Is War Ever Justified?

Yes, it is--but not nearly as often as we been taught here in the 21st century. On the subject of when it's morally permissible to go to war, George W. Bush and many of his predecessors could learn a great lesson from an ancient American military commander.

We shouldn't talk about political issues in Sunday School class, but I've got to get some things off my chest...so I'll talk about them here instead.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, although it is politically neutral, encourages its members to be politically active. However, that political activism is prohibited from occurring in

In modern-day parlance, "just war" means that even a half-baked idea is reason enough for the world's only superpower to dominate yet another nation, because the United States only wants what's best for everyone else.

So did Stalin. So did Hitler.

LDS meetinghouses. You may imagine, then, how difficult it was for me to bite my tongue to prevent it from saying political words during our Sunday School class today, in which we discussed the subject of war.

When the question was posed in class this morning: "When is it justifiable to go to war?" I leaned over and asked my wife if it would be appropriate to respond, "When another country is controlling the oil that we need." She smiled a don't-you-dare look and then almost slapped me.

Captain Moroni was a beloved commander of the Nephite peoples; his story is told in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Moroni abhorred war, but realized that it was sometimes not only permissible, but imperative, to enter a war against one's enemies.

Considered a local situation: is it okay for us to go to war with our enemies when we are defending ourselves or our families? I'm sure you'd agree that if another person began beating up on your wife or child, you would feel justified in fighting back against her aggressor.

The same metric can be applied to nations. We go to war in self-defense and for not much else. Moroni understood this concept well
9 And now the design of the Nephites was to support their lands, and their houses, and their awives, and their children, that they might preserve them from the hands of their enemies; and also that they might preserve their brights and their privileges, yea, and also their cliberty, that they might worship God according to their desires.
10 For they knew that if they should fall into the hands of the Lamanites, that whosoever should aworship God in bspirit and in truth, the true and the living God, the Lamanites would cdestroy.
Early on in the so-called War on Terror, George W. Bush pretended that America was attacking Afghanistan and then Iraq for the very reason of protecting our liberty. When, after a very short amount of time, it became obvious that this had never been the case, the claim was that we had been about building democracy in these countries all along. In and of itself, this pared-down claim is a desecration of those who died on September 11, 2001.

And now, the sabers are rattling against Iran in nearly the same way that they were rattling against Iraq six years ago. Are we smart enough to recognize propaganda and non-just war when we see them this time around?

Probably not. Because members of the intellectual community have invented a much lower threshold, which they have given the unfortunate misnomer of "just war". In modern-day parlance, just war means that even a half-baked idea is reason enough for the world's only superpower to dominate yet another nation, because the United States only wants what's best for everyone else. So did Stalin. So did Hitler.

If we are truly just, we don't go to war when oil is at stake--instead, we find alternative sources of energy. We don't go to war simply because American corporate interests are at stake--instead, we champion through our example the benefits of liberty. We don't go to war when one of our allies attacks one of our enemies--rather, we avoid entangling alliances in the first place. And we for sure don't use the vitriol of false propaganda to stir up the people to call for and sanction illegal wars.

Moroni didn't do any of these things. In a remarkable display of character, while abhoring the act of war, Captain Moroni never entered war with anger or malice for his enemy. When the Lamanite chief Zarahemna was captured, Moroni magnanimously offered a covenant with Zarahemna and his people that if they would lay down their weapons and commit to never come to battle against the Nephites again, he would let them leave in peace.

Sometimes I wish it were okay to talk politics in Sunday School. There are a few people in my Sunday School class who understand the basic concept of when it's morally permissible to enter a war, but there are some that don't. Some that understand the concept don't still don't see, though, how it is applicable to our day. Even worse, outside of my Sunday School class, there are a plethora of Americans who, having voted for George W. Bush twice, still don't seem to have a clue as to what a just war is.

George W. Bush, you are no Captain Moroni.

Do you think there are government leaders out there today who have the courage and integrity of a Captain Moroni? Yes, there are. But we have this really bad habit of, in nearly all cases, ignoring them or being afraid to vote for them out of deference to the "Lesser of Two Evils" doctrine. That's gotta change!




