22 November 2005

What about peace-making?

In a previous post I raised the issue of whether I--as a Christian--should not rather be praying for my enemies, instead of discussing how best to defeat them (which I have defined as stopping them before they kill us, and killing them if that is what it takes to stop them). I said that I would like to offer a longer, more cogent reply; and here it is.

I don't want to talk about this from the command to pray for one's enemies. I want to approach it from the blessing that Jesus pronounces upon the "peacemakers" (e.g., Matt. 5:9). There are, and always have been, Christians who are opposed to war simply because Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." There are at least three problems with this view. The first, which I won't deal with here, is that it imtimates a works-oriented salvation. As a Calvinist, I reject the assertion, even the tacit assertion, that we do something (even "peace-making") to earn the right to be called sons of God. That right is a free gift (see John 1:12). The second problem is that it just doesn't square with Scripture. It defines "peace" as nothing more than the absence of war. And it ignores the fact that the Prince of Peace is the Son of a God of war. The third problem is that it just doesn't square with the rest of Scripture.

First, let's deal with the idea that "peace" is nothing more than the absence of war. The usage of the word, shalom renders it impossible to believe that shalom is merely the absence of war. Since I have discussed this before, I will just quote myselfhere
On this view, Jesus, in giving us a duty to be peace-makers, is giving us a duty to do no more than to be absence-of-armed-conflict-makers. But 'peace' in Scripture is not just the absence of war. Jesus, a Jew, was talking about shalom-making. As it is used in the Tanak, or Old Testament, 'shalom' is a word that admits of a great many meanings, perhaps the least of which is merely the absence of armed conflict. When Joseph, in Egypt, saw his brothers again--but before he revealed himself to them--he inquired after "their welfare, and said, 'Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive?'" (Genesis 42.27) In this passage both the English words 'welfare' and 'well' serve to translate the Hebrew word 'shalom'. In his commentary on this passage in Matthew, Hendricksen says that this peace is the peace of God's salvation (cf I Corinthians 1.18). Peace-makers are those "who, having themselves received reconciliation with God through the cross, now strive by their message and their conduct to be instrumental in imparting this same gift [i.e., not absence of armed conflict] to others." Look in Scripture and see who are called sons of God; it is those who have put their trust in Him and in His Anointed One. Other wise, everyone who ever signed a peace treaty ending a war, is a shalom-maker and, thus, a son of God. No only that, but on the Sojourners' view, Jesus himself is not a peace-maker, for he says he says he has not come to bring peace [i.e., now we are talking about armed conflict] but a sword. Read it for yourself:

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a
sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the
daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
And a man?s foes shall be they of his own household (Matthew 10.34-36).

So it is useless to argue that (a) peacemaking is nothing more than producing or working for the absence of war and (b) that we are, by being peacemakers, being absence-of-war-makers.

Second, with respect to the God of War we must take note of the fact that if the orthodox Christian view is true, then Jesus Christ, being fully God and fully human, was in complete agreement with God (i.e., the Father) who--among other things--commanded the Israelites not just to conquer Jericho but to kill every inhabitant, man, woman and child (Joshua 6.17). He must surely have been in agreement with the Father's command to Saul to kill every last Amalekite (1 Samuel 15.1-3). If Jesus Christ is, as the writer of Hebrews claims, "the same yesterday, today and forever" (Heb. 13.8) then He still has no problem with war as such. And do let's take note: the war with which Jesus concurred was a war of conquest, which is supposedly not a just war.

A Brief Digression
But, you say, all those things notwithstanding, Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, presents a new teaching on our duty. We must love our enemies, turn the other cheek, etc. Presumably this means that a nation must not pursue war if attacked. This is nonsense.

This sort of reasoning assumes that nations have such duties as individuals have. So then, if an individual has a duty to allow himself to be assaulted, a duty not to defend himself, then so does a nation. If an individual has a duty not to relatiate when attacked then so does a nation. This sort of reasoning is logically falacious; it's composition, asserting that the whole possesses the attributes of its parts. Taken to its extreme, it would mean that since I have a duty to fulfill my wife's sexual needs, so does the state. (It's an extreme example, but it works better than any other example I've been able to use with leftist Christians.)

Here's a rhetorical question: If the duties of state and individual are identical, then do I have a power to tax? Do I, like the state, have any police powers? Can I take it upon myself to perform the duties of a highway patrolman? (Oh, boy, how I would like to!)

Returning to the main subject...
Third, with respect to the rest of Scripture, there just does not seem to be--anywhere--a conviction on the part of God's people that war, as such, is just always wrong. The Hebrews just were not pacifists. Clearly, they did not go out looking for war, but they were not pacifists as we understand the term; they did not--as Christian pacifists suggest we do--avoid war at any and all costs. When attacked, they responded in kind, with the obvious intention of conquering the enemy. And, speaking of the people of God, when the Prince of Peace returns, he is returning, sword in hand, with the armies of heaven. He is returning to conquer. It is interesting that this is the image of the returning Messiah that John gives us, is it not? The Prince of Peace carries a sword. To me that means--among other things--that there is something to be said for "Peace through superior firepower."

