Thoughts on War in the Bible and Terrorism in the 21st Century, Essay 6

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For an introduction to the series, see here.

Another one? Another essay which takes a different slant than I want on war and terrorism during our time?

Written by Lt. Col. Tony Pfaff, a former philosopher teacher at West Point, this essay tackles the issue of noncombatant immunity in our pursuit of terrorists. What I didn’t know was, was the distinction between Police Action and War, and how civilians factored into the decision of force.

This distinction is easily summarized when Pfaff writes,

By enforcing laws, police maintain peace; by fighting wars, soldiers establish it. (p98)

Pfaff then goes on to structure his argument of when police is need versus the use of soldiers around the idea which we might associate with Ex parte Milligan. The point that he makes (97-100) is essential in understanding his essay and his view on the biblical response to terrorism. He goes on to differentiate between Criminals, Enemies and Terrorists, and does so within the tradition of ‘Nation of Laws’ approach we often hear about. This is a vital element missing in our national discourse on the pursuit of terrorists, and one which must be approached by our leaders. I had never really thought about the legal nuances, which is generally portrayed as a means of circumventing the Law, of terrorism.  Instead, these little differences amount to the culmination of much speculation not only of international law but so too the Christian Just War Theory. The differences also amount to the immunity or damage afforded to noncombatants.

“It is important”, he writes near the end of the essay, “to remember that noncombatants are not subject to unintentional harm because they somehow deserve it. Instead, they are subject to unintentional harm because they are citizens of a state against who act of aggression the government must move in defense. (p106)” It is difficult at best for a rational population who professes the Christian attitudes of peace and compassion to all to watch as seemingly innocent populations undergo such military strategies as ‘Shock and Awe‘, but it would behoove us, according to Pfaff, to know our goal, the reasons of that goal, and how such actions are determined by law. The reaction to terrorism is dependent upon many things; it is important to understand the reason for the reaction, and that not all terrorists are the same. I believe that a reconsideration and a reminder of the War on Terror may help to solidify our current strategy, if one buys into what Pfaff is arguing. And if the buy in is made, the stance against total war is equally assured by the consumer.

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Post By Joel Watts (10,048 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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3 thoughts on Thoughts on War in the Bible and Terrorism in the 21st Century, Essay 6

    • ha!

      I do think that this essay is important in understanding the whys of Afghanistan and the whys of pursuing terrorism in such places of Yeman, etc… You are correct – that there are no easy answers, but I believe that the highly paid talking heads are only doing damage both to Just War and our nation of what real Law is.

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