The Mormon Conservative Anti-War Movement

[Note from Admin: Recently, while under the influence of some (allegedly) fermented root beer, a rogue BCC perma suggested that permas from M* and BCC switch places in the name of building bridges or increasing dialogue between two groups who often don’t seem to play nicely with each other.  Although no one was sure if anything would come of this proposal, Geoff B. has made good on his end of the agreement.]

Geoff B is a convert to the Church who writes for Millennial Star.

For a relatively recent convert like myself, President Hinckley’s April 2003 talk right before the U.S. entered the Iraq war was very confusing.  On the one hand, it was clear to me after reading the Book of Mormon two or three times by then that the Church’s message is one of peace, non-aggression and avoiding offensive wars.  On the other, President Hinckley seemed to be justifying the Iraq invasion.

In a democracy we can renounce war and proclaim peace. There is opportunity for dissent. Many have been speaking out and doing so emphatically. That is their privilege. That is their right, so long as they do so legally. However, we all must also be mindful of another overriding responsibility, which I may add, governs my personal feelings and dictates my personal loyalties in the present situation.

When war raged between the Nephites and the Lamanites, the record states that “the Nephites were inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting for … power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church…It is clear from these and other writings that there are times and circumstances when nations are justified, in fact have an obligation, to fight for family, for liberty, and against tyranny, threat, and oppression.

Sitting in a Church pew in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I felt it was obvious that President Hinckley was expressing his personal opinion that the coming war was just.  I speak only of my personal response:  all of the Brazilians I knew didn’t see the talk that way.  They continued to see the Iraq invasion as a massive mistake by the United States and to see the Church as proclaiming peace, not war.  One Brazilian I knew said that President Hinckley was saying that countries like Iraq that fought against U.S. forces were justified to fight for their own liberty and against U.S. tyranny.

It turns out my Brazilian friends were right, and I was wrong, at least in the overall message they took away from the Church’s efforts.

I spent most of 2003 through 2007 proclaiming on Mormon blogs and in personal conversations that the war was justified.  What can I say?  I thought the prophet supported the war, and, frankly, I thought the criticism of President Bush was rude and over-the-top.  I thought it was my duty to support what I considered to be the Church’s position, and I thought it was necessary to add a voice of support to a beleaguered president during war time.

How do I feel about our wars in the Middle East now?  Let’s just say I have done a complete reversal.  And let me get this out of the way right now:  my change of position has nothing to do with supporting President Bush and not supporting President Obama.  In retrospect, Bush was a horrendous president for a myriad of reasons.  I have no problem with those lambasting him.  And President Obama cannot be fairly blamed for wars that he inherited.  Once Bush made the mistake of extending our involvement in Afghanistan and invading Iraq, he left Obama with few good choices.  This is one of the horrors of war:  once it starts, your possibility of making a good choice diminishes.

So, conservatives who join the anti-war movement as an excuse to bash Obama do not get my sympathy.  But those who have had a true conversion – and I include myself in this group – deserve a chance to explain themselves and hopefully bring new people to the cause.  To those on the anti-war left (and those great, principled libertarians), my message is:  I support you.  You were right about the Iraq war, and I was wrong.  To those conservatives who still champion our interventionist policy in the Middle East, my message is:  there is nothing conservative about big-government warmongering.  To those in between, my message is:  I hope I can convince you to join me in the anti-war movement.

Here are the reasons I am an anti-war conservative.

1) The Book of Mormon clearly is a warning that bad decisions lead to all-out, devastating war.  The book brings this message home with Mormon’s description of not one but two societies (the Jaredites and the Nephites) who went from happy, peace-loving people devoted to the Prince of Peace to genocide in the space of a few generations.  The clear takeaway is:  turn to God, love Jesus and serve him, give generously to your fellow man, and you will have joy and peace.  In contrast, if you love materialism, are filled with pride, refuse to serve your fellow man and allow yourself to concentrate on contention, you will create the conditions leading to all-out war.  The Book of Mormon is clearly a warning for our day.

I am continually struck by how the Book of Mormon makes it clear that war forces otherwise good people into situations where they can only choose between bad decisions.  Mormon’s choice to gather the Nephites in one place against the Lamanites probably appeared at the time to be the best decision, but it made it easier for the Lamanites to kill nearly all of the Nephites.  Defenders of President Truman say dropping the A bomb was the best choice compared to an invasion of Japan that might have killed millions, but the truth is that all decisions at that point were bad.

It seems to me the over-arching message for our day is:  let’s make the correct choice now on war.  Let’s oppose unjust, aggressive, interventionist wars.  Let’s only support defensive wars, as the most righteous Nephites did.

2) We have a huge debt problem, and no money to spend on war.  Estimates of the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan run from $1.2 trillion to $3 trillion.  Our debt is $14.5 trillion.   Isn’t it obvious that our debt would be substantially lower without our interventionist foreign policy?  You could perhaps morally justify the first six months of the Afghanistan invasion, but why are we still there?  Yes, our costs will go down over time, but even at the most optimistic estimate we will spend hundreds of billions in the coming years maintaining bases in uncomfortable and inhospitable places.  We simply can’t afford it.

3) Is there an example of another world power that has a strong, growing economy and a noninterventionist foreign policy?  Yes, there is.  That country would be China. China has a beleaguered Muslim minority, yet al Qaeda has not declared war on China.  No Chinese embassies have been bombed, and no Chinese ships attacked. China is the largest investor in Brazil and dozens of other countries, and everybody loves the Chinese.  Why?  Because the Chinese are interested in mutually satisfactory trade.  They could care less about a country’s internal politics.  They only want to do business and to spend and earn money.  What’s not to love?   (I speak only of China’s foreign policy here when I use the word “love.”  Domestic Chinese policy, not so much).

4) War has domestic effects in the U.S. that liberty-loving people simply cannot accept.  In World War 1, we had Socialist Eugene Debs arrested for speaking out against the war.  In World War II, we had 100,000 Japanese interned in concentration camps because of their race.  During Vietnam, we had Kent State and constant riots.  Now we have the Patriot Act, TSA goons molesting six-year-old girls and Guantanamo.  War causes panic, and panic brings a loss of civil liberties.  Isn’t there another way?

