A War for All Seasons
For ancient Israelites war held religious significance. In fact, priests often accompanied armies into battle. Wars were initiated with sacrificial rites; the divine oracle was consulted and trumpets blown. Biblical battles date back to the time of Abraham and Israel’s wars of conquest and were followed by wars involving the United Kingdom and, thereafter, the Divided Kingdoms of Judah and Israel.
Over nine hundred years before Christ, Solomon acknowledged a time for war. The second president of the United States, John Adams apparently embraced Solomonic wisdom by defending war in these similarly pragmatic terms: “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.”
The Psalmist posed an age old question: “Why do the nations rage?” Over two thousand years ago Plato attempted a reply: “When the tyrant has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or treaty, and there is nothing to fear from them, then he is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader.”
In other words, desires of fallen humanity (with king-of-the-mountain ambition) move swiftly to violence. This principle was evidenced in the life of Adolph Hitler. Begun by an East Saudi Arabian Muslim scholar of the seventh century, today’s revivalist Wahabi movement mirrors Nazism in its extremist orthodoxy and decidedly militant actions.
Countering wars of unbridled aggression, Augustine and Aquinas fashioned Christian theory for just wars – namely, in the face of a grave wrong (one that can be stopped only by violence), it is egregious to enjoy a blissful state of peacefulness. Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously concurred. “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil,” he mused. “Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Grounded in this sentiment, Pastor Bonhoeffer radically and courageously faced the paramount evil of the 20th century. His complicity with assassination attempts on Adolf Hitler triggered the pastor’s imprisonment and eventual martyrdom. Ironically, for said assault to be just, peace was its requisite motive and ultimate reward.
Wars of Conquest
In the Old Testament, God-sanctioned wars were limited to taking possession of the Promised Land. When Israel was faithful, she prevailed; otherwise, she suffered defeat. While scripture offers no clear command to avoid war, the biblical narrative demonstrates a developing pattern of trusting in God’s sovereignty. In wars of conquest, God held complete control over all the nations. Acting as His agents, Israel rightly credited Him for wartime victories.
Scriptures likewise portray war as a type of spiritual combat. Prowling as a lion, humankind’s chief enemy is a spiritual foe bereft of human flesh and blood. Wielding a proverbial sword to cut down God’s people, the enemy employs nonconventional weaponry; and the theater of spiritual warfare is in heavenly places, not earthly battlefields.
Weapons formed against believers cannot prosper because God’s faithfulness shields all good soldiers of Jesus Christ. To withstand the enemy, believers don “the whole armor of God,” who strikes down the enemy and sets him to flight. Lauded as a mighty warrior-king while, at the same time, a man after God’s own heart, David defeated Goliath in an iconic demonstration of God’s ability to protect His people against daunting odds.
War Begets War
History demonstrates there is nothing new under the sun; every war carries within it the next war to answer it. Forgetting Washington’s warning about “entangling alliances,” America has repeatedly entered the fray of combat. Case in point: The Spanish-American War (1898) was first in a series of our nation’s imperialist wars. By erroneously fingering a Spanish mine in the explosion and sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor, Hearst and Pulitzer newspaper chains incited war.
World Wars 1 and 2
Disregarding warnings issued by the German Embassy in our nation’s capital, unwitting Americans were encouraged in 1914 to book passage on the Lusitania. Afforded no measures of safety or escort, the ship was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat. The over one thousand souls who perished (100 of whom were Americans) handily justified predetermined military action. Why call it predetermined? The Kaiser’s Memoirs reveal Great Britain’s plan for World War 1 (1914-1918) many years in advance of its outbreak.
In 1919, Frederic Howe accompanied Col. Edward M. House to Europe to help write the Paris Peace Treaty. In his book, The Confessions of a Reformer, Howe reproaches shadow government (equivalent to America’s Council on Foreign Relations and ilk) for opportunistically showcasing the Lusitania( tragedy in order to precipitate war, deemed an essential step toward establishing the League of Nations.
In 1953, Kathryn Casey worked for the Congressional Reece Committee and, in that capacity, examined board minutes of the 1908/1909 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The best way to establish peace,” in the board’s view, “was to help get the United States into the War.” To this end, endowment funds were released.
Having led Marine units in dozens of battles in China, Central- and South- Americas, and World War 1, Major General Smedley Butler sadly conceded that his men and he had been used to advance a malevolent agenda. His conclusion? “War is … possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, and surely the most vicious racket, … the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”
Woodrow Wilson was re-elected in 1916 on a platform that he had “kept us out of war,” yet five months later, he asked Congress to declare war on Germany. Why? His beloved League of Nations had failed, and a Second World War (1939-1945) was deemed necessary to realize his global dream.
World War 3
In the late 1800s, Italian nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini and Albert Pike, head of Illuminist activities in the U.S., advanced a revolutionary program involving a series of sparked wars and conflicts. The Mazzini-Pike Plan called for three world wars, the third involving Israel. Today the group that incites hatred of the United States is the same one that precipitated World War 2. Their goals are to end national sovereignty, regionalize the world, and then unite regions into a one-world, geo-political conglomerate.
With U.S. presence in the Middle East and ongoing Islamic terrorism, it’s highly likely that contemporary battles will escalate into World War 3. Found only in Revelation 16:16, Armageddon comes from the Hebrew root, “to slay.” It refers to Megiddo (“hill of assembly”), scene of many ancient Israeli battles and the future, final war (World War 3) between allied forces of evil and Israel. Scripture prophesies that, following this mother of all bloodbaths, survivors will take seven months to bury their dead.
The Racket of War
More often than not, war is fomented to benefit very few at the expense of very many. While remaining safely at home, swivel-chair insiders provoke wars to amass huge fortunes for themselves. Because of it, Bethlehem Steel (munitions), US Steel, Anaconda and Utah Copper, Central Leather, International Nickel Company, American Sugar Refining Company, etc. doubled and tripled profits – at times, overselling or selling defective products that end up warehoused and eventually scrapped.
Understandably, General Dwight Eisenhower warned against the Military-Industrial Complex. Justifying wartime profit motive is a tough needle to thread. In Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler, Anthony Sutton documented how U.S. corporations helped build the Nazi war machine. Similarly, James and Suzanne Pool revealed Henry Ford’s hands-on support for Hitler. Simply said, war is a racket.
Manipulative Politics of War
Some seventy-five years ago, Edward Bernays perfected the science of propaganda. In his words, “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.”
In the words of Col. Edward M. House, “great reforms seldom materialize except during great upheavals.” Moreover, “idealistic, extreme, and total goals” inspire willingness to die and kill. After World War 1, for example, political propaganda films featured amputees. Laced with strongly patriotic sound bites – e.g., war “to end all wars” and “to make the world safe for democracy” – wartime manipulations prompted fellow patriots to take up arms.
Until the Civil War, America bestowed no medals of valor. By issuing the Congressional Medal of Honor and its counterparts, strategists played into Napoleon’s useful observation that “all men are enamored of decorations … [and] positively hunger for them.” That’s not all. After the Armistice, manipulated Liberty Bond prices handily contributed to extraordinary profits for bankers.
War is Hell
Benjamin Franklin observed rightly, “There never was a good war or a bad peace.” Union General William Sherman fumed, “You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty…at its best, it’s barbarism…its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot, nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded, who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.”
Yes, war is hell; but there’s good news, too. You see, in His time, God will settle international disputes by mediating between nations, who will metaphorically “hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” Unlike today’s burgeoning secular world order, Christ’s millennial kingdom will establish peace on earth, good will to men.