Comments

  1. I wish you were in my sunday school class!

    What do we do when we don't have the option of voting for someone other than the lesser of two evils.

    How do you know if someone is what they say they are, and do "good leaders" really stay good through the course of their political careers?

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  2. I would most generally agree. I have a post on the back burner showing why militarism is not only self-destructive from a historical perspective, but is contrary to the scriptures (not only Captain Moroni, but by virtually all the wars with the Lamanites and Gadianton Robbers, and by the example of Coriantumr of the Jaredites).

    As a rule, I believe in the standard you imply: you go to war only to defend your borders (as the Nephites did--when righteous). But by that standard, WWII was an unrighteous war (neither Hitler nor mussolini ever threatened the U.S. border, and virtually every battle against Japan after Pearl Harbor was on foreign soil). And given the villainy of Hitler, I can't believe stopping him was the right thing to do.

    So I put it to you, not as any trick question but as one who agrees with the premise but believes in constant self-examination of one's position: Is there no time when an aggressive war would be justified?

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  3. A correction: "Given the villainy of Hitler, I can't believe stopping him was not the right thing to do."

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  4. Yes, I was wondering today in sunday school if anything interesting would happen, but it didn't. However, the teacher read this quote and it made me think about whether or not we should help struggling allies:

    Elder David O. McKay said: “There are … two conditions which may justify a truly Christian man to enter—mind you, I say enter, not begin—a war: (1) An attempt to dominate and to deprive another of his free agency, and, (2) Loyalty to his country. Possibly there is a third, [namely], Defense of a weak nation that is being unjustly crushed by a strong, ruthless one” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1942, 72).

    He says "possibly there is a third..." What if we were truly only helping Iraqis escape the grip of Sadaam? What about Georgia now? What about Sudan and other countries where people are being slaughtered? Is it just to help them? I usually hear people that use the Book of Mormon as the basis of their "just war theory" say that we should mind our own business unless someone is attacking our own nation. What do you think?

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  5. In the Just War principal in Christian tradition is pretty old - I think it was first articulated by Thomas Aquinas but his thinking drew on ancient sources.

    The basic principals were:
    1. War can be waged as a last resort - only after all nonviolent alternatives have been exhausted.
    2. War must be waged by a legitimate authority (this one is challenging).
    3. It must be fought to redress a wrong suffered (thus self defense is a valid reason to fight but it must come after an attack and against those who launched the attack).
    4. It must have reasonable chance of success; suicidal wars are not just by definition.
    5. The ultimate goal is to reestablish peace - the peace after the war must be better than that which existed before (this part of the theory can be ethically troubling; it suggests that if a million people have to die to topple a dictator who would only have killed 10,000 maybe the war isn't preferable).
    6. The violence used must be proportional to the wrong suffered (we can't kill of million of them for every one of us who died).
    7. We must discriminate between combatants and civilians. This challenges our thinking about WWII which was waged as a total war and in which civilians were considered legitimate targets.

    It's a rigorous standard and certainly a difficult one to meet. I think it's safe to say WWII was just in that the subsequent peace was definitely better than what would have happened if the war hadn't been fought. However, there were some profoundly ethically troubling things that happened during that war.

    To be honest, I don't know any of the Book of Mormon stories well enough to comment on them, but certainly the Hebrew Bible contains all kinds of examples of war waged in God's name that were not just. The Christian Testament, by contrast, offers us a relatively unequivocal statement in the Sermon on the Mount - blessed are the peacemakers. Quakers have long argued from that passage that Christianity must be pacifist - perhaps even radically so.

    It was in response to such thinking that Aquinas first articulated the idea of Just War - that maybe a Christian could go to war without violating the obvious inherent pacifism in Christianity. We could certainly do worse than the to follow the Quakers, however.

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  6. International law is the best guide. A nation can wage war:
    (1) In response to an attack, or
    (2) When authorized by the United Nations Security Council.

    That's simple enough even George Bush should be able to understand it.

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  7. Allie,

    Most leaders don't stay good during their careers. It's hard to when you have the threats of the Establishment and the siren call of the various K Street lobbyists drawing your mind away from what's really important. Ron Paul is one of those few people who hasn't gone bad.

