Is God Against Drones?
by Laurence M. Vance: Two
Views of Libertarianism
He is not,
according to former CIA analyst and current Christian axis of evil
candidate Mark D. Tooley, as long as it is just the United States
that is using them.
wrote about Christian "leaders" moonlighting as apologists
for Bush and the Iraq war – the Christian axis of evil – back in
2006. The original group of inductees included Jerry Falwell, Pat
Robertson, James Dobson, Hal Lindsey, Cal Thomas, and Pat Boone,
with WorldNetDaily publisher Joseph Farah getting an honorable mention.
I have written about other candidates like Tod
Kennedy, a pastor; Craig
Parshall, a lawyer; Doug
Giles, a Christian killer par excellence; Bryan
Fischer, a Christian warmonger on steroids; Michael
Milton, a seminary chancellor and theological schizophrenic;
a conservative Christian warmonger; and Ellis
Washington, the greatest Christian warmonger of all time.
Now we have
Mark Tooley asking the question: "Is
God against Drones?" He might as well have asked if he
could join the Christian axis of evil. Tooley is the president of
The Institute on Religion and Democracy
(IRD), "a faith-based alliance of Christians who monitor, comment,
and report on issues affecting the Church." "We are Christians
working to reaffirm the church’s biblical and historical teachings,
strengthen and reform its role in public life, protect religious
freedom, and renew democracy at home and abroad," says the
statement. Founded in 1981, the IRD is headquartered in Washington
To get a sense
of where Tooley might be headed in his article on drones, we can
look at the IRD’s issue statement on "War
citizens in a great democracy like the United States, living in
a world with all too many oppressive and aggressive regimes, regularly
confront questions of war and peace: When is it right to use force
to keep or restore international peace? When is it necessary to
intervene militarily to stop a tyrant from killing his people?
not easy questions. The IRD helps U.S. Christians to wrestle with
such questions, without giving easy answers. We believe that the
Christian tradition offers valuable resources to guide our thinking.
The Scriptures direct us to seek peace, but warn that there are
evildoers from whom the citizens must be protected. This is why,
according to the apostle Paul, the state "bears the sword"
(Romans 13: 4).
The IRD works
within the "just war tradition" that has been the Christian
mainstream. That tradition offers criteria to help discern when
and how the state should resort to military force.
The IRD has
examined how those criteria might apply in situations ranging
from the Cold War to the first Persian Gulf War, the U.S. response
after September 11, 2001, and the current Iraq War. We have not
offered firm answers to these questions of political judgment;
we try to help Christian citizens draw their own conclusions.
At the same
time, the IRD has challenged church leaders who categorically
oppose every U.S. military action since the 1960s. We respect
a genuine pacifism that is willing to pay the price of not resisting
evil. But we dispute the dishonest quasi-pacifism that pretends
that all dangers could be averted by disarming our nation and
appeasing its enemies. Within denominations that affirm the just
war tradition, the IRD has contested the pacifist and quasi-pacifist
minority that has tried to monopolize the church’s social witness.
The two questions
in the first paragraph are not difficult questions to answer at
all. It is never right "to use force to keep or restore international
peace" or "intervene militarily to stop a tyrant from
killing his people," unless, of course, you are the world’s
self-appointed policeman hell bent on carrying out an interventionist
and evil foreign policy.
The state bearing
the sword in Romans 13 has nothing whatsoever to do with national
defense, as I wrote about here.
war tradition" is used to justify rather than to prevent war.
Just war theory can be used effectively by all sides to justify
all wars. As I pointed out in "The
Warmonger’s Lexicon," to a warmonger a just war means any
war the United States engages in.
I can give
a firm answer as to how the "just war tradition" relates
to these situations: it doesn’t.
What is wrong
with categorically opposing "every U.S. military action since
the 1960s"? And doing so has nothing to do with disarmament
or appeasement or being a "pacifist" or "quasi-pacifist."
Is there any good reason not to oppose the Vietnam War – a war in
which over 58,000 Americans died so they could get their names on
a wall? Is there any good reason not to oppose the War in Iraq –
a war in which 4,448 Americans died for
a lie? Is there any good reason not to oppose the War in Afghanistan
– a war in which 2,169 Americans died in
of the use of drone aircraft overseas with ordnance capable of killing
an individual person or destroying an entire village has made the
president alone the judge, jury, and executioner. And if that weren’t
bad enough, drone strikes more often than not have killed more innocent
civilians than "terrorists" or "insurgents."
