The Christian Post is pleased to introduce "The Iron Room," a forum featuring analysis from an exciting new panel of CP commentators on areas where the Christian faith and public policy intersect. The name of the new CP political forum is inspired by Proverbs 27:17: "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."
Our first installment covers President Barack Obama's controversial "kill list" of targeted terrorists singled out for attack, and whether such a policy can be considered biblical. This is the second of a two-part series.
It's perhaps a symbol of our growing civil/military divide that the New York Times coverage of President Obama's "kill list" of known and active terrorists created such breathless commentary. As a veteran of the Iraq War, my first thought was, "This is news?" and my second was, "People are actually offended?"
To be clear, I understand why a pacifist would be offended. They, of course, oppose all war fought in any manner, but I'm not talking to pacifists (that's a larger conversation). Instead, why would anyone who believes in the concept of a just war believe that our targeting methods were either inconsistent with laws of war or Christian morality?
First, some basic background for civilians out there: The war that began on September 11, 2001, has been one of the most morally unbalanced in the history of armed conflict. On one side you have a terrorist enemy that not only tries its best to kill as many civilians as it can (a violation of the laws of war), it also commits a second violation of the laws of war by donning civilian clothes and disguising themselves in the civilian population – thus exponentially amplifying the civilian risks.
In prior wars (think World War II), when the enemy deliberately moved military and industrial assets into the heart of their cities, the Allies responded by bombing the cities themselves. Now, we do our best to not just distinguish friend from foe but to do so at the most precise, indeed, individual level.
Hence, the "kill list."
Far from being the symbol of a military or government out of control, it is the symbol of a military fighting perhaps the most precisely targeted campaign in the history of armed conflict. From the conquest of Canaan to the Apostle Paul's observation that ruling authorities bear the sword as "agents of wrath" to punish wrongdoers, there is a biblically-ordained place for properly-directed state military action.
The principle of "distinction" – of doing your best to distinguish between friend and foe – is a core element of the law of war. And it is difficult to achieve greater distinction than by using national intelligence assets to determine which individuals are enemies and then taking action against those individuals using the most precise weapons ever created.
Opponents of such precision tactics are often functional pacifists – it's not that they are against war, you see, just against any reasonable method of waging war. So if we do not have a "kill list," then what do we do? We know these critics are against wider use of force, and now we know they are against the narrowest possible use of force. How shall we defend ourselves?