    Someone else in my Sunday School class said that we need to vote our conscience rather than for someone just because someone else is worse. If Americans had been voting their conscience these past twenty or more years, rather than for the lesser of two evils, chances are much more likely that we wouldn't be voting this time around for the lesser of ipecac and gasoline.

    Derek,

    I'm excited to see your article. I completely agree. There is hardly a war in the last 100 years that was justified. Including Korea, our saber-rattling for war was based on our inordinate fear (even while we financially supported it) of communism.

    I am of the Robert Taft/Charles Lindbergh wing of the Republican party. As an American soldier, it's hard to disagree with a war in which so many gave so much more than I did, but I don't agree that American entrance into Europe during WWII was necessary. There is no reason whatsoever for the United States to have become involved in the First World War.

    Piccolo,

    Our gospel doctrine teacher read the same quote out of the lesson manual, and it made me wonder the same things you are wondering. I used to chide the Clinton Administration for not going into Rwanda when the genocide was happening there. I'm reading a book called "The Assasins Gate" that gives me a whole new perspective on how exiled Iraqis poignantly played into the Bush administration's decision to go into Iraq. The history of these places, however, shows that American involvement in the past there has directly led to the untenable situations involving Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollahs, as well as the Iraq occupation.

    I am a Ron Paul republican, who thinks that our foreign policy should involve example rather than force and intrigue, and who predicted in 2002 the occupation of Georgia by the Russians if the US attacked Iraq.

    Let me know what your views are on the justness of the Iraq War, Darfur, etc.

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  8. Glenden,

    I'm particularly interested in your item #5 about how peace must be better than what came before. You make a persuasive point as to the justness of WWII, because it satisfied that criteria. Along those lines, it's frustrating to me that the Bush Administration didn't think much about what came after the attack in Iraq, and we are paying the price now for their shortsightedness, lack of planning, and disdain for the plans of those who did.

    Richard,

    Is it possible that the Security Council would mandate a war/occupation that is not in response to an attack (would Rwanda have been such a case)? If such a case, should the US veto? I'll admit, the nearly unilateral character of US attack on Iraq leads to great (and deserved) disrespect from other nations and their citizens, but would a unilateral "no" in some cases be the correct response?

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  9. Frank,

    Though our justification for going to Iraq can be debated ad nauseum, I object to your frequently used notion of "inordinate fear." I don't think that fear of Communism (and particularly the revival of the Soviet State) is inordinate. I do not think the fear of Radical Islam is inordinate either. That's not to say we need to go to war with everybody and their dog. But we also need not bury our head in the sand. (Incidentally, your constant references to U.S. "imperialism" drives me up the wall too, but that's a gripe for a different post.)

    Richard,

    Yeah, we all know that the UN has the world's and our best interest in mind when making international policy.

    Derek,

    Nice to see a sensible statement from you, re: WWII.

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  10. Glenn Greenwald has a first-class post regarding the use of military force and U.S. hypocrisy. Must-read.

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  11. My simple opinion, for now, is that we should stay out of any conflict unless someone attacks us directly and, in some few circumstances, our close allies. I think helping allies is important when you get someone like Hitler trying to conquer the world. I wouldn't have a problem helping nations or peoples that are being thrashed by larger groups, but the problem is that we can't help everybody, and we have plenty of work to do here at home. I'm afraid we have to pick and choose who we help out, and I hope that we'll choose to help those who need help the most rather than helping people for material gain. All I know for sure is that I don't ever want to be commander-in-chief and I don't see why anyone else would, but I hope we can always elect good people always to the office of the president.

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  12. Richard,

    I love Greenwald's perspective on things. I'm sure you wonder as well how in the hell could Condi Rice not see the gigantic irony of this statement (quoted in Greenwald's article):

    Russia is a state that is unfortunately using the one tool that it has always used whenever it wishes to deliver a message and that's its military power. That's not the way to deal in the 21st century.

    In the article as well, he shows how Biden illustrates the problem with either of the Establishment candidates for president--another reason that it is imperative that we go outside the two major parties for our president this time around.

