THE PURPOSE OF WAR

war2Who Won?

Yesterday evening I googled to see who might have won the Republican firehouse primary for Virginia’s 10th Congressional District.  The Washington Post was first with the news, Barbara Comstock wins GOP nomination for Virginia’s 10th Congressional District. I suppose I could have posted something about the results then, but this is not a news blog. Besides that article included comments like this.

In Loudoun, where more voters supported Marshall or Hollingshead, Bruce Bowen said he chose Comstock because he’s worried the Republican party is imploding amid a nationwide battle for control between tea party conservatives and so-called “establishment Republicans” such as Comstock.

“We need less radical people in Congress,” Bowen, 63, said. “Congress, as far as I’m concerned, is largely dysfunctional. Too much special interests. Too many people not thinking about the country’s interest and too many people unwilling to compromise.” (from here)

Since the Post has no sympathy for either Republicans or tea party conservatives, there is no point in hurriedly linking to it.

Next online came this article, Comstock wins GOP nomination for Va. House seat. That was produced by the AP, but it first appeared in SFGate, on the other side of the country. Huh? Why would the folks in San Francisco be so interested? Then I remembered what one of Delegate Bob Marshall’s press releases had said about one of Barbara Comstock’s campaign donors. 

MANASSAS, VA, 4/7/14 – Delegate Bob Marshall, a member of the Virginia Assembly, is strongly pressing Barbara Comstock to return her share of $400,000 in campaign contributions raised at a recent New York City fundraiser.

The fundraising event was hosted by Paul Singer, the billionaire same-sex marriage advocate, for Comstock and two other Republican women running for Congress. (from here)

So I waited until this morning, wondering what — if anything — I should post.

That said, let’s congratulate Barbara Comstock on her victory and pray she wins the General Election and serves well. Should we have doubts? Yes, of course. We cannot depend upon mere human beings, but that’s why we pray for our leaders.

We should also thank the gentlemen who competed with Comstock for the nomination. Running for public office is hard work, and losing is usually a great disappointment. Therefore, we must remind these gentlemen of the service they rendered by giving us a choice.

Here, from The Bull Elephant, are the results.

Votes Percentage
 Barbara J. Comstock 7337 53.91%
 Howard R. “Howie” Lind 1108 8.14%
 Stephen B. Hollingshead 816 6.00%
 Mark S. Savitt 218 1.60%
 Rob K. Wasinger 301 2.21%
 Robert G. “Bob” Marshall 3829 28.14%
TOTAL 13609

Putting The Matter In Context

Yesterday, because a friend had published an article in the Travel section, I purchased a copy of The Washington Post Sunday Edition.  The article my friend had written was excellent, and I still enjoy the comics, but the bulk of paper remains a disappointment. Since I had just written a couple of posts on Cliven Bundy’s supposed racism (here and here), a couple of editorials caught my eye.

Because the Post is too ready to demonize people, I had stopped buying it. So now I regretted making an exception. Nonetheless, I had already paid for it. So I perused the paper further. This editorial in particular left me rather saddened, In the long run, wars make us safer and richer. Here is how it begins.

Norman Angell, the Paris editor of Britain’s Daily Mail, was a man who expected to be listened to. Yet even he was astonished by the success of his book “The Great Illusion,” in which he announced that war had put itself out of business. “The day for progress by force has passed,” he explained. From now on, “it will be progress by ideas or not at all.”

He wrote these words in 1910. One politician after another lined up to praise the book. Four years later, the same men started World War I. By 1918, they had killed 15 million people; by 1945, the death toll from two world wars had passed 100 million and a nuclear arms race had begun.  (continued here)

Ian Morris, the author, observed that Norman Angell had it wrong, but then he went to the other extreme. For the sake of progress, Morris thinks wars are grimly necessary.

So yes, war is hell — but have you considered the alternatives? When looking upon the long run of history, it becomes clear that through 10,000 years of conflict, humanity has created larger, more organized societies that have greatly reduced the risk that their members will die violently. These better organized societies also have created the conditions for higher living standards and economic growth. War has not only made us safer, but richer, too. (from here)

Supposedly, bereft of the order provided by government, Stone Age people settled every little dispute by killing each other. Since the Stone Age predates recorded history, it is not clear how Morris knows that. Nonetheless, he boldly states that “by many estimates, 10 to 20 percent of all Stone Age humans died at the hands of other people.” That’s possible, I suppose, but that does not necessarily mean wars either solved or significantly reduced the homicide rate. 

