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Connecting the dots: Why this war is just
April 07, 2003
By James A. Smith Sr., Executive Editor, Florida Baptist Witness

After political pundits first began to emerge from their rhetorical foxholes in the early weeks and months following the Sept. 11th terrorist assaults on America, these professional talkers decried the failure of our government’s intelligence agencies to “connect the dots.” Why, they asked repeatedly, did we not see 9/11 coming?

Later, it was revealed that, indeed, some government agents had seen and noted disturbing evidence of al Qaeda’s activity that should have called for greater diligence, even though no one could predict the exact time and means of their evil intentions. Further, no one suggested that the president could have done anything to prevent the attack. Why didn’t we connect the dots?

Today, I’m compelled to ask, why do critics of President George W. Bush’s determined policy to remove Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction fail to connect THESE dots? Responding to the declarations of Bush and his allies at the Azores Summit on March 16, Hussein removed any question of his connection to the worldwide campaign of terrorism when he said, “When the enemy starts a large-scale battle, he must realize that the battle between us will be open wherever there is sky, land and water in the entire world.”

In his speech to the nation March 17, President Bush provided a clear, convincing and morally just case for the removal by force of Hussein. A war is necessary now because Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction and because of his demonstrated will to use those weapons against his own people -- as well as the unquestionable likelihood that he will one day use them against the United States and Israel, if not other nations. The president has connected the dots.

Some Christians decry any military action on the basis of Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt 5:9) and “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44). They also point to other New Testament passages that seem to argue for non-resistance against evildoers, especially the apostle Paul’s admonitions in Romans 12:14-20.

I believe when the entire biblical witness is taken into account, however, it’s clear government has an obligation to punish those who do evil, including sometimes by means of the use of lethal force. We should not miss the fact that Paul’s admonitions in Romans 12 are followed by his teaching on the role of civil magistrates in chapter 13.

In this passage, Paul asserts that among the chief responsibilities of government is to punish those who do evil (vv. 2-4). There is no contradiction between what Paul asserts in chapter 12 and 13. Appropriate duties of God-ordained government are not the same as the obligations of peacemaking required of individual Christians.

While government has the God-ordained duty to punish evildoers, it must do so in a morally just manner. Any endorsement of military action against Saddam Hussein is no green light to undertake such actions without regard to morality. The conduct of a morally just war in Iraq must be characterized by certain principles.

It must have a just cause and intent. It must be a last resort. It must have legitimate authority, achievable goals and noncombatant immunity. And it must be proportional to its objectives.

“The doctrine of Just War, we must remember, flows out of the Christian command to love your neighbor,” commentator Chuck Colson said. “It is an act of love to wield the sword against evil and against threats to innocent lives. A justly fought war against Saddam Hussein will be ... just such a war.”

While no Christian can take pleasure in the prospect waging war, I believe a war against Iraq, as outlined by President Bush, is morally just and absolutely necessary.

The dots have been connected. (BP)

This previous article has been abridged. For Smith’s full article, see BP News.


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