Wars and Rumors

The Catholic church has spent centuries refining its theology of “just wars.” This theology partly reflects biblical ideas, including Old Testament and New Testament statements about the necessity of conflict to defend the Kingdom of God. In part, the just war doctrine also reflects the pragmatic needs of a church that has helped govern much of a continent for hundreds to thousands of years.

Compared with the Catholics, Mormons have unique theological resources for constructing a theology of war. The Book of Mormon, in particular, contains extensive texts about righteous and wicked warfare. If we were to describe a theory of righteous warfare on the basis of the Book of Mormon, what would it look like?

Some Book of Mormon texts describe the motives for which a righteous war must be fought. For example, the famous “title of liberty” account suggests that righteous wars must be fought for the goal of protecting our families and our freedom, and also that long-term victory and survival may depend on righteousness. Somewhat more explicitly, Alma 43: 47 announces an affirmative divine command:

Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed.

Hence, wars of self-defense or wars in defense of national freedom seem to have divine sanction. While these ideas are useful as a way of judging our personal motivations, they are perhaps not helpful as general policy; nearly any war can be framed as a way of defending home and freedom.

Other passages suggest that the motives of the enemy may help determine the righteousness of a given war. For example, in considering whether or not to use battlefield trickery, Moroni in Alma 43: 29-30 weighs the following factors:

And now, as Moroni knew the intention of the Lamanites, that it was their intention to destroy their brethren, or to subject them and bring them into bondage that they might establish a kingdom unto themselves over all the land; and he also knowing that it was the only desire of the Nephites to preserve their lands, and their liberty, and their church, therefore he thought it no sin that he should defend them by stratagem; therefore, he found by his spies which course the Lamanites were to take.

Here, it is not important only that the Nephites have the righteous motives described above, but also that the Lamanites are driven by the goal of enslaving others. By implication, it would seem, righteous wars are indeed conflicts between good and evil. The more ambiguous sort of war, between sides that each have mixed motives, would seem to fall outside of this justifying theology altogether.

A third major stipulation regarding righteous war can be derived from the Book of Mormon accounts of warfare. Almost without exception, the divinely-favored Book of Mormon generals limit themselves to the goal of retaining the lands that the Nephites already possess and defending their current cities. Wars of aggression or intervention in Lamanite lands are generally eschewed. In fact, one important text makes this third Book of Mormon criterion for just war explicit. In Pahoran’s letter to Moroni (Alma 61: 10-11), we read:

And now, behold, we will resist wickedness even unto bloodshed. We would not shed the blood of the Lamanites if they would stay in their own land. We would not shed the blood of our brethren if they would not rise up in rebellion and take the sword against us.

Defensive wars against invaders are acceptable, as are retaliatory wars against internal schismatic groups. But, evidently, wars in which the opponent has not intervened in the national territory of the initiating party are not approved. Thus, a Book of Mormon just war would seem to entail three criteria:

  • “Our” side must be motivated by defense of home, family, and national freedom.
  • “Their” side must be motivated by wicked goals
  • “Their” side must have attacked “our” national territory.

*****

For the United States, this is a time, as the scriptures would have it, of “wars and rumors of wars.” We are currently fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. These are both very real wars, but for many of us they have the air of rumor. More than perhaps any other major war, there are a lot of Americans who don’t personally know anyone involved in the struggle. Yet a great many of our compatriots are putting themselves in harm’s way for us. To any member of the armed services who reads this, thank you for your service.

Our military doesn’t choose its own missions. We, the voters, do that. Through our elected representatives, we have selected the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Do these wars that we, as a nation, have chosen meet the Book of Mormon criteria for righteous combat?

The Afghanistan war has a certain justification to it. As a response to the terrorist attacks of 2001, that war can be seen as involving our own self-defense against an enemy that has intervened on our territory. Furthermore, it seems reasonable to argue that the Taliban was a repressive, even enslaving, political movement. Therefore, to the extent that our motives in conducting the war were those of defense rather than retaliation, the struggle in Afghanistan may essentially meet the just war criteria derived from the Book of Mormon.

What about the war in Iraq?

In particular, let us consider the question of whether Iraqis had, as the Book of Mormon requires, left their own territory to attack us in our lands. This seems not to be the case. Certainly, in the early 1990s, Iraq invaded Kuwait. However, the resulting “Desert Storm” war drove the Iraqi military back within its national boundaries–satisfying Book of Mormon justice related to the invasion. But Iraq has conducted no notable foreign military adventures since that point.

For many Americans, especially in the run-up to the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003, the justification for military action was that Saddam Hussein (the president of Iraq) was responsible for the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. At that point in time, a majority of Americans believed that Hussein was personally involved in those attacks. Yet, as has subsequently become clear, there was no real evidence of any direct or significant indirect participation by Hussein and Iraq in the attacks; they were funded from Al Qaeda sources, planned by Al Qaeda operatives, and carried out by Al Qaeda recruits. Does a false belief that a nation has attacked us on our soil meet the third Book of Mormon criterion for just war? I worry that it may not.

Parenthetically, it is worth noting that this false mass belief was not a product of direct lies by the George W. Bush administration. Although Bush and his advisors spoke in a way that reinforced perceptions of Hussein’s involvement, surveys suggest that Americans were ready to blame Hussein for the attacks essentially from the moment they occurred. For some reason, we simply believed that he was responsible, even when we knew nothing about the attacks or their authors.

Setting aside the justification for the initial attack on Iraq, there is a second question we must ask. Is our continued presense there justified in light of Book of Mormon just-war theology, when Hussein is no longer in command and now that we understand that he probably played no major role in the 2001 terrorist attacks? The Nephites, although almost constantly threatened by a hostile and unrelenting nation of Lamanites, felt that divine justice called them to stay within their own lands unless those lands were under attack. Do we feel entitled to throw off this scriptural pattern?

Comments

  1. For many Americans, especially in the run-up to the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003, the justification for military action was that Saddam Hussein (the president of Iraq) was responsible for the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. At that point in time, a majority of Americans believed that Hussein was personally involved in those attacks.

    I disagree with this statement. Perhaps some people thought that Hussein was involved in 9-11, but the true justification for was Husseins violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions. He refused to allow the Security Council to inspect Iraq for WMDs, and this was a breach of the cease-fire agreement from the first Gulf War.

    But I actually think that makes the war in Iraq even harder to justify. At least if we really believed Hussein was involved in 9-11 there would have been some aggression to respond to.

    Also, I wish the LDS church would develop an equivalent theology of ‘just war’, the Catholic doctrine is a really good ethic. It seems Mormons are way too anxious to jump on the ‘support the war’ bandwagon, in the name of patriotism. A good worked out doctrine that is supported by the leadership of the church, would go along way to quenching this zealous attitude.

  2. Through our elected representatives, we have selected the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Do these wars that we, as a nation, have chosen meet the Book of Mormon criteria for righteous combat?

    The Afghanistan war has a certain justification to it.

    Yes, I agree with this analysis.

    What about the war in Iraq?

    No, based on your scriptural citations and the analysis in your post.

    Certainly, in the early 1990s, Iraq invaded Kuwait. However, the resulting “Desert Storm” war drove the Iraqi military back within its national boundaries–satisfying Book of Mormon justice related to the invasion. But Iraq has conducted no notable foreign military adventures since that point.

    I’m not even certain this excursion met the Book of Mormon criteria outlined.

    Does a false belief that a nation has attacked us on our soil meet the third Book of Mormon criterion for just war? I worry that it may not.

    As do I.

    Is our continued presence there justified in light of Book of Mormon just-war theology, when Hussein is no longer in command and now that we understand that he probably played no major role in the 2001 terrorist attacks?

    No. But, now that we have intruded, are we morally able to just leave? This, to me, is the more difficult question. I lean towards yes we should leave–but worry about the results if we do.

    Excellent post. Did you and Elizabeth coordinate themes today? Both excellent posts! Thanks!

  3. Jared, surveys suggest that 50-70% of Americans believed, in March 2003, that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 2001 terrorist attacks. The same surveys suggest that about 20-25% of Americans cited that involvement as the primary reason they supported the Iraq invasion. I think that belief makes support for the war easier to justify in terms of Book of Mormon war theology than any other argument, which is why I emphasized it in the post.

    If you recall, during the months just before the war, Hussein readmitted the Security Council inspection team. This makes justifying a war on that basis perhaps somewhat more difficult, even, than you suggest.

    Guy, I don’t really have an answer to the final question. There are, I think, two issues. A pragmatic problem: is our continued presense in Iraq helpful, or an ongoing provocation that strengthens the insurgency? A moral problem: is our continued presense justified by what we believe to be right about war? Like you, I lean toward the opinion that both questions point to our departure, but I feel uncertainty–especially with respect to the pragmatic question.

    Elisabeth and I didn’t coordinate; Iraq Day at BCC is a coincidence. But I’m glad you like the post, and I agree that Elisabeth’s is excellent.

  4. I think it’s effective to know everything the prophets have said about the Iraq war.

    In the recent video given out to those serving in the armed services around the world, Elder Robert C. Oaks said the war in Iraq was justified. The prophet also spoke in the video.

    Modern revelation from the prophets can help in this difficult time.

  5. cadams, do you have a transcript of those remarks?

    If the remarks in question are the talk given at the BYU ROTC in 2003, he told the soldiers that their service is righteous. I agree unconditionally, except for the individuals who have carried out atrocities. The question at issue here isn’t the righteousness of soldiers, but rather the righteousness of our national decision to go to war.

