Ain’t Gonna Study, Study War No More

Marvin Adams2

Blog post by: Marvin Adams (Pictured here) a parishioner of St. Anthony’s Parish in Washington DC. Marvin’s views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.

Why do we, as a nation, have a proclivity for war?  Are we predisposed to continuing our world hegemony through myriad military engagements? So many questions, where does one begin?

Let’s begin by stating there are eight major conflicts and over thirty smaller ones presently being fought globally. Depending upon which school of thought you subscribe to, the United States is actively involved in quite a few of them, either directly or indirectly. Specifically, we are supportive via “advisors,” mercenaries, providers of military aid and/or troops.  One of the reasons given for the historic election of Barack Obama as President of the United States was his campaign pledge to end both of our major involvements in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In order to understand our present involvement in wars, we must realize that our country has been actively engaged in military actions in every decade since the 1940s. Beginning with World War II (‘40”); Korean War (‘50s); Vietnam War (‘60s & 70s); Iraq I (‘80s); Iraq II (‘90s) and Afghanistan (2000 – present), we have become a warring nation. Of these wars, only our participation in World War II seems justified. And that is due to the fact that Japan had the unmitigated gall to attack us at Pearl Harbor.  As for the other engagements, there was no apparent threat to our nation’s sovereignty. So why did we chose to engage in these conflicts?

There are myriad reasons for justifying our military interventions. However, one which is hardly ever stated is economics. War, to put it rather bluntly, is big business. How else can your account for the Halliburtons of the world, or the proliferation of our own military complex. Speaking of Halliburton, it is widely known that former Vice President Dick Cheney was affiliated with this corporation, who, to put it mildly, have profited immensely due to our engagements in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

As someone who grew up within the military, and who also later served our country as an air force officer, I understand the necessity of having and maintaining a military, which is in a constant state of military readiness. But unlike the neocons and the war hawks, I am inclined to adhere to the doctrine espoused by President Theodore Roosevelt, which was to “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Also unlike the majority of the neocons and war hawks, I have experienced first-hand what wars do to those fighting as well as to their families. During the height of the Vietnam War, I was walking to Mass one Sunday morning when I saw a military vehicle parked in the front of my friend’s (William Wilson) home. Even as a pre-teen, I knew what that meant. The occupants of that government vehicle, an Army officer and chaplain, had come to deliver the news that no military family ever wanted to receive.  William’s father had been killed in action. Approximately two years prior to that, Lance Corporal Anthony “Tony” Franks from my parish, was one of the first marines to lose his life in Vietnam as well. Edwin Starr gave us this, with his iconic classic, “War” when he crooned, “War can’t give life; it can only take it away.”

Is war truly ever justified? The Bible makes many references to war.  But when I am speaking to others, especially about altercations and war, I like to refer to Matthew 5: 38-41: “You have heard that it was said, ‘eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand them your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.”

That said, even as a former military person, I have always personally adhered to the Just War Theory. Saint Augustine, Hippo and Saint Thomas Aquinas were primarily responsible for formulating this theory, which speaks to when a war is justified and also talks about doing everything possible to prevent war. It also talks about how prisoners should be treated. This theory formed the basics for the Rules of Engagement.

Before our elected officials deem it necessary to direct our military forces into yet another undeclared war, I respectfully submit, they should familiarize themselves with both the “Just War Theory” and the Rules of Engagement. Absent that, just heed the words of the departed Rodney King: “Can’t we all just get along.”

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Published in: on January 28, 2014 at 10:07 am  Leave a Comment  

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