Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Right Way Through a Horrible Place?

Heads up – this post will contain a political opinion! It may differ from your own, in part or perhaps entirely, and that’s okay. I say this, first of all because I believe that grace-filled, respectful dialogue can happen in matters political, too. Secondly, there are those who think a pastor should have no opinions about political issues, or at least shouldn’t express them. So if you are moved to comment, please do so with respect and grace, and realize this is just my opinion, it’s neither my congregation’s nor my denomination’s official position or anything like that.

I do not think that any reasonable person enjoys war. I think it would be a nearly universal belief that, if the right social/political/economic conditions were present such that there would be no need for war, we’d all be happy with that state of affairs. It seems to me that the biggest conflicting opinions we have are about what exactly those social/political/economic conditions would be. However, currently our nation is at war, and has been for years and years, so the question of the moment is not really “do you like war?” but rather “what should we do about it?”

President Obama sketched out a new approach to the war in Afghanistan last night, and here’s my take on what he said. We are going to send more troops for a limited time period, we are going to hold the Afghani government accountable to create stability, and we are going to work with Pakistan to accomplish the goal.

Consider two groups listening – group A wants the soldiers brought home immediately; group B wants a strategy that does not include a timetable at all. Sending more troops is going to get a thumbs-down from group A, but thumbs-up from group B. Giving the date of July 2011 to begin bringing them home will get a tentative thumbs-up from group A, and an emphatic thumbs-down from group B.

Of course there are people in between and all around those two groups, but I'm defining them for the sake of conversation.

The ambiguity here is that the war is against an ideology, not a nation. I do not think that military strength is the right means to eradicate the extremism that emerges in terrorist attacks. But I’m also not in “group A” – to bring soldiers home immediately would undoubtedly cause more harm than good. It is crucial to consider the innocents whose lives would be destroyed by the immediate withdrawal of the U.S. military forces from the region.

And this is precisely where I agree with the new approach the President spoke about last night. Because things are where they are, sending more soldiers is necessary, for the sake of the innocents. And at the same time, the legitimate governments in the region will know that there is urgency to create the kind of social/political/economic conditions that generate stability and allow for peace. There needs to be a goal to work toward, which is why I am not in “group B.”

The way to confront a destructive ideology is not with military might alone. The president said, “Right makes might.” That line caught me by surprise, and I wasn’t sure what it meant at first. I think it means that our strength comes from doing the right thing, not our ability to destroy an enemy. But at the same time, the expression of the ideology we are confronting violently kills innocent people, and that just cannot continue happening.

Stopping the expression of the ideology with the military, and simultaneously confronting the ideology itself by eliminating its root causes, seems to me to be the way to go, and what the president outlined last night. We can’t just kill the people doing the violence, and think that’s going to solve the problem. The ideology will still be there, and it will foster more people to express it.

I hate the idea of sending even more soldiers into harms way. I also hate the idea of innocent people caught up in the middle of violence. I am in awe of U.S. soldiers who are serving, so far from home, for the sake of other people. What an amazing testimony of sacrifice and selflessness. I am deeply grateful for every one of them, and pray for them and for their families, who long for their safety every single moment they are away.

Look, I’m not an expert on any of this stuff, and I’m sure that many who read this will find points of disagreement. That’s fine. I’m just saying, it is my opinion that the basics of the strategy that President Obama gave last night represent the right way to deal with a horrible, complicated, and painful situation.


Kory Wilcox said...

Hmm. It's all very confusing, to be sure. Where are we to look for/find the root of the ideology we're fighting against? How do we determine when we've found it?

What if someone invaded America with military force in order to fight the expressions of an ideology of "extreme" capitalism that allows for corporations based on our soil to pay children pennies on the dollar to make their products for them in third world countries? Obviously, bombing the factories and killing the children isn't the noble option. So, the next best thing is to attack the HQ and its enabling, "harboring" homeland, right?

If this happened, wouldn't we all be seen as a little guilty, even if we also disagreed with the evil at hand? Who would these hypothetical freedom-fighters NOT be afraid to place in the line of fire? Would my casually walking past someone wearing a product of an offending company itself be considered an agreement with an evil ideology? How far would "the fight" be taken?

Submission to an ideology can happen without one even realizing that the ideology exists. So once we open fire against it, how do we know when and where to stop?

I am with you, Andy. I am amazed at our military for being willing to leave home to place themselves into the center of such a deeply moral and philosophical problem. I wish there were some easier answers.

Kansas Bob said...

Great assessment Andy! If I had my way I would yank the troops out of there but, like you, I am in no ways qualified to make that decision. I am thankful that the prez has spent time meeting, discussing and thinking out a coherent strategy.

The fact that no one is completing in agreement with him makes me think that he is probably heading in the right direction :)

bob said...

You seem to strike a middle ground and your thoughts have some merit. However I think the biggest problem in this whole mess is that we don't even have enough troops to truly be effective. I guess I would fall more into camp B. There definitely is a need for more troops. The time table bothers me because it allows the enemy to lay low and wait. The surge worked in Iraq because there were people to hunt down and fight. We didn't give them a heads up saying we were going to quit on such and such date.

We can pack up and go home but I don't believe they will quit fighting us. They will just have to bring the war to us. This is the path we were on during the nineties leading up to 9-11.

We can all agree on a few things our servicemen deserve our thanks for the work they are doing. Also that the horrors of war are real. Our differences stem from the question of necessity.

bridger said...

Hey Andy,
Seems like we are between a rock and a hard place. It is even harder to find a good solution since so few of us really understand Afganistan. Their culture and country are so different than ours (so I've heard.) Lot's of tribes and seperated groups in some areas. It seems like whoever has the fiercest group of followers gets to lead the government. Seems like it would be hard to expect a country like that to establish a stable security force when it is never been a part of their culture to provide such protection for their governments. I just continue to pray that God will use our troops and leaders, as well as change the hearts and minds of people who need to be changed in order to establish peace in that area. He is, as always, our best and only hope.

John said...

Kory wrote:

What if someone invaded America with military force in order to fight the expressions of an ideology of "extreme" capitalism that allows for corporations based on our soil to pay children pennies on the dollar to make their products for them in third world countries?

Ah, if only we had an extreme capitalist, individualist, minarchist society. What a dream that would be!