My support for the US-British military intervention in Iraq has been, if muted, transparent.
A friend asked me during a half hour drive to the airport this morning just what I thought about the war. After delivering several wide ranging (and probably, to my hearer, disconnected) thoughts, I tossed at him as we said goodbye my final word about the war, hope.
Let me explain.
September 11, 2001 was a traumatic event for Americans, maybe the most traumatic since December 7, 1941. But our nation half-expected the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, since the world everywhere else was in deep turmoil. Twin Towers and Pentagon terrorism struck us like a bolt from the blue.
That's the starting point for hope, the terrible, fearful wound inflicted by the children of another society far, far away.
In the months following 9/11 most of us have wondered again and again "why," why did they do that to us? Plenty of answers have been offered. Most of them are tailored to fit a political or theological bias. In my corner of the church universe the explanation, ideologically outfitted by mentors from the Viet Nam War protests, blames American arrogance and indifference to the sufferings of the poor and victims of injustice. The Christian right reads 9/11 as God's judgment on an immoral and godless society. In between, if no less simplistic, are those who divide the world in Western (think movie) terms, the white hats against the black hats, good versus evil; and evil is always on the prowl to blindside the virtuous.
A more credible explanation begins with the frustrations of a generation of well-educated young men (not the poor and downtrodden) in one third of the world where regimes in power have repressed their aspirations for leadership. The US is blamed for propping up these totalitarian (kingdoms, dictatorships, and theocracies) societies. But these young men cannot lead a revolution in their own countries. Revolutionary ideas might lead to protest and the courts in our land, but in their lands such activity would invite death for treason. Radical Islam becomes the most readily available cause on which this generation of the frustrated can hang their outrage. Western Societies, with their web of protections for individual liberties, are far easier targets for the mayhem frustration incites.
The hope lies in addressing this frustration and sense of powerlessness.
And that's where the war fits in. Many of the wars in which the US has been involved have been revolutionary: 1776, 1812, 1861, 1917, 1941, and 1945-1991. They have been revolutionary in the sense that they have redirected the course of history, sometimes not as dramatically as might have been hoped (1917), but nonetheless hinges on which history has turned in a different and better direction. Gulf War II can be such a hinge. If we pursue the peace as fervently and decisively as we have the war. If we will insist on a democratic Palestinian state. If we will send clear signals to the leadership of authoritarian societies in the Middle East (Iran and Saudi Arabia chiefly) that we are watching and opposing any attempts in those nations to squash their nascent evolution into representational forms of government.
A text from the Bible I have mulled over during the past fifty years without previously finding a tangent with world events, now reads prophetically, Jeremiah 1:10: "See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant." War is always wrong. But sometimes it is less wrong than doing nothing. Especially if it is followed by building and planting.
If we are living through a moment fraught with fear, we may also be witnessing the birth pangs of a new and more peaceable world order.