Levellers

Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Obama’s Heroes Would Not Approve of His War in Afghanistan

Thanks to Derrick Crowe of Rethinking Afghanistan and Return Good for Evil for this video.

We have to speak truth to power–always. In season and out, regardless of change of administrations.

October 23, 2009 - Posted by | Afghanistan, foreign policy, nonviolence, peacemaking, U.S. politics, war

11 Comments

  1. War only brings pain, misery, death and more war. When will humanity realize that war is the essence of futility and folly ?

    Comment by Paul | October 23, 2009

  2. […] minority view on Afghanistan Levellers blogger Michael Westmoreland-White is an academic theologian who is an adherent of Christian pacifism. He argues by way of video […]

    Pingback by A minority view on Afghanistan « BaptistPlanet | October 23, 2009

  3. Paul,

    I can think of at least a dozen countries or people groups in the world today who would strongly contradict your statement that war brings “only” pain, misery, death, and more war. Sometimes, war brings peace, safety, and relief for the oppressed. You may think there are better ways to bring about that peace and relief, but you can’t deny that war does accomplish those ends sometimes.

    Mark

    Comment by Mark Congdon | October 24, 2009

  4. Michael:

    Thanks for posting my video!

    Mark:

    Even if we grant your point (which I’m not sure I do at all), I contend we’d have to amend it for accuracy: “peace and relief” can only be attained through war for those that survive, those that escape un-maimed and un-raped and un-crazy, those that make it out with their loved ones and their culture, those that don’t watch their hopes for schools and health and communal prosperity burn on the altar of militarism. If you’re willing to make those concessions, well, then, sure, war helps those not in those categories. Even in the “best” outcomes from a war, those caveats must be acknowledged.

    The point made in the video above is that the folks the president regularly cites as his heroes would firmly disagree with his apparent stance on the issue. That’s something that we certainly cannot deny, either.

    Comment by dcrowe | October 24, 2009

  5. I can. Even the winners of war pay far too high a price.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | October 24, 2009

  6. Dcrowe,

    To clarify, I was not responding to the original post, only to Paul’s comment.

    War brings many difficulties. It also, sometimes, brings benefit. Whether the benefit outweighs the cost, in any particular situation, can definitely be disputed, but to say that war brings “only” destruction is clearly incorrect.

    Michael, I did not say that the cost was worth paying. That can be discussed. But, some good does sometimes come from war, and I was simply correcting Paul’s clearly incorrect statement to the contrary.

    If war is categorically immoral, as I believe you are trying to argue in your larger series, then my point is immaterial anyway… It doesn’t, in that case, matter how much good is accomplished by war… The ends cannot justify the means.

    I am simply trying to correct an obviously wrong observation, that overly simplifies the dilemmas that must be faced in evaluating this issue.

    If war truly brought only evil, for everyone, in every case, then anyone who ever supported any war would be obviously evil. Unfortunately, the issue is not that simple, obvious, or easy.

    Mark

    Comment by Mark Congdon | October 24, 2009

  7. I can as well.

    Comment by Steven Kippel | October 27, 2009

  8. Mark, by your reasoning good also comes from miscarriages, job loss, paralysis, and rape.

    Comment by Steven Kippel | October 27, 2009

  9. Steven,

    It is true that good results of some kind can come from any action, however destructive and horrible the action itself is. That appears to be a pretty obvious observation.

    I was not arguing for the morality of war, or for the advisability of war. I was simply correcting an incorrect assertion, which if it was taken as stated would drastically oversimplify the debate.

    There is one key difference, I think, between war and the items you listed. It is possible (in some cases) to say: “We fought a war to achieve a good result, and whatever pain was caused along the way, we did achieve that result.” I don’t think a similar statement (of initial intent and achieved result) could ever be used about any of the things you mentioned. Any good that comes from those things is ancillary, never primary.

    To give a different analog, some wars could be compared to finding a man attacking your wife, about to rape her, and pulling him off, restraining him forcefully, and calling the police. You may have caused injury to somebody in the process, and there may be other damage caused by the situation, but you can truly say, “I attacked that man to save my wife from being raped, which is a good thing, and whatever else happened along the way, I did achieve that result.”

    That still leaves the very difficult question of how much ancillary damage is acceptable, and how much primary good should be required before entering into a war. And, of course, if like Michael you believe that violence is categorically immoral, then these questions are immaterial… the end cannot justify a categorically immoral means.

    But it is possible for war to be carried out for good intentions, and for those good intentions to be realized as a result of the war. For most of us, that is an important consideration in the difficult debate about war.

    Comment by Mark Congdon | October 27, 2009

  10. Mark Congdon says that it is possible for a war to be fought for good intentions and to achieve those results.
    Maybe. What he leaves out, is that even if those results are achieved, there is also much evil achieved that could outweigh any of the good achieved.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | October 27, 2009

  11. Michael,

    I’m surprised by you. I did not leave that out. I have specifically discussed it, clearly and in detail, at least twice.

    From what I wrote earlier this morning:
    “That still leaves the very difficult question of how much ancillary damage is acceptable, and how much primary good should be required before entering into a war.”

    From what I wrote on Saturday:
    “War brings many difficulties. It also, sometimes, brings benefit. Whether the benefit outweighs the cost, in any particular situation, can definitely be disputed, but to say that war brings ‘only’ destruction is clearly incorrect.
    Michael, I did not say that the cost was worth paying. That can be discussed.”

    Michael, I am very open to dialog about this issue. I am undecided, and excited to hear what you have to say, hoping to have my current leanings challenged. But please don’t insult me by ignoring what I said, setting up a straw-man version of my thoughts, and then attacking it.

    Mark

    Comment by Mark Congdon | October 27, 2009


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