    In any case, we have not been instructed in any public way that the war is definitely righteous. President Hinckley gave an April 2003 Conference talk in which he expressed approval to both supporters and opponents of the war, while also signalling his personal political view that the war was the right choice. Interestingly, his acceptance of the war entailed the claim that the Iraq war was an outgrowth and development of the “war on terrorism”–echoing the general (and, in light of evidence at the time and since, apparently incorrect) perception at the time that Iraq was directly involved in the Al Qaeda terrorist network responsible for the 2001 attacks. This is okay; we don’t believe Hinckley to be infallible in his personal political views. But I find it interesting.

  6. Nate Oman says:

    “If you recall, during the months just before the war, Hussein readmitted the Security Council inspection team.”

    My understanding, however, is that the team continued to be denied access to inspection facilities, so that Hussien’s government was not in compliance with the UN resolutions. Furthermore, there was a unanimous Security Council resolution to the effect that Iraq was not in compliance, and which spelled out specific steps the Iraqi government had to take in order to comply. Finally, the resolution threatened “serious consquences” (or words to that effect) if Iraq failed to comply. Iraq did not comply. At this point, both the United States and the UK believed that there was a causus belli, as the serious consquences languange had been routinely construed to mean war and US and UK diplomats had pleaded with the French delegation not to vote for the resolution if they were unwilling to go to war in the event of Iraqi non-compliance.

    There is, of course, a credible argument that failure to comply with the ceasefire conditions and associated UN resolutions does not reach the level of just war. One may also argue that one may not use UN resolutions to justify a war when the UN itself is not willing to follow through on the resolutions. On the other hand, I think that you will have a very hard time denying two points:

    1. Iraqi was in violation of the ceasefire agreement at the time of the invasion.
    2. Pre-invasion UN resolutions had threatened war in the event of non-compliance.

    BTW, I wonder to what extent the rise of the nation state complicates the Book of Mormon analogy. In a post-Westphalia world we tend to fetishize nation states, assuming that the morally relevent borders for war and peace are national frontiers. Is this what the Book of Mormon is talking about, however, when it talks, for example, about defending homes or not interferring with another people?

  7. Nate, the Book of Mormon discussions of wars heavily emphasize the concept of the integrity of “lands,” which seem to naturally belong to specific peoples. Whether or not we imagine this in a nation-state context, it certainly projects an idea of just war as involving nations. In fact, if there is anything that complicates Book of Mormon analogies, it is perhaps the decline of nations… Nonetheless, we have no post-modern scripture as yet, so we’re perhaps forced to make do.

    It is the case, by the way, that the actual UN inspection team felt that it was making substantial progress and experiencing substantial–if not complete–cooperation at the time that they were recalled to make way for the invasion. I agree with both of your numbered points, but I’d suggest that “compliance” isn’t really an either-or. It’s a graded matter, and Iraq was in a state of much greater compliance at the time the war began than it had ever been before.

    But in any case, it is somewhat unclear whether the scriptural texts on war in the Book of Mormon (and, I might add, the Doctrine and Covenants) justify invasion on the basis of something like a non-aggressive failure to comply with a treaty. An actual attack, rather, seems to be the prerequisite.

  8. J. Nelson-Seawright,

    I’d like to play devils advocate:

    So is a ‘just war’ simply one that is supported by scriptural precedent? Would the U.S. attack on Germany during WW1 or WW2 be justified? They never attacked the U.S. Sure Japan did, and I think it was just that we retaliated, but what is the justification for us attacking Germany?

  9. Jared,

    WWI is extremely complicated to discuss in moral terms. I won’t even try that one.

    In WWII, Germany was clearly an aggressor. It had invaded a number of countries. The Book of Mormon does suggest that defending allies from an attempted invasion is a viable reason for war; thus, the Nephites fought to protect the Anti-Nephi-Lehies. But I think an initial aggressive act is needed.

  10. Mark Butler says:

    There was once a man, a foreigner, who fell among thieves, and as the robbery was in progress a Pharisee, a Levite, and a scribe happened by. And they consulted among themselves. A neighbor or no?

    Definitely not. No neighbor of ours. And they walked on by, pleased in their masterful scriptural exegesis.

  11. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 9 Germany attacked our allies (esp. the British), our ‘brothers’ as it were. If they are viewed as extension of our own nation to some extent, then I think coming to their aid in WWII would rise to BoM standards of a just war. Besides, it just obviously does. It’s hard to imagine any scriptural interpretation which wound up asserting that fighting Nazi Germany was “unjust.”

  12. Mark Butler says:

    The aggressive act in this case is the harboring and sponsoring of terrorist activity. Iraq was long complicit in that. Perhaps in hindsight an invasion wasn’t the best of all possible actions, but the casus belli is clear – one that has little to do with violating U.N. resolutions, per se. It is not manufacturing weapons, but rather what the regime has a proven history of doing with them – and giving aid and comfort to those who would use them elsewhere. Weapons or no, the U.S. could have been justified in invading Iraq twenty or thirty years earlier, just because of state sponsorship of terrorist attacks on us and our friends. We did not call Iraq a “rogue state” for nothing.

  13. Mark, I think the argument that you’re making is substantially less clear than you think it is. Iraq was certainly an aggressor state at times in the 1980s, although the Iran-Iraq war is at best a murky example. However, as you may or may not recall, Iraq was our ally until basically the time of the Kuwait invasion. Was Iraq sposoring “terrorist attacks on us and our friends”? No; Iraq was one of our friends.

    More generally, when thinking about cause for war, it’s probably useful to distinguish between low-level terrorist acts–which are provocations but fit better in a criminal frame than a military one–and high-level terrorist attacks that resemble an invasion in impact. I would think that the 2001 attacks certainly fit in the second category. Is there clear evidence that, in the four or five years leading up to the 2003 invasion, Iraq had directly participated in such a high-level attack? If not, the argument seems difficult to make; the Iraq war cannot in this case be seen as a response to a fresh aggressive act and therefore seems difficult to fit with the Book of Mormon just-war theology.

    Your comment #10, by the way, seems difficult to parse. Are we, in the war in Iraq, the strangers walking past? Or are we the attackers? A case could probably be made for either story.

  14. Mark Butler says:

    Iraq, our ally? I don’t think so. The reason why we were neutral in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s is that we could not decide which side we disliked the least. Iran was certainly a more prominent state sponsor of terrorism than Iraq was, but Iraq was practically a Soviet client who was a sworn enemy of Israel. If there was any informal leaning in favor of Iraq, it was definitely of the most Machivellian sort. Iraq was never our friend. Much of our support of other Arab states was in the same vein – we would be “friends” with those who would side with us against the Soviets, friends of convenience, not shared values or culture. And for that sort of Realpolitik, however necessary, we are now paying the price. Indeed even today, our best “friends” in the Middle East do far more to work toward the end of our culture and civilization than to uphold it.

    As far as the Samaritan analogy, I intended it primarily in general terms, where an innocent country like Kuwait, friend or no, suffers an truly unprovoked attack by another. We can say the same of internal genocides. A goverment that slaughters its own people has lost any claim to competent authority. It becomes not the preserver of order, but a promoter of criminality.

    By the way, one of the nice things about Catholics is that they actually think about things from first principles. They do not have to base all theology on scriptural precedents alone.

    Mormons tend to be anti-theological, in favor of an unreflected system of common law, where no argument, however rationally justified is given any credence unless it is *strictly* entailed by authoriative precedent, no matter how nonsensical. This trend is promoted by conservatives and liberals alike, to the great detriment of a theology and culture of any general applicability whatsoever.

  15. Mark Butler says:

    Israel, and (hopefully) the new government of Iraq excepted of course.

  16. Mark, you should take a look at the historical record with respect to the Iran-Iraq war.

    In the post above, I suggested that the war against Kuwait could have been justified on the basis of the Book of Mormon theology outlined above. I think an argument can be made in situations where genocide is an issue; if the US had led an international intervention in Iraq in the early-to-mid 1990s, when active genocidal efforts were under way, I would have supported the move.

    You object to the lack of general applicability in Mormon theology. But I’m trying, in this post, to develop general principles. Granted, those principles begin with the statements about war in the Book of Mormon–but we do have to start somewhere. The conclusion is more broadly applicable, though–so I’m not sure I accept your objection.

  17. By the way, a quick clarification to my comment in #13: “client” would have been a better word choice than “ally.”

  18. I think we are both the attackers and the passers by. The war really worried me from the onset as it slearly fell out of the boundaries of righteous warfare in the Book of Mormon. At the time, the entire world outside of our own population seemed to realize this and they protested loudly. We did not listen, to our own peril. Then we created a chaotic situation, and at that point I do believe we are obligated to at least help the country back onto its feet. The question of at what point our presence is more harmful or helpful is a profoundly difficult one and one that we now face only because we failed to have just cause in the first place. I would hope America can learn from this mistake, but one would have thought Viet Nam would have taught us something as well.

  19. Mark Butler says:

    I have no objection to locating principles in the Book of Mormon, have an objection to narrowly restricting their applicability, without a rational basis. The basis of morality is *reason*, not precedent. Precedent is a crutch.

    We do not need an account where state sponsored Lamanites infiltrate Nephite culture and place proto-dynamite under the pillars of the temple, to conclude that is a reasonable casus belli. That sort of reasoning is ridiculous in the extreme.