Now the president claims the power to target for death via drone
anyone anywhere in the world – including American citizens – on
the suspicion that they might threaten U.S. national security.
So much for due process of law.
So, then, according
to Mark Tooley, why is God not against drones? There are several
Leftists" are against them. Tooley mentions David Gushee, a
liberal Baptist ethicist at Mercer University; Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite,
former president of Chicago Theological Seminary, and now a fellow
at the Center for American Progress; and Jonathan Merritt, a liberal
Baptist columnist. Tooley doesn’t like Gushee’s stating that drones
exemplify a "disturbing combination of American arrogance and
self-righteousness" and "that America would never accept
China or Russia launching drone attacks inside the U.S." Tooley
takes issue with Thistlethwaite for complaining "that some
drone targets do not actually present an ‘imminent’ threat"
and others kill civilians. Tooley is upset with Merritt for liking
"Gushee’s comparison of U.S. drone attacks to China or Russia
launching strikes in the U.S." The Religious Left is "reliably
opposed to whatever tools are currently deployed in defending America."
is the "exceptional" nation. Why, because "the United
States is the most powerful nation." With this power "flows
responsibility not just for the security of our own people but also
a wider duty for upholding a global peace." American power
helps to keep wars largely contained to "places like Afghanistan,
Somalia and Sudan" and "provides an approximate peace
for most of the world." In other words, the U.S. military fights
"over there" so we won’t have to fight "over here."
The Religious Left can’t comprehend the distinction between the
United States and China employing drones due to their "seething
United States is the policeman of the world. Says Tooley: "Absent
a global police force, the United States is the final arbiter of
an approximate global stability. That stability requires America
to deter, contain and sometimes deploy lethal force against renegade
states and terror groups." Since Afghanistan and Pakistan "are
unable to police their own nations," U.S. drone strikes are
justified and necessary.
And four, "homicidal
terrorists" are dedicated to killing Americans. The U.S. is
locked in an "ongoing conflict" with terror groups.
So, is God
Tooley is asking
the wrong question. Asking if God is against drones is like asking
if God is against guns or knives. The question is very ambiguous.
It all comes down to how drones are used. Drones can actually serve
some useful purposes like tracking the spread of wildfires or helping
to find missing hikers. Just like a gun can be used for self-defense
and a knife can be used to cut a steak. What Tooley is asking about,
and what he supports, is the use of drones by the U.S. military
and CIA to kill people around the world that are perceived
as threats to U.S. military personnel, American interests, and national
It is easy
to pick on "Religious Leftists." Just like a broken clock
is right twice a day, they may oppose drone strikes one day, and
then support humanitarian military crusades the next; they may oppose
drone strikes one day, and then support "good wars" the
But it is not
just religious leftists that oppose the use of drones for targeted
killings. I am anything but a religious leftist, and I oppose not
only the use of drones for targeted killings, but the wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan, the U.S. Navy as a global force for good, American
exceptionalism as a pretense for imperialism, the United States
as the world’s policeman, the U.S. empire of troops and bases that
encircles the globe, a reckless, belligerent, and interventionist
U.S. foreign policy, and the whole bogus, liberty-destroying war
There is certainly
nothing wrong with using drones for defense, but the U.S. military
wouldn’t know a defensive war if it saw one. With over a thousand
foreign military bases and troops in over 150 countries and territories,
the U.S. military is engaged in offense, not defense.
No wonder "homicidal
terrorists" are dedicated to killing Americans. Could U.S.
foreign policy have anything to do with it or do they just hate
us for our freedom and values?
to wage unnecessary and unjust wars are evil, just like tanks, planes,
bombs, bullets, and grenades that are used to wage unnecessary and
unjust wars. It all depends on how they are used.
M. Vance [send him mail]
writes from central Florida. He is the author of Christianity
and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State, The
Revolution that Wasn't, Rethinking
the Good War, and The
Quatercentenary of the King James Bible. His latest book
War on Drugs Is a War on Freedom. Visit his
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