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Friday, January 19, 2007

War - What is it good for?

The war in Iraq.

The nation is polarized into two camps: Pro-war and Anti-war. Should we continue the war in Iraq and maintain a presence or should we pull out? If we continue should we escalate? If we pull out how soon should we leave? But the heart of the question just might go to the justness of the war: Is it a just war or is it an unjust war?

What is a "just war"? This is a moral statement. It is about right and wrong. In a given situation if a nation has the "right" reasons to go to war then the war is just. I guess a good example of this is if some bully nation decides to pick on you and wants to take your land, your women and all your stuff. You defend yourself and fight back. Bingo! You have all the right reasons. Hence you have a just war. We might even say that you have a righteous war.

But that's for a nation on the defensive. Are there just reasons to go on the offensive and take the initiative for war? In World War II the Japanese bombed the bageezees out of us at Pearl Harbor. So, we declare war and send some of our boys over to the French beaches. That seems like another rather simple scenario. The US was threatened by the Axis alliance so they threw their lot in with Brittain & Co. and kept Europe from becoming a German speaking continent. Simple, right. Well, it is only simple if the simple scenario holds. If things are really that clear cut then the moral choice is certainly easier. But the question always centers on whether or not things are as they seem because there are things that we are told and there are things that are actually happening.

Here's the difference: The government puts out their story on why they are going to war. 10 times out of 10 the story they put out is a pretty good one. It inspires us to a greater good. It moves us to action. We want to fight because we want to make the world a better place. Average Johnny American will go to war and support a war if it is for a higher calling. We can endure a great deal of suffering, pain, and sacrifice if we are doing it to protect our families or to set someone free or for the greater glory of God, etc. So, a nations leadership has a vested interest in inspiring its people for the greater good. That's what they are going to sell. The question is this: Are they selling the real deal?

The information we receive is filtered. I listen to Rush Limbaugh. He's funny and, by and large, we share the same point of view. I know my info. is going to be filtered, so why not get it filtered through someone I like and agree with? You like the New York Times - fine. You just choose a different filter. But we both probably try to get our news from a variety of sources just to try to get the whole picture. But that's the question: Can we ever really get the whole picture??? How do we ever know if our nation's motives in going to war are just? How do we know that our leadership is pure as the wind driven snow? Unspotted and untainted by evil? Isn't there always things going on behind the scenes? Aren't there always invisible hands moving and manipulating events? Do we ever know the full story? Do we ever see all the cards?

Here's the point: We can conceive of a just war. We can talk theoretically of the right reasons to fight. However, it seems to me that a realistic person will acknowledge that a just war is really only a theory. There may be some completely just wars throughout human history, and there may be some completely unjust wars. But most wars seem to be some sort of mixture of the two - some good motivations and some bad. Some just reasons and some unjust reasons. Most war seems to fall between the two extremes of "righteous" and "unrighteous."

So, what do we know about Iraq? Well, by this point you probably know most of what I know, and I know most of what you know. Is it just, unjust, or somewhere in between? Well, as you probably can imagine by now I think it is somewhere in the middle. Where it falls exactly is what we debate. How do we debate? Well, we take the facts. We do our homework. But where do we get our facts? We choose our filters wisely. Do we ever know the whole story? Probably not. But the Johnny and Janie Americans do the best we can with the information we have. And then we hash things out at the coffee shops, in the classrooms, and on the blogs.


What is it good for?

Good question. Let's talk.

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