  20. The Iraqi government didn’t do the 2001 terrorist attacks, Mark. If they had, the war would resemble the Afghanistan invasion.

  21. Mark Butler says:

    I didn’t say they did – this thread is (or should be) about the legitimate justifications for war in general, not the late invasion of Iraq per se. My prior argument was that Iraq was a well known sponsor / harbor of terrorism, and that although it might not have been the wisest thing to do, we had ample cause for war decades ago, for that very reason. Iraq has never been (in recent history) a happy friendly peaceful state that would bend over backwards to stomp out brigands operating in their midst – instead they give these rogues comfort and protection, becoming criminals themselves on the same theory as felony murder.

    The distinction between state action and state sponsored action is a distinction without a difference. If the U.S. harbored terrorists seeking the violent overthrow of the government of Canada, the latter would have more than ample casus belli, no matter what our reasons were for harboring the terrorists/revolutionaries in the first place.

    Under international law, we could hardly fault Nicaragua in the 80s or any other country we were complicit in attempting to violently overthrow, however justified in equity, for fighting back to the point of attacking our country and attempting to assassinate our military leaders, including the Commander in Chief. Indeed, we would have a better case if we invaded Nicaragua ourselves, or at least made sure our revolutionary clients upheld the highest standards of the law of war (i.e. no terrorism, killing of innocents, etc.)

  22. J. Nelson-Seawright,

    In WWII, Germany was clearly an aggressor. It had invaded a number of countries. The Book of Mormon does suggest that defending allies from an attempted invasion is a viable reason for war; thus, the Nephites fought to protect the Anti-Nephi-Lehies. But I think an initial aggressive act is needed.

    So if all that is needed is an initial aggressive act, doesn’t Hussein’s aggression against his own people count? Hussein has been torturing and killing Iraqis and Kurds for quite some time. If we were justified in entering WW2 on behalf of other countries, wouldn’t we be just a justified in instigating the Iraq war on behalf of those Hussein has been aggressive toward?

  23. jjohnsen says:

    Also, I wish the LDS church would develop an equivalent theology of ‘just war’, the Catholic doctrine is a really good ethic. It seems Mormons are way too anxious to jump on the ‘support the war’ bandwagon, in the name of patriotism. A good worked out doctrine that is supported by the leadership of the church, would go along way to quenching this zealous attitude.

    I’d like to find out more about this. Do Mormons typically jump on the war bandwagon every time, or is it more prevelant when the war is led by the political party they agree with. I have a hard time believing Mormons would support Iraq as much if it was led by non-Republican President. Recent articles about Utahns supporting Bush more than 47 other states shows we are willing to support the people we vote for, no matter what kind of job they are doing.

  24. jjohnsen,

    Good point. Perhaps it is the overall Mormon infatuation with the Republican Party that needs to be quenched.

  25. Mark Butler says:

    Mormons, particularly Utah Mormons, are not infatuated with the Republican Party, they are “infatuated” with a certain brand of American conservatism. It just so happens that Republicans are currently most closely aligned with that brand, if places switched, or even realigned back to the state prior to the late sixties, the situation would be far more ambiguous, as the electoral record of the Great State of Utah amply demonstrates. John F. Kennedy could legitimately be a “Mormon” president, as could Harry Truman. Democrats since then not so much.

  26. Kevin Barney says:

    FWIW, my own views are:

    1. Afghanistan, justified.

    2. Iraq, terrible mistake. I never thought Iraq was responsible for 9/11. It is true they were not in compliance with UN resolutions. But if there was going to be an invasion on that basis, it should have been a broad, multinational effort, the way the elder Pres. Bush did it. I think subsequent events have shown that the nations of the world (other than GB) were clearly right not to join in the invasion, and we should have listened to them.

    3. But, now that we’re there, we can’t just pull up. We brought the country to the brink of civil war; we can’t just say “oops, my bad” and leave. I would like for us to pull out at the earliest possible moment, but not before the patient is stable again.

  27. Kevin Barney says:

    BTW, anyone interested in contemplating the morality of war ought to read the war chapters in Boyd Petersen’s biography of Hugh Nibley. Very interesting stuff.

    Also, wasn’t there an issue of Dialogue devoted to Mormon takes on just war theory? Or am I hallucinating?

  28. Kevin,

    I largely agree with your #2, but I would like to pose a question to you:

    I think we can all agree that Hussein systematically tortured and murdered his own people. If the U.S. is successful in installing a peaceful democratic regime, upon humanitarian grounds, couldn’t the war then be said to be justifiable, humane and even the right thing to have done?

  29. Kevin Barney says:

    I’m pretty sure there is more than this, but here is an example of a Dialogue piece dealing with just war theory.

  30. Kevin Barney says:

    Jared E. I agree that genocide definitely has to be in the mix for a theory of just war.

    But then the question becomes why aren’t we doing more in Africa, where far worse genocide is going on?

  31. You make a good point about Africa. I’m with you in that I think that the invasion of Iraq was a bad idea. But I am also of the opinion that much of the resistance to the war is based more upon politics than it is upon ethics. jjohnsen’s point in #23 goes the other way too, many democrats oppose the war because it is being waged by a republican.

    Many of those who would include genocide or mass murder in a ‘just war’ ethic, are also those who vehemently oppose the war in Iraq.

    So if you still oppose the war, why isn’t the humanitarian angle good enough for you?

  32. Mark Butler says:

    Genocide certainly would *justify* our going to war on behalf of the oppressed in Sudan or in Africa. However, acknowledging the presence of amle justification, the issue of whether we should go or not is a more complex question.

  33. Mark,

    The last of the Catholic tenents for just war is

    the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.

    So in your view, is the war in Iraq producing evils larger than those that it will eliminate?

    I mean, ultimately it’s a cost/benefit analysis right?

  34. J. Nelson-Seawright,
    In April 1942, David O. McKay posted an interesting blog on this same topic.
    At the time, he was in the First Presidency, and the U.S., of course, had just joined World War II.

    In that general conference talk, McKay took a strong stand against war:

    “War is basically selfish. Its roots feed in the soil of envy, hatred, desire for domination. Its fruit, therefore, is always bitter. They who cultivate and propagate it spread death and destruction, and are enemies of the human race.
    War originates in the hearts of men who seek to despoil, to conquer, or to destroy other individuals or groups of individuals. Self exaltation is a motivating factor; force, the means of attainment. War is rebellious action against moral order.
    The present war had its beginning in militarism, a false philosophy which believes that “war is a biological necessity for the purification and progress of nations.” It proclaims that Might determines Right, and that only the strongest nations should survive and rule. It says, “the grandeur of history lies in the perpetual conflict of nations, and it is simply foolish to desire the suppression of their rivalry.
    War impels you to hate your enemies.
    The Prince of Peace says, Love your enemies.
    War says, Curse them that curse you.
    The Prince of Peace says, Pray for them that curse you.
    War says, Injure and kill them that hate you.
    The Risen Lord says, Do good to them that hate you.
    Thus we see that war is incompatible with Christ’s teachings. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the gospel of peace. War is its antithesis, and produces hate. It is vain to attempt to reconcile war with true Christianity.”

    But then he changed rhetorical course and argued that there were circumstances in which war might be justified:

    “Notwithstanding all this, I still say that there are conditions when entrance into war is justifiable, and when a Christian nation may, without violation of principles, take up arms against an opposing force.

    Such a condition, however, is not a real or fancied insult given by one nation to another. When this occurs proper reparation may be made by mutual understanding, apology, or by arbitration.

    Neither is there justifiable cause found in a desire or even a need for territorial expansion. The taking of territory implies the subjugation of the weak by the strong — the application of the jungle law.

    Nor is war justified in an attempt to enforce a new order of government, or even to impel others to a particular form of worship, however better the government or eternally true the principles of the enforced religion may be.
    There are, however, two conditions which may justify a truly Christian man to enter — mind you, I say enter, not begin — a war: ( 1 ) An attempt to dominate and to deprive another of his free agency, and, ( 2 ) Loyalty to his country. Possibly there is a third, viz., Defense of a weak nation that is being unjustly crushed by a strong, ruthless one.”

  35. Stirling,
    I find 2 comments from Pres. McKay’s statement:

    Nor is war justified in an attempt to enforce a new order of government

    and

    There are, however, two conditions which may justify a truly Christian man to enter — mind you, I say enter, not begin — a war…Defense of a weak nation that is being unjustly crushed by a strong, ruthless one.

    It seems to me that by McKay’s standard, Iraq is not justifiable. The third justification for war, the one I speak of in #31, McKay identifies as being a justification for entering a war, but he is pretty specific that it does not justify starting a war. Thoughts?

  36. Jared:

    In response to #8:

    Germany actually declared war on the United States before we declared war on them. I do wish sometimes Americans would remember their history better, because so many are using our actions against Germany as justification for Iraq.

    This is what happened though in 1941.

    1. The United States stopped supplying oil to Japan, which has no oil in its territory.

    2. Japan brazenly attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor.

    3. Japan then declared war on the United States.

    4. Germany, in its alliance with Japan, also declared war on the United States.

    5. The United States, in return declared war on Japan and Germany.

    America was in no way an aggressor in World War II. Our enemies fired first and declared war first. But we finished.

