by Laurence M. Vance
will export death and violence to the four corners of the earth
in defense of our great nation"
whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence,
even of your lusts that war in your members?"
is the health of the state"
is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily
the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one
international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits
are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives"
U.S. Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler
prosperity is like the prosperity that an earthquake or a plague
brings. The earthquake means good business for construction workers,
and cholera improves the business of physicians, pharmacists,
and undertakers; but no one has for that reason yet sought to
celebrate earthquakes and cholera as stimulators of the productive
forces in the general interest"
Ludwig von Mises
is Godís judgment on sin here; hell is Godís judgment on sin hereafter"
Bob Jones Sr.
saw in the whole Christian world a license of fighting at which
even barbarous nations might blush. Wars were begun on trifling
pretexts or none at all, and carried on without any reference
of law, Divine or human"
wars, for the most part, proceed either from ambition, from anger
and malice, from the mere wantonness of unbridled power, or from
some other mental distemper"
the ongoing undeclared "war" in Iraq is supported by apologists
for what World War II general, and later president, Dwight Eisenhower,
called the "military-industrial complex" is no surprise.
What is surprising, however, is the present degree of Christian
enthusiasm for war.
Christian forefathers thought differently, as will presently be
war theory," although it has been misused by political leaders
to encourage soldiers to needlessly fight, kill, bleed, and die,
with the full support of the civilian populace, including many of
its Christians, is nevertheless still relevant in this age of tanks,
bombs, land mines, and "weapons of mass destruction."
his 1625 treatise De
Jure Belli Ac Pacis (On
the Law of War and Peace), the famed Dutch Christian, Hugo
Grotius (15381645), universally recognized as the "Father
of International Law," set forth six jus ad bellum (just
recourse to war) conditions that limit a nationís legitimate recourse
to war: just cause (correct intention [self-defense] with an objective),
proportionality (grave enough situation to warrant war), reasonable
chance for success (obtainable objectives), public declaration (fair
warning, opportunity for avoidance), declaration only by legitimate
authority, and last resort (all other options eliminated).*
as the historian and economist, Murray Rothbard (19261995),
said, in making his case that America has only had two just wars
(1776 & 1861), "A just war exists when a people tries to
ward off the threat of coercive domination by another people, or
to overthrow an already-existing domination. A war is unjust, on
the other hand, when a people try to impose domination on another
people, or try to retain an already existing coercive rule over
also articulated three jus in bello (justice in the course
of war) conditions that govern just and fair conduct in war: legitimate
targets (only combatants, not civilians), proportionality (means
may not exceed what is warranted by the cause), and treatment of
prisoners (combatants are through capture rendered noncombatants).*
fellow Dutchman, Desiderius Erasmus (14661536), was certainly
no pacifist, yet he lamented: "War would be understandable
among the beasts, for they lack natural reason; it is an aberration
among men because the evil of war can be easily understood through
the use of reason alone. War, however, is inconceivable among Christians
because it is not only rationally objectionable but, even more important,
fact that a government claims a war is just is irrelevant, for American
history is replete with examples of American presidents who have
exaggerated, misinformed, misrepresented, and lied to deceive the
American people into supporting wars that they would not have supported
if they had known the facts.
1846 President James Polk, after Texasí accession to the union,
deliberately put US troops into an area still complicated by the
existence of a boundary dispute with Mexico so as to be able to
go to Congress with an incident and get a declaration of war.
1861 President Abraham Lincoln waged war on his own people after
declaring in his first inaugural address: "I have no purpose,
directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery
in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right
to do so, and I have no inclination to do so."
1898 President William McKinley began a "splendid little war"
with Spain over Cuba. Its sequel to secure U.S. colonial power in
the Philippines left dead 4,000 US troops, more than 20,000 Filipino
fighters, and more than 220,000 Filipino civilians, all based on
the news-media slogan "Remember the Maine!"
1916 President Woodrow Wilson sought reelection on the slogan "he
kept us out of war," but then proceeded, soon after his second
inauguration, to ask Congress for a declaration of war: "the
war to end all wars" to "make the world safe for democracy."
1940 President Franklin Roosevelt campaigned for his third term,
saying, "I have said this before, but I shall say it again
and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars."
It was not long, however, before our "boys" were back
once again on European soil.
1964 President Lyndon Johnson announced to a crowd at Akron University:
"We are not about to send American boys 9 or 10,000 miles away
from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves."
This was followed by the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that saw
over 500,000 "American boys" fight an "Asian boys"
war. Over 50,000 of them came home in body bags.
1991 President George Bush I used faked satellite photos to gain
Saudi participation in the first Gulf War, and to convince the American
people that Hussein must be stopped from conquering the whole region.
