The United States government has announced a new policy of “pre-emptive” military strikes against “emerging threats before they are fully formed.” We will not wait until our enemies strike first. I cannot overemphasize the shift this represents.
The debate among Christians (and within ourselves as individual Christians) in regards to war has always involved the tension between the Mosaic law, “eye for eye, tooth for tooth,” and the command of Christ to move beyond the law of Moses, and “turn the other cheek” and “return good for evil.”
To claim a right to “hit first” is not only contrary to the teaching of Christ but to the law of Moses. Indeed, it is a return to the law of the jungle. What if every nation claimed such a right? What kind of world would we live in? This is not a prescription for greater security but for even more chaos and insecurity.
Of course, we are proposing such a change because we are afraid. This is understandable, but let us not let our fear lead us into foolish actions that will only make us more insecure.
The Bible is right when it says, “Woe to those...who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD .” (Isaiah 31:1)
Military might cannot guarantee our security. Certainly we must know that. There has never been a nation in the history of the world with military might as great as ours. Indeed, we spend more on military might than the next fifteen nationscombined. With all our might we are still vulnerable and afraid.
A very real danger is that our policy of eliminating “rogue nations” by striking first will only cause others to cast off all restraint and to create and inspire more terrorists. And even if we are somehow successful in eliminating all weapons of mass destruction in the hands of all potential evildoers, who needs weapons of mass destruction? The destruction of 9/11 was caused by 19 hate filled men armed only with box cutters. We will not be able to destroy all hate filled men nor keep box cutters out of their hands.
In the past, while I have always recognized the need of law and of the exercise of force for the restraint of evil, I also have always recognized its limitations and its hopelessness as an ultimate solution. As Gandhi said, “An eye for eye leaves the whole world blind.” It shows to what a depth we have fallen when I find myself wishing for the “good old days” of “eye for eye.”
©2002 C. David Hess