5) There has always been an anti-war conservative movement.  In the late 19th century, it was centered in the Democrat party of Grover Cleveland, which opposed US imperialism.  In the 20th century, there was Albert J Nock, HL Mencken, Ludwig von Mises, Frederick Hayek, Murray Rothbard and a long list of conservative/libertarian intellectuals.  Robert Taft was known as “Mr. Republican” – he was an ardent noninterventionist who opposed both US involvement in World War II and the Korean war.  The best Republican presidents – Coolidge, Eisenhower and Reagan – resisted getting entangled in wars.  The worst – Nixon and both Bushes – were anxious to go to war.  Ron Paul and Gary Johnson are leading anti-war Republicans, but there are others:  Justin Amash, Walter Jones and Rand Paul.  Nobody is going to make any money betting on Ron Paul to be the Republican candidate in 2012, but I would be willing to bet he and Gary Johnson will get 15-20 percent of the vote.  Anti-war Republicans are a not insignificant force.

6) If you are a conservative, you are in favor of small government and are suspicious of state power.   War brings big government and more state power.  Can’t you see the contradiction?

What do I make of President Hinckley’s talk now?  I think there are many things you can take away from it.  I wanted to support the Iraq war, so I found the parts of it that did.  The Brazilians wanted to oppose the Iraq war and found the parts of it that supported their position.  It is worth pointing out that the prophet said he was speaking personally, not for the Church.  There are literally hundreds of quotations from prophets over time decrying war.  Apostles and prophets spoke out against World War II, against dropping the Atomic bomb, against the Korean war and against Vietnam.  But at the end of the day it is simply undeniable that the Book of Mormon is a warning against aggression, against materialism, against pride and against war, which is the horrible result of our worst attributes.

It appears there are some general guidelines for anti-war conservatives:

A) Be suspicious of all use of state power.  Our current Libyan adventure is a good example.   Yes, it is good Qaddafi is on his way out.  But will we get someone better?  And who will be responsible for ensuring stability in Libya in the coming months and years?  You will.  Your taxes will pay for new roads, buildings and schools in Libya so another thug can set up Swiss bank accounts filled with money from the US Treasury.  Isn’t that great?

B) Support nonaggression and nonintervention.  Conservatives shouldn’t support the government telling Americans what to do.  This is why we opposed Obamacare, which involves the government telling Americans they must buy a specific product or face a fine. Why do we support telling people in other countries what they must do?

C) Be cheap.  Support voluntary giving overseas to good causes – not massive government operations that always cost much more than originally planned.

D) Support friendly relations with all nations.  Support free trade and voluntary exchange of goods.  Non-intervention does not mean isolation.  We must be part of the world economy and thrive.  We should do business wherever we can.  But we cannot afford to be involved in the internal politics of our trading partners.

There you have it.  A conservative anti-war platform.  Let’s “renounce war and proclaim peace” (D&C 98:16).


  1. I am prepared to write something on my pro-war, monarchist position. Lemme know!

  2. gst,
    Your posts–and they are many!–are always welcome.[1]

    [1] Little known fact: Roughly 1/3 of all posts from Steve Evans, JNS, mmiles, and Mark Brown were actually written by gst. A full 100% of the posts under the name “BCC Admin” are also gst’s.

  3. Wonderful post, Geoff B. Great to have your words here at BCC.

  4. Before discussion of the post kicks in, I should also say thanks to Geoff B for sending the post–I didn’t think that you’d take me up on the offer, so now I will have to think of something to send over to M* in the near future!

  5. This is a really interesting post, Geoff. I think it breaks a lot of stereotypes/caricatures about conservative politics that aren’t really fair.

    Love this line: “This is one of the horrors of war: once it starts, your possibility of making a good choice diminishes.” So true. War is a Pandora’s Box if there ever was one.

  6. Agree with Cynthia, interesting post….the dual-perspectives on the GBH talk are fascinating (and obviously are being applied to BoM teachings as well).

  7. I’m a staunch liberal who greatly enjoyed and appreciated this post. There is so much we could all agree on, if only we would. Thanks.

  8. Geoff B., I waffled badly on the Iraq war issue in the beginning, but I’ve been a convert like you for quite some time. The conservatives who vehemently opposed the Iraq war from the beginning are not mollified by our conversions. They’ve even called me,…. I don’t know if I can even say this… a liberal.

  9. lostresearchers says:

    Great post. If only we were giving to countries under oppression without government involvement, we might never be in these wars in the first place. I seem to remember something President Packer said about there being only two positions for participating in a war that are justifiable (not starting a war): being patriotic and giving another their agency back.

  10. I think it is a bit of a generalization to place nearly any conservative in an anti-war movement. No rational conservative is anti-war per se, but rather anti- unjustified,foolish,offensive wars. You won’t find a serious conservative opposed to our involvement in World War II after Pearl Harbor, for example.

    You will of course find plenty opposed to the neo-Wilsonian interventions we have engaged in since the end of the Cold War. Somalia, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan (mostly), Iraq, Libya, etc.

    Backing up a little, can anyone explain why our entry into World War I was a good idea? It seems like perhaps the most pointless large scale war ever fought. By contemporary standards, a war about nothing.

  11. being patriotic and giving another their agency back.

    I don’t know what you (or President Packer–to the extent you’re quoting him correctly) meant by “being patriotic” here.
    For example, if I’m starting from a position of freedom, but am attacked by either an intruding force or a domestic force that has turned violently against me, “defending my family’s existence” wouldn’t fit under either of those conditions. Yet, it seems obvious that protecting ourselves is a reasonable condition.

  12. gst, are you still having visions of grandeur? Y’know France hasn’t had a monarch in quite a long while. Maybe you could be the next Louis?

    I personally love being a perma at M*, because many of us are libertarian in our thinking. We can write on things that both liberals and conservatives can occasionally agree upon.

    The fact is, wars may create a short term change in the global environment. But we can never be sure where it will end up. I still see Pres GWBush on the aircraft carrier with the “Mission Accomplished” sign behind him. Years later, we find the mission is no where near being accomplished, and the Muslim world hates us even more.

    While we squander trillions on foreign wars, China and others are gaining economic strength and influence. We will soon be replaced as the world’s great power, simply because we cannot stop engorging on power. We will end up choking on it, and future history books will speak of the “Rise and Fall of the American Empire.”