Consider the normal course of warfare.  What happens when a tribe (or a nation) decides another tribe (or nation) has something it wants? If this nation or tribe is not constrained by ethical considerations and has sufficient military power, its leaders will weigh the potential for profit against the risk. Thus, war becomes a “business” decision by government officials.

If the decision is made to attack, and the attempted conquest is successful, then the conquerors will subjugate and enslave (at least to some degree) the conquered. Otherwise, the conquerors may choose to exterminate or disperse the conquered and just seize their property and lands.

Yet Morris would have us believe that this sort of business activity by government officials has been good for mankind.

The men who ran these governments were no saints. They cracked down on killing not out of the goodness of their hearts but because well-behaved subjects were easier to govern and tax than angry, murderous ones. The unintended consequence, though, was that they kick-started the process through which rates of violent death plummeted between the Stone Age and the 20th century.

This process was brutal. Whether it was the Romans in Britain or the British in India, pacification could be just as bloody as the savagery it stamped out. Yet despite the Hitlers, Stalins and Maos, over 10,000 years, war made states, and states made peace.

What did the Romans do to pacify the conquered? Often they crucified them. That’s how Jesus, because Pontius Pilate condemned Him as rebel, ended up on a cross between two other rebels.  Nonetheless, Morris apparently thinks uncivilized Peoples need this sort of thing. Perhaps that’s because Morris does not give peacemakers enough credit. What is truly difficult is making peace, not warfare.

Although Rome’s legions fought marvelously well, those legions did not spread civilization, and by themselves Rome’s legions could not maintain order. What was key to Rome’s success? That’s was Roman law, which those Rome conquered quickly learned to respect as just.  Because of Roman law, most conquered Peoples saw themselves as better off under Roman rule. The one notable exception being the Jews, who had their own law, the Law of Moses. The Jews preferred their own law to Roman law, and so they rebelled.

So why does Morris focus on armed conquest and the necessity of warfare to the civilizing process? Perhaps he is misled by the fact the conquest of human hearts tends be accompanied by fewer fireworks. Preachers may make lots of speeches, but the glory of leading armies seems far greater and more profitable. Yet when He died upon a cross, Jesus accomplished the greatest conquest. Billions now know His Name, and because they know He loves us, they yearn to help their neighbors instead of enslaving them.

The conquest of the human heart also requires something we don’t talk about much these days. To earn the trust of another human being, we have to behave honorably. That is, we must honor certain virtues more than we value our own life.

In past times more Americans understood that, and more followed the example of Jesus. Consider what Jesus did.

Hebrews 5:7-9 English Standard Version (ESV)

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,

Jesus was both God and man. As a man, Jesus gave up the prerogatives of being God. Therefore, as we should, Jesus apparently had to pray for the strength to obey His Father. Nevertheless, even though He feared and suffered death, He obeyed the Will of the Father. With His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus taught love and obedience to God brings true peace. Brutal force engenders only hatred.

Morris’ article does make it apparent that he wants an orderly society that protects people’s rights. Unfortunately, Morris thinks the power to do that belongs to us. Worst, Morris risks trying to use the ends to justify the means. But we have no such strength. For the strength to do what is right we must turn to God. To avoid the trap of believing the end does justify the means, we must seek to obey Him.

We can only justify war as a means of protecting those we love. Even to spread the supposed virtues of civilization, we have no right to conquer others. In any event, good government is not the product of civilization.  Good government arises when people give their hearts to God.

The Connection

So what is the connection between Who Won? and Putting The Matter In Context? What does government exist to do? That depends upon what we want from our government. When we vote, we vote for people like ourselves. If we see warfare as civilization building, we will vote for leaders who see warfare as civilization building. If we love our neighbors, we will vote for leaders who love their neighbors. If we ourselves do not strive to be honorable above all else, we will not elect men and women who strive to be honorable. Until we give our heart to God, we will not vote for men and women who have given their hearts to God.

Have the Republicans of 10th Congressional District chosen an honorable candidate? Will the folks in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District elect someone honorable? Only time will tell, but whoever is elected will be called honorable. Let’s hope the title is deserved.

 

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