I live in a nation that feels a profound and sacred obligation to defend the human rights of individuals around the world. In the course of world events, that obligation or feeling forces the United States to ask often, and think deeply about how we as a people must wield our resources, in aiding those who suffer injustices.
At this moment in time, (and this has not been the only moment), the United States of America sits at the pinnacle of asking how it must defend the human rights of individuals in a country half way around the world. In the coming days if not hours, a decision to act on the death of 1,429 Syrian from what seems to be a cruel, unjust attack from its own national authorities will be made. As the options lie on the table, there is no easy decision. There are more layers to this conflict than we would prefer to know about and the best option might be a bad option. However, with such great influence our government feels it must make a decision based on the stewardship of its resources in defending the rights of humanity.
Thus, what makes the defense of another people using military resources appropriate based on a biblical perspective? Especially, when that action will propel our country to declare war. The answer to that question is unclear and weighty, and it is why we find teaching “Just War Theory” to all of our students at SLU 201 an essential part of being a person of influence.
The idea of a “Just War” is one that St. Augustine began wrestling with in the 4th century. Church theologians expounded on Augustine’s foundational work over the course of 900 years. It was then St. Thomas Aquinas published the principles of a just war based on the foundational ideals built over the previous millennia. Nations and people groups around the world have used these principles to measure the just war for the past 1,500 years. They are the same principles that should guide every nation today in deciding whether war or military action is ever warranted.
· There must be a Just Case. War is only permissible to resist aggression and defend those victimized by it. A defensive war is the only type of just war. (Rom. 13:1-7)
· There must be Just Intent. The only acceptable motive must be to secure justice for all involved. Revenge, conquest or economical benefit as a motive for war is never an acceptable reason for war. (Mat. 6:24)
· It must be the Last Resort. A nation must go to war when all other avenues to resolve conflict have been tried and have failed. (Mat. 5:9)
· There must be a probability of Success. A nation does not go to war for a futile sacrifice. (Rom. 13:4)
· There must be Comparative Justice. A nation only enters war through the necessary means when the action of another nation deserves so. (Luke 6:27-31)
· One must have Legitimate Authority. The use of military force is only just when it is supported by the national government. Thus military action should not take on part of the United States unless there is a Declaration of War by the President and Congress. (Rom. 13:1-4)
· There must be an End. Before war begins, there must be a just objective. When that objective is completed there should be rapid measure to end all conflict. (Rom. 14:19)
If every nation in the world lived by these principles of a just war, we would never have an issue of war, but in a broken, sinful culture there will always be nations at war. The desire of every nation should be peace and never war. However, St. Augustine said of his foundational just war principles that war will come in a fallen, sinful society. It appears as though this situation will not allow the U.S. to sit peacefully on the curbside as history passes by…
So we ask…
- Is the death of 1,429 men, women and children enough cause for the U.S. to declare war on Syria?
- Has the U.S. exhausted all means of to bring about peace & justice without declaring war?
- Does the U.S. have a high probability of winning?
- If military action is warranted, what is the appropriate military action?
- Has the U.S. channeled its decision through the appropriate authority?
- What is the end for the U.S.? What is the final objective in declaring victory in the declaration of war?
And we Pray…
-for the peace of Syria.
-for wisdom in the minds and hearts of Congress & our President.
The responsibility of influence must always know its boundaries and seek the peace of all those it influences. As Pope Francis tweeted recently, “We want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace.” The desire of our heart must be to bind up broken societies and to seek the peace of the nations, cultures and people around the world.