Reagan, Obama, and the Just War: What to do with Syria

The subject matter I would like to go over is the current situation in Syria. Would it be a just thing to do if the United States military stepped in to help the Syrian citizens who have been brutalized the last nine months; and if not do we as a member of the world community have a responsibility to wait until the rest of the world grows a pair or is it our responsibility to step in like we have so many in the United State limited history. Reagan and Obama had and have very different views of the role the United States should play in the world. The Syrian mess just iterates this, and before this diary is done the difference should be clear.

Issues like these are never as easy as a yes or no, in war not only the bad guys get liquidated, our own troops will likely suffer some loss depending on how hard it is to take down a proxy of Iran. This last Christmas my pastor at church gave me a book called “Politics: According to the Bible” written by Wayne Grudem; he has also written an awesome all things Christian faith book called “Systematic Theology” you can read these from end to end and spend a huge chunk of your time, or just reference it when you need an extended view on Biblical doctrine. This book is vital for me when I want to make sure my political principles can be justified by my convictions.

For this diary I will be using this book to make the case of stepping up pressure on the Syrian government to force them to stop murdering their own citizens, even if it means eventual war with the Middle Eastern nation.

Chapter eleven deals with national security, section B deals with what is called a “Just War” and section C deals with “Pacifism” and these are the sections that I will reference from. What I will attempt to answer is whether military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Arab Socialist Ba’th Party (the same Ba’th that Saddam belonged too) fall under the just war category, and if so then why has the United States not done anything yet; the last part of that is easier to answer than the first.

Grudem starts by acknowledging the fairly obvious, that a just war is not one of conquest and plunder, but considering that it has been speculated by the United Nations that an estimated five thousand or more Syrians have be extirpated in the last nine months; it is safe to say that any military action could be justified.

Throughout centuries of ethical analysis regarding questions of war, one common viewpoint that has been developed with the input of Christian scholars is the just war tradition, which contends that war is morally right if it meets certain criteria; it is also argued that there are certain moral limitations on the way that war should be carried out; these include the following requisites. After each of them there is the Biblical passage Grudem used to support each requisite.

1. Just Cause: is the reason for going to war morally right such as defense of the nation or relieving human suffering. (Rev. 19:11)
2. Competent Authority: has the war been declared by the government and not some renegade faction or factions within the nation. (Rom. 13:1)
3. Comparative Justice: there should be no doubt that the actions of the enemy are morally wrong next to the actions of the nation’s attacking. (Rom.13:3)
4. Right Intentions: is the purpose of going to war to protect justice and righteousness instead of just destroying the enemy or some material gain (Prov. 21:2
5. Last Resort: have we done all that can reasonably be done to avoid war by finding a peaceful solution. (Rom. 12:18)
6. Probability of Success: is there a high level of certainty that the war will be won. (Luke. 14:31)
7. Proportionality of Projected Results: will the good that comes from the war be notably greater than the inevitable harm that will be caused. (Rom. 12:21 & 13:4)
8. Right Spirit: the war must not be undertaken with excessive delight, but rather with reluctance and sorrow for the harm that will surely come. (Ps. 68:30)

It only takes a quick gloss over this list to see that any military action taken against Syria could be done justly, with one exception being last resort because I am not sure the Obama administration has done all that needs to be done to prevent war, unless you want to do nothing at all, or you count a press release saying that President Bashar al-Assad needs to start playing nice as doing something.  The other day Moe Lane posted pictures of Syrian opposition members holding a sign proclaiming they miss Former president Bush’s audacity (which should have felt like a punch to the gut for liberals and Ron Paul supporters who believe the world hates the United States because we won’t mind our own business; tell that to the French who stood in lines to see U.S. soldiers after the allies obtained victory). After a series of actions attempting to nudge the Syrian government in the right direction fails to work, what reason the United States would have to not to see military action as just is not so clear. I am not claiming to know the level and scope of the action that needs to be taken, but only that inaction is not just at all.

In Romans 13:4 teaching about civil governments it is said that it should “bear the sword” in the goal of opposing the evildoer, and I would contend that killing citizens that are peacefully protesting should be marked as an act of evil whether coming from a religious standpoint or not.

The Obama administration has allowed the United States to look like hypocrites, it was not long ago that the world saw Obama circumvent Congress to launch a kinetic strike against the brutal Libyan government, we must start taken steps to at least make it look like we are willing to do that in Syria. I believe that America has a responsibility to take action against despot regimes when we can, when lives are being terminated for one man to stay in power it is time for action. I thought it was good Texas Gov. Rick Perry at least suggested a no-fly zone; it would tell the Syrian government we are serious. Not angering Iran is not a valid reason to let people die.

It reminds me of something said in the Spider Man movie: Uncle Ben had just told Peter that “with great power comes great responsibility,” and I believe that holds true in world politics. What makes the America different is that we have used our power for the advancement of good, how many millions have not seen slavery because of the United Stated; that alone makes us great; and the list could go on and on.

In Ronald Reagan’s speech to the British Parliament I often hear people talk about the line “The march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxist-Leninism on the ash-heap of history.” That speech is filled other exigent words that are as relevant against today’s enemies as they were against the Soviet Union.

We must not predicate our behavior on our faith in humanity to spread freedom this task falls on our shoulders, because of no other reason than we can. Here is how Reagan put it with all the witty charm he was known for.

“I’ve often wondered about the shyness of some of us in the West about standing for these ideals that have done so much to ease the plight of man and the hardships of our imperfect world. This reluctance to use those vast resources at our command reminds me of the elderly lady whose home was bombed in the Blitz. As the rescuers moved about, they found a bottle of brandy she’d stored behind the staircase, which was all that was left standing. And since she was barely conscious, one of the workers pulled the cork to give her a taste of it. She came around immediately and said, “Here now — there now, put it back. That’s for emergencies.” [Laughter]

“Well, the emergency is upon us. Let us be shy no longer. Let us go to our strength. Let us offer hope. Let us tell the world that a new age is not only possible but probable.”

“During the dark days of the Second World War, when this island was incandescent with courage, Winston Churchill exclaimed about Britain’s adversaries, “What kind of a people do they think we are?” Well, Britain’s adversaries found out what extraordinary people the British are. But all the democracies paid a terrible price for allowing the dictators to underestimate us. We dare not make that mistake again. So, let us ask ourselves, “What kind of people do we think we are?” And let us answer, “Free people, worthy of freedom and determined not only to remain so but to help others gain their freedom as well.”

It is not hard to contrast what president Obama believes against what Reagan stood for, it is a difference that cost lives.