    DS and Piccolo,

    My perspective of inordinate fear and who we should help is premised by my opinion that the American Establishment knew exactly what it was getting when it helped initially to build up Communism and Hitler. Orwell's 1984 gives a good explanation of why they did it--to have a bogeyman to stir up the inordinate fears of the people. If we hadn't built up Hitler in the first place by (1) creating a far more ominous burden for Germany at Versailles and (2) allowing our Wall Street and other corporate interests to finance him when we knew he was a madman, then we wouldn't have had to help deal with him later.

    In a more recent instance of nearly the same thing, we attacked Saddam after we built him up to fight against our enemy Iran--after we helped to depose freely elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in favor of the Shah, and thus ticked off the Ayatollahs, who then took our embassy staff hostage, and then became our enemies, which made Saddam our "lesser of two enemies".

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  13. Frank, regardless of your rationale, to say that fear of (or apprehension about) Communism and Radical Islam in particular is "inordinate" is simply ridiculous.

    Just because the empirical record shows instances of "bogeymen" (another Staheli classic) built up to create fear, doesn't mean we must dismiss legitimate threats as an over hyped molehill.

    I'm apprehensive about these things because I've spent years researching them, not because some evil neocon told me scary stories.

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  14. DS,

    If you had studied all facets of US foreign policy history, you would not simply have dismissed my "rationale" so flippantly.

    I'm glad you bring up Radical Islam, because this is an excellent example of inordinate fear. Please read the books Blowback and Dying to Win (sorry I forget the authors) to see how our foreign policy is affecting radical Islam. In a nutshell, without our occupation of Muslim lands, there would have been NO 9/11.

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  15. Thanks, Frank and DS, good discussion.

    I'm no expert on foreign policy or its history, but I'm not sure about Frank's bogeyman and inordinate fear thesis. It sounds so conspiratorial and also...do you really think our politicians are smart enough to pull of something that is so long-term and complex? I just don't see it.

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  16. Piccolo,

    You're right. It does sound conspiratorial. Maybe I read to much John Birch literature and Noam Chomsky books.

    ;-)

    However, please read the Salon article that rmwarnick links to a few comments back. That gives you an idea how it continues to work.

    Nixon and Kissinger did in in Vietnam. To understand the Iraq situation, read the book Web of Deceit by Barry Lando. For the Iran situation, there is a chapter in the book Overthrow by Stephen Kinzer.

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  17. Frank said...
    If you had studied all facets of US foreign policy history, you would not simply have dismissed my "rationale" so flippantly.

    Translation:
    If you had read the books I've read and come to the conclusions I did, you wouldn't disagree with me.

    What a juvenile claim to make, Frank. Just because I don't interpret certain events the same way you do doesn't mean I haven't studied U.S. foreign policy.

    Tell me, do you read any books that don't support and append your personal conclusions?

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  18. Now you're going ad hominem.

    I did not say that you would/should agree with me, I just said you wouldn't have dismissed my ideas so flippantly (meaning you would have shown more respect to my point of view).

    Yes, I do read books that have differing points of view. If you have any suggestions of such books, I would be glad to study them as time permits.

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  19. While I can't think of any books off the top of my head that specifically address your inordinate fear/bogeyman theories, why don't you give following a whirl:

    -The Gift of Fear, Gavin De Becker
    -America Alone, Mark Steyn
    -A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900, Andrew Roberts

    There are a few pieces on international theory that you might find informative as well. Can't name any off the top of my head, but I can dig thru my stuff at home and make a few suggestions.

    I wouln't come off so "flippant" to you if you didn't come off so condescending to anybody who disagrees with your mantra.

    I've lurked here a while, Frank. You vascilate a lot (though it seems like you're finally pulling out of a crisis of political belief), and you haven't presented your arguments in such a way that a person not versed in its context would want to give them a second thought.

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  20. I have read "America Alone", and I really enjoyed it, but I'm not sure how that fits into this conversation. I'll see if I can find the others.

    I think vacillating is a good thing. It just means that I'm not absolutely positive that I'm right. Don't you agree that vacillating is good? Sometimes, however, people think I'm vacillating when I'm doing nothing of the sort. Derek S makes this assumption some times on my articles about social issues.

