Moral Imperative or Imperialism?

The Sound-Byte

Backers of the United States' intervention in Yugoslavia condemn ethnic cleansing, and when their words go unheeded, they bomb the perpetrators. Analogously, some folks condemn abortions, and when they are unheeded, they bomb the clinics. Neither bombing can be justified Biblically.

The Details

Backers of the current United States military "intervention" in Yugoslavia cite a moral imperative to stop the ethnic cleansing. Other observers of the situation decry as imperialism the United States' acts of war against a sovereign nation that is engaged in a civil war against domestic terrorists.

Do we have a "moral imperative" to intervene in Yugoslavia? That is a hard question to answer in this modern climate of cultural relativism. What is our source of moral guidance today? Traditionally this country has turned to our predominantly Christian heritage for a definition of morality. This approach is weakened by the apparent message of the impeachment trial of William Jefferson Clinton, that morality rooted in the Christian heritage is no longer relevant in public affairs. However weak the moral imperative arising out of Christian teachings has become today, in the lack of any other source of moral authority, it is useful to examine some relevant aspects of our Christian heritage.

The strongest Biblical guidance comes from the Beatitudes -- Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the sons of God. That sounds like a pretty good mandate to intervene anywhere there is a lack of peace. But wait -- Jesus Christ practiced non-violence. He made it clear that his "kingdom" was spiritual, not of the secular world. He declined to lead Israel in a physical war against Roman oppressors, and when the sword was raised in his own defense, chided the wielder to put it down. While he was big-time into casting out daemons (warfare on a spiritual battlefield), the only time that I can recall he ever used physical force was in his cleansing of the Temple from thieves. Since it was God's Temple, and in western Christian theology Jesus is one in being with the Father, we can chalk that one up to self-defense. No moral authority for the United Stated to wage war in Yugoslavia can be found here. Backers of the