Thursday, March 20, 2003

As M'lakMavet has recently observed, the formal onset of military action against Iraq will no doubt inspire bloggers the world over to turn to their browsers in search of a forum to declaim on the situation. I admit that a certain amount of angst compels me to write this rather than turning immediately to bed - but I would say that my attitude toward the war (I know it's not a war, but let's not quibble over that; calling it a "conflict" will only insulate us from what we're actually doing) bears rather significantly on the side of me that this blog is intended to illuminate, and so declaim I shall.

I happen to agree with the legal argument that resolutions 678, 687, and 1441 give the coalition a sound legal footing for what we're doing. I don't mean to say that there's an airtight case for it, but I do think it's a very defensible one and one that a respectable person can hold. There may not be anything in the UN charter about overthrowing nations by force, but if you think that the overthrow of a nation's ruling elite is not entailed in the prosecution of war, I submit to you that you're dreaming. We can thank the Romans for bequeathing to the western way of war the idea that defeat - nay, the unqualified annihilation - of a nation's armed forces does not mean that said nation has lost the war. Nations lose wars when they give up, and not before. Which means that any time you go to war you had best be prepared for the possibility that you will have to put a gun to the collective heads of the people who make the decision. If you aren't willing to do that, should the foe's ruling elite compel you to, best admit to your fighting men and women that you aren't willing to back them to the hilt and stay home. Which means, in my opinion, that either the UN charter does implicitly allow for the violent overthrow of regimes, or else the UN charter is hopelessly out of touch with what the use of force actually means.

As I say, I happen to think we're on sound legal footing - and never mind what the nations who drafted and ratified those resolutions meant. In the first place, in the current environment it's highly unlikely that anybody's going to be objective about what we meant ten years ago (when, let's recall, Iraq was the clear bad guy). The point is, what's written is all we have to go on - and it's not exactly the coalition's fault if what was written can legitimately be construed to support a course of action the original authors no longer find attractive.

So as I say, I think we're on solid legal ground. This does not mean I think we're on sound moral ground. I will not speak in this forum one way or the other about what I think on the morality of this particular war. I will mention a few things about the certain anti-war stances which I find particularly annoying, however:

First is the Vietnam complaint. I know not many people who are very informed about the situation worry that "we might be getting into another Vietnam," but allow me to go on record expressing my frustration that Vietnam continues to be the bogeyman of the peaceniks of my generation. The Vietnam fear is ostensibly that we don't have clear objectives and will therefore get bogged down in endless, high-casualty fighting. I'm not positive about this, but I was under the impression that we do have clear objectives - destroy the Republican Guard as a fighting force, kill or apprehend Saddam Hussein, remove the current regime's weapons of mass destruction and dismantle (again) the means to construct them. If I'm wrong about that, somebody let me know. But what really bugs me about the Vietnam fear is the sense I get that what people actually fear is the sense that our fighting men will find themselves cut off, in strange territory, against a foe they cannot defeat. I suggest that Mr. Cordesman is correct in suggesting that that is not the case. Bluntly put, we're better than they are. I don't mean to suggest that the Republican Guard and even the regular Army are inconsequential foes - but the fact of the matter is that our troops have superior training, superior morale, superior equipment, superior support, the initiative - we're better than they are. By a large degree. Of course Iraq's armed forces might surprise us - but is there any reasonable basis for expecting that we will not crush them utterly?

My second frustration is what I will call the Death complaint: namely, that war causes people to die. You've probably been involved in or heard a conversation rather like this recently: the anti-war person says "war makes people die!" and the pro-war person says "that's what happens in war!" to which the anti-war person says "I know that!" I am not speaking specifically of civilian casualties or combatant casualties here - merely the sense that death in general is a great evil.

