The Slaughter of the Innocents

  Up until now, I have been hesitant to make any statements about our bombing raids on Serbia. I served in the Marines during Korea, and I was in the White House during Vietnam, so, of all people, I understand how crucial it is to back our military. And I do. I'm proud of the great job they're doing. This commentary is in no way directed at them. As a Christian I feel compelled, however, to express grave misgivings before our government takes the next step, which I fear will be to commit troops. This could result only in a quagmire like Vietnam. And if that should happen, it would be a direct result of abandoning our Christian principles. In the fifth century, Augustine articulated what we call the Just War Theory, describing the circumstances that could justify the reluctant and limited use of force. And Christians have embraced this doctrine for 1,500 years. The current NATO campaign meets none of the criteria of the Just War Theory. While stopping Milosevic's horrendous reign of terror against the Albanians of Kosovo may be a great humanitarian objective, that alone does not make it a just cause. First, the Just War Theory requires that war be declared by the proper authority and be waged to resist an attack. There has been no attack here. This war is being waged within a sovereign state. And while President Clinton believes he has the authority to commit U.S. troops to the region, presenting Congress with a fait accompli sets a troubling precedent. Harry Summers, a distinguished military historian and columnist, put it best when he quoted a turn-of-the-century group called the Anti-Imperialism League, which opposed America's involvement in another foreign war: "If an administration may with impunity deliberately create a condition of war anywhere in the world, representative government itself is imperiled." Second, the Just War Theory requires the protection of noncombatants. But our bombing, supposedly to stop Milosevic, has caused him to intensify his attacks so that more civilians are being killed--the very opposite of our well-intentioned goals. And the Just War doctrine requires that war be launched only if it has a reasonable chance of succeeding. As good as our pilots are, nobody believes that Milosevic can be brought to his knees by air power alone. In fact, given the evidence of the past two days, the horrible stories of entire villages being slaughtered, our attacks apparently have only emboldened him. The only way the NATO plan could possibly stop Milosevic is to use ground troops. But introducing troops would ask thousands of Americans to risk their lives in a cause that resoundingly fails the Just War test. We would be mired in the mountains of Yugoslavia. So, what should American policy be? First, we ought to be helping with the refugee crisis that our policy has exacerbated. And that means sending aid to Macedonia and Albania. Second, we should employ every non-military means to coerce Serbia into giving up its attacks on innocent people. If NATO is serious, it could squeeze the Serb economy, blockading and even isolating that country. And Christians must pray for those in authority, and especially for the safety of our pilots. But at the same time, we ought not be afraid to speak prophetically against the unjustified use of military power. As one who lived through Vietnam while working in the White House, I never again want to see our troops committed to a fruitless ground war--certainly not when doing so fails to meet a fundamental expression of Christian doctrine.


Chuck Colson



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