(December 23, 2002)
On Dec. 20, 2002 there appeared on Bill
Moyer's PBS program "NOW", an interview of Robert Kaplan author of Warrior
Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos (Random House, 2001). In it,
Kaplan argued that no matter how reluctant we may be to engage in
"pre-emptive war" against
this be true, I wondered, where does this put anyone who seriously claims to
follow Christ? Most Christians, to begin with, felt morally obliged to avoid
any involvement with the military might of pagan
this changed when
Of course, everyone knows that these principles have rarely been followed perfectly. Invasions of other lands were even blessed to promote the spread of the Christian faith. Innocents starved to death in the siege of towns occupied by armies, and finally, (in World War II) whole cities were attacked (even entirely incinerated -- in the case of Dresden and Tokyo) even before the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- both cities without any significant military installations yet picked out to be "examples" of what could be done to the rest of Japan.
is Kaplan correct? Has everything changed with the advent of modern weapons of
mass destruction, or is it that we have finally realized that neat distinctions
Do we naively go back to the early Christian practice of avoiding all violence, even when it is merely self-defensive and might mean our own death and the death of those whom we love? Or do we drop all pretense of Christian rules of war and simply return to a carefully calculated policy (very carefully, lest it end in our own self-destruction) of "might makes right"? And if this latter is the only practical choice left us, on what basis can we claim that our civilization is morally superior to that of anyone else?