
    > > and I don't think that the Marxist government of the day had visions of
    > > invading the US or to carpet bomb Florida.
    > >
    > > Why is there so much hate expressed towards the US? I don't know. There is
    > > probably no other country as ready to help in case of national disasters as
    > > the US. The Marshall Plan was not a Soviet idea, it originated in the US.
    > > One can argue that the Marshall Plan was just another self-serving US idea
    > > to prevent WWIII, but the point is that the US funded much of the early
    > > reconstruction in Europe. After the disastrous flooding in the Netherlands
    > > in the early 1905s, the US was willing and able to lend support where they
    > > could.
    > >
    > > I suppose much of the animosity towards the US stems from a feeling of
    > > powerlessness, especially among the Palestinians who, rightly or wrongly,
    > > see the US supporting Israel, a nation that was established at the expense
    > > of the Palestinians. Did the Palestinians receive justice in this process?
    > > The evidence is clear that they did not. But not only the Palestinians.
    > > What about the sweatshops in Thailand, Indonesia, Guam, Honduras, etc.,
    > > where people toil long hours to make designer clothing for US manufacturers?
    > > Even in countries that have been on friendly terms with the US for
    > > generations, there are occasions where the US flexes its muscles: the recent
    > > import duties imposed by the US on softwood lumber from Canada is but one
    > > example.
    > >
    > > One could make a case for a "just war" if it involved justice, but many
    > > don't see the justice in a selective application of US might: yes, Iraq
    > > invaded Kuwait and invading somebody else's country is illegal. But didn't
    > > the PRC invade Tibet? Didn't Indonesia invade East Timor many years ago?
    > > One also wonders where justice was shown in Angola, in Rwanda, in Burundi,
    > > and where it is being shown in Sierra Leone and Sudan. Not that the US
    > > should be the world's policeman, but by picking which cause to pursue makes
    > > one wonder what the underlying philosophy is.
    > >
    > > My guess is that the underlying philosophy of US foreign policy is to
    > > optimize the economic conditions for, and the security of its citizens. If
    > > that happens to coincide with justice, so much the better, but I don't think
    > > that justice is the prime moving force behind US foreign and domestic
    > > policy. That probably puts the US in the same league as most countries.
    > >
    > > Is the current US military campaign in Afghanistan justified? Probably not.
    > > Is it understandable? Yes. Are there alternatives? Maybe it would have
    > > been better for the US navy to just sit in the Arabian Sea and the Persian
    > > Gulf and keep the Taliban guessing as to what would come next, but I doubt
    > > if this would have made the Taliban change their tune. As to punishing the
    > > Taliban, one would need to find something that in fact would be seen by them
    > > as punishment. A bullet or a bomb may be seen by many as an express ticket
    > > to heaven. That's the trouble with wars: we tend to think that our
    > > adversary has the same value sets as we have, that there are rules to follow
    > > and the adversaries will play by the book. In reality, the underdog is
    > > tempted to break the rules and use such things as mustard gas, chlorine, and
    > > now, loaded airplanes and anthrax.
    > >
    > > Yet, a rapid change in US foreign policy would be interpreted as a(nother)
    > > victory by the terrorists. So, maybe the US is left with two equally
    > > unpleasant options: do nothing, or lash out in a rage. The latter is not so
    > > much justice as retribution and vengeance.
    > >
    > > Chuck Vandergraaf
    > >
    > > -----Original Message-----
    > > From: Joel Z Bandstra []
    > > Sent: Thursday October 25, 2001 10:55 AM
    > > To: 'Jonathan Clarke'
    > > Cc:
    > > Subject: RE: Theological reflection on Just War
    > >
    > > Jon,
    > >
    > > It seems to me that you did not exercise quite enough trepidation in
    > > writing your recent post (copied below), or perhaps your purported sense of
    > > such was at a peculiarly low level by the time you typed your last
    > > sentence: "They have to do with a hypocritical and self-serving foreign
    > > policy and bully-boy military actions." This "blame the evil empire"
    > > attitude is not something that springs to my mind naturally and beyond
    > > that, such statements seem inappropriate to me. I am, of course, not
    > > implying that U.S. foreign policy is without error but I submit that you
    > > ought to, at the very least, provide some supporting evidence or clue as to
    > > what you mean by "bully-boy military actions" and such.