    I'm not sure what you mean by this

    you haven't presented your arguments in such a way that a person not versed in its context would want to give them a second thought.


    But thanks for lurking and challenging anyway. It helps me get smarter. Because like I implied, I don't claim to be infallible.

    And please point out how I came across as condescending, because I certainly never meant to appear that way.

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  21. Well, first a disclaimer: the following conclusions are based on limited observation and may be ridiculously incorrect. I don't know you from Adam, but a man's blog posts tend to say a lot about him. Please understand that I intend no offense by any of my claims.

    When you address a subject with which you seem to have experienced a reversal of a one-time passionate belief, you betray an underlying hostility toward that past belief.

    You tend to innocently overcorrect in these cases, which comes off as condescending to those of us who may still espouse the belief you have now rejected.

    I suppose I could pour thru your stuff and cite some examples, but hopefully you're getting my drift. Your Rush Limbaugh post comes to mind right off, and I believe I brought this up in the comments for that post.

    I suppose I can take vascilation more than sheer stubbornness. In fact, you and Derek S. are polar opposites when it comes to this. He'll die before he vascilates on anything.

    On the other hand, you'll make a really good argument in a post, but after a few opposing comments, you'll sometimes completely reverse your earlier argument.

    The fact that you seem to sway so radically one some issues detracts from the credibility of the one argument you never vascilate on: inordinate fear/bogeyman/imperialism.

    As somebody who skims these conspiracies and is likely to write them off as bunk, evidence of credibility elsewhere in your belief systems might go a long way to causing me to take a second look at them.

    Further, the fact that it seems you've gone through a major personal political crisis tells me you're vulnerable, particularly to arguments like the IF (inordinate fear, for short) stuff.

    That's what I meant by that statement.

    Mind you, I don't paint myself as some omniscient, perfect dude. Heck, I can't even gather my thoughts well enough to post regularly on my own blog. I have to vent on blogs like yours, where I thrive on drive-by challenges. So kudos on having some original thought!

    But if you want my 2 cents (and maybe you don't- I understand), there ya go.

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  22. Charles Lindbergh was a brilliant man, but he allowed himself to be a dupe for the Nazis -- all in the name of doing the right thing, of course. I wouldn't be too quick to ally myself with him.

    I had misgivings about our Iraq adventure from the outset. There are several instances in the Book of Mormon where the people went on the offensive, but suffered because of it (Limhi, Mormon), or that stopped short of invading (Gidgiddoni) and succeeded. Mormon refused to lead his people when they determined to invade.

    Evil must be addressed. But we've got to be darn careful about using the ultimate response of war.

    But having gotten involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are now duty bound to see it out and make the best of the situation. I think that is a righteous response to the current situation.

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  23. Wow, there is a lot to respond to in his hornet's nest you've stirred up, Frank! :) I'll confine this comment only to the original post.

    "We shouldn't talk about political issues in Sunday School class." I agree with you that this is a shame. For a religion to be practical, it ought to touch on every aspect of our lives. It is too bad we're incapable of having a good-natured political discussion at church. Nevertheless, that seems to be the case.

    You imply that it isn't just to go to war for oil. Then you cite a verse of scripture which seems to allow for war, "that they might preserve their rights and their privileges". That "privileges" language seems to leave a bit of wiggle room, doesn't it? I'll grant you there isn't a lot of wiggle room, but there is some.

    You wrote that you would defend your wife if she were being attacked. You then immediately state, "We go to war in self-defense and for not much else." These two sentiments are at odds. You are willing to defend a person other than yourself. Why can't that apply to nations?

    I don't think you're a pacifist, but you seem to be edging that direction. I have trouble seeing a moral basis for pacifism.

    Saddam was a horror. Whatever hand the US may have had in putting Saddam into power doesn't do anything to lessen the case that we ought to have been the ones to depose him. If anything, that would only strengthen our moral obligation to right what we had previously made wrong.

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  24. Frank, I'm delighted you refer to the "bogeyman" in this sense. That will be one of the primary points of my post: nations typically create bogeymen to solidify their power. Nothing creates unity and consensus like a witch hunt. It isn't just a conspiracy theory; we have ample evidence of such tactics from all periods of time and all corners of the globe.