  13. Thanks for the post Geoff. I think China is a very poor example of “non interventionist” foreign policy. They are the only country I can think of that has had a recent war with every one of their major neighbors (Korea, Vietnam, India, Russia) on the territory of the opposing force for “defensive” reasons. China has a great deal of insecurity. This is somewhat justified based on their history from the Opium war of the mid 19th century to the depradations of the Japanese during the mid 20th but it is also an old cultural stereotype about “greedy” and rapacious barbarians waiting for a chance to pounce. This insecurity is mixed with a desire for the dynastic glory days of the Middle Kingdom and East Asian tributory system that makes their definition of defense look rather like offense. You can make the case that Korea was a reaction to the advance of MacArthur to the Yalu river, but China also had eyes on Taiwan during this period and it was only our nuclear umbrella and carrier forces that kept them from attacking the Nationalists. The other conflicts were more trying to show they were regional hegemon. Even today they are rather aggresive in asserting their “rights” concerning a large chunk of East and South East Asia. (See Bruce Elleman’s Modern Chinese Warfare 1795-1989 for more)

    Now you CAN make a case for the defensive nature of the Iraq War, and I make it in an uncoming article being published in a volume by Kofford books. I’m not interested in an argument or back and forth so this will probably be my only time posting here. Thanks again for the post.

  14. I’d like to thank BCC for the opportunity to post here. I want to say on the record that some of the most faith-promoting posts I have ever read are on BCC, and the General Conference coverage is second-to-none, so I really appreciate this blog and the many people who write here.

    The thing that really compelled me to write this post is the horrible statistic that Latter-day Saints support the Iraq war more than any other religious group:

    To be clear, well-meaning people can argue over the benefits of some wars compared to others. But to see my people still supporting the Iraq war by overwhelming margins gives me great pause, to say the least.

  15. ” In World War 1, we had Socialist Eugene Debs arrested for speaking out against the war. In World War II, we had 100,000 Japanese interned in concentration camps because of their race. During Vietnam, we had Kent State and constant riots. Now we have the Patriot Act, TSA goons molesting six-year-old girls and Guantanamo.”

    Yep, the TSA is just like the rest of those things.

  16. Chris H,
    Play nice.

  17. You don’t have to like the post–criticize the living daylights out of it if you want. Let’s all just keep the snark levels in check.

  18. Geoff, I think this is a good post; however, I must take exception to point #3 which I believe weakens the argument considerably.

    First, China free rides on American security guarantees. Much of the US presence around the world is to guarantee secure international commerce. The US presence in the Middle East is directly related to global dependence on oil, and China benefits from it without having to put forth much effort on its own. If the US pulls back — which I believe is more of a matter of when than if — then other countries will need to step in and guarantee safe passage of oil, raw materials, & other goods. When this happens their armed forces will likely become a target for terrorism as well.

    Second, while China is less interventionist when it comes to governance issues in countries with which it has trade relations, it is naive to say other countries “love” Chinese foreign policy. Vietnam, South Korea, the Philippines, Japan, India, etc all have strong feelings about Chinese foreign policy, and none of those feelings are remotely close to “love.” In Africa & the Middle East, Chinese companies promise development aid or infrastructure projects in return for access to natural resources. Unfortunately, Chinese corporations (which are essentially indistinguishable from the Chinese government) have either a) not followed through on their commitments, b) build shoddy infrastructure, leaving a mess for the host country, or c) been involved in serious human rights abuses. China will someday begin to reap the fruits of its policies overseas, and in some ways it already has.

    If anyone is interested in a further exploration of a conservative anti-war platform, I recommend reading “The Limits of Power” by Andrew J. Bacevich. He hits on many of the same themes as Geoff.

  19. I have always liked John Quincy Adams take in a 1823 speech, speaking of our role as a country in the world..
    “Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause, by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlet upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.”

  20. JRF, you make very good points. Thanks. The only caveat I would add is that most Latin American businesspeople do love the Chinese, and they constantly cite Chinese noninterventionism in their internal affairs. Sorry to say this, but there is a lot of resentment in Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, along with many other countries, for our interventionist history. Having lived in Nicaragua, I can tell you the constant US invasions and interference there gall many to this very day. I would agree with you that the Vietnamese, Japanese, Koreans, Mongolians and Russians have a very different view of the Chinese than Latin Americans. As for the Middle East, my experience has been that we are building very few friendships there and making many long-lasting enemies, while the Chinese are just building friendship. But nonetheless your points are valid.

  21. Also, China has big problems in the Muslim/Weager regions of the country. They have a terrorist problem of their own on a regular basis. The media just doesn’t talk about it much.

  22. SB, love that quotation.

  23. Here’s the short version of my thoughts on the war:

    (1) You gotta go to war somewhere, and (2) Why not Iraq?

  24. Almost thou persuadest me to be a Mormon conservative anti-war movement person.

    Kidding a bit here but this post does give a lot of serious reasons to re-think any kind of pro-war stance.

  25. Stephanie says:

    Count me as another anti-war conservative.

  26. I prefer doing lots of bombings and selling copious amounts of arms to both sides. Its the Christian way.

  27. Wait, wait, wait…. what anti-war Left?

  28. Peter LLC says:

    What’s not to love? (I speak only of China’s foreign policy here when I use the word “love.” […])

    How about China’s backing of North Korea?

  29. I had a similar anti-war conversion in 2008. Count me as one who supports a non-interventionist foreign policy.

    “…peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.” – Thomas Jefferson

  30. I work for the Air Force, and know the pilot who dropped the first bombs over Baghdad, and the Stealth fighter pilot who got shot down lived in my neighborhood. Pres Bush came through on a campaign stop more than a month before the shooting started for the current Iraq war. As he finished his tour of our installation, he told our commander to “get ready, ’cause we’re going in” or words to that effect. The deadline for Saddam to provide assurance to the UN that he did not have WMDs was still many weeks off. I got the impression then, which has never really gone away, that the war in Iraq was and is a war of choice. The organization where I work now doesn’t actually engage in the fighting–we “support the warfighter”. It still makes me uncomfortable. I think if I weren’t so reliant on the medical care I get, I would try to go somewhere else to work. And Afghanistan? From what I see, it still is the place where empires go to die.

    I agree that once you’re in a war, the good choices are limited. My main criticism of the conduct of the war under the current administration is that I think you need to either fight a war like you want to win it, or get out as quickly as you can. The current strategy seems to be to fight a war of attrition, designed to be the US as the one to exhaust its resources.

  31. observer fka eric s says:

    “Love. Peace. Harmony. Oh very nice, very nice. But maybe in the next world. Maybe in the next world.”

  32. So__not much yet on the Church vs War.
    Whatever you want to say about the BoM and war__the book is ABOUT war.
    Where is the Mormon warrior today? How many Mormons have gone to West Point?