For all that, I believe that the strongest New Testament argument that the State, even in the New Testament era, still possesses the power to prosecute war is Paul's assertion, in Romans (13.4), that the State does not bear the sword in vain. In asserting that the state does not bear the sword in vain, Paul claims, in effect, that the state will, from time to time, kill people. If this is not the case, then he lied: the state does bear the sword in vain; it barks, with no intention ever of biting. We should also understand that the people whom the state will kill fall into two classes: (a) those within, who break certain laws; and (b) those without, who wage war against the nation. Paul seems not to hold the view that the state must lay down its arms, and eschew all war, in the name of "peace" (i.e., "absence-of-war") making.
11 November 2005

A Veteran's Day Ramble

We do this every year: honor our veterans. I am always happy to do so. When I was in school, I was the resident "expert" on World War II. So of course I have, and still have, an appreciation for the Greatest Generation.

But there is one veteran who, I have always believed, will never get his due. I mean, of course--and The Wall notwithstanding--the Vietnam Vet. You Vietnam vets don't know this, but when I see those bumper stickers I always do a brief "eyes right" when I pass you on the highway. (Brief, because I'm driving, you see.)

For good or ill (and I believe it was for good) I joined the Army because of you. I am old enough to have seen the protests, complete with draft card burning, on the evening news. I grew up in a college town. College students always seemed to think they were smarter then everybody else, and the ones I observed never had any kind words for Vietnam vets.

But I had uncles who served in Vietnam. And listening to those college punks made my little 8 year old blood boil. And I decided that before I did anything else in life, I would serve in my country's armed forces. Ten years later, it turned out to be the Army. That's because I saw "Patton" on TV. After that, it just had to be Army.

Of my service I will say only this. I served because I was convinced it was my duty. And when I enlisted (January 1984), I truly believed that NATO and the Warsaw Pact would soon have it out: I was convinced--perhaps even hoped--that I would see combat. So, I served during the Cold War, a "war" that someone (Tom Clancy?) described as a war with no battles and no monuments, only casualties. First, I was at Fort Carson, Colorado, in the 1st Squadron, 10th U.S. Cavalry (a cavalry unit comprised of both tankers and scouts). Then, I went to Germany and served in the 2d of the 32d Armor (later, the 4th of the 67th), 3d Brigade, 3d Armor Division (Spearhead). The mission of the 3d Armor Division was to defend the so-called Fulda Gap. I can assure you, it was a mission we took seriously. I don't know about any other element of 3d Div, but the 4-67 "Bandits" were fanatical, about being both soldiers and tankers"--probably because our battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel J. S. Wheeler was pretty fanatical. I really enjoyed those get-togethers on Bandit Field for our two-fold purpose. Really. I did. (Elvis Presley, by way, had been a tanker in the same outfit.)

The previous paragraph was designed to give some background for this statement. I joined the Army because I thought I had a duty to do, not because I lacked education (which, in fact, I did) and not because I had few job prospects (which, again, I had). And most of the soldiers I served with felt the same way. After all, in an all-volunteer force, you may join because you have no job prospects, but I just don't think it stands to reason that you join the combat arms. There are enough other jobs in the Army that you can do if you're joining just to have a job.

I'm thinking about that today because I have heard yet again someone on the radio suggest that joblessness is why people join. (You know how they do it. They start off by being all talk and weeping about being concerned for our troops and blah, blah, blah.) It ticks me off. I'm also thinking about it because of all those people who keep trying to insist that the war in Iraq is some Vietnamesque "quagmire". @#$% that!

I don't think I could attach a monetary value to what I got out of the service. I got so much. One thing I think I got was a fast-track to maturity. Whenever I went home on leave it seemed that a lot of people I graduated high school with were getting older, but still living pretty much the same way we did in high school--except just not living at mom and dad's. When I got out and went to college, I felt so much older (at 23) than the 18 year old freshmen. Children. All of them. And they still were when they were juniors. Desert Storm took place while I was at college. Those children protested the "senseless death" and blah, blah, blah. (I was tempted, every time I walked past their protests to salute them by extending my middle finger. But I had become a Christian by that time and wasn't sure that Jesus would like that.) One of the regular protesters was a girl named--get this--Pansy. I thought that was a very appropriate name for a liberal, of any sex.

