December 30, 2010

Christians in combat...

A lot of bloggers have been taking apart this stupid and shabby op-ed from the WaPo, Colman McCarthy - 'Don't ask, don't tell' has been repealed. ROTC still shouldn't be on campus. (Here's VDH)

I will merely touch one point, which no one else has seemed to mention...

...When I suggested that Notre Dame's hosting of ROTC was a large negative among the school's many positives, Hesburgh disagreed. Notre Dame was a model of patriotism, he said, by training future officers who were churchgoers, who had taken courses in ethics, and who loved God and country. Notre Dame's ROTC program was a way to "Christianize the military," he stated firmly.

I asked if he actually believed there could be a Christian method of slaughtering people in combat, or a Christian way of firebombing cities, or a way to kill civilians in the name of Jesus. Did he think that if enough Notre Dame graduates became soldiers that the military would eventually embrace Christ's teaching of loving one's enemies?

The interview quickly slid downhill....

As a president of a great university, Hesburgh should have been intellectually able to reply "YES, there is a Christian method of slaughtering people in combat." (Or at least have replied that there are arguments one can make--even if he did not personally hold them.)

So I will fill in the blanks. Let us ignore the fascinating question of Just War Doctrine and assume that diplomacy has failed and the war has already been started. And that it is generally accepted that this particular war is necessary, and is being waged against an unjust regime.

What might we see Christian forces doing in combat? I'd suggest...

  1. Following the laws of war as much as possible.
  2. Using the smallest amount of deadly force practicable.
  3. Being willing to sacrifice themselves when it will limit the destruction of war.
  4. Being willing to forgive enemy forces as soon as combat stops, and if possible, to welcome them back to friendly relations.
  5. Winning the war decisively, so as to make future wars less likely. (This, paradoxically, may over-ride #2)
  6. Working to restore a defeated nation to health.
So, let's apply these points to some recent conflict, and see how they fit. I'll just take out my Magic 8 Ball and turn it over and see what floats up. Ah ha. The American Coalition invasion of Iraq in 2003. Classic! (I personally would call this a campaign, not a war. But never mind.) Read on if you are curious...

(Note: All the following points cold be expanded into essays if needed. This is a quickie post, but I've been blogging on such things since 2001. I have the information to back this up.)

1. The basic purpose of the Geneva conventions and other war laws is to keep war away from civilians. For instance one may not use schools or hospitals as firing points, fight in civilian clothes, transport arms in ambulances, explode bombs in marketplaces or police stations...stuff like that. Hmm. I'd say the Yankees look good on that score, and their opponents are clearly a mob of war criminals. (Link)

2. Using the least force possible.That describes the American military to a "T," though our vile press doesn't report this. For instance America's ordinary cannon artillery gathered dust in Iraq--too destructive. The US Army rushed to develop very small and precise guns--with shells weighing only 50lbs! (Link) America also deployed bombs with no explosive at all! There are many other examples that could be mentioned.

3. Self-sacrifice to save lives. The perfect example is the Second Battle of Falluja. The US forces could easily have just flattened that nasty city. But many civilians would have been killed along with the terrorists. So Falluja was conquered in brutal house-to-house fighting. (Link)

4. Being willing to forgive enemy forces. Well, Americans have always done that. And a good example is the way American forces cooperated with the Sunni tribesman during the "Surge." In 2007 American forces were patrolling side-by-side with guys they knew perfectly well had been killing Americans in 2006.

5. Winning the war decisively. This may seem counter-intuitive. But the classic example of the other way is the Armistice that ended WWI. It was just a sort of cease-fire, without a clear recognition the Germany has lost, and should surrender. The armistice was the basis of Hitler's rise, since he could claim that Germany had never really lost, but had been "stabbed in the back." The result... World War II.

In the case of Iraq, the Americans and their allies persisted in the face of great difficulties, and in the end no one could doubt that al-Qaeda and the Ba'athists had been crushed beyond any hope of a re-match in Iraq. This is true pacifism; not the fake kind that encourages future wars.

  Posted by John Weidner at December 30, 2010 8:10 PM
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