  33. Thanks for this post. As someone who took a beating over at Times & Seasons for my anti-war stance in the early days of these wars, I can only hope that more folks are open to your gospel-based anti-war position now than they were back in then.

  34. Bob, I spent 24 years in the Army and met many LDS West Pointers. They are good about letting people take a two year break to serve missions.

  35. To war or not should not be confusing D&C 98 tells us to renounce war and proclaim peace and that war is justified only when the Lord commands it.

  36. Ron Madson says:

    In my opinion, President Hinckley’s statements as to our general desire to promote peace could not be easily misinterpreted as an anti-war message as to our “current hostilities” for two reasons: First, because he did not in fact “renounce” these two wars. By “renounce” I do not mean to simply say that war is not nice and we prefer peace to war. Or worse, proclaim that we are peace loving, and like Jesus we believe in peace, while openly responding to an invitation to march to war. No! To “renounce” means to declare an emphatic No! It means one unequivocally rejects a war policy that involves retribution—and especially when it involves pre-emptive acts of aggression. I see no evidence of a “renouncing” in his address; and secondly, stripped of its general commentary, the doctrinal “summum bonum” of his address can be succinctly found in three non-qualified statements:

    “As citizens we are all under the direction of our respective national leaders”;

    “We also are citizens of nations and are subject to the laws of our government” and

    “One of our Articles of Faith, which represents an expression of our doctrine, states ‘We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers and magistrates, in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law.’”

    Then President Hinckley articulated one additional obligation to those who are in our military service: “Those in the armed services are under an obligation to their respective governments to execute the will of the sovereign. When they joined the military they entered into a contract by which they are presently bound and to which they have dutifully responded.”

    President Hinckley’s reliance on our national leaders’ judgment was not only based on our allegiance to our nation, but also founded on his belief that “They have access to greater political and military intelligence than do the people generally.” He then chose to muse as to the pros and cons of our two wars and shared with us what governed his “personal feelings” and the “dictates” of his “personal loyalties” in the present situation which rests on the belief that the invasion of these countries was analogous to the Nephites defending their families even unto bloodshed as well as defending liberty. And finally, a latter-day war indulgence (see fn. 1 above): “God will not hold men and women in uniform responsible as agents of their government in carrying forward that which they are legally obligated to do. It may even be that He will hold us responsible if we try to impede or hedge up the way of those who are involved in a contest with forces of evil and repression.”

    Personally, I saw his statements as an endorsement of the Iraq and Afghanistan invasion. From day one I have been a relentless anti-war protester and considered President Hinckley’s “personal” loyalties (support for these wars even as we did Viet Nam) as a rejection of the “immutable” covenant found in Section 98.

    All the others “conservative” factors are interesting but, in my opinion, secondary to the collectively spiritual consequences when a faith community largely supports two wars of aggression and implicitly a torture program (our church did not sign on with the NRCAT -National Religious Council Against Torture). Shame on us.

  37. #20 Geoff, I agree with your assessment of Latin America’s view of China compared to the US. We have not done ourselves any favors in the region. I think most of the anti-US sentiment is our own fault, but some of it is simply because we are the sole super power and are an easy target for blame. I think that as China becomes more powerful, they will inevitably start to deal with similar sentiments in now-friendly regions — whether borne of envy or actual grievances.

    I don’t mean to detract from the rest of your post, because the central point dead on, and I absolutely agree that the BoM warns of the effects of constant warfare. War (especially constant war) drains our nation spiritually, economically, & culturally and threatens the freedoms we enjoy. Madison said that no nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare; yet, with the War on Terror a continual war is what we have. Your post reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Spencer Kimball:

    “We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel — ships, planes, missiles, fortifications — and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching:

    ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven’ “

  38. Yossarian says:

    While I’m glad that some conservative Mormons are no longer donning their red white and blue pom-poms some 10 or so years later it’s sadly little consolation to the charred and broken bodies of those crushed under the weight of the state. It’s only a couple hundred thousand too late.

  39. #35: Kent,
    I took a two year break from the Marines for my Mission, (64-65). I spent a lot of my Mission on the SAC airbases in Montana and N. Dakota. My MP put me there because some Missionaries could not follow the rules inside the base housing areas.

  40. I beleive many US religious groups are conscientious objectors__and it’s legal. They are also following US and World law.

  41. JRF, great quotation from Pres Kimball. I was looking for that and couldn’t remember where to find it. Yossarian, all I can say is, “better late than never.” Say hi to Major Major Major Major for me. By the way, did you ever make it to Sweden?

  42. Like several previous posters I have issues with your point #3 about China above. In my limited international experience, the US is not held in lower regard than China in most parts of the world. Latin America may be the sole exception, if it is even true there.
    Point #4 is where your analysis breaks down on the more recent examples. The Patriot act and TSA were already underway before the invasion of Afghanistan was announced. They would have been fully implemented even if the war policy had been very different. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were supposed to decrease the need (over time) of onerous domestic programs like TSA and Patriot act. We will see if this happens.
    The constant riots during Vietnam were not primarily done by conservative non-interventionists. This need not happen even during a hated war. Fortunately, the country seems to have learned how to more civilly express any anti-war feelings. This is one of the top strengths of your current position. Your reasoned discourse against our current wars is the best contrast against the current policy.
    Also, point #1 has many good insights and #2, #5, & #6 are nearly unassailable.
    I still disagree with your overall position, but I am happy to discuss this important issue some more.

  43. and if u think peace is a common goal, that goes to show how little u know says:

    It’s a little late folks. We were bamboozled. Now we will be there until the end. The ME is falling apart now.

    And the West has been abusing them since WWI. It’s a but late to leave bow. If we did, we’d be back in six months. Armageddon had to happen somehow.

  44. El Oso, I think the key issue is: how is China perceived in the Middle East compared to the U.S.? Is there blowback against China for its foreign policy in the Middle East? (There certainly has been against the U.S. — see Iran 1979 and on and on). The answer there is, “No.” Will there be bad feelings about the Chinese in the Middle East in the years ahead? Depends on Chinese policy, but based on what we have seen so far, I think the answer is likely to still be “no.” It is a completely valid point that China is seen as an aggressor in Asia, and I concede that point (although I would point out that the aggression is confined to areas that China considers its sphere of influence — you don’t see China attacking Thailand and Indonesia, for example). On the Patriot Act and TSA, I honestly think that Obama would have taken a different course on these issues, and the US Congress would be forcing a different course, if the wars were winding down or ended. The “war on terror” is the continued excuse for the US spying and molesting its own citizens.