This "fast track to maturity" didn't just come by being in the Army. It came by virtue of my specific job. It starting coming to me as a result of one of my first classes at Holder Complex at Ft. Knox, Kentucky. In that class we learned how men in tanks die when their tanks get hit. I'll just say, "Not pretty." (I'm sure the Infantry got a similar lesson.) Confronted with your mortality at age 19. It was even more serious two years later when I was in Germany, when the alert siren would go off. No one actually ever said it, but there were times we wondered if this time it was for the real, especially when, to hear the left tell it, Ronaldus Magnus (R.I.P.) doing everything he could to provoke the Warsaw Pact. And even if he were doing precisely that, let me just say that I was all for it and am darn glad to have been even an infinitismal part of his evil plan provoke the Union of Soviet Swallowed Republics.

One other thing I have from the Army--the memory of guys whose names I hope I may never forget. For example: Gary Clark and John D. Sparks (my Drill Sergeants at Ft. Knox), Richard Shevlin, Scott Jeffrey, Levy Rouse, Mark Milne, David Workman, Todd Reed, Jeff Allison (I'm sorry about that I.D. thing), William Peters ("Momma Hen"), Tim Harvey, Luis P. Venero, Jeff Sanders, Pat Stowe, Michael Marsh (a.k.a. "Marsh the Harsh"), Gary Hughes ("Master Blaster"), Pat Simmet ("Fill to this Line"), "Bear" Garner (Viva the "boot"!), Barry Freeman, Billy Ray Bell, Jim Cotton, Gilberto Marrufo, Jeremiah Nieves, Charles Crenshaw, Ray Earl Johnson, Bill Powell, David Christensen, Ray McFarland (Delta Co. 1st Sergeant) and Michael K. Seidl (Delta Co. CO).

And all because I saw Vietnam veterans treated like dog doo-doo by a bunch of smarter- and holier-than-thou college wussies! I don't know who to thank.

Perhaps I was a little too "gung-ho" about it. (Oh, the "band-of-brothers" of it all!) But then, I saw my service as a sort of tribute to those Vietnam vets that I knew and revered as a kid. I didn't want to be a let-down. Whatever. Everyone who enlists (or gets commissioned) has his reasons. At least, to quote Patton again, when I think about where I was at the height of tension between NATO and Warsaw, I won't have to say, "Well, I shoveled [excrement] in Louisiana." (It's not much, but it's something.)

All right. That's what it looks like when I get emotional. Now you know how I feel. Not that it matters to anyone but me. But hooah, anyway.

Tankers lead the way.

08 November 2005

O Hammer, where art thou?

There's a great article by Mark Steyn on the uprising in Paris. (I've linked to it here because I like this site.) Read it, and then you'll know why I ask just where is a Charles Martel when you just really need one, like when you need to stop a Muslim advance like the one that was stopped at Tours, 10 October 732.

Western Europe West just really needs another Charles Martel. Of course, Western Europe also needs people with the courage to be led by a Charles Martel.

(Hubris demands that I broadcast the fact that I knew about Charles, and the Battle of Tours long before I read Steyn's article. I have a degree in history. How could I not have known? To me, Martel ranks just about up there with Patton.)

A Christian hawk?

I suppose someone could ask, since I am a Christian, whether, instead of favoring the torture of our enemies I should rather be praying for them. I would like to offer a longer, more cogent response; but let me just say this for now. I do pray for these Islamifascists. I pray two things: (1) I pray that they will stop "fighting" like pansies and come out in the open. (I will even stipulate that they may name the field and the weapons.) This will, of course, make them easier to kill, bringing the war to an end sooner. (2) I pray that they will give it up, so that we don't have to kill them. This will also result in a speedier end to the war. If they do neither, then they will die. It's not that I like that. It's just the way it must be. They--not us--want this war. And in this war they kill us, or we try to stop them. And if stopping them means killing or (I believe) torturing them for life-saving information, then so be it. They kill us or we stop them. Period.

Von Clausewitz said that all war is simple, but it becomes complex when we allow ourselves to be distracted (probably by liberals) from certain simple truths. There is one very important question in war: Do you want to win? Liberals--the few who might say yes--want to say, "Yes, but not if it means...." Sorry. The question, again, was, "Do you want to win?"

It would be nice if we could fight this war by employing the rules of engagement that civilized nations observe. But the enemy have not left us that choice, nor do they desire to do. What the left seem to want strikes me as the modern equivalent of showing up to a battle on horseback when the enemy shows up in tanks because, after all, that is how civilized people fight and we must never descend to the enemy's level. Such people are more dangerous then the enemy.
07 November 2005

Torture terrorists? So what if we did?

So, President Bush is assuring us all that we, the US, do not torture terrorists. It's long past time to ask why we don't, assuming that he's telling the truth.

I no longer care what problem anyone has with not treating terrorists like criminals. I see no problem with holding them in covert prisons or in places like Gitmo. The people who object to this do so because the people we are holding have been convicted of no crime. So, what? I don't think they belong to the class, 'criminal.' So let's not treat them like crminals.

