I was driving in the car today when the news came on that the United States and a coalition of European nations had initiated attacks against Libyan armed forces. I felt rush of varied emotions so quickly that it was difficult to keep my mind on the road in front of me.
Most Americans probably could not locate Libya on a map. We know very little about the tangled tribal politics that have kept Qaddafi in power for the last forty years. Once an international pariah because of his support for terrorist organizations and complicity in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103, Qaddafi has worked to improve his image in the West. President Bush lifted sanctions on Libya in 2004 after Qaddafi promised to abandon the nation’s nuclear program. It was only 12 months ago that Libya welcomed the first American trade delegation in 37 years. Among the participants were some of the U.S.’s largest companies, including Northrup Grumman, Boeing, and Motorola. European companies, particularly oil companies, set up shop in Libya long ago.
While the legal basis for the attacks is the protection of civilians, it is difficult to imagine that it will end there. President Obama and other Western leaders have clearly said that they want Qaddafi to step down. Air power alone has never been successful in producing such a result. Such an outcome will require, as the saying goes, “boots on the ground.” Who will provide those boots? What if the rebels renew their push to take the western half of the country? Will we stand by and let them? Will we support them? And if we don’t, what will prevent the better trained and equipped Libyan army forces loyal to Qaddafi from defeating the rebels again? Is the most likely outcome a partition of the country? Who will enforce the new borders? Will we train and supply a new army in the east the way we are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan? Make no mistake; this is not a humanitarian intervention. We are taking sides in a civil war.
President Bush was justly criticized for his rush to war in Iraq and for not having a clear plan for what to do after we defeated Iraq’s armed forces. Bush’s pace, however, looks positively dilatory compared to the speed with which President Obama, with very little consultation with Congress or the American people, has committed the United States to yet another war to establish a government in a foreign country that is more to our liking.
And if the principle that governments cannot slaughter their citizens with impunity is to be the principle underlying our foreign policy, where are we off to next? Yemen, where army snipers killed 46 people yesterday? There is no shortage of tyrannies in the world. How much of our blood and treasure are we willing to expend to remake the world in our own image?
Christians who witness against war do so for many reasons. First and foremost is the example of Christ himself, who admonished us to love our enemies and peacefully submitted to violence against his person. There is the tragic waste of human lives that always accompanies war, lives created by God and precious in his sight.
Along with this, though, is an understanding that war—particularly modern war—represents the height of human pride and arrogance, an arrogance that forgets that God is God and we are not. Rather than being fought over territory or to settle rival dynastic claims, modern wars are increasing fought to shape the course of History itself and to usher in some form of utopia, whether communist, fascist, or liberal-democratic. They are a form of eschatology masquerading as politics.
Come consider the works of the Lord, the redoubtable deeds he has done on the earth.
He puts an end to wars over all the earth; the bow he breaks, the spear he snaps, He burns the shields with fire.
“Be still and know that I am God, supreme among the nations, supreme on the earth!” (Ps 46 9-11)