I assume it is some combination of age and working around a lot of people who have substantially more knowledge in a variety of disciplines than I do: As the saying goes, I am learning how much I do not know.
As I grow older, I realize that my viewpoints in some areas of life are not as black and white as they might have been in my younger years. War is one of those areas. On one hand, Jesus commanded His followers to love their neighbors (and, as seen in the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus had a broad definition of neighbor!), turn the other cheek, and love their enemies. On the other hand, force and might are mentioned throughout the Bible – from Sodom and Gomorrah to Noah and the Flood, from David and Goliath to Jesus himself physically clearing out the moneychangers from the temple.
Obviously, the human toll of war – whether that toll is in soldiers or civilian men, women and children – is a tragedy of unfathomable heartbreak and sadness. Perhaps the best understanding of the brutality of war comes from those who are fighting, or have fought. They know firsthand the untold horrors of conflict. As the Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman stated, "War is hell."
However, history attests to wars and conflicts that many people would agree were fought for just causes. For example, the outcome of the Civil War ended slavery in the United States. The United States responded to an attack on American soil in World War II. NATO countries used their forces to stop ethnic fighting in Kosovo in the late 1990s.
History also bears witness to times when the threat or actual use of the military might have been used for a just cause but was not. For example, the United States and the rest of the world did not stop soldiers and militiamen in Rwanda from killing approximately 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus in the mid-1990s. In fact, President Clinton traveled to Rwanda in 1998 and stated, "We come here today partly in recognition of the fact that we in the United States and the world community did not do as much as we could and should have done to try to limit what occurred." Some wonder if the current crisis in the Darfur region in Sudan, where, according to the BBC, an estimated 200,000 civilians have died and another two million have been displaced, will end up being the Rwanda of this decade.
War has been a topic of thoughtful (and not so thoughtful) discussion throughout the ages. It is up to us to honestly search our own hearts, minds and faith perspectives to decide two issues: Does anything or any situation merit war? If so, are current conflicts just causes, worthy of the human price that will be paid?
Sago is a professor of marketing at Whitworth.