When has the human race ever been without war? The Pax Romana maybe, but not many other times before or since. It seems we are forever working to prevent war, preparing for war, in the midst of war, or winding down wars one after the other.
Recently I wrote an article called “Waging War, Pursuing Peace.” I tried to understand my own thoughts and feelings, my own perspective, if you will, on this never-ending issue.
I despise wars and the destruction they work on humanity, nations, cultures, and economies. I’m not a pacifist, but I yearn for peace and think we should all work for peace.
“War is hell,” General William T. Sherman famously said, and he should know for he and his troops left a trail of burning and bitterness through the South during the Civil War that is yet felt today.
War isn’t glorious, though combatants and civilians caught in its grip can be heroic and admirable. War is destruction and death.
But peace at any price is too costly. At times wars are moral and essential to combat evil.
So what we should pursue is not just peace but a just peace.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012
America has been at war for nearly ten years and two presidential administrations. Responding to 9/11, the U.S. initiated military operations in Afghanistan October 7, 2001. Thus far, the War in Afghanistan has cost 1,623 American lives, with over 10,000 wounded.
Not quite two years later, March 20, 2003, the Bush Administration decided to go after “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, to later take down dictator Saddam Hussein, and later still to defend freedom and re-establish stability in the region. The weapons of mass destruction proved not to exist, Saddam is gone, freedom is tenuous, and stability is a non-starter. To date, 4,462 Americans have lost their lives in the Iraq War and more than 33,072 have been wounded.
On March 19, 2011, with NATO the Obama Administration launched “Operation Odyssey Dawn” air strikes over Libya. Ostensibly no American casualties have yet occurred in Libya, but it depends upon how you count.
The cost thus far of these wars is about $424,820,059,200 in Afghanistan, $783,721,570,100 in Iraq, and $608 million so far in Libya. The costs are increasing so fast a dollar estimate is incorrect as soon as it's printed.
You’d be forgiven for asking, “All this for what?” Today in Washington, D.C., as well as amongst the Republican aspirants to the presidency, no political leader can give you a clear answer, just politics-speak. None of the worn out arguments any longer hold water.
President Barack Obama won office in part because he voted against the Iraq War and in part because he promised to bring troops home from Iraq and draw them down in Afghanistan. He hasn’t delivered, and then he started his own military action in Libya, defended by liberals who had verbally assaulted President George W. Bush for doing the same thing in Iraq.
Obama Got Osama May 2, 2011, the Al Qaeda terrorist we’ve been chasing for a decade. He’s a goner, but we’re still fighting.
Recent CBS and “USA Today” surveys respectively indicated 51% and 59% of Americans believe it is time to end the War Without End. I agree.
It’s time to bring American troops home safe, sound, and soon. Not soon, now.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011
Christian reaction to Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of American Special Forces wasn’t that different from other US citizens’ reactions. Most rejoiced in an outpouring of relief, closure, or patriotism. Some gloated.
On the other hand, some, maybe many, used Twitter and other social media to worry aloud whether the death of any human being could properly be the focus of anything other than sadness. In an effort to avoid what they considered an improper response they seemed almost to lament bin Laden’s demise. Or at least they lamented America’s hand in bringing it to pass. It’s these latter responses that caught me by surprise.
I admit that I am glad we finally got bin Laden. I don’t feel any special charge from this. But I am pleased and relieved on behalf of the American people, our ideals, the families who lost loved ones in 9/11, and the families who lost servicemen and women in the last nine years of war. I also remember clearly that Osama bin Laden was a terrorist, mastermind of 9/11, and a clear and present danger to the United States if not the entire West. So in view of this Christian angst about the circumstances of bin Laden’s demise caught me off guard.
I certainly agree with those who suggest Christians, or Americans in general for that matter, shouldn’t become cocky. I appreciated President Barack Obama’s announcement. He spoke solemnly and strongly, said he made the decision, and reminded us of the “why” of the avoidable but tragic suffering of 9/11. He said we were not at war with Islam but with this one man: “Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims." The President avoided conveying an attitude of triumphalism, hubris, or bravado. Yet he warned the world’s bad guys that the US would protect its citizens. It was a well-crafted and well-presented statement.