  37. Dan,

    I completely agree with your synopsis. But I do have one comment to make:

    4. Germany, in its alliance with Japan, also declared war on the United States.

    This was a mere formality due to Japan’s alliance with Germany. Germany never attacked the United States, nor was there any way Germany was ever going to wage a war against the US (or even try to) on American soil. To say that we were justified in attacking Germany because Japan attacked us, and Germany is Japan’s friend is a stretch.

  38. Jared,

    What I mean is, Germany actually and officially declared the German nation to be at war with the United States. Meaning there now existed a state of war between the two nations and the instigator was Germany. That meant that Germany could at its will attack American ships at sea, whether civilian or military. It wasn’t a formality, but something very real and threatening to America.

  39. I don’t think the questions raised by Nate back in question 6 have been properly addressed:

    In a post-Westphalia world we tend to fetishize nation states, assuming that the morally relevent borders for war and peace are national frontiers.

    For such a complicated issue, I think it makes more sense to take a practical, consequensialist approach, rather than to seek some moral absolutes from scriptures that may have been written before the rise of nation states. I think the Iraq invasion was a bad idea, because the postwar occupation situation was untennable. Likewise, standards that give a special place to Nation-states might actually make sense because they restrain and order international relations, even though it might be hard to make a case why Nations are the morally relevant units.

    JNS, I’m very surprised by your statement that “if the US had led an international intervention in Iraq in the early-to-mid 1990s, when active genocidal efforts were under way, I would have supported the move.” It seems to me that such an expidition would have run into exactly the same problems as the current one.

  40. John Taber says:

    #6:

    Interestingly, his acceptance of the war entailed the claim that the Iraq war was an outgrowth and development of the “war on terrorism”–echoing the general (and, in light of evidence at the time and since, apparently incorrect) perception at the time that Iraq was directly involved in the Al Qaeda terrorist network responsible for the 2001 attacks. This is okay; we don’t believe Hinckley to be infallible in his personal political views. But I find it interesting.

    But I can’t count how many members have used that statement to not only justify action in Iraq, but also to justify a “war on terrorism”. And most of those use selective statements like that one from the front of the talk to bolster their views, and say that those who disagree aren’t following the Prophet.

  41. Wow! Go out for a few hours, and everybody fills the thread up with really smart, substantive comments!

    A few quick thoughts. Stirling, thanks for the quote. I’m happy to find that my remarks seem rather in harmony with President McKay’s–so I’m perhaps not too far out of the historical Mormon mainstream on this point.

    By the way, some historic leaders have been willing to go much further in the direction of condemning war than I would probably go. J. Reuben Clark, for example, openly and vociferously opposed U.S. participation in World War II. (See this Encyclopedia of Mormonism article).

    ed, as I mentioned above, the Book of Mormon certainly doesn’t exist in a nation-state framework–but it does seem to presuppose a national framework. The idea of borders as a criterion for peace is fundamental in the book; I think its war theology fits relatively nicely in the modern world for that reason.

    On the question of whether a genuinely international action in the mid-1990s to curb the genocides in Kurdistan and among Shiites would have had the same problems as the current war, that may be so. On the other hand, a genuinely international effort might well have worked a lot better–particularly if the war effort had significant Islamic partners. But, the important point for this discussion is simply that a war effort at that point in time would seem to have had a much stronger moral justification.

  42. By the way, the Times and Seasons sidebar link to today’s two Iraq-related posts says: “Tired of debating SSM? We’ll always have Iraq.” Unfortunately, I think, that second statement may in fact be true…

  43. jjohnsen says:

    You make a good point about Africa. I’m with you in that I think that the invasion of Iraq was a bad idea. But I am also of the opinion that much of the resistance to the war is based more upon politics than it is upon ethics. jjohnsen’s point in #23 goes the other way too, many democrats oppose the war because it is being waged by a republican.

    I agree some Democrats oppose the Iraq war only because Bush is President, but most Democrats I know didn’t oppose the Afganistan war, which is run by the same person. The only opposition to Afganistan I hear about now from Democrat friends is that we aren’t paying enough ettention to it. I think most people opposed to Iraq have a bigger problem with it than Bush being in charge.

  44. jjohnsen says:

    Off topic, but I’m a little confused. Is there a difference between J. Nelson-Seawright and RT/JNS? When I see threads with postings from both of those names I’m not sure if they’re supposed to represent different people.

  45. Jjohnsen, J. Nelson-Seawright and RT-JNS are one and the same. Both are the same as RoastedTomatoes. I use that name at most sites other than BCC. Here, I use my real name. The RT-JNS thing is designed to connect the two identities. Occasional explanations are perhaps required. :)

  46. Mark Butler says:

    Jared E (#33), I think that virtually everyone in our government was convinced that the long term moral benefits outweighed the long term moral costs. That is never an adequate justification in and of itself of course.

    However, If we knew then what we know now in regard to the state of Iraq’s WMD program, I don’t think we would have gone to war. [What motivated Hussein to act so as to confirm our worst fears, anyway?] I think we were technically justified on other grounds, but that in retrospect the threat did not justify the negative consequences (speaking of an alternate sense of justification here)

    On balance, I think the long term benefits will out weigh the long term costs, but again, that is never an adequate justification for war.

    In regard to World War II, I think we would have been amply justified in entering the War in Europe on behalf of our true friend and ally Britain, long before Pearl Harbor. I think it is a stain on our reputation that we did not, given the dire straits England was in, in 1940.

  47. I still don’t understand why an Iraq invastion in the mid 1990s would have had a “much stronger moral justification” than the current action. It’s not as if Sadaam had in the interim turned into a good guy, or stopped mistreating his people. In neither case were we (the USA) attacked, and in neither case could really be justified as self defense. Are you saying that once a horrible tyrant curtails “active genocidal efforts,” there is no longer any justification for intervening militarily, even if he remains a threat?

    In any case, the talk about whether Iraq is a “just war” seems a little off to me. The “war” part itself was fairly trivial compared to the problems of the postwar occupation. Is Iraq a “just occupaton?” Do we even have a theory of just occupations?

  48. jjohnsen says:

    Jjohnsen, J. Nelson-Seawright and RT-JNS are one and the same. Both are the same as RoastedTomatoes. I use that name at most sites other than BCC. Here, I use my real name. The RT-JNS thing is designed to connect the two identities. Occasional explanations are perhaps required. :)

    Ah, I thought you were all the same person, so was confused when you used both names in one thread. Sorry for the smal threadjack.

  49. Mark, if you’ll recall, there were “dissident” voices in the CIA and other branches of our intelligence services suggesting just exactly that the WMD situation in Iraq was not terribly serious. In response to that, the government created an Office of Special Plans that reanalyzed the raw intelligence in ways that increased the degree of confidence that the WMD situation remained severe. In other words, I think we could reasonably have known about that situation before we invaded.

    A question worthy of consideration is whether the mere possession of WMD counts as an aggressive act that justifies war. In answering this, it’s worthy of note that the U.S. is one of the biggest owners of WMDs in the world.

    ed, in the early to mid 1990s, the Hussein regime had an active program of genocide underway against Kurdish and Shiite resisters. This was in fact near its peak at the end of the Desert Storm war. Because of no-fly zones and the general deterioration of the Iraqi regime, those genocidal programs were evidently no longer active by the late 1990s and the 2000s. Did Hussein remain a person who would do genocide? Obviously, as you note. Was the war a direct action to prevent genocide? I think not–he wasn’t either in the midst of a genocide or on the evident verge of one. According to the just war principles from the Book of Mormon, it’s not enough to be a threat–a war always has to begin with an aggressive act from the enemy. That’s what was lacking in the current Iraq war.

    Why do you think the current struggle in Iraq isn’t a war? In my view, it’s a war between a regular army and a guerilla opponent. The “occupation” label just signals that the war is taking place away from the army’s home territory, right?

  50. Mark Butler says:

    Possession of WMD per se – of course not. Possession in the hands of someone who is an active sponsor of terrorist attacks is different. Perhaps even possession in the hands of a lunatic, fanatic, or crazy man.

    We do not worry much about WMD in the hands of Britain, France, or Israel because we trust they have the necessary discipline to use them as a proper deterrent, instead of as an active agent of destruction, or an means to blackmail others while they pursue such ends.

    We have a lesser, but comparable degree in trust in the discipline of the leaders of Russia, China, and India, and somewhat less than that in the leaders of Pakistan (mostly due to the instability of the situation there).

    But we have very little trust in the discipline and aims of the leaders of Iran and North Korea to use nuclear weapons as a pure deterrent, not to put them into the hands of terrorists, and not to use them as the ultimate blackmail agent, while they engage in other nefarious activity – a conventional invasion of South Korea or Iraq for example.

    Ultimately this argument boils down to the notion of competent authority. Why don’t we let private citizens possess machine guns or guided missiles? Because we do not believe they are competent exercisers of such power. WMD, particularly nuclear weapons are the same way. Nuclear non-proliferation is all about discrimination in favor of existing holders judged largely to be competent defenders of the status quo, and unhinged fanatics judged largely to be incompetent revolutionaries. At the very least a question of stability.

  51. Mark (#50),
    I am afraid I must disagree WMD are about power and maintaining your interests in the world. They create fear and resentment in the small nations that are not part of the club. We made a big mistake moning away from the disarmament we had been heading. The proliferation of nuclear states and the ultimate ending up of nuclear arms in the hands of a rogue nation are a predictable consequence of your failure to work for worldwide disarmament.
    There is a parallel to this in the Book of Mormon. Hugh Nibley gave an amazing exposition of the amazing restraint captain Moroni showed in the face of a gathering storm from the Lamanites, and specifically the Amlicites. I wish I had the link. The point of the whole thing was, Moroni could have made his life much safer for everyone but stopping the whole business preemptively, but he refused. He resfused to ever be the aggressor.