I am not suggesting that death should be avoided where possible, but I am suggesting that there are much worse things out there than death. Death, as I have argued elsewhere here, is not a particularly bad thing - oh, it's painful for the survivors, and carries the risk of damnation for the deceased. But pain is not an evil, it's just unpleasant. And damnation, while deadly serious, is a function of the individual's choice not to accept Christ (but what if the individual doesn't believe in Christianity? someone will say. Well then, say I, he has no right to complain if it turns out he's wrong). Is it not worse to stand by while injustice is wrought than to commit violence for the sake of intervening on behalf of the innocent? Or are governments not "an avenger to execute wrath on him who practises evil?" (Rom. 13:4).

Of course you may think that the death toll which warfare inflicts is not worth alleviating whatever suffering Saddam inflicts on his own people. Or you may think that absolutely that suffering should be stopped, but simply have no faith in this campaign's ability to stop it. If so, that is your prerogative - though I avail myself of my own prerogative to disagree with you.

But what I really wanted to write tonight was this: yes, the war deeply distresses me. Yes, it makes me want to cry because the world is so broken. But no, I refuse to let those emotions - emotions, I repeat - prevent my support for what we are doing. This support is based secondarily on the fact that I am willing to back my president's judgment call (and although you did not vote for him, by supporting the Constitution of the United States you affirm Mr. Bush as your president until the next election). But mostly it is based upon a conviction that the men and women who do the killing and dying are putting themselves at much more risk - morally, emotionally, physically - than I, and I do care deeply about the prospect that those men and women will kill and die. I refuse to send my fellow Americans to kill and be killed while shouting at them from the sidelines that what they're doing is wrong, that their sacrifice is in vain and the motives which moved them to pledge themselves to uphold the decisions of lawfully constituted authority were misplaced. Now that the shooting has started, my prayer is that it be over quickly - which means, as the president said, hitting with overwhelming force as hard and as fast and as accurately as we know how. Give 'em hell, boys, for our sake and for theirs.

Jenny asked me tonight if my support of our attack extended so far that I would go if drafted. The answer to that is no, I would not be drafted, but yes, I would go. If things got so bad that the service repudiated its opposition to the draft - if things were that bad and my government was still intent on pressing the campaign - I would sign up. I would sign up rather than wait to get drafted because if things were that bad (which means they would be truly horrific, given the service's current stance on conscription and the unprecedented power and prowess of the United States military) I would want some say in my fate rather than waiting to see where they stuck me. I would go (as opposed to, say, running to Canada) because I would not ask some other mother to send her son to fight and die overseas in my place. I do not go now because there is no indication that my country requires my services, and because God has not called me to join the military. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to know that my country was defended by people who were in uniform for any reason other than a compelling certainty that God had told them that was what His plan for their life was. Probably most of the military doesn't have that certainty, but I see no reason to add to that unfortunate fact.

So my prayer for the war is this: Lord Jesus, let it end as soon as it may. While the shooting lasts, deliver the foe into our hands - not that we can boast of our might, but that the suffering may end soon. May those who fight fight with courage and honor. If they may not lay down their lives for a just regime, at least grant that they lay down their lives for their friends fighting next to them. May those who must die die quickly, with little pain, and may those who may be spared be spared. Grant our boys good targets, that they may attack the soldiers of the enemy and spare those who refuse to take up arms against them. Let them fight with all their skill, tenacity, and ferocity - not out of hatred for the enemy but out of love, and a recognition that war prosecuted by half measures only prolongs the suffering.

When the shooting ends, God, may you move mightily in Iraq. Let the Iraqi regime which emerges from this war be one which fears you and is committed to rule justly and well. Let it be a regime dedicated to serving Iraq and not itself. May the good intentions of America and the world not confound your purpose there, and may the Iraqi people display a worthy courage to stand up and seize the government of their nation for themselves, rather than allowing international politics to dictate their future to them. Whatever you think of this war, Lord, I ask that you use it to display your glory. Confound the naysayers, even if they were right all along, and take this situation and bring about a lasting good from it.

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