In the middle of the night on April 13, 2018, aircraft and ships from the United States, Great Britain and France sent more than one hundred missiles into Syria destroying a tremendous amount of that country’s chemical weapons production. This very precise and militarily vicious attack left a path of destruction and death. According to spokespersons for all three members of the alliance, the attack set Syria back many years in their use of outlawed chemical weaponry. Yet, some commentators said this may have been illegal and/or unconstitutional at least for the United States. Others said the three countries had no right to take such an action. Some said it won’t work anyway. Others said there are many outrageous activities around the world, so why isolate the Syrians and their evil actions? As always, many words and many views screamed across the marketplace of ideas.
Some Christian commentators, arguing from a pacifist point-of-view…or at least something close to that idea…said this from the Word of God: “Never pay back wrong for wrong…” 1 Thess. 5: 15. But, of course, this was exactly the question. Namely: were the actions of the three-party coalition “wrong?” Were the actions of the attackers just as “bad” as the Syrians use of chemical weapons. Was the bombing of Syrian chemical resources morally equivalent to the use of those chemicals a week before killing many dozens of men, women and children in the most agonizing ways? In my view, the answer is “No!” Let’s consider when violence and force in the interest of righteousness is appropriate. As always, these are my thoughts. This is not math. The answers are not as simple as five times two is ten. Smart people may feel differently. Understood.
In Isaiah 13, we find that God sent the Medes to destroy the Babylonians. The Word of God bursts with examples of God using war to punish evil nations. True, it is one thing to be sent by God into battle, but can man discern such a “sending?” He must, at times. When Lincoln reflected upon the 600,000 deaths in the Civil War, he saw the hand of God punishing a nation for slavery. Looking off, Lincoln quietly said “The Almighty has His own purposes.”
Yet, none can deny the words of William Tecumseh Sherman. After the Union General nearly burned Atlanta to the ground, he said “There is no getting around it. War is all Hell!” But 80 years later, it was reported that General Patton looked over a French battlefield and said “My God…I love it! I love it so!” Perhaps he never said that but we all know that some people find warfare exhilarating. Why else would violent video games have such an audience?
In any case, if one objects to reducing the Syrians chemical agents thru bombing, then does one object to a swat team breaking into a house where small children are being held for purposes of sexual slavery…and when the criminals resist with gunfire that they are shot to death? Does one object to the policeman who uses his or her weapon to protect the innocent? Are we really to be a hopelessly unrealistic society that thinks evil must be coddled? Or have some Christians confused the teaching of our Lord to us as individuals to “turn the other cheek” with the rules for a civilized society? They must read Romans Thirteen. We must resist and at times destroy evil. Because we cannot destroy all evil is a poor reason not to do so when we can.
In the Fifth Century, the church father Augustine set forth several principles for a “Just War.” His point was that there are and will be times when war is necessary to combat evil. Among those principles was the notion that all other means have been exhausted or tried. In the case of the Syrian dictator using chemical weapons in total violation of international law, he was not about to stop doing so. Other means had been tried. And if a coalition of the willing, and the morally upright in this case, can stop him…should they not do so? Hence, in my view, their actions to destroy his wicked resources were an instance of overcoming evil with good. In this case, the good being cruise missiles fired from ships and warplanes. Just my view.
Blessings! Pastor Alberta