In 2003, Jean Bethke Elshtain inferred that non-interventionism built on justifications for acts of evil, was a ‘naïve hope’ that ‘can get thousands of innocents killed.’
The political science professor – and lay Lutheran theologian – writing under the backdrop of the newly minted “War on Terror,” found herself questioning the frenzied rise of anti-Americanism at the time,
‘In the context of America’s war against terrorism, [why] do so many tick off a list of American “failures” or even insist that America brought the horrors of September 11, 2001, on herself?’
Her beef was with those claiming “Bush or Israel was responsible for 9/11,” and the more asinine self-loathing leftist line: “the twin towers takedown was a justified revolt against Western imperialist, Islamophobic oppression.”
Had Jean lived, she no doubt would have voiced concern about a similar song being belted out about Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Contextual variables aside, there is little difference between those who inadvertently justified the evil perpetrated by Islamists on 9/11, and the inadvertent justification for the evil being perpetrated by Putin against Ukraine.
Instead of the woke left ranting on about Bush, America and Israel, it’s the Right, and “red pilled” ranting on about Zelensky, Ukraine and NATO.
Wanting peace is admirable. Seeking to achieve peace through appeasement, or down-right indifference isn’t.
Putin’s war negates his reasoning. He lost all just cause against a multi-national intervention by using unilateral force, rather than diplomacy. Russia moved troops onto the border in late 2021. They held the presidency of the UN Security Council the same month Putin chose to invade
Why didn’t he use this position to make a reasoned – propaganda free – case against Ukraine?
Even the king of the deal, Donald Trump, was surprised the Russian leader chose war over reason.
Putin’s actions are a massive strategic blunder, causing the very thing he claimed to be fighting against. Such as the “threat” of NATO, which was on its last legs, until Putin’s aggression reoiled the engine, while simultaneously renewing Ukrainian patriotism.
His threats of nuclear war don’t help. These only turn up the volume on the naivete of “not our problem,” “let him do his thing.”
This isn’t to discount genuine concerns about corruption in government, foreign interference in the prelude to war, the suspect influence of the WEF, COVID-era timing, or the questionable character of Ukraine’s president.
This is to say, (as Elshtain does) that an important historical distinction applies: The reasons for the rise of National Socialism, are not justifications for the evils carried out under National Socialism.
There was nothing loving about German villagers walking past chimney stacks, only to later try and justify their ignorance as “it was not my problem.”
Likewise, there was nothing loving about Western peace campaigners telling bloodied, and bruised, Eastern European dissidents, “not our problem,” when they callously designated the victims of Communism, an American 5th column “prejudiced against the realities of socialism.”
Avoidance of a problem generally causes the problem to get bigger.
We either walk towards conflict with the goal of bringing a peaceful end to it, or avoid that conflict, with the likelihood of being dragged, unprepared, into the violence anyway.
Non-interventionism works well as the Prime Directive on Star Trek, in the real world, it’s praxis implies letting a problem fester.
One point of agreement with non-interventionism is the caveat of restraint; best expressed in Just War theory as “fire only when fired upon.”
This caveat, is itself – as Calvin might put it – a deterrent against those who would seek to use Jesus purging the Temple, as permission to engage in “forever wars”,
‘All of us ought to have zeal in common with the Son of God; but all are not at liberty to seize a whip, that we may correct vices with our hands; for we have not received the same power, nor have we been entrusted with the same commission.’ (Commentary, John 2)
Forever wars are not ‘Just Wars’, in much the same way that Just War cannot be subsumed into the category of a Holy War.
Just War summons the Christian – and by long association therefore the West – to a rescue, remedy and defence of the vulnerable against acts of evil. A defensive war (or offensive force) is always a last resort. As such a Just War ends where a Forever War begins.
To paraphrase, A.W. Tozer, we must be willing to settle quarrels.
‘Soft handshakes’, soft talk, ‘universal acquiescence’ (in the quest to be liked) achieves no good end. Those who sell it, ‘forget Pearl Harbor.’
Tozer added, ‘darkness and light can never be brought together by talk…The blessing of God is on the peacemaker…but the always smiling, congenial, asexual religious mascot…had better watch his step.’
Hence the significance of “Peace through Strength”:
“Let our friends and those who may wish us ill take note, [we have an obligation to each and the world] never to let those who would destroy freedom dictate the future course of life on this planet.’ (Ronald Reagan)
Driving peace through strength, Elshtain might add, is an ‘obligation to defend the ideal of free citizens in a polity whose ordering principles make civic freedom and the free exercise of religion available to all.’
The sentiment correlates to A.W. Tozer’s criticisms of what he called “neo-Christians”,
‘Tolerance, charity, understanding, good will, patience and other such words and ideas are lifted from the Bible, misunderstood and applied indiscriminately to every situation.’
This mind-numbing abstraction of Christ’s teaching, Tozer added, amounts to assuming,
‘The kidnapper will not steal your baby if you only try to understand him; the burglar caught sneaking into your house with a gun is not really bad; he is just hungry for fellowship and togetherness.’
Among the many things revealed by the Russia/Ukraine war, is the solemn reminder that the world is worse off without leaders like Reagan, Thatcher, Roosevelt, Menzies, Eisenhower, Truman, and Churchill – among others – who understood that they were accountable to a power far greater than the power of the office on loan to them.
Christians are called out of indifference, to be children of light.
“It’s not our problem” is an indefensible position; the equivalent of dismissing child-abuse, domestic violence, or cheering on the naïve hope of leftist bureaucrats who send social workers, instead of the police force into a gun fight.
[i] Elshtain, JB. 2003, Just War Against Terror: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World, Basic Books
[ii] Tozer, A.W. Man: The Dwelling Place of God
©Rod Lampard, 2022