I hate war. There’s so much politics. There’s so much suffering. There’s so much death. I never want people to have to experience the horrors of war. As a Christian, I individually want to “turn the other cheek” and “love my enemy.” However, these are instructions for individual Christians, and not written to governing officials. For countries, there is a time to go to war. There are some good reasons we should go to war. There are instances in which we realize that sacrificing human lives is worth it. Even with a list like this, each will be justifiable at the surface; yet we know that perspective and politics can shape and reshape ones viewpoint. But an answer for a nation cannot be to never go to war because of its dangers. The cost is too great. Too much evil can take root in the world. So with that thought, let’s begin:
1) Defense: If your country is invaded or attacked you must defend your country and neighbors. To not do so, would bring more calamities on your people. A government has a God-given responsibility to protect its citizens. Obviously such attacks should never be provoked, but defending ones self, family, and property is a pretty basic human right. Now in the defense of ones country, how far can one go? Can more land be taken than previously held? I think of the 6-Day war fought in 1967 by Israel against Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Egypt halted all Israeli ships from entering the Red Sea – an important shipping route. Israel had warned that this would be an act of war back in 1948. Egypt then lined-up their military along the border in a “defensive posture.” Israel then attacked, almost completely taking out Egypt’s air force. Obviously this was controversial, but most conclude this action was a preemptive defensive strike. Now once Jordan and Syria attacked from the north and the east, Israel found itself in all out war with its neighbors. Yet they once again drove the enemy back. Now their previous position didn’t allow them to have enough natural barriers to defend their territory, so they pushed their adversaries back to a defensible position. If you are defending your nation, can you subsequently take more territory? In this particularly case (feel free to read more about it yourself) I feel like because of the events leading up to this (such as snipers shooting at civilians from hill tops for the previous 20 years) that Israel is within its rights to keep those additional territories for defense purposes. They had chances to totally crush especially the Egyptian military, but stopped at Cairo. They have even since returned certain lands to Egypt and Jordan to prove their desires for peace. Obviously this was a complicated case, but the bottom line is: defending ones country is a legitimate reason for war
2) Promises: In both peace and war times, promises are made with other countries. Sometimes those promises are threats that if certain actions occur that it will be considered an act of war. Other times, promises for protection are made from one country to another. After World War II, America and the other allies were concerned that the newly liberated countries on the outskirts of the Soviet Union would be “reclaimed” by the Russians in the forthcoming decades. The world also didn’t want all out nuclear war and worried that the more fledgling nations with nuclear capability there were the greater chance there was for atomic warfare. So America promised to defend these nations against any enemy that might arise (especially Russia.) Now, this is a challenging promise. If something happened within the next few years, then no problem; but if you let a couple generations go by the American people can start to feel like why are we getting involved in a conflict on the other side of the world that has nothing to do with us? Case and point is the Russian invasions in Georgia and Ukraine. I know the Russian claims of ethnic Russians being mistreated, but that seems flimsy. It’s also fair to say that maybe we shouldn’t have made promises to protect those nations in perpetuity. Conditions are certainly different now than in 1944. But the American government did make a promise to protect those nations. Are sanctions enough? Maybe, I don’t know. Maybe it’s complicated in those situations, but we have lots of promises to bring aid with lots of our allies. If we make a promise we should keep our promises. Perhaps we should be more careful about what we promise and amend current deals, but if war comes to our allies then it seems like the “right” thing to do would be to aid and support them as much as we promised, included going to war with their attacker.
3) Genocide: This one comes down to right and wrong. In international politics there are complicated situations, but the systematic killing of whole people-groups in any form of “ethnic cleansing” cannot be tolerated. This is evil. This has to stop. Am I saying America should be the world police? No. I wish the actual international bodies did more to protect innocent people from being slaughtered. But, when the world turns a blind eye, I don’t want America to be part of that crowd. I don’t know if there has ever been a time in earth’s history where this is not occurring somewhere. Right now it’s happening all over Africa, and no one is doing anything to stop it. After going through a Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem I got a renewed sense of why you must go to war sometimes. There were an amazing amount of countries who had no problem with the Jews and yet committed mass genocide just to prove to the Nazis that they were “on board.” Then when the good ‘ole US of A shows up, they switched sides and started fighting the Nazis instead. They just feared whoever was the biggest kid on the block regardless of morality. Fear even more than hate is what led to the mass genocide of over 6 million Jews. War seems to be a constant in this fallen, broken world of ours. I don’t want to fight over oil or land, but saving millions of lives? When it’s that simple, I’m in.
4) Freedom: This might be the toughest to quantify. Every side thinks they are fighting for their freedom. I think it gets too complicated when we start fighting for other’s freedom, but fighting for your own can be worth it. I’ve thought a lot about Romans chapter 13 that talks about submitting to your government. If I was a Pastor during the American War for Independence, how could I have fought against “my government” the British Empire? Not living during that time, it’s too hard for me to know for sure, but I know it would have been a challenge for me. However, who am I to tell a group of people that they shouldn’t fight for their freedom. If you are oppressed and not given the same rights and opportunities as others, maybe war is necessary. I don’t think one country can just come in and give freedom to another. Maybe freedom must be fought for yourself.
5) God: I included this one because there’s no doubt that when God told the Israelites to go to war in the land of Canaan to capture their Promised Land that it was the “right” thing to do. Anything God would tell someone to do would be right. Here’s the problem. There have been tons of government leaders throughout history who have exclaimed to their people that “God told them to do this” or at least that this is “God’s Will.” Without looking at the negative examples which are of course numerous, let’s look to Scripture to see what proceeded God calling his people to war. 1) Miracles: Straight-up God proving it’s Him (parting the Red Sea/Jordan.) 2) Justice: There’s a huge emphasis on the morality of His people and the evil of the opposing nation (lead up to Jericho/Ai.) 3) Prophetic: Nothing was on a whim, there were prophecies presented generations earlier that laid out what God would do (promises to Abraham and half the minor and major prophets.) Just being honest, I wouldn’t believe any government leader that told me God told him to do something. I would need to see confirmation myself. Call me a skeptic or unbeliever, but I have no problem trusting in God… it’s people I don’t trust.
Looking into America’s past I cannot help but be thankful for the millions of soldiers who died for my freedoms, protection, prosperity, and just overall future. I know there were things not done exactly right, but I do believe there was a lot of “right” done over the years. So Happy Memorial Day and let’s remember to be thankful for all the freedoms we have, many of which had to be fought to preserve.