    > >
    > > Joel
    > >
    > > -----Original Message-----
    > > From: Jonathan Clarke []
    > > Sent: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 2:49 PM
    > > To:
    > > Cc:
    > > Subject: Re: Theological reflection on Just War
    > >
    > > Thanks for this most interesting piece which eloquently defends just war
    > > against
    > > terrorism. I certainly agree that war can be waged justly, with the Gulf
    > > and
    > > Falklands wars as two relatively recent examples. Given current events, I
    > > feel
    > > that some discussion is necessary, although I do so with some trepidation,
    > > given
    > > the depth of feeling in the US towards the outrages of September 11 and the
    > > current anthrax insanity.
    > >
    > > Action against terrorists and terrorists organisations is certainly just.
    > > Whether bombing third countries who harbour or even give official shelter
    > > and
    > > support to such terrorism falls under the cloak of waging war justly is
    > > another
    > > matter. Groups that many would consider terrorist have sheltered and found
    > > support in the US, sometimes with official sanction. Does this give the
    > > countries who have suffered from the depredations of these organisations
    > > (Britain, Cuba, Nicaragua, Russia, Cambodia, to name some) the right to
    > > take
    > > military action against the US? The present US military based approach
    > > against
    > > terrorism seems very similar to that taken by Israel against the terrorism
    > > it has
    > > suffered in the last 20 years. It has seen the once famous Israeli
    > > military
    > > machine humiliated and tainted by atrocities and not solved the problem.
    > > Israel
    > > is a more dangerous place to live than it was 20 years ago.
    > >
    > > If there is any lesson that can be drawn from the past 50 years of
    > > terrorism and
    > > guerilla warfare is that containing with terrorism is a matter for police
    > > and
    > > intelligence forces, backed up by judicious use of the military, when
    > > required.
    > > Dealing with terrorism requires dealing with the underlying causes for it.
    > > The
    > > US should ask itself why is it hated to such an extent that people are
    > > prepared
    > > to sacrifice themselves to kill thousands of its citizens. The reasons
    > > have
    > > nothing to do with Brush's delusional nonsense about the US being hated for
    > > its
    > > freedoms, wealth and power. There are other free, wealthy, and powerful
    > > countries out there who do not suffer terrorist outrages to anything like
    > > the
    > > same degree. They have to do with a hypocritical and self-serving foreign
    > > policy
    > > and bully-boy military actions.
    > >
    > > Thoughtfully
    > >
    > > Jon
    > >
    > > wrote:
    > >
    > > > Besides the ranting of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, I've seen very
    > > little
    > > > in the way of theological comments on the events following Sept. 11.
    > > > However, Lutheran theologian David Yeago has a nice thoughtful article in
    > > Pro
    > > > Ecclesia, the journal of the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Thology
    > > > (CCET). It's entitled "Just War: Reflections from the Lutheran Tradition
    > > in
    > > > a Time of Crisis:, 2001, v.10, no. 4, and is currently online at
    > > >
    > > > Although written from a Lutheran perspective, it should be of interest to
    > > a
    > > > broader theological audience as well.
    > > >
    > > > And while you're visiting the CCET website, take note of the upcoming
    > > > conference. A while ago on this list (last summer?), there was
    > > discussion
    > > > regarding Mary. CCET is sponsoring a theological conference "Mary,
    > > Mother of
    > > > God -- On the unique relationship of Mary to Christ and the Church and
    > > her
    > > > place in the tradition of Christian worship, music, and the arts", to be
    > > held
    > > > June 9-11, 2002, at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Previous
    > > > conferences by CCET have resulted in multi-authored books published by
    > > > Eerdmans, so I presume this one will also.
    > > >
    > > > Karl
    > > > *******************************
    > > > Karl V. Evans
    > > >

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