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Rules of War

Reader comment on item: [Lee Harris on Why the U.S. is] Discarding War's Rules

Submitted by W. DuPree Moore (United States), Jul 24, 2003 at 06:11

There are several problems with Harris's thesis.
1)The root cause of war is the sin nature that is in every man. It cannot be eradicated by force, unless one intends to destroy the entire human race. As James Madison said in The Federalist Papers, "It could never be more truly said than of this remedy, that it was worse than the disease." The remedy to which he refers is a government sufficiently powerful to actually resolve the problems which it was created to resolve. Christian thinkers through the centuries have developed the concept of Just War, carefully defining the conditions, expectations, and methods under which and by which Christians might wage war. We must take care, lest in taking vengeance against sin, we should lose our own souls. Our rules are very different from those that have gone before, and in some cases they might not be entirely effective. But in recent times there is an entirely different set of rules, formulated by skilful enemy propagandists to paralyze the western powers. It is these unreasonable constraints which President Bush has rejected, and he returns to the traditional concept of Just War. The thing which prevents Israel from destroying the Palestinians is not our traditional western rules of war, but global opinion stirred up by the news media and the United Nations. Their restrictive rules apply only to the United States and Israel. The UN Human Rights Commission is chaired by Libya, for goodness sake.
2) The religious element is very important. War is caused by human passion, but it also caused by the sincere belief that one is defending the only true religion. To find secular root causes for religious movements completely misses the central role that transcendent ideas, true and false, have always played in human history.
3) No one has figured out the right way to fight a guerilla enemy. The Romans and Nazis responded to terrorism by executing civilians selected at random. That settled the question of who was the government, but it did nothing to stop the cycle of violence. There is a great danger that the only effective way to fight such an enemy would do more damage to the moral character of our soldiers than we would be willing to accept. In this as in all matters, we are well advised to pray.
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