Here are my thoughts a day or so prior to the air strikes.
It appears we are on the brink of war, again! Massive air strikes against the capital of ISIS in Raqqa in northern Syria have begun. What does this mean? It sounds like what appears in the prophecy of Joel: that nations should beat their plowshares into swords and pruning hooks into spears. Why are we resorting to warriors at this time? Is it because we have been reactive, rather than proactive, after departure from Iraq? Did we do the hard work necessary to avert this emergent situation where ISIS has become so powerful that we have to utilize weapons of mass destruction to squash their expansionist and imperialistic pursuits? Were we too optimistic that Maliki would hold his own and make Iraq stable once again; or did we leave too swiftly because we couldn’t stand having supported him despite his clear hatred of Sunni Muslims?
One of the tenets of pacifism, in which I believe, is to engage assiduously in diplomatic efforts before conflicts reach a boiling point. And, yes, this means that nations and other units have to communicate with each other in order to understand each other, try to come to some reasonable agreement, and make and keep peace. We failed in our foreign policy when we seemed to have convinced ourselves that al-Qaeda or any other such group could not revitalize itself. There were many government officials and foreign diplomats that voiced concern over the possibility of other terrorist groups gaining a foothold in Iraq if we did not maintain a critical military presence in the region. I am not sure whether they had acute foresight or whether their words were based on clear signs of growing, strong opposition, but President Obama apparently felt that meeting his promise to get out of Iraq was more important than squashing all terrorist cells.
We allowed Maliki to wreak havoc upon the majority of people in Iraq, and his ouster did not come quickly enough. He angered many people with his oppression against the Sunnis, and since he was “our man,” we were deemed just as culpable as he. Consequently, many people supported the rise of ISIS, even though they might not have agreed with their Islamic centrism. Things over there are too complicated to characterize the fanaticism as predictable or a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, it would not be excessive to contend that we did not do the hard work necessary to ensure that all parties were at the table in the construction of a legitimate democratic state in Iraq. We failed.
Is it too late to go to the negotiation table, or must we seek to obliterate ISIS before we can stabilize the area and reconstruct the government and infrastructure? Some pundits are prognosticating we will remain in the area and in a state of war between two to eight years. What a nightmare! Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy both warned us against the military industrial complex and arms proliferation. Could this possibly be the result of our not heeding their earnest pleas for limiting technology in the interest of killing each other? History is definitely repeating itself, and that repetition is the mark of our diplomatic insanity and ineptitude.
Over the past three decades, I have developed a mantra about beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks; about nations not rising up against nations and not studying or learning war anymore; about the lion and the lamb lying down together, and men and women sitting under their own vine and fig trees—with nothing to fear but fear itself; and about how perfect love casts out fear. I have sought to claim that God is not through with us yet, that God is still working (John 5:17) and that we must be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58). I know that we cannot be perfect, but that does not mean that we should never try! As a matter of fact, our entire lives should be about the business of doing justly, loving mercy and kindness, and walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8). I cannot help but to think that we must ramp up our constructive endeavors in foreign affairs precisely when our military is not directly involved. Only then will the morning stars sing together and the children of God shall shout for joy! (Job 38.7)