  45. #45: China is saying to the Middle East “We will buy your oil if you do not want to sell it to the West anymore”. They could become better friends real quick.

  46. Yossarian, there were plenty of the libertarian wing of the conservatives who were opposed to the Iraq war before it started. Of course, its not like they were particularly influential, obviously. It would also be good to note that President Bush had the support of most of congress for the invasion, including plenty of democrats who could hardly be called conservative.

    As to President Hinckley’s speech, I was on my mission at the time, and I remember feeling that while he supported the war, he left plenty of room for those who disagreed, and that those who did weren’t going against the church. That part of the message didn’t seem to catch, though.

  47. Thanks so much for writing, Geoff. Breaths of fresh air like this are few and far between. Let me start by testifying that I know as surely as God lives that some day war will be gone from the Earth. Just gone. Gosh, just thinking about it gives me goosebumps. Having said that, I will move onto the lighter side.

    You must understand that people, even prophets, are limited by the inertia of their culture. That doesn’t make them less of a prophet. It’s interesting that Prez Hinckley’s quote “but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, etc” applies more to the insurgents than to the occupying forces.

    To many people, war presents a moral dilema. After I left the Army Rangers, it took me 20 years of pondering to figure it out. For one thing, the beatitudes must be important if they are repeated verbatim in 3Nephi, ignoring Mark Twains theory. The short answer is don’t kill, don’t want to kill. Furthermore, the greatest prophet in the BOM (second to Jesus) outright prohibited it: Ether 8:19. For the Lord worketh not in secret combinations, neither doth he will that man should shed blood, but in ALL THINGS hath forbidden it, from the beginning of man.

    When it comes to picking which prophets I should believe, it’s tough to beat Jesus and Ether. To those who support war, don’t say I didn’t tell you so. There is only one arm good enough for me.

  48. Geoff,
    I actually think that the position on reducing the TSA & other excesses is one of the key factors in this presidential campaign that I am looking for. If reducing our foreign interventions is a top priority, Ron Paul is looking like the best candidate. He would also be good on the TSA excess issue, I believe. If you are like me and have not totally turned against Iraq and Afgan presence, Perry, Romney and other conservatives are more preferred. Hints about reducing or eliminating the worst parts of the domestic regulations and intrusions will weigh high in my analysis of the candidates (after their economic positions).

    The Middle East is not high on my list of places that I think we need to be liked. The aftermath of the oil embargoes showed that they have little long-term impact, even on a ravenous oil importer like the USA. The governments are still happy to sell us oil. Iran and Syria do not like us, but their governments may not last long in the present form.

  49. Geoff B — exactly. Thank you.

  50. You guys need to reach a swap with Wheat and Tares next ;)

  51. All I can say is that the “liberal” from BBC better make a liberal case for a conservative idea to make the swap even.

  52. I’m glad to have sharing across “party lines” and agree that war is usually a bad idea no matter who’s president. Jettboy, I’m left-wing, and I’m learning to hunt and fish. Not sure whether that counts (I don’t think much of hunting with an AK47), but I don’t think hunting rifles are inherently evil.

  53. yossarian says:

    Jacob M,

    Trust me I won’t defend cruise missile liberals either. They both support the state in various degrees and America’s institutional commitment to war making. Republican, Democrat, a pox on both their houses. There are no parties. War making does not belong to one party or other; there is only the one party of death. The enemy is “anybody who’s going to get you killed, no matter which side he’s on.”

  54. Jettboy, I already wrote that piece: Protecting Marriage with Firearms

  55. There’s SO MUCH I can say about this subject, one of which was already mentioned with Spencer W. Kimball. While I recognize he seem to have bought in the “War In Terror” with the General Conference talked you quoted, I believe Gordon B. Hinckley was more anti-war than he’s given credit for. Here’s just one example from the First Presidency Message June 2007 in which President Hinckley wrote called “An Unending Conflict, a Victory Assured”:

    “Nearly 10 decades have passed now since my birth, and for the better part of that time, there has been war among mankind in one part of the earth or another. No one can ever estimate the terrible suffering incident to these wars across the globe. Lives numbered in the millions have been lost. The terrible wounds of war have left bodies maimed and minds destroyed. Families have been left without fathers and mothers. Young people who have been recruited to fight have, in many instances, died while those yet alive have had woven into the very fabric of their natures elements of hatred which will never leave them. The treasure of nations has been wasted and will never be recovered.”

    “The devastation of war seems so unnecessary and such a terrible waste of human life and national resources. We ask, will this terrible, destructive way of handling disagreements among the sons and daughters of God ever end?”

    This absolutely echoes what President Hinckley (ALMOST word for word) was saying in 1986 on commenting the Iraq-Iran war. He even stated that 7 years was a long time for that war to last.

  56. Ron Madson says:

    # 62, Ken, thanks for sharing those quotes by President Hinckley. However, such commentary, in my opinion, falls very short of “renouncing” specific wars as required in DC 98. Everyone is anti-war in general terms, but the question is whether someone has the courage to “renounce” a specific war and all the blowback that comes with it. You may find yourself very unpopular when your national tribe is demanding vengeance–and you will never have a president put a Medal of Freedom around your neck. To “renounce” a war means to specifically condemn a particular war, and refusing to support/sustain it in any way. It is, in my opinion, to conscientiously object and encourage others to do the same. Entire faith communities have done this. I would say to go as far as civil disobedience if necessary.
    Lamenting wars is easy—everyone does. Protesting, condemning, being civilly disobedient and/or conscientiously objecting and encouraging other to do the same are the manifestations of genuine renouncement. To just say war is bad and pervasive is a pathetic substitute for a clear, unmistakable “renouncement.”

  57. Ron Madson says:

    I meant #56″ above.

  58. “To war or not should not be confusing D&C 98 tells us to renounce war and proclaim peace and that war is justified only when the Lord commands it.” This leads to the interesting question of, “to whom will the Lord command it”? The prophet, God’s spokesman, lacks the power to wage war. The President of the US on his own can only wage limited conflict without Congress, and doesn’t even have the Holy Ghost as a constant companion. How would the Lord command a war today?

  59. I agree with a lot of what you wrote, except for the bit about Ron Paul and Gary Johnson. While the % of anti-interventionist republicans is not statistically insignificant, they don’t make up 20% of the GOP Primary electorate by any means. Gary Johnson is polling so low he might not make it on every state ballot (he’s below ~1% in every poll I’ve seen), and Ron Paul is unlikely to place above second in more than 4 states. I think 10% is a more reasonable prediction for his vote share, not 20%.