  52. Seth R. says:

    I think the example of the Nephite wars is of limited usefulness in decided whether a continued presence in Iraq is warranted.

    Neither the Lamanites, nor the Nephites, had massive public utilities that needed to be run to keep people from starving/freezing/overheating to death. Neither had the massive law enforcement needs that modern nations require. Neither had opportunistic third party neighbors waiting to pounce on any sign of weakness or instability.

    No, I don’t find the Nephite wars all that useful in dissecting the morality of the Iraq occupation.

  53. Ah, but there were opportunistic third parties, Gadiantons, ready to take over the country at first opportunity in a wartime climate. Another lesson I think we could take to heart in light of lessening civil liberties in time of war. War can cause focus on the outside and neglect of the inside.

    However, I realize parallels are not perfect and I don’t mean to insinuate that anyone who sees the war in Iraq as justified is a warmongering ape.

    But I do agree with the basic premise of this post. There are times when it is just far to easy to consider warfare. It should always be a last resort. I think so much of the pain in the World has come from this going unheeded. “Just War” is something that really needs rigid definition and application to avoid suddenly finding ourselves on the “wrong” side, let alone avoid the pain, suffering, misery, loss of life, such conflict involves.

  54. With the benefit of hindsight, we can determine that Lutheran dissidents such as Reinhold Niebuhr> and Dietrich Bonhoeffer struck the ideal balance between violence and non-violence.

    They opposed World War I and Vietnam but allowed violence in the case of World War II.

    It was probably less important that they were Lutherans. As dissidents they developed a prophetic vision that recognized the narrow path.

    Bonhoeffer, who was influenced by the Black churches by the way, was in New York when World War II begun. He chose to step into the gap, caught the last ship to Germany and confronted Hitler.

    Bonhoeffer’s greatest practical contribution was his justification of Hitler’s assassination. The assassins were wondering if they shouldn’t leave it to God to eliminate evil. Bonhoeffer replied that in our age Christians have to act as if there were no God.

    Since an assassination created the opportunity to end World War II and the Holocaust, the killing of Hitler was a Christian’s duty.

    In principle, Bonhoeffer and Niebuhr rejected violence as a legitimate means of politics while allowing for exceptions in specific circumstances.

  55. #6 No Nate, UNSCOM was quite clear that they were finally able to operate effectively in Iraq. You might want to read Hans Blix’s book for a summary.

    The news coverage before the breakout of hostilities also contains UNSCOM statements that
    a) the inspections were effective and
    b) that UNSCOM broke off inspections only because the US would no longer guarantee the security of the inspectors.

    UNSCOM’s inability to find anything contradicted Colin Powell’s Security Council presentation. Powell had claimed that US intelligence had identified specific buildings and vehicles that stockpiled WMDs, labratories, and production facilities.

    If the US had knowledge of that precision then UNSCOM should have found WMDs. When nothing was found, one had to conclude that the US evidence was false.

    Logically, there is also the possibility of an UNSCOM conspiracy. But since UNSCOM includes officers from many nations with diverging interests including British, Commonwealth, and American personnel, an UNSCOM conspiracy was not plausible.

    About three or four weeks before the US attack, careful observers had to conclude that the US did not have a case.

    Most of us don’t read the news that carefully, which is undertandable. Our busy lives impose other requirements on our time. When religious leaders endorse war, however, we ought to expect that they perform their due diligence.

  56. #56,

    you are most correct, that there were few “careful observers” before the war. Those “careful observers” were denounced as terrorist-loving, communist, anti-Americans. Kinda hard to be perceived as credible or accurate when you are labeled as such. It’s more painful also when you are proven correct in the end and you watch those who called you names try to find all sorts of justifications for their aggressive and illegal war, including attempts to justify it through scriptures and revising history to fit their paradigm.

    I disagree about religious leaders necessarily being “careful observers.” It is an assumption that to be a religious leader, one ought to be a careful observer, but too often in the past, even religious leaders got caught up in the heat of the moment. I am glad that President Hinckley, in his 2003 War and Peace, Conference talk, made clear that it was only his opinion that this war in Iraq was justified. It shows that the Lord had no opinion one way or the other regarding this action.

    In fact, President Hinckley confided in his good friend Mr. Wallace that he was not happy with what was happening in Iraq.

    The Book of Mormon is clear that the righteous Nephites never started a war with their enemies.

    The United States has never in its history, up until the war in Iraq, started a war. Never.

    In the end, it is my belief that the war in Iraq has no scriptural, legal, or moral justification, and I will preach that to my dying breath. I truly hope that it will change for the better, but the consequences of this war do not look good for the future of human kind.

    I wish there were more carful observers before the war. I can now only hope that in the future Americans will be more “careful observers” and not rush to war against anyone.

  57. Daniel, while I generally agree completely with your comments, I am sad to report that your claim about the U.S. never having started a war in the past is possibly incomplete. Specifically, there are good reasons to think that the U.S. started the Spanish-American War.

  58. Stirling says:

    Daniel, RT,
    In 1848 the U.S. took the Northern half of what was then Mexico. We did it by force in the “Mexican-American war (used force I’m sitting in Provo, at the moment, which the United States took abywas taken by force the U.S. ignoring the important point that the Utes/Shoshone/Piautes/Navajo would not have recognized Mexico’s claim to their land)

  59. Stirling says:

    Ooops,
    I accidentally sent the last message before its time.
    What I was going to ask was: I thought the Mexican-American war is generally considered to have been started by the U.S. (principally by placement of U.S. soldiers on Mexican land against the wishes of Mexico). Is that wrong? I do understand Mexico apparently fired the first shot, do historians regard Mexico to have started the war?

  60. Notice Abraham Lincoln and Henry David Thoreau famously opposed the Mexican American War as an act of aggression.

    I suppose one can make a reasonable claim that Americans in Texas needed protection from the Mexican government. After the war, of course, we treated Mexicans in Texas and California a lot worse then American settlers were ever treated by Mexico.

  61. Stirling, I considered adding the Mexican-American War, but that one’s more ambiguous. It depends on whether the Texas Republic was considered independent of Mexico or not, and also where the boundary between Mexico and Texas would have been. I would personally consider that to be a war that the U.S. started, but it’s less than clear.

    In the context of the Spanish-American War, by contrast, Spain actually did a fair amount of work to avoid the war. The U.S. simply had to do it for, essentially, domestic reasons. That’s why I think it’s the best past example of a war the U.S. initiated.

  62. Mexican American War says:

    Regarding 58-60:
    Having studied the Mexican-American war, I think it’s accurate to say the U.S. started the war.
    I’ve found it quite ironic when I’ve heard U.S. Mormons (including Pres. Hinckley, if I remember a graduation speech at Utah State correctly), say that the U.S. has never taken land won by war.

    Here’s some relevant sources:

    Rathbun, Lyon. “The Debate over Annexing Texas and the Emergence of Manifest Destiny.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 4/3 (Fall 2001): 459-493.

    Frahm, Sally. “The Cross and the Compass: Manifest Destiny, Religious Aspects of the Mexican-American War.”Journal of Popular Culture 35/2 (Fall 2001): 83-99.

    Francaviglia, Richard V. and Douglas W. Richmond, eds. Dueling Eagles: Reinterpreting the U.S.-Mexican War, 1846-1848. Center for Southwestern Studies, University of Texas at Arlington, 2000. 191 pp.

    Buchanan, Patrick J. “Jimmy Polk’s War.” National Interest 56 (1999): 97-105.

    Crawford, Mark. Encyclopedia of the Mexican-American War. Publication: Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 1999. 350 pp.

    Dawson, Joseph G., III. “‘Zealous for Annexation': Volunteer Soldiering, Military Government, and the Service of Colonel Alexander Doniphan in the Mexican-American War.” Military History of the West 27/2 (Fall 1997).

    Frazier, Donald S. The United States and Mexico at War: Nineteenth-Century Expansionism and Conflict. Publication: New York: Macmillan, 1998. 584 pp.
    Ed.

  63. #57 All I am saying is that religious leaders that publicly endorse wars, better know what they are talking about. That’s doubly true when you wield prophetic authority.

  64. re 61: After the war, of course, we treated Mexicans in Texas and California a lot worse then American settlers were ever treated by Mexico.

    HL, this is just silly and stems purely from agenda rather than data.

  65. kristine N. says:

    Excellent post, wish I’d come across it sooner.

    Seth–I think considering the Nephite wars is extremely useful. The settings and stakes in war may have changed over the past few thousand years, but the reasons for war and ultimate human consequences are largely unchanged.

    I think it’s also instructive to consider the final conflict in the BOM as an unjust war, particularly the spiritual consequences for the Nephites. Mormon tells us the Nephites swore “by all that had been forbidden them by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, that they would go up unto their enemies to battle, and avenge themselves of the blood of their brethren.” (Mormon 3:14) This desire to go above and beyond the just war–protecting family, land, and freedom–to conduct a vegeful war is what led to Mormon’s refusal to lead the Nephite armies. God tells Mormon (and through him us) that “Vengeance is mine, and I will repay” (Mormon 3:15).

