I don’t call myself a pacifist because I supported our entrance into World War II. Or at least I think I would have, had I been alive at the time, because our country was attacked. I can’t say I’ve favored any other war that required our killing and being killed. Violence begets violent responses, along with escalation and unintended consequences. All such wars produce countless civilian casualties, obscenely disguised as “collateral damage.”
Now we come to the Mideast, where we have become engaged in war with our third Muslim country. I’m more certain that we should never have been in Iraq and Afghanistan than that we should not be in Libya. I wish the Libyans had followed the models of Tunisia and Egypt, where we cheered on, at no personal risk to ourselves, citizens who peacefully ousted their brutal dictators. That vocal support required no U.S. soul-searching (I use the word metaphorically).
We are now militarily involved in Libya. Rather than asking whether we should be, here’s the bigger question I have to ask myself: Would I be willing to run the risk that next week my son or daughter in the military might have to die in Libya under present circumstances? If not, would it be worth the life of someone else’s (say, your) American son or daughter? My answer is no.
It’s heartbreaking to see countries living under dictators anywhere in the world, but I don’t think it is any American’s personal obligation to donate the life of a son or daughter to try and free people in other countries. It’s an enormous task, fraught with both personal danger and the risk of failure. I do think it’s the obligation of the United States to try every means short of military intercession, like international economic sanctions, arms embargos, persuasion, and bribery to dislodge malevolent dictators like Gaddafi.
The one improvement in our latest Mideast war is that we are not alone. France had strongly opposed our invasion of Iraq. Now France has led the charge to intervene in Libya to protect its citizens, and President Obama later supported the mission as long as there was international backing. It appears we might this time even have a coalition of the willing, which could turn to a coalition of the unwilling unless we have a quick resolution.
While I still don’t support our actions in Libya, I was more concerned about former President George W. Bush’s Middle East crusade against Muslim countries, along with General William Boykin’s comment at the time that the United States is a Christian Nation and that Muslims worship an ”idol” and not ”a real God.”
Whether or not we view wars as just, this country must never engage in holy wars.
Image courtesy of Lauren Frohne.