  60. If Mormons are going to change their position on War__How will that effect their view of the BoM (as a book about war), the War in Heaven, and Armageddon? Will any of these be “renounced”.

  61. Hey Ron. By what basis do you define “renounce” they way you do in #57? I define it as Mormon does in Alma 48: 23-24 where the Nephites were “sorry” to take up arms but also couldn’t allow their wives and children to be “massacred by the barbarous cruelty” of those around them.

  62. J. Reuben Clark, is, of course, the most prominent example of an antiwar Mormon conservative. I recommend Joseph Stomberg’s essay:

  63. yossarian says:

    62 morgan,

    I renounce child abuse all the while I beat my child. Its for his own good you see. Do you always say sorry to people while you lop off limb and life? I generally find when up to my elbows in massacring others with barbarous cruelty to claim it was needed. You see I lack the imagination to do anything but mimic the barbarity I decry. Seriously, what right do any of us have to pronounce the exigent need for a bunch of people to die?

    And why we are doing backflips to make Hinckley into our anti war apologist, but can we at least be a little honest and judge him like we would anyone else. He said he had misgivings but at the end of the day the seer stone was working to well (apparently) and the govt knows best so onward hoe.

  64. notknowingbeforehand #59 good question. Wouldn’t we expect the Prophet to announce such revelation certainly not GWB and in the absence of it aren’t we clearly commanded to to renounce war and proclaim peace? Is this what Mormons did?

  65. Cynthia L., yes, but did you post it on M* ;) On the other hand, I really dislike the emphasis on the idea that “conservative” means violence. Pro-war doesn’t automatically mean pro- death, but pro-democracy and Patriotism. Defending the second amendment doesn’t mean freedom to kill others, but rather upholding general freedom, independence, and self-preservation.

    I don’t know what to say about this topic as I think Iraq and Afghanistan were both necessary at the start. Regardless if WMDs existed or not, Saddam Hussein and his followers had to be taken out. My problem was that, in both fronts, we stayed way past legitimate goals. I see Iraq as two (three really, but the second Bush was only continuing the war started by the first one) wars and not one big one. There was the war we won swiftly of taking out the leadership, and the protracted war against insurgence that frankly we shouldn’t have been involved with; not that I don’t see the danger inherent in not staying like we did. Eventually we “won” that one too, but at what endgame? Afghanistan was a noble idea to protect against an enemy not afraid to destroy those they disagree with. The war rooted out the Taliban and Al Quada, but again at what endgame? The leader we sought so hard to kill is finally dead and we still have soldiers there as if a permanent police force. My biggest concern about pulling out isn’t that it was a sign of defeat, but that the same kinds of forces would rise again. But then, how can you kill a hydra that for ethical reasons (I suppose) you cant burn to a crisp?

  66. #63: Paul,
    I don’t think J.R. Clark was anti-war, he was against interventions, not wars. There is a difference. He worked for the War Dept.

  67. ” Pro-war doesn’t automatically mean pro- death, but pro-democracy and Patriotism. ”

    In honor of Scott B…I am practicing non-interventionism…just for this post.

  68. Jettboy, I am pointing out in this post that conservative does not mean violence. Grover Cleveland was a conservative president — he wanted extremely limited government, he wanted a gold standard, he was against a central bank, he was in favor of business but not big business (which usually means corruption). But he was also against imperialism because it meant the US taking on responsibilities that would get out of control. This was proven just a few years later when we fought the Spanish-American war, took on the Philippines and faced a massive insurgency there. So, in this case the conservative (Cleveland) was anti-violence and the progressive imperialists were pro-violence. Many conservatives opposed World War 1 and many other wars during the 20th century as unnecessary, costly and bloody. So, my point is: be a true conservative, favor only defensive wars. Very few people opposed the initial invasion of Afghanistan — conservatives are not pacifists and against all wars. But we should have gotten out of Afghanistan after six months, declaring victory after defeating the Taliban. Our continued presence there is a victory for the Taliban, who are draining our country of resources and many of our best young men and women.

  69. “I think Iraq and Afghanistan were both necessary at the start. Regardless if WMDs existed or not, Saddam Hussein and his followers had to be taken out.” Sorry but that doesn’t follow please explain why two wars or any wars were necessary to take out Saddam Hussein and his followers.

  70. And President Obama cannot be fairly blamed for wars that he inherited. Once Bush made the mistake of extending our involvement in Afghanistan and invading Iraq, he left Obama with few good choices. This is one of the horrors of war: once it starts, your possibility of making a good choice diminishes.

    I think that those attacking Obama attack him because he’s largely followed Bush’s strategy and practices on most things. One could say this is because he has few options. One might also say that neither Bush or Obama had a lot of options and that’s why both did the same thing. Or one might say that Obama just isn’t doing the same thing. To simply say one can’t fairly blame him for his conduct of the wars he inherited is really no different from saying Bush couldn’t. (IMO)

  71. I think that as China becomes more powerful, they will inevitably start to deal with similar sentiments in now-friendly regions — whether borne of envy or actual grievances.

    It’s already happened in the Pacific Rim and in some other places.

  72. #72: Clark,
    We send 50, 100, 150,000 troops to fight our wars today. How many do you think the Chinese will send?

  73. Sam Brunson says:

    Hey Geoff,
    The more I think about this, the more I like it. I think for religious, ethical, and other reasons, being anti-war (whether as a conservative or liberal) is a good starting point. That’s not necessarily to say that there could never be a just war. But if I start out a skeptical about the justice of war, I need to be actively convinced that a war is just in order to support it. Which, given how horrible even just wars are, is the position I want to be in: if and when I support a war, I want it to be because I’ve worked through it and the need for the war outweighs everything else. And I can only get to that position if, by default, I assume that war is the wrong solution.

  74. When I hear Conservatives are ready to cut the Defence budget in half, I will start to believe they are anti-war. As long as money can be made by war, there will be war.
    I am still waiting for someone to define or show me a ‘just war’.

  75. Sam Brunson, good point.

    Clark, you make a good point in #71.

    Bob, I am in favor of cutting the Defense budget in half. Today we spend more than $700 billion. We could easily get by with half that. In my opinion, the only just wars are those that are completely defensive. By that definition, I can only find three just wars in US history: the war of 1812, World War II and the first six months of Afghanistan. I may be missing one or two, but given the vast pantheon of our wars, this means most of them are not just. I will also point out that World War II could have been avoided with different decisions in 1916-1917, but that is a discussion for another day.