    We certainly did use vengeance as a justification in the build up to war. I remember a lot of anger coming from media and government personalities, all pushing a “go get ‘em” attitude. We didn’t want to look weak. I still see that attidude–that we have to protect ourselves by retaliating, and in the case of Iraq, pre-emptively attacking the enemy so they know we mean business. I’m sure those of you who subscribe to this viewpoint don’t see it as vengeful, but I would argue scope of our response puts us pretty squarely in the vengeance category. A small group of terrorists headquartered in Afghanistan attacks our nation, destroying a few prominent buildings and killing a few thousand people, and we respond by invading and destroying both Afghanistan and Iraq. We in america haven’t experienced really any deprivation as a result of the original bombings, especially in contrast to the devestation we’ve visited on Iraq. The magnitude of our response simply dwarfs the original incident.

    Sadly, the Nephites continued in their bloodlust and Mormon later tells us the Lamanites sacrificed Nephite women and children to idol gods during these later conflicts. Moroni tells us about thier further atrocities, including forced cannibalism, but continues with a critique of Nephite behavior: “For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue–and after they had done this thing, they did murder them in a most cruel manner, turoturing their bodies even unto death; and after they have done this, they devour their flesh like unto wild beasts, abecause of the hardness of their heats; and they do it for a token of bravery.” (Moroni 9:8-10).

    It is this convergence of Nephite and Lamanite behavior I find most disturbing. In any conflict we tend to dehumanize our opponent, whether that conflict is on the basketball court or on a battlefield. But by dehumanizing our oppenents we make it easier to justify sub-human behavior of our own. Again, during the build up to the Iraq war I heard a lot of rhetoric that dehumanized our opponents. Bush claimed every person wants freedom, yet terrorists seek to destroy freedom. though it was never explicitly stated, this statement suggests terrorists are not really people, and are instead inhuman monsters. I know that’s oversimplified, but it was the essence of much of what I remember hearing.

    Our behavior toward suspected terrorists underscores our drive to dehumanize these people. Guantanimo, Abu Ghareb, and recently Hadaitha are all situations and places where we have stripped people of basic, fundamental rights that we all take for granted. It completely flies in the face of the enlightenment and is the part of this war that most sickens me. I find it extraordinarily worrisome that our president doesn’t think our soldiers have to follow the geneva convention in dealing with detainees. When we abandon the high road, when we embrace the tactics of our adversary and embrace their contempt for life, we become like the very thing we seek to destroy.

  66. thanks for the correction. you are right, i had forgotten about the Spanish American war. i stand corrected.

  67. Not just the Spanish American war.

    Try also the War of 1812, which the USA most certainly did start (even if the British “had it coming to them, which is debatable). And then remember that we’ve invaded Mexico with our military on about 3 separate occasions during the 20th century (Woodrow Wilson actually occupied Mexico City with US forces). And never mind the imperialist wars we waged against the indian nations.

    The definition gets even murkier if we limit the idea of “self-defense” to instances when we were actually personally attacked.

    On that rationale, the part of World War II that we fought against Japan was self-defense. But the assault on North Africa, Italy, and then Western Europe was not self defense. In fact, it is debatable whether Hitler even posed a direct threat to the US.

    Vietnam was not a war of self defense. Neither was the first Persian Gulf War, NATO bombing in Seribia, aid to Somalia, or the recent Iraq invasion. Maybe not even
    Reagan’s military adventures in Latin America.

    Now, you can say, we didn’t start it. And in many of those cases, that’s true. But don’t confuse “self-defense” with “not starting it.” We didn’t pick a fight with Hitler. But we also didn’t fight him out of any direct concept of self-defense. He honestly wasn’t much of a direct threat to the US.

    In the end, the US hasn’t started a lot of wars because we have two peaceful borders on the north and south and two major oceans on the east and west. It’s like a nerdy little kid who hides in his parents basement all day and then boasts about how he never gets in fights with the neighborhood boys because (a) they’re all scared of him and (b) he is simply such a superior moral specimem that he never needs to resort to violence.

    Yeah, sure. Talk big America. Nothing like a little un-earned moral bragging to stroke the national ego.

  68. re 66, kristine, those are some great insights. Thanks.

  69. What would be full list of wars started by the U.S.? (independent of whether the wars were justified).
    I don’t know, but here’s a draft list. Corrections or additions are welcome.

    1812, Great Britain.

    1800s, I think we could identify at least several of the U.S. Indians wars as started by the U.S.

    1846, Mexican American war (through which the U.S. took California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, etc.)

    1893, does Hawaii qualify?
    1898, Puerto Rico, Spanish-American War

    1899, Philippine-American War (a residue of the Spanish-American war)

    1911 Honduras. Does this military action count? I don’t know the details well enough to judge.

    1915, Haiti. We invaded. I don’t know the events well enough to say whether there’s an argument we were invited.
    1953, Iran, CIA overthrew prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh, re-installed Reza Pahlavi as Shah.
    1954, CIA sponsored the military coup in Guatemala.

    1961, Congo (CIA assassinated the prime minister)This isn’t quite war, or is it war through single act?

    1960s-1970 Chile. U.S. actively worked to destabilize the Chilean Government, and had a formal CIA project to achieve the overthrow of the elected Allende government.

    1964. Brasil. I’ve heard that the CIA backed the coup that overthrew the elected government of João Goulart. I haven’t read enough about that to know.

    1960s- U.S. vs. Vietnam. Is there an argument we didn’t start our portion of the war? (there may be, I dont’ know)

    1965, Dominican Republic ( U.S. invaded Dominican Republic with 20,000 troops, though perhaps there is an argument we were invited, I don’t know).

    1970, Cambodia (wasn’t there significant CIA support for overthrow of 1970 government)

    1971, Bolivia, I’ve heard the CIA backed the military coup in Bolivia against leftist President Juan Torres.

    1970s-1980s, Nicaragua

    1990-1991, First Iraq War (started by Iraq against Kuwait, but we started our war against Iraq. This war I personally regard as justified)

    2001, Afghanistan (Another I regard as justified, as long as we stick around to sufficiently support creation of the new government)

    2003, Second Iraq War

  70. I just want to point out the the previous comment is not by me.

    To the other “ed,” whoever you are, would you possibley consider changing your bloggernacle handle to something else? I’ve been posting as lower-case “ed” on these blogs for quite some time now, and it’s confusing. Maybe it’s time I changed to something less common as well.

  71. #68

    Seth, you say:

    “On that rationale, the part of World War II that we fought against Japan was self-defense. But the assault on North Africa, Italy, and then Western Europe was not self defense. In fact, it is debatable whether Hitler even posed a direct threat to the US.”

    again, Hitler posed a direct threat since he actually declared war on the United States. that would certainly mean a direct threat to me.

    Here is Germany’s declaration of war on the United States.

  72. Mark N. says:

    It seems to me that 9/11 was more a case of the Gadianton robbers coming down from the mountains, causing whatever death and destruction they could that would help them to acheive their goals, and would then run back up into the mountains.

    Those who attacked the US on 9/11 didn’t do it with any intent to take control of, or occupy, any US territory. That would make them different from the Lamanites who would attack with the intent of taking some land “back” from the Nephites.

    The Nephites who were unhappy about the Gadianton robbers wanted to chase them up into their strongholds in the mountains and try to do away with them there, “But Gidgiddoni saith unto them: The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands…” (3 Ne. 3:21)

    So if we’re forbidden to go after the Gadiantons in their own lands, what is to be done?

    Seems to me the answer is in verse 15 of 3 Ne. 3: “As the Lord liveth, except ye repent of all your iniquities, and cry unto the Lord, ye will in nowise be delivered out of the hands of those Gadianton robbers.”

    The Nephites then gathered together and waited for the Gadianton band to come out into the open in their own lands. There was no rationalizing about “fighting them over there so that we won’t have to fight them over here”.

    In other words, it would appear to me that the Nephites’ solution to the Gadianton problem was pretty much 180 degrees away from the route the United States has taken during the last 5 years.

  73. Mark N. says:

    #57: President Hinckley, in his 2003 War and Peace, Conference talk, made clear that it was only his opinion that this war in Iraq was justified. It shows that the Lord had no opinion one way or the other regarding this action.

    Oh, I’m sure the Lord has an opinion on the subject. It just seems that President Hinckley hadn’t yet determined what it was.

  74. # 65 John, I am not an expert of Latino history in the United States. It is well established that many Tejanos were deprived of their property if not their life after Texan independence. For examples, I refer you to the biographies of Juan Nepomuceno Seguín and José Antonio Navarro.

    Both of these men were wealthy supporters of the Texas Revolution and nonetheless had trouble to hold on to their property and to defend their families. Many Tejanos who were less privileged fared far worse.

    If you have not heard about any of this then you might want to watch the PBS documentary Remember the Alamo.

  75. Ed (edwin) says:

    Ed, of comment 71, to avoid confusion, I’ll try to be aware of another ed has previously posted on a thread. If I miss that, chalk it up to the difficulties of having a short, common name.

  76. Daniel,

    again, Hitler posed a direct threat since he actually declared war on the United States. that would certainly mean a direct threat to me.

    I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but I am going to anyway. Yes Hitler declared war on the US, along with the rest of the western world. And yes, if we flew through his air space, or boated in his waters he would have fired on us. But I would like to point out the following:

    The first tenet of the ‘just war’ ethic is “the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain.” Once again, Germany never attacked or had any intention of bringing the war to US soil.