    I agree that there was no justification whatsoever for the US's involvement in WWI. And I agree that the US could have done more to prevent the conditions which allowed Hitler to flourish (though, to be fair, Wilson was one of the few voices opposing the onerous reparations which devastated Germany and fertilized the ground for the Nazis). But as much as I want to be firm on the policy of only going to war to defend against literal invasions, I can't help believe there are times when external atrocities are so brutal that aggressive war is justified (as in the case of WWII).
    I can't help believe that WWII is one of the only two wars (along with the Civil War) which were justified since it was formally established under the Constitution. So I am obviously torn.

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  25. DS,

    At any rate, I appreciate your observations as to how my behavior comes across. Regarding the Rush Limbaugh topic, I don't feel that I have vacillated on this issue. Rather, I feel I was bamboozled by Rush Limbaugh for a lot of years, and I am, quite frankly, embarrased it. I apologize if my demeanor when discussing this subject comes across as condescending. Man-made Global warming is another subject where I have this problem. I need to work on it.

    You said

    but after a few opposing comments, you'll sometimes completely reverse your earlier argument.

    I hope that doesn't mean that I'm vacillating (more than once), but rather that it means I have seen the invalidity of my original argument. I think being open minded and able to admit a mistake is healthy.

    I have NOT gone through a "major personal crisis", political or otherwise.

    You say

    As somebody who skims these conspiracies and is likely to write them off as bunk, evidence of credibility elsewhere in your belief systems might go a long way to causing me to take a second look at them.

    Good point. I hope (and think there are) that there are other issues on which I have a point of view that doesn't sound conspiratorial.

    Reach,

    I'll have to study more about Charles Lindbergh to see what you mean that he was a dupe.

    You make a great point about Iraq. Richard Warnick (via, I think Colin Powell) refers often to the "Pottery Barn Rule", which is that if we broke it, we bought it. We do need to assist the Iraqis and Afghanis as long as they want us to.

    Bradley,

    With apologies to Obi Wan Liberali, thank you for jumping into this "hornet's nest"!

    I wasn't probably clear. Self-defense includes defense of others (family members, other nations). Piccolo referred to David O. McKay's statement (see "possibly a third..." above) in agreeing with your premise. I agree, but disagree with the foreign policy actions of the US that led up to the problems in the first place.

    Derek,

    Orwell's 1984 is a great example of how bogeymen are created, but you are right that we have bogeymen galore. Nasser, Mossadegh, Salvador Allende, Saddam, abu Musab al Zarqawi, and Ahmadinejad are the first few that come to mind.

    I concede, under the Pottery Barn Rule (discussed above) that we helped break Germany (and helped Hitler rise to power), so we should own the solution to the problem. As I mentioned to Bradley, I am just annoyed by the events that led up to Hitler's blitzkrieg, of which the US is far from innocent of having helped to occur.

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  26. Yep, Orwell really crystalized the issue in that book. And you listed some great modern examples. But it is hardly a recent phenomenon; I, only an amateur historian, can name at least a dozen from as far back as Classical Mediterranean history through to WWI (itself a quintessential example of the perils of militarism and the boogeyman strategy on all sides of the conflict).

    To me, the issue of WWII isn't so much that we abetted Hitler in his crimes (which we did, and for which the leaders who did so should have been held responsible). To me, the issue is simply humanity. Hitler was butchering millions upon millions of people (all too often we forget that the Jews were hardly the only targets of Nazi genocide; "gypsies," Russians, assorted other Slavs, and all sorts of others were deliberately slaughtered in concentration camps) at some point, I think we need to stand for humanity. But I will certainly admit that such justifications must be carefully scrutinized and approached with a number of checks and balances, lest they be undertaken trivially, spuriously, and lead to the sort of military adventurism and imperialism in which our nation has so often participated.

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  27. Regarding Hitler, you're probably right. But I think we're saying the same thing. In my nutshell, we made a mistake by helping pave the way for Hitler to come to power, but once he was in power, it was too late, and we had to consider it only from the humanitarian perspective.

    However, I'm not sure I'm completely convinced...

