Friday, October 9, 2009

No Good War

Earlier this week, there was a small demonstration here in DC. That's not even vaguely unusual. There's always a small demonstration here in DC. The event was in front of the White House, and was a group of progressive organizations gathering to protest the war in Afghanistan.

Opposition to the war in Afghanistan is now the majority position among progressives in the United States. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center showed that 56% of Democrats favor removing US/NATO forces from the region as soon as possible.

I dislike war. I dislike it intensely. It is among the most broken of human institutions, and is in almost every way antithetical to the core virtues of Christian faith. It is never, ever, ever a good thing, any more than an amputation is a good thing. But here I part ways with the majority of my progressive brethren and sistren. The conflict in Afghanistan is not one we can walk away from.

Both the Taliban and the al-Qaeda cells that they so willingly incubated are the mortal enemies of pluralist democracy and progressive values. The systematic terrorizing of the Afghan people prior to 2001 was monstrous, and there is no reason to believe that our withdrawal would result in anything other than that for Afghanis.

Permitting Afghanistan to return to it's pre-2001 state would also be a catastrophic strategic error, as egregious a mistake as our misbegotten war in Iraq. Yes, many Americans are tired of war. Our sense of national purpose following the 9/11 attacks was utterly squandered. But we can't delude ourselves into thinking that the Taliban pose no strategic threat to the United States or our allies. Sure, they themselves do not. They have no capacity for military operations on a global scale. But the safe haven they provided for Bin Laden cannot be permitted to re-emerge.

The conflict in Afghanistan isn't a good war. No war is good. But some wars are necessary.


  1. Now your sounding like a Republican. ;o) You'll have to turn in your Progressive membership card.

    I agree that war is sometimes necessary but this one is not, imho. Democracies flourish best when they are instituted from within, much like our own nations history, and not from without via force. Democracy is fairly alien to that area and it may take a great deal of time to really penetrate the present culture and thus become a real viable option.

    I don't think you can call the current system or political climate in Afghanistan 'democratic' or egalitarian. I don't see it happening anytime in the near future either. Not by force. I also find it troubling that the Administration is currently rumoured to be tossing around the idea of giving the Taliban a political role.

    Latest White House Session...

    And as you and I both know, the Taliban "don't play fair". I think we should move more to a support role, training and strengthening the Central govt. there (I'll have to give up my Minarchist membership card), giving the Afghans more of a role and lessening our involvement altogether, sort of like whats been proposed for Iraq.

  2. @ Jonathan: Yeah. I know. It freaks me out a bit, too.

    The challenge is that our primary task is not a short-term military conflict. It's removing the Taliban, sure. But it's also about reconstructing the ethos of a broken people...and that's not the work of two years, or five years. Doing this right would involve a twenty year multinational commitment. Expecting illiterate hardscrabble tribes to immediately embrace democracy is the kind of Pollyanna neoconservative delusion that got us into this mess in the first place.

  3. I agree with you Pastor Dave. I support a refocused effort in Afghanistan, it's time to direct our attention back on those who were responsible for 9-11.

  4. Dear Frater Dave,

    Can't roll with this, sorry. I have drunk the Jesus/Yoder/Hauerwas koolaid.

    Your reasons are good and your logic is sound but it is not the good news or the reasoning of the Gospels.

    We aren't called to defend pluralist democracies, we are called to be faithful. To quote a bumber sticker I saw earlier this week: "I'm pretty sure that when Jesus said to love your enemies he meant don't kill them."

    Non-violence for me is one of the defining characteristics and duties of citizens of the Kingdom.

    I would pour our totally disarmed military into Afghanistan and set them to nation building activites.

    Sending them to their deaths, you say? Why yes, I am; and how is that different from what the current policy is? The difference is that I wouldn't be sending our armed forces to kill. Now that's sacrificing for your country and your God.

    We have other options than withdrawal and escalation.

    Americans with guns will never pacify the Islamist extremists. Not gonna happen. It's time to try something new, maybe that New Thing that the Spirit is always trying to bring.

    Yours in the Bond and your Brother in Christ,


  5. @ Frater Dawg: It's a tough call, because you're right. Violence does beget violence. Always has, always will. We are not called to the sword, but to love our enemies. Nonviolence is not just's the mandate. Jesus didn't just preach it...he lived it.

    Effective nonviolent resistance relies on a shared sense of humanity, and an awareness on the part of the violator that the human creature they're violating is a Thou, not an It (to use Buber's terms). The British saw the Thou in Gandhi's steel gentleness. During the civil rights movement, Americans watched peaceful men and women beaten and attacked with dogs, and saw the Thou in them.

    But when common humanity is denied, nonviolence has far less purchase.

    Perhaps it would work. Perhaps I badly misjudge the Taliban. But my sense is that they would only feel glee and vindication at the easy slaughter of the infidel. That might change after the first 10,000 deaths. A wave of easy victims might wear them down, or bore them. But given their record, likely not. Faced with that form of evil, I tend to side with a Neimoller or a Bonhoeffer. The sword must be taken up. Perhaps that is to my loss.

    Hold on to your vision of the Peaceful Kingdom, though. It's the best and highest...and I don't dispute the right of anyone to proclaim that graceful vision.

    YITB and Peace of Christ,


  6. Jesus didn't just preach it...he lived it.

    Exactly How did Jesus clear the Temple?

  7. That said - regarding this post:
    I fear pastor Dave has been kidnapped and some other has taken over his blog. I hope Dave is ok. ;)

  8. "But it's also about reconstructing the ethos of a broken people...and that's not the work of two years, or five years. Doing this right would involve a twenty year multinational commitment."

    I really think you're looking at much more than twenty years for any form of democracy to really take hold. We're talking hundreds of years of tribalism to work against as well as entrenched corruption.

    "Expecting illiterate hardscrabble tribes to immediately embrace democracy is the kind of Pollyanna neoconservative delusion that got us into this mess in the first place."

    Well, I'd never accuse you of sounding like a neocon. Do they still make those? ;o) Again, though you're looking at a considerable amount of time and I am just not sure the US can continue to afford the expenditure in any regard. If we are there in a more subtle, support role I think the idea of democracy has a better chance of catching on in a more substantial fashion. At present, a govt. that still incarcerates people for things like "apostasy" and the like, just isn't headed in the right direction.