It seems to me that Christians who’ve struggled with how to respond to OBL’s end confuse vengeance with justice. They quote Romans 12:19 asserting it’s God’s province to avenge. True enough, but bringing bin Laden to heel was not about vengeance. It could have been. It could have been about individuals acting independently and unlawfully to seek retribution. But it wasn’t. It was about an official government armed force, acting under direction of duly elected leaders to bring lawfully to account—to justice—a person deemed to be a mass murderer and threat to thousands or even millions of innocents.
Vengeance and justice are not to be confused. Vengeance aborts the law. Justice preserves the law. Vengeance disrupts order. Justice reestablishes order based on law.
Scripture says, “Rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” What American Special Forces did in bringing Osama bin Laden to account was an act of justice.
Looking upon OBL’s death as justice means we rejoice not in the destruction of a human being but in a victory of righteousness. Christians can support this, for God’s law is vindicated.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011
After wrestling with my conservative inclinations I’ve come to the conclusion the U.S. needs to get out of Afghanistan—the sooner the better.
To date, War in Afghanistan casualties include some 2,162 Coalition personnel, including 1,342 U. S. service members who've given their lives in Afghanistan. They gave the ultimate sacrifice for what initially was a justifiable military response to 9/11 but what has since become a mish-mash of objectives few national leaders can articulate with clarity or passion.
Beginning October 7, 2001, just weeks after 9/11, the U.S. launched Operation Enduring Freedom. The goal? To find and capture or kill Osama bin Laden, the perceived leader responsible for 9/11, to destroy Al Qaeda, the terrorist group that sponsored 9/11 assassins, and to remove from power the Taliban regime that provided safe haven for bin Laden and Al Qaeda.
Within weeks the Taliban regime was deposed, Al Qaeda seemed to be on the run, and bin Laden had gone to ground. Now it’s nine years later and the situation in Afghanistan has not appreciably changed or improved. In fact, some would argue it’s worse.
It is true that the Taliban is no longer able to enact nationally its strict legal system and arbitrary punishments, including cruel and unusual ones in which people were executed publicly for a variety of religious offenses. It’s also true that bin Laden is no closer to being found and brought to justice.
At any given time civilian and military leaders in both the Bush and now Obama Administrations have communicated a vast array of convoluted, confusing, and at times conflicting objectives for the war effort. No one, even the President, can provide us with a clearly stated, brief “elevator speech” describing why we are there and what we are trying to do.
Nation-building, at first rejected by President Bush and his neoconservative staff, later emerged, sort of, as a goal for our engagement. Meanwhile, the U.S. has lost international credibility, continues to drain its economy, and cannot say when we’ll leave because we don’t know what it looks like to “win,” if indeed we’re trying to win.
Afghanistan is not Iraq in the sense that it is a country where tribal culture still persists. Consequently, a surge of troops will not necessarily result in less violence. Insurgency continues rooted in centuries of local politics.
In addition, the financial costs of the War in Afghanistan are staggering. We’re spending about $200 billion per year in direct and indirect costs. That’s $1 million per U.S. soldier or $3,947 per family of four per year, approximately $101 million per day.
It’s time to ask Why? Are we appreciably safer than we were five years ago? If the Taliban is now little more than a confederation of ill-equipped tribal groups and if NATO is willing to include Taliban leaders in peace talks, whom are we now trying to subdue? If, as many sources allege, bin Laden is in Pakistan, why are we fighting in Afghanistan? And none of these questions raise the specter of civilian collateral damage for which we are responsible, something we’re not willing to examine or admit.
The Soviets met their Waterloo in Afghanistan. I don’t want us to meet ours. President Obama won office largely on his claim he voted against the Iraq War and would end it if he were elected. Iraq was Bush’s war, so Obama could sling mud without fear of getting any on himself. Now, though, Afghanistan has become Obama’s war and he’s repeated many of Bush’s actions in Iraq.
Bringing U.S. troops home doesn’t equate with abandoning Afghanis to their fate. We’re involved financially now and could be involved in more targeted ways with financial aid in the future, at far less cost than we’re paying now.
It’s not that I’m against military action when it’s necessary and important. It’s that I’m weary of military action that has no goal. I think the majority of the American people feel the same way. We’ll fight when we need to and we’ll fight to win. But we don’t like to fight when we don’t know why we’re fighting.
For more on the Taliban, see James Fergusson's Taliban: The True Story of the World's Most Feared Guerrilla Fighters.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010
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