    Yes, Japan attacked the US and I think it is easily justifiable that we attacked them back.

    But as far as Germany goes, what makes more sense:

    1) Since Germany never had any intention of bringing war to US soil, we physically avoid Germany and therefore avoid conflict,

    OR 2) we react to Germany’s declaration of war against the US, and launch a full scale war against the nation.

    It stands to reason that just because Germany verbally threatened us (and never had any intention of physically threatening us by bringing war to our soil), ignoring their threat would have brought about less harm to the US than launching a full scale war against them did.

    The first tenet of the ‘just war’ doctrine says that the aggressor must do more than just make verbal threats to another nation, they must impose damage that is “lasting, grave, and certain.” Germany never did any such thing to the US.

  77. HL, thanks. I grew up in Dallas.

    I was referring more to the first part of your assertion.

  78. Jared,

    but Germany did have the intention of attacking the United States, of destroying ships on the oceans. That would violate any peace treaty, and basically create a state of war. Obviously Germany was not ready to cross the ocean and come onto American soil, but neither was Japan. Japan’s brazen attack on Pearl Harbor had no backup. There was no invasion force coming to take over Hawai’i, nor even close to coming to California. So based on your rationale, even Japan was not a “threat” to America. Germany had the same capability to attack a US state were there one in the Atlantic much like Hawai’i in the Pacific. Germany had a strong airforce and a strong navy.

    Finally, declaring war on a nation is not “making verbal threats.” The intent of a declaration of war is the total destruction of your enemy’s army, and subjugation of your enemy’s nation.

  79. #78 You may well be right, John, that I am underestimating the violence of the Mexican government.

    #79 I don’t think that there would be anything if the United States had started the war against Germany. Given Hitler’s record that would have been a virtuous act.

    By the way, Roosevelt had ordered the US Navy to support British convoy sometimes in the summer of 1941. There are incidents of American planes going after German submarines. So technically the US became violent before Germany declared war.

    But in this case that was the right thing to do. If anything one can criticize the United States for remaining on the fence post for so long.

  80. Brad Kramer says:

    Kristine’s mention of the gaddianton robbers in the BoM alludes to some serious questions raised by the BoM but not really addressed here. Ultimately, and notwithstanding the insidiousness of the threat posed by the gaddiantonites or secret combinations in general, notwithstanding the Nephites’ willingness to attack them preemptively, notwithstanding Alma’s injunction to employ “swords” where “words” are not persuasive — notwithstanding all the ample justification for attacking them, settling the question with military means, etc — the only thing that EVER worked was when a reformed band of Lamanites preached to them and converted them to the Lord.

    Having invoked that example, I think we have to step back, not focus on specific statements or events, and look at what the broad overall message of the BoM with regards to violence, war, killing, self-defense, and bloodshed. This is a topic on which I have taken a serious interest, and which, in my opinion, deserves a much more serious and detailed treatment than I am about to give here; but to sum up several points I consider relevant:

    The BoM, as a text, is clearly focused, among other things, on the problem of violence. Its pages are riddled with acts of violence and the efforts of good men to try to understand, rationalize, minimize, and control violence. Overall, I think the whole of the BoM message about violence is greater than the sum of its parts. Mormon is a general that embarks on a career confident in the belief that violence, when wielded by just men, can be used to secure just ends — that violence can be used to accomplish good, and that the good it brings about can outweigh the bad. He is obsessed with the figure of Moroni, whom he lionizes as possible (Jesus aside) the most righteous man to have ever lived. He names his son after him, and tries to emulate his righteous military leadership. If anyone is in a position both to believe and to exemplify the proposition that violence can be used for righteous purposes, it is Mormon, who not only has Moroni’s model to follow but is himself a vey righteous man, an inspired prophet, and military genius.

    I think Mormon’s thinking on the subject evolves throughout his life, as he experiences the military failings of his people and his own personal failing as a leader who can direct them to righteous victory. His human ideal evolves from Moroni in Alma to the Anti-Nephi-Lehis in Mormon 7. In the end, he comes to believe that the only option for us is to lay down our weapons of war come unto Christ.

    I don’t think that it makes sense to hold up Moroni’s thinking (i.e. Title of Liberty) as the cannonized, immovable ideal about when violence is or isn’t justified. God himself has told us (in the D&C) that, even when violence is justified, there is a better way and abstaining from justified but violent acts of defense after the third offense is the path of greater righteousness. And the above mentioned story of the Gaddiantonite conversion reveals that no enemy is so vile as to be unredeemable. That was the belief that motivated the efforts of the maybe the greatest fighter in Lehite history — Ammon — to lay down his sword and try to convert a people which the Nephites believed to be so evil, so bloodthirsty, so degraded, that the only way to deal with them was to preemptively attack them (see Alma 26).

    In the spirit of Gandhian non-violent direct action, the ANLs layed down before their attacking enemies rather than commit what they considered to be murders (acts of self defense) and many of them were killed. But, as Gandhi predicted would happen in all cases of such efforts, the attacking Lamanites were so moved by the action that even more of them laid down their own weapons and joined the ANLs than were killed (Alma 24).

    Even the story of Nephi killing Laban (again, deserving of a book-length treatment, and hardly done justice here) ultimately lends itself to the articulation of only one fundamental principle: that legitimate cost-benefit analyses of violence (better that x amount of people die than y happen) must be based upon knowledge — including knowledge of the future — only accessible to God. In other words, since only God can make utilitarian calculations with life and death, only God gets to kill people. And killing Laban is clearly a source of self-doubt and psychological pain for Nephi even decades after the fact.

    I propose that the sum-total message of the BoM about violence is that it weaves a careful, complex, and nuanced historical narrative that serves to reinforces the principles about violence taught by the Savior — loving enemies, turning the other cheek, all those that take up the sword (as opposed to all those who refuse to take up the sword) perishing by the sword. The Book of Mormon, by showing us examples of deeply personal violence, violence justified explicitely by God, violence both adopted and rejected by good, virtuous, god-fearing men, violence on the most horrific, genocidal scale — the BoM has something profound to tell us about violence: that regardless of the ethical justification of violence, and regarldess of the righteous intent or personal virtue of those who engage in it, it can never be used in a way from which the positive consequences will outweight the negative ones.

    If one truly wishes to dispell the notion that violence can be used to advance righteousness, one does not invoke the Nazis as evidence. One invokes righteous leaders and righteous people who still can’t make it work. All roads, in the BoM, lead to the same place. Once you open the door to the myth of redemptive violence, it spirals out of control until the “spirit of bloodshed” takes hold of a people and their destruction is sealed. What’s most promising about the BoM’s depiction of violence is how it ends. Moroni, after closings his father’s account of the fate of the Nephites, and after including his own hyper-edited account of the even more breathtaking demise of the Jaredites’ demise (an astonishing outcome, unthinkable to today’s military planners, in which both sides completely obliterate one another to a single man), he finishes the record by abandoning the subject altogether. Instead, in his closing chapters, we get the sacrament prayers, his father’s sermons on charity and the purity of children, and his own treatise on spiritual gifts.

    I’m sure this glossing over of my theory of BoM violence is sufficiently porous to invite all sorts of criticism. And I welcome it. But, just to reemphasize: I’m not trying to find specific passages or instances in the narrative and point to them as representing any comprehensive theory on violence. The BoM itself, in its totality, is that theory. And I suggest that the logic of the BoM is that the myth of redemptive violence is exactly that: a myth.

  81. So based on your rationale, even Japan was not a “threat” to America.

    Japan clearly satisfied tenet #4 of the ‘just war’ ethic whereas Germany never did. And your assertion that Germany “had the same capability to attack a US state were there one in the Atlantic much like Hawai’i in the Pacific” may be true, they never had such an intention and besides, there doesn’t exist a state “in the Atlantic much like Hawai’i in the Pacific”, so your point is purely hypothetical and therefore moot.

    The simple fact of the matter is: the US attacked Germany because Germany was a threat to the allies of the US, not because they were any direct threat to the US. We can debate about whether that is ethical (and I think it is), but if the only standard for going to war is the perception of threat (even if that perception is based upon good information), then the Iraq war is clearly justified (which I do not think is so).

    Basically justifying war based on perceived threat gives to any government the power to wage war whenever, and where ever it wants to. A ‘threat’ is by nature a subjective judgment and a government can always make it appear that such a threat exists; case in point, the Iraq war.

  82. Jared,

    “The simple fact of the matter is: the US attacked Germany because Germany was a threat to the allies of the US, not because they were any direct threat to the US. ”

    That is still incorrect. The United States attacked Germany after Germany declared war on the United States, not when “Germany was a threat to the allies of the US.” Germany was a threat to our allies starting in 1939, taking out several nations and bombing London to oblivion long before we decided to enter a war with them. What finally did it? What finally made America enter a war with Germany? This is what did it

  83. Seth R. says:

    Your post isn’t any sort of news to me. I already knew about the German declaration of war on the USA.

    I deliberately ignored Hitler’s declaration because it made very little difference to the level of threat Germany posed to the US in any case. Japan never got so much as a deutschmark out of its alliance with Germany. The two nations declared an alliance, but it was mere formality. They never coordinated their attacks on the allies and the so-called “Axis” was mostly illusory.

    So tell me why we didn’t just limit our war with Germany to hunting German U-boats (protecting US and Canadian shipping), or to sending military equipment to Britain and Russia? Or why didn’t we stop with Africa? Italy?