2003 President George Bush II insisted on the need to "end
a brutal regime, whose aggression and weapons of mass destruction
make it a unique threat to the world." The holes in this statement
have been unfolding before our eyes.
the gullible Christian theologian Loraine Boettner (19011990),
in his book The
Christian Attitude Toward War, claims that the United States
has "never had a militarist president." He even advocates
that the government "should be given the benefit of the doubt"
when it comes to waging war.
contrary to Boettner, and as mentioned previously, our Christian
forefathers, being much better read and having a much better grasp
of history than the modern Christian who spends all his time in
front of the Internet and the television, had no enthusiasm for
war at all.
before the Civil War, when the Christians published theological
journals worth reading, two Baptist ministers writing in The
Christian Review demonstrated that Christian war fever was contrary
to the New Testament.
Amans, in his 1847 article "Can War, Under Any Circumstances,
Be Justified on the Principles of the Christian Religion? "approached
the subject from the standpoint of war being justified only in cases
of self-defense. Another Baptist preacher, in an unsigned article
from 1838 entitled "Wickedness
of War," approached the subject from the standpoint of
the nature of war in general. Both articles look to the New Testament
as their authority.
begins: "War has ever been the scourge of the human race. The
history of the past is little else than a chronicle of deadly feuds,
irreconcilable hate, and exterminating warfare. The extension of
empire, the love of glory, and thirst for fame, have been more fatal
to men than famine or pestilence, or the fiercest elements of nature."
what is more sad and painful, many of the wars whose desolating
surges have deluged the earth, have been carried on in the name
and under the sanction of those who profess the name of Christ."
has not been till recently, that the disciples of Christ have been
conscious of the enormous wickedness of war as it usually exists.
And even now there are many who do not frown upon it with that disapprobation
and abhorrence, which an evil of such magnitude as an unjust war
of every kind may be included under two classes offensive
and defensive. Concerning the former we shall say nothing. We need
not delay a moment to discuss a question so directly at variance
with the dictates of conscience, and the principles of revealed
under what circumstances is war truly defensive? We reply, when
its object is to repel an invasion; when there is no alternative
but to submit to bondage and death, or to resist."
anonymous Baptist preacher writing in a 1838 issue of The Christian
Review continues: "The war spirit is so wrought into the
texture of governments, and the habits of national thinking, and
even into our very festivals and pomps, that its occasional recurrence
is deemed a matter of unavoidable necessity."
"contradicts the genius and intention of Christianity,"
"sets at nought the example of Jesus," and "is inconsistent
not only with the general structure and nature of Christianity and
the example of Jesus, but it violates all the express precepts of
the New Testament."
requires us to seek to amend the condition of man. But war cannot
do this. The world is no better for all the wars of five thousand
years. Christianity, if it prevailed, would make the earth a paradise.
War, where it prevails, makes it a slaughter-house, a den of thieves,
a brothel, a hell. Christianity cancels the laws of retaliation.
War is based upon that very principle. Christianity is the remedy
for all human woes. War produces every woe known to man."
causes of war, as well as war itself, are contrary to the gospel.
It originates in the worst passions and the worst aims. We may always
trace it to the thirst of revenge, the acquisition of territory,
the monopoly of commerce, the quarrels of kings, the intrigues of
ministers, the coercion of religious opinion, the acquisition of
disputed crowns, or some other source, equally culpable; but never
has any war, devised by man, been founded on holy tempers and Christian
should be remembered, that in no case, even under the Old Testament,
was war appointed to decide doubtful questions, or to settle quarrels,
but to inflict national punishment. They were intended, as are pestilence
and famine, to chastise nations guilty of provoking God. Such is
never the pretext of modern war; and if it were, it would require
divine authority, which, as has just been said, would induce even
members of the Peace Society to fight."
"criminality of war," as Howard Malcom, president of Georgetown
College, wrote in 1845, is not "that tyrants should lead men
into wars of pride and conquest," but that "the people,
in governments comparatively free, should so readily lend themselves
to a business in which they bear all the sufferings, can gain nothing,
and may lose all." That people would act this way, Malcom says,
is an "astonishment indeed." "But," he continues,
"the chief wonder is that Christians, followers of the Prince
of Peace, should have concurred in this mad idolatry of strife,
and thus been inconsistent not only with themselves, but with the
very genius of their system."
founding fathers of this country, many of whom were deists, had
more sense than many twenty-first-century Christians when it came
to espousing a policy of peace through non-intervention; in other
words, not being "a busybody in other menís matters" (1
Pet. 4:15). George Washington: "The great rule of conduct for
us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial
relations to have with them as little political connection as possible."
Thomas Jefferson: "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with
all nations entangling alliances with none." John Quincy
Adams: "America . . . goes not abroad seeking monsters to destroy."
the War on Terrorism, like the War on Poverty and the War on Drugs,
is in so many ways just a tragic joke. But why Christians support
any of these bogus "wars" is an even greater tragedy.
am indebted for these paragraphs on Grotius to Laurie Calhoun, "Just
War? Moral Soldiers?" Independent Review, IV, 3 (Winter
2000), pp. 325345, and for Joe Stromberg of the Mises Institute
for bringing her article to my attention.
M. Vance [send him mail]
is a freelance writer and an adjunct instructor in accounting and
economics at Pensacola Junior College in Pensacola, FL. Visit his
© 2003 LewRockwell.com