  76. @76: ” World War II could have been avoided…..”. That’s what I mean when I think a war might not be a “just war’.
    I can’t not call Afghanistan ‘just or unjust’. I am not sure of why we are fighting there__who was are fighting there__how many we are fighting there.

  77. I’m totaly on board with this post, as well as your idea of cutting a huge chunk out of the defense budget. Nice post Geoff.

  78. For all of America’s mistakes the world is a safer place when the country adopts a strong and active foreign policy. (See Dean Acheson’s “Present at the Creation” and Henry Kissinger’s “Diplomacy” for more) The power vacuum left by gutting defense will be filled by countries with far less respect for human rights than America such as China, Russia, and Iran. Ask the Tibetans or Chechens how that has gone for them.

    By the time a problem turns into a supposedly clear moral imperative, such as one after Pearl Harbor, the cost (in men, money, and material) of defending against it sky rockets. The logic of war described by Edward Luttwak often seems backwards but still makes sense. Thus, opposing the use of military power in the name of morality and the cost of lives when tyrants or problems are small or seemingly “optional” actually makes the eventual use of force much more costly. Hitler’s regime in 1937 was far weaker than the one we fought in 1944-1945. In many cases you can argue that delaying military action is actually a worse moral choice than a relatively bloodless and earlier use of force.

  79. For more on this line of thinking see Max Boot’s “The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and Rise of American Power”.

  80. Ron Madson says:

    Are some of you really serious that we had to attack Iraq and Afghanistan? Or is Poe’s law in effect here?
    SPeaking of threats to humanity, who is going to stop us! Since Viet Nam to the present the United State of America has been the greatest purveyor of violence in the world (see you tube linked below–just as true, imo, now as then). We are the hypocritical nation that Isaiah speaks of in the last days. We spend more on militarism, we fabricate the most weapons, we invade countries that have never attacked us, we use predator drones daily to kill “insurgents” with predictable collateral damage (ironically we insurge into a nation and call those that fight back “insurgents”). Where are the comments in this thread giving voice to the hundreds of thousands we have murdered in their own homes these past ten years? What about the young boy that our soldiers killed while working in his father’s farm as a rite of initiation? (platoon leader is LDS and they targeted civilians for a rite of passage for new soldiers to kill) What about the “free fire zones” described by journalist Evan Wright when we invaded Iraq and kills thousands of civilians–including the mother screaming as she held her 8 year old son bleeding profusely? Imo, until we can have our hearts turned to our enemies as much as we do our own children, we are only pretend christians.

    Here was the voice of a real christian voice in my generation that I believe is even more applicable to our nation which has not only approached but is suffering from a spiritual death–not to mention major cognitive dissonance to even think we are justified in our present wars of aggression:

  81. #79:
    The first rule of building a defence, is to build one based on the abiliies of your foe, not his intentions.
    The Russians cut their budget well over 50%__no one came after them.
    There was not much left of Hitler’s army in 1944-45.
    Iraq seened willing to go toe to toe again the 500 Billion per year war machine of the US.

  82. Bob: The German army seemed spent in 1944-45 because of the significant cost spent by the allies in their strategic bombing campaign and by the Russian army winning the battles of Kursk and Stalingrad. The United States didn’t fight in Europe until 1943 and against North Western Europe until 1944 but still had 300,000 casualties. And Russia lost an estimated 8 million soldiers fighting Germany (up to 23 million deaths if you include civilians), a significant number of that was lost capturing Germany territory and Berlin in 1944 and 45. After the allies supposedly had the war in hand during the winter of 1944 the Germans still waged the Battle of the Bulge causing 100,000 American causalities. These casualties could have been avoided if Britain, France, and America were a bit more “warlike” in opposing Hitler in 1936-38. But according to some here this kind of carnage (not to mention material and monetary cost) was the better moral choice because the U.S. waited until after Pearl Harbor to fight.
    Geoff correctly stated that war is full of bad choices. But nobody seemed to mention how allowing others to be raped, enslaved, or murdered by our inaction is also a lousy choice. Some here wag their finger at the “love” the U.S. doesn’t show through military action but I contend that standing by as Serbians wage a massive campaign of rape against Bosnian women or hundreds of thousands of Africans are slaughtered by a rival tribe is a less loving choice than military action to stop it.

  83. So ignore the profit motive of war suppliers the true reason and justification for war is the prevention of rape enslavement and murder?

  84. #83: “These casualties could have been avoided if Britain, France, and America were a bit more “warlike” in opposing Hitler in 1936-38.
    Part of being ‘warlike’ is being ready for war. France, Britain, America spend years getting ready to fight Gremany. But were willing to watch Russians ( Commies )die during this period.

  85. Morgan D, I used to share your philosophy. I have read Churchill, Victor Davis Hanson, Kissinger, Max Boot, Bill Bennett and probably just as many “pro-defense” writers as anybody on this thread. So it is not that I have not been exposed to these viewpoints. I have, and I think they are wrong. Here is my point: consider the alternate history that the US had not gotten involved in WW1. What would have happened? Eventually the two sides would have stopped fighting and arrived at some kind of accommodation. Given that Russia had left the war, that accommodation probably would have been more favorable to Germany. So the German humiliation of Versailles and German reparations would have been avoided. Germany would probably not suffered through the hyper-inflation of the 1920s. Germany probably would have been much less willing to listen to the ravings of an obscure Austrian corporal. World War II could have been avoided entirely. Alternate history is not precise, of couse, but a decision NOT to enter a war can very often cause better results than the alternative.

    I recommend reading Albert Jay Nock, Ralph Raico, Tom Woods, Murray Rothbard, Henry Hazlitt, Mises, Hayek. Their views indicate that war is just socialism in its worst form. No conservative should favor anything but defensive wars.

  86. Thomas Parkin says:

    “necessary to take out Saddam Hussein and his followers.”

    “Necessary” may be a stretch” … but I don’t take any opinion on the war all that seriously unless the person has read and absorbed two books first: Republic of Fear and Cruelty and Silence, by Kanan Mikaya. I don’t mind that a person is passionately against the War in Iraq, as long as they have absorbed what Saddam’s regime meant, what it was responsible for. Instead, what you usually get is a kind of ‘yes, but’ glibness whenever the subject is brought up. Saddam’s Baath make Syria’s Baath, and certainly someone like Qaddafi, look quite benign. Yet, when I was much more involved in this discussion, I routinely had people tell me that he was no worse than any number of low grade thugs. The Baathist prison state in Iraq was every bit as horrific as Stalin’s Soviet Union or the Third Reich. I think one can certainly make a case that an unmolested, militarized, Baathist Iraq would have made some of the good things we are seeing in the middle-east, at minimum, much more difficult.