    I don’t necessarily disagree with the US decision to commit ground forces in Europe. But I don’t think it was a clear-cut case of self-defense by any stretch of the imagination.

    I don’t buy the mythology we’ve built up about World War II.

  84. Christian says:

    #34, I couldn’t find the Mckay sermon on line. Do you have the cite?

  85. Seth R. says:

    For the record, I actually support World War II.

    But I don’t pretend it had much to do with self defense. Neither Germany nor Japan was much of a threat to the US by the time the US entered the war.

    The German ground forces had been brutalized and smashed by the Russians on the Ukrainian steppe and the fabled Luftwaffe had been demoralized and routed by the now legendary efforts of the Royal Air Force. The German navy was shattered and ineffectual. Even Britain wasn’t in SERIOUS threat of a German invasion.

    Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor was a gamble to annihilate US capacity to project power to places like the Phillipines, Australia, and the Japanese coast. Japan simply didn’t have the capacity to mount an invasion of even Hawaii or Alaska, much less California. The Japanese military machine was largely spent by the time the US went after them. Years of costly fighting against the Chinese nationalists and Communist guerrillas had used up almost all of Japan’s natural resources.

    I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t have fought these nations. But I am saying that the self-defense rationale completely breaks down.

    Getting even for Pearl Harbor was a case of revenge, not self-defense. Launching an invasion on Morroco was a case of defending British imperial holdings and diverting German resources from the Russian front. D-Day was about liberating France. The push to cross the Rhine was about destroying Hitler. Island-hopping across the Pacific was about reestablishing American dominion over the Pacific Ocean.

    None of these rationales have much to do with “self-defense” except in an indirect way. Neither Germany nor Japan posed a threat to the USA in the way the Lamanites did to the Nephites.

  86. Seth,

    It’s not an issue of self defense so much as the fact that both those countries, Japan and Germany officially declared their countries to be at war with the United States. Whether they had the immediate capability to bring that war to American soil is another question all together. Both countries were fighting wars in other areas.

    Tell me, if Iran were to declare war on the United States today, right now, what would that mean to you? Do you think Iran actually has the capability to bring its forces to American soil? No. But their declaration would make them the aggressor and open themselves to justified warfare from the United States.

    There is a vast world of difference from harsh language to a declaration of war. In the one, you are rattling your sabre, in the other, you break verbal communication and all your future communication is with lead and powder.

    A comparison of World War II and the Nephite times is not a good comparison, because, like you said the Lamanites posed a direct and terminal threat to the Nephites, and any declaration of war from the Lamanites had to be prepared for fully.

    You can think what you like about the level of threat Germany and Japan both had towards America, I’m not really concerned about that. I am tired of the revision of history though. America did not instigate war with Germany. A declaration of war is an instigation of war, and Germany declared war first. Supporters of Bush’s war in Iraq like to try and revise that to somehow show that we moved on Germany before Germany became a threat to us, thereby justifying this illegal war in Iraq. This kind of revision is disingenuous and misleading, and in error.

  87. Daniel,

    Nobody is arguing that Germany didn’t declare war on the US. Fine, but just because someone tries to pick a fight with you, doesn’t mean you should fight. But it is like I said in my last post,

    justifying war based on perceived threat gives to any government the power to wage war whenever, and where ever it wants to. A ‘threat’ is by nature a subjective judgment and a government can always make it appear that such a threat exists; case in point, the Iraq war.

    If Iran declared war on the US nowdays? And then made no attempt to come and actually attack US soil? I think the world would look at them and think they were a bunch of idiots. A country that declares war on another country and tnen just sits there and doesn’t do anything… Yeah, that sounds pretty threatening.

  88. I suggest that the logic of the BoM is that the myth of redemptive violence is exactly that: a myth.

    Nice post, Brad.

  89. Jared,

    but Germany could do something about it and did. They attacked our ships at sea. That is an act of aggression against America.

  90. But it is not any more aggressive than many acts which are propogated against the US today. Does that constitute a justification for waging war against any jackass who happens to is stupid enough to fire on our ships at sea? If it is enough to justify war, then I’m affraid we will always be at war.

  91. Mark Butler says:

    Justification and wisdom are two different things. If an adversary sinks one of our ships, we are justified in going to war, by conventions of international law and morality, but that does mean it would be wise for us to do so, or whether there are higher principles of moral equity at stake in a decision to do so. It is the classic difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law.

  92. Mark Butler says:

    See D&C 98:30-31.

  93. Daniel, unlike World War I the US initiated naval warfare against Hitler. You might want to research the Greer incident on September 4, 1941, for example.

    Roosevelt had ordered the US Navy to confront German shipping during the summer of 1941. At the time, Germany had neither attacked US territory nor shipping. Since the US didn’t have allies yet, it is also wrong to claim that Germany had attacked American allies.

    That’s one of the reasons why Roosevelt was the greatest American president of the twentieth century. He understood Hitler’s menace long before the American people. He did his utmost to transform public opinion. One of the measures, Roosevelt took was to initiate an undeclared state of war in the Atlantic. That’s leadership.

  94. Hellmut,

    that is an interesting incident. According to the wikipedia source you linked to, it was the Germans who actually fired first, though, at the Americans. Yes, the American ship was aggressive in following the German around, basically taunting the Germans into firing, but the American did not fire first.

    Roosevelt was a true leader, yes. He understood the threat that Hitler actually did pose to America, as well as to our allies in Europe. This incident does show, as you say, his leadership in turning America’s opinion, which had been against a war with Germany, to be for it.

  95. Seth R. says:

    Daniel,

    I hardly think that the message of our Church is that warfare is justified based on legal technicalities.

    If Luxemborg declared war on the US, I’d laugh. And then I’d be justifiably upset with my government should it decide to actually invade Luxemborg on that reasoning.

    Hitler is a debatable case, so is facist Japan, as to actual threat potential. But I don’t believe war is justified solely on the basis of legal technicalities. I do not consider one nation’s declaration of war against us sufficient reason for conducting warfare against them.

    I agree that Roosevelt was a great leader. I also agree with his general decision to move to counteract the menace Hitler presented. But I would like to clarify that he was moving to protect the economic and political order of the free world, not American soil. That stuff about Nazis taking over the US and Canada was just silly war propaganda with little basis in reality.

  96. Brad Kramer says:

    Thanks, Mark N.

  97. Sorry, I only read the post and first nine comments. In comment #9, JNS recognizes the propriety of intervening on behalf of attacked friends. To me this justifies US involvement in Iraq, as a primary goal — and to my mind, the most moral — was freeing the Kurdish and Shiite lands from an evil empire.

  98. Matt, that’s certainly a moral goal. However, I believe you’re mischaracterizing history if you say that such a goal was put forward to the American people as to why we went to Iraq in the first place. The reason were were given was WMDs, plain and simple. The goal you mention of freeing Kurds and Shiites was a laid out as a side benefit, and certainly not as a primary justification at the time.

  99. Does it matter what the justifications given were? Honest question here. It’s an interesting problem.

    I mean, is it possible to say, “according the reasons given to the people by the administration at the time of initial invasion the war is not justified, but according to what actually has been happing, the war is justified”?

  100. Mark Butler says:

    The idea that your country has to be attacked directly to be justified in going to war is inadequate. Surely we can defend friends that are attacked, notably England in the case of WWII.

  101. Steve, I agree that the administration centered their case for war on the threat of WMD, but in the following breath they inevitably listed atrocities Hussein had committed against the Kurds and Shiites.

  102. Here I come as Johnny-come-lately, but my two cents is that I completely reject the Book of Mormon as having any practical value to formulating a realistic, coherent just-war theory. The moment the Book of Mormon endorsed Captain Moroni’s preemptive military campaigns against internal dissenters prior to their having taken any overt act of treason (with the death penalty for those who didn’t take loyalty oaths), it lost me.

    I’d also submit that in the Book of Mormon’s purported setting, a violation of national boundaries was significant because the limitations of primitive technology made it difficult to commit acts of war without storming across someone’s border. That is no longer the case, as a nation’s legitimate interests are not limited to those within its borders.

    The 2003 campaign in Iraq was basically a continuation of the 1991 war, after Saddam Hussein violated the terms of the cease-fire that suspended that legitimate war. I refer you to Alma 44 for a comparison. There, Captain Moroni offered his apparently-defeated enemies a truce: They were to yield up their weapons and promise not to attack again. The Lamanites accepted the first condition but rejected the second — and it was “game on” and the Lamanites got (mostly) slaughtered. The parallel to Iraq isn’t exact — Hussein broke his cease-fire later, rather than rejecting a condition immediately — but where the comparison does hold up is in the fact that if a legitimate war is ended by a cease-fire, the war that resumes when that cease-fire is broken is also legitimate.

    Bottom line, I believe Saddam Hussein deserved getting conquered a lot more than the Kingmen in the Book of Mormon.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] – Speaking of Mormons, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a Mormon blog that mentions the Catholic Church.  By Common Consent has a post by J. Nelson-Seawright that briefly mentions Catholic just war doctrine. [...]

  2. [...] But the collective punishment of Lebanese civilians for the sins of Hezbollah goes too far. Realpolitik dictates that one famous Jew’s maxim about turning the other cheek is an impossible policy. Still, if you strike me on the cheek, should I pummel your face? As Mormons, we believe in the concept of just war, but the Book of Mormon teaches us that war must be proportionate. Israel has stepped widely over that line. [...]

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