    Did we kill more Germans (and Japanese) with our carpet bombing of Dresden (and Tokyo) than Hitler did? Probably not (the accepted figure for Hitler's victims is 6 million dead), but (1) did we know that at the time we began the carpet bombings, and (2) where do we draw the line with our tactics?

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  28. Very good points about WWII. Just to clarify, I certainly believe that many times the US prosecuted the war in an barbarous manner (Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki). And as I reflect on it, I can't even say absolutely that WWII was "just." I just can't bring myself to state with certainty that it was wrong, unlike the vast majority of conflicts the US has undertaken.

    How then do you feel about the Pacific Theater? Japan did, after all, actually attack US soil.

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  29. As for Japan, that's much easier for me to distinguish, for the very fact that you state--they attacked us. I agree that we should have gone to war with Japan.

    The other nuance regarding Germany is that Hitler declared war on the U.S. 4 days after Pearl Harbor...

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  30. Ironically, I think the Pacific Theater is much less justified than the Atlantic. Yes, Japan attacked us, but we were already strangling them with embargoes and other coercive foreign policy measures. We were punishing them for doing something the Western powers had been doing for decades--building an empire in Asia. I guess empire building is only acceptable for white nations.

    Given the hypocrisy of the US actions, I have a hard time seeing the Pacific as just. Sure, we had a right to fire back when they attacked us, but to actively go out and attack them, I'm less convinced.

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  31. I have been following this blog as a fan of Frank’s ideas for a long time, I am finally pulling out of lurking mode to respond to Bradley's response:

    Frank Said, "We shouldn't talk about political issues in Sunday School class."

    Bradley said, “I agree with you that this is a shame. For a religion to be practical, it ought to touch on every aspect of our lives. It is too bad we're incapable of having a good-natured political discussion at church. Nevertheless, that seems to be the case.”

    I am actually the teacher of that class, and I would LOVE to talk politics more. I don’t do it blatantly because I worry about the discussion staying good natured if we did start talking politics, and the purpose of Sunday School is to teach gospel principles and let people feel fellowship and the Holy Spirit. Which I don’t think happens very well if there is contention.

    But I believe that politics and religion are inseparably connected – they are both belief systems. And some people seem to “cement” their beliefs and then any idea that challenges those beliefs is cause for contention. They are afraid to think they might be wrong.

    So, I do bring up political parallels - especially since the Book of Mormon was written to us for our time. But I try very hard not to mention any particular Political Party or Leader or even Named Ideology (for example, I consider myself a constitutional libertarian, and I know many of the class members are die-hard Republican, with some being outspoken Constitutionalists, and maybe even some Democrats – but they don’t let themselves be known) so that I don’t offend while trying to teach principles.

    And I never claim to have absolute understanding or knowledge, I just teach the scriptures. (Actually, I don’t even consider myself as teaching. Everyone in the class most likely knows the scriptures better than me anyway. I see my roll as asking leading questions and keeping the discussion on topic.)

    The principles in the scriptures are religious, temporal, political, and natural. They are mostly the same in all religions’ teachings. I don’t think it matters if these principles are inspired by God or are simply a collection of observations about human nature and society – The law of gravity is the same whether we ascribe it’s discovery to Newton, or some alien race decreeing the laws of this particular universe or created by God. We still have to plan for gravity’s influence if we want to make things happen. We can’t escape what is.

    The big argument seems to always come with politics however, because some people seem to think that we CAN change our nature through force, either legislation or war. So I don’t argue. I try not to preach. I just try to get people thinking. I try to show how the platitudes and stories and direction in the scriptures DO apply to us in our time and our lives. How the ideas put forward are principles that are in effect natural laws. And I try to show how these principles match some political ideas, and how some political ideas may not match these principles.

    So I guess bottom line is, we DO discuss politics in class. Just in a way that is designed to be non-confrontational and not offensive to anyone. (I know, as a Christian I am not supposed to care if I offend as I state the “truth”, but as a realist, I know that to give offence is to close minds.)

    And I always welcome political comments in class– (Especially Frank’s because I tend to agree with him) – I just don’t think it is appropriate for me as the teacher to bring them up.

    BTW, I would have loved to hear the “oil” comment – but I probably would have disrupted the class by laughing for several minutes.

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