On the other hand, I don't think it serves much purpose to treat terrorists as prisoners of war. Terrorists just do not fit the definition of enemy combatant. They are not soldiers.

So, I do not believe that terrorists ought to be treated like criminals. And I do not believe that they ought to be treated like prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention. So, what do I believe about them?

I believe that terrorists belong to a class all their own. And just as we have separate rules governing criminals and prisoners of war, I believe that we are justified in formulating separate rules for terrorists.

They are not merely criminals. And they certainly are not soldiers. They are terrorists. Holding them in a manner in which we would not hold either convicted criminals or enemy soldiers is perfectly consistent with the fact that terrorists are neither. They are sui generis; and the rules for dealing with them must also be sui generis. And I see no difficulty in holding them in covert prisons or torturing them for information which can be used to prevent further terrorist acts--or to find Osama bin Ladin (as if that matters for anything).

Of course, we have a lot of pansies in this country who just think that holding terrorists, whether we torture them or not, just reduces "us" to "their" level. Here's a thought experiment: Let's say you are walking through the woods. As luck would have it you (a liberal) happen to be armed. Suddenly you hear a loud growl; it's a bear. He sees you, and charges. You know (never mind how; you just know) when he gets to where you are he is going to kill you. Do you (a) shoot and kill him before he kills you or (b) let him kill you because killing him would reduce you to the bear's level (i.e., the level of an ignorant, wild animal)? Now, some self-styled intellectual type liberal will quibble me here. "After all, Phil," he'll say, "a bear is an animal. A terrorist--no matter what he's done--is still a human being." If that is what someone would say, I don't know what else we can conclude but that, as far as the liberal is concerned I can (maybe) kill the bear, but I must let the human kill me. Well, I don't see why this is so. And I don't see why I should not get information from a terrorist about other terrorists in any way possible.

Of course, some well-intentioned Christian will say that as a Christian I am constrained to fight differently from my enemy, more ethically, or justly. I agree. I just don't think that torturing terrorists--people who don't mind slicing off a few heads--is unethical, or unjust. The aggressors, as far as I'm concerned, just don't get to complain about how they are comabatted, especially considering the way they "fight". They use our very sense of ethics and justice against us. No one in his right mind gives to his enemy the very means which his enemy needs in order to defeat him. As we used to say when I was in the army, "@#$& that!" Why don't we just give them tanks, and jets and machine guns too.
02 November 2005

Secret prisons? So what?

While the (anti?) American press are letting the world in on our covert prison system we can recall that one year ago today Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh had his throat slit by Mohammed Bouyeri.

Now, why do I link the two? Because the secret prison story is supposed, by some, to raise concerns about what kind of people we are becoming in the war on terror. Mohammed Bouyeri is a fellow traveller with the kind of people we are holding. We have not become anything like him. To kill, or merely to hold prisoner--even to torure--does not make us like "them." Why? Because they are the agressors: we would not be doing whatever it is we are doing but for the attempt to get them before they get us. Mohammed Bouyeri knows what kind of war he is fighting; and he knows how his ilk are fighting it. We are still doing better then our enemies: if we fought the way they do, we would just slit the throat of every Arab-looking person and every Muslim we could find. As it is, we still try to discriminate between those who are participants in the war against the West and those who are trying to live at peace with the West.

Those poor people (sniff) in those awful covert prisons (sniff, sniff) are getting better from us than they would extend to us.

The only way to do any fighting is the way Sean Connery put it in "The Untouchables." Remember? It went something like this: He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.

Or better yet, and a real treat, how about this bit of the "Patton Speech" from the 1970 movie, "Patton" (and based on historical research, by the way):

...When you were kids you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, big league ball player, the toughest boxer. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost and will never lose a war, because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans....

Now, we have the finest food, equipment, the best spirit, and the best men in the world. You know, by God I, I actually pity those poor bastards we're going up against, by God, I do. We're not just going to shoot the bastards; we're going to cut out their living guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We're going to murder those lousy Hun bastards by the bushel.

The Nazis are the enemy. Wade into them. Spill their blood. Shoot them in the belly. When you put your hand into a bunch of goo that a moment before was your best friend's face, you'll know what to do.

Now there's another thing I want you to remember: I don't want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position. We're not holding anything. Let the Hun do that. We are advancing constantly and we're not interested in holding onto anything except the enemy. We're going to hold onto him by the nose and we're going to kick him in the ass. We're going to kick the hell out of him all the time and we're going to go through him like crap through a goose.

Now, there's one thing that you men will be able to say when you get back home. And you may thank God for it. Thirty years from now when you’re sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee, and he asks you: "What did you do in the great World War II?" You won't have to say, "Well, I [wrote excrement for the Washington Post]."

Alright, now you sons-of-bitches, you know how I feel....

That's all.

Pretty much sums it up for me.

About Me

James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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