  87. Thomas Parkin says:

    By the by, best reading on pacifism is definitely Orwell. Most of his journalism, non-fiction, etc. from 1920-1950 was, a few years ago, compiled into a four volume collection. Reading Orwell can help cure a tendency to ideological thinking. Besides, he’s hilarious.

  88. Thomas Parkin I haven’t read the books you require to be taken seriously but my many conversations with Saddam’s once chief of civil engineering a man who met with Saddam weekly for years and fled the country for his life gave me a pretty good idea of what Saddam’s regime was all about. What would you like to share to add to that understanding?

  89. Thomas Parkin says:


    Did you know Saddam sometimes went swimming in his skivvies?

  90. Thanks Thomas is that what I missed? : ) Did you know that Kanan Mikaya is a close friend of Ahmed Chalabi? Maybe he made that up.

  91. Thomas Parkin says:

    Makiya wrote both those books years before there was a public argument about invading Iraq. Republic of Fear was first written before Gulf War I. Cruelty and Silence was written in the first half of the 90s. He admits his bias in both books. He hoped for ‘regime change’ long before it entered public consciousness, and didn’t believe that it could be achieved internally. Explicitly making a case for western invasion was not a part of either book mentioned. (iirc … I read them as a part of trying to educate myself prior to the war.) I know that he has been criticized from several vantage points – for one, that he was a bit romantic about the results of the invasion (one does get a bit romantic on the subject of overthrowing gulag states) – but I don’t think the underlying facts from either book that I mentioned have been questioned.

    He’s a friend of Christopher Hitchens, as well. Probably more people here know and dislike Hitchens than Chalabi. ;>

  92. I believe cutting our defense budget by half does not “gut” our defenses. We will still be spending billions more than any other country. I think we’ve learned the importance of maintaining a strong defense. In the past, we’ve usually dismantled our military and then had to rebuild it during wartime. Spending $350 billion a year (rather than today’s $700 billion) will allow us to do just that.

    Morgan mentions Chechnya and Tibet. Yes, they are under the control of tyrant nations. What do you propose we do about it? Invade? Are you ready to begin a world war with Russian and/or China to free those people? How many billions will die in the ensuing nuclear holocaust? In such an instance, war is not the answer. Diplomacy is. Patience and proclaiming freedom will lead to freedom. Allowing such freedom seekers to immigrate will also save many of the people. That many Russians and Chinese now go to college in the USA or do business with us means that our freedom is leaking into their nations. It may be just a matter of time before more freedom comes about from within.

    The problem with our current defense, is that we have the policy of being the world’s police force. We need to return to two policies: Monroe Doctrine and the Weinberger/Powell doctrine. We need to focus on the defense of our own hemisphere and allow Europe to manage itself and Africa, Asia to manage Asia. We can provide peaceful assistance and aid, if necessary. The Weinberger/Powell doctrine came about after hundreds of Marines were killed in a suicide bombing at Khobar Towers in Lebanon. Pres Reagan withdrew our troops and we reviewed our interventionist attitude in the world. It was determined we shouldn’t go anywhere without 1. a clear US interest, 2. a clear plan and exit strategy, 3. go all in with absolute force.

    George HW Bush used that concept in Desert Storm, and it worked well. Staying in Iraq to enforce the No Fly Zone, however went away from this. There was no clear exit strategy, and enraged people like Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. George W Bush initially used the W/P doctrine in Afghanistan, but again pulled away from a clear exit strategy, turning into an interventionist nation building program. Invading Iraq created a new doctrine of preemption. This was clearly contrary to any previous doctrine we’ve had. Candidate Obama initially was anti-war, but as president has embraced Pres GW Bush’s program. Libya seems to be extremely interventionist. We cannot pretend any longer that Pres Obama is a peaceful president who is renouncing war, as he is as interventionist as his Republican predecessor.

    BTW, true conservatives are for limited war. Progressive or neo-cons are pro war.

    We should only go into war when actually attacked or at least seriously threatened. Then, we go in, do the job, and get out.

    BTW, I’ve written on this somewhat at M* as a part of a list of things we can do to reduce our deficit:

    M* – Cutting Defense

  93. I want to be like Christopher Hitchens when I grow up.

  94. JJ Rousseau says:

    “BTW, true conservatives are for limited war. Progressive or neo-cons are pro war.”

    Big words in the hands of the ignorant are a dangerous thing.

  95. Neal Kramer says:

    This is a wonderfully interesting topic. Thanks for raising it and responding in so many interesting ways.

    I want to recommend some reading. First, I think everyone should read Elder Bruce D. Porter’s intriguing history of the relationship between war and the rise of the bureaucratic modern state. “War and the Rise of the State” is published by Basic Books. One of the primary reasons states build large bureaucracies is so they can quickly mobilize and go to war.

    Another read is J. Reuben Clark, Jr.’s priesthood session conference address in October 1946. His attack on the willingness of the United States to use nuclear weapons and to build up arsenals of chemical and biological weapons is a true expression of prophetic fury.

    Everyone should read the statement by the First Presidency in which they express their opposition to the basing of the MX missile in Utah.

    And all should be required to read Pres Kimball’s bicentennial call of the United States to repentance in the June 1976 Ensign: “The False Gods We Worship.” Pres. Kimball was not afraid to call the U.S. love affair with war and all the means necessary to fight it pure and unadulterated idolatry.

  96. #96: Neal,
    If Mormons would get as passionate about no going to war as they are about not drinking a coffee shake, I would be more comfortable.

  97. Ron Madson says:

    Bob, we are suffering from collective spiritual dyslexia…we believe that section 89 is a primary determinate of our morality whereas section 98 is adaptable/discretionary…

    look at the preamble for both sections. Section 89 is “not” to be given by way of commandment, whereas, Section 98 is given as an “immutable covenant.”

    We have as a faith community, in my opinion, rejected Section 98 in both words and deed–as we did in the fall of 1838 triggering our eviction from Missouri. I believe in regard to our war/killing policies, we have engaged in our own “Constantine Shift.” But all is good as long as we make sure no one drinks a coffee shake…

  98. Well said Ron.

  99. just seeing this now — great post Geoff B.

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