Some on the religious right have made their kind of religion a major issue in the present election campaign. They should not be met by silence.
Christians should make peacemaking their central concern this year. Our future depends on it. Christians commit themselves to follow Jesus, the Prince of Peace, who taught his followers to be peacemakers.
Jesus wept over Jerusalem, saying “if you had only known what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:42 NIV). Accordingly, he predicted the Temple and Jerusalem would be destroyed in war, and it was. The warning may apply to us.
Terrorism is an international network—in 60 or more nations. Therefore, preventing terrorism requires international cooperation. But that requires the U.S. to listen to the wisdom of others, not just act unilaterally.
Public opinion polls showed Americans wanted international agreement before making war in Iraq. Hence President Bush promised he would not start the war without a positive vote by U.N. Security Council members. All but three members opposed it. Nevertheless, he initiated war.
He gave this excuse: “In defending America, I will never ask for a permission slip from the United Nations.” That was a double distortion: The right to fight a war of self-defense is explicitly affirmed by the U.N. Charter—no permission is required. The Iraq War was no war of self-defense; Iraq was neither attacking the United States nor had the capability to do so.
Unilateral preemptive war is different; do we want nations to begin any war they choose, with no regard for international restraint? Yet Bush’s speeches now regularly make unilateral preemptive a campaign theme.
Unilateral preemptive war in Iraq has caused enormous anger against the United States: attacks there are now the worst ever, showing “the growing power of the insurgency and heightening the sense of uncertainty and chaos in the capital at a time when American forces have already ceded control to insurgents” in the Sunni triangle of northwest Iraq (New York Times Sept 13, 2004).
The U.S. military is overextended and unable to do needed peacekeeping in Afghanistan, which now has the worst chaos and violence since the war.
Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists are a grave danger. Yet Bush’s unilateralism is undermining the restraints against their spread, and their getting in the hands of terrorists.
The fissile-materials cutoff treaty prohibits manufacture of highly enriched uranium and plutonium. Incredibly, the Bush administration has opposed verification of the treaty.
The bioweapons treaty prohibits biological weapons. Again, Bush has blocked verification.
He has withdrawn from the treaty banning land mines, the comprehensive test ban treaty, the antiballistic missile treaty, the Kyoto Accords on global warming and the international criminal court.
He intends to develop “usable” nuclear weapons—”bunker-busters” and “mini-nukes”—to be used before any other nation has started nuclear war. This erodes two generations of restraint.
He has asked for money to test these weapons within 18 months. Testing will breach the comprehensive test ban treaty that prevents nations like North Korea from testing nuclear bombs.
He opposed South Korea’s initiatives toward peace with North Korea, refused to negotiate with North Korea about its nuclear bomb program, canceled the oil promised to replace their nuclear reactors and refused North Korea’s offer to cancel its nuclear program if he would sign a nonaggression treaty. This has proven disastrous for preventing the spread of nuclear weapons in Asia.
Nine months before 9/11 he withdrew from efforts to make peace between Israel and Palestine. This won the kind of Arab anger expressed in 9/11. This plus the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan have convinced many Arabs and Muslims the United States is threatening them, and they must fight back.
These unilateralist actions tear apart the fabric of international cooperation and peacemaking stitched together by generations of Americans to prevent nuclear war and World War III. Polls show greater world hostility against the United States than ever recorded. These policies fuel terrorist recruitment.
Christians of all kinds should make peacemaking a central issue this year. Our security depends on it. Let us be peacemakers before we are Democrats or Republicans.
Glen Stassen is a professor of Christian ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif.