Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Thirst For War

Al Qaeda is gaining momentum in the Arabian peninsula, and in particular in Yemen. Underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab confessed to being trained by al Qaeda in Yemen. As a result there is a growing sentiment among many conservatives that we should be preparing to launch a military campaign in Yemen. War.

I do not understand this insatiable desire to be at war. Dick Cheney continually complains that Pres. Obama refuses to admit that we are at war (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Dick Cheney has an honesty problem). Many conservatives fear that if liberals do not regularly admit to and discuss being at war with Islamic extremists that the extremists will destroy America. The assumption underlying this rhetoric is that war is the only way to make America safe.

This assumption is wrong. The United States government, even under the Bush administration, and other independent sources have all concluded that our wars with and occupations of Islamic nations is the single greatest factor in creating anti-American extremists. We often hear that these extremists hate America for its freedoms and ideals, which is generally not the case. They hate America for its wars and occupation of Muslim nations and lands. This is not necessarily a reason for America to act differently, but it should absolutely be treated seriously.

If we followed the conservative hawks' desire to start a war with Yemen, it would do more harm than good. It would create more terrorists than it would destroy. It would stretch our military even more and put Americans abroad in even more risk. And then Al Qaeda would simply pack up and move to a new country. And we can't just start a new war with every nation that harbors terrorists, we do not have unlimited resources. When America became sufficiently blase about Yemen, like we have about Afghanistan, the extremists would move back in, like they have in Afghanistan. This is a conflict that simply cannot be won through war.

And let's not forget the human side. Most of us are so detached from actual war that we have no idea what it actually means for the nations we attack. I know I don't. But take a look at this article and this photo essay about Yemen and its citizens from Foreign Policy magazine. These are real people living normal lives who harbor no ill-will towards America. These are people whose homes, families, and ways of life would be forever shattered by a misguided attack by America. It was the same for Afghans and and Iraqis. That is not to say that war is never justified, but, again, we have to take it into account.

As members of the church we should be even more acutely aware of these issues. Do we really believe that Muslims are sons and daughters of God? Do we really believe that the Gospel is universal? Can we reconcile these beliefs with disdain for Arabs, disparagement of Islam, and a thirst for war? Protection of America against terrorists is certainly not mutually exclusive to the Gospel, but the way in which we go about it and the emotions and motivations that propel us should be carefully evaluated.


Daniel H. said...

I will definitely say that we need to consider other options, because the wars are not cutting it.

Momma J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Clark Goble said...

A definitional question. Do you think that any military or quasi-military violence counts as war? Put an other way, is the SWAT team conducting war when they engage a criminal?

Second, out of curiosity, how would you deal with a terrorist training camp training for attacks on the US if the local government is unable or unwilling? (Note - I'm not saying that is true of Yemen)

Jacob S. said...

I define war like most people define war, a military conflict between two nations. Police and criminal actions fall outside of that definition completely.

Of course, the "war" on terror makes a tricky fit because the terrorists are extra-national and define themselves by ideology. But we (America) have not found, as far as I can tell, an effective way to prosecute the war on terror outside of the traditional definition. The war on terror so far consists of the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq, although it is clear that the latter turns out to have no real connection with terrorism.

As for going after training camps that we know are set up to train recruits on how to attack America, and American interests abroad, in countries that can't or won't do something themselves, I probably wouldn't have a problem going after them. But not if it means attacking the entire nation and not if we have only fuzzy intelligence. I wouldn't consider this war.

Again, I understand that sometimes war or military action is justified or required, but I think we have fallen into a mindset where it is desirable and sought after and employed without any real human or spiritual calculation.

Now, Mr. Goble, where do you stand on all of this?

Clark Goble said...

I ask, because by that definition it would seem that sending SEALS in to a terrorist training camp in Somalia, Yemen or the like isn't war at all. Likewise Pakistani action against the Taliban and Al Queda from within Pakistan isn't war. That seems odd to me.

My own view is that our definitions and much of our structural thinking is trapped by the "Great Powers" evolution of international politics when the world consisted of a few powers and area they claimed. I think it a very poor fit for the contemporary era. I'm not sure what the alternatives should be, mind you.

As for the calculation, I confess I just don't know how to do it. What is the value of a human life?

Joseph said...

Good post. I basically agree. Check this out. A BoM view of preemptive war. Just some good food for thought.

part 1


part 2


M.Galt said...

Do you think lying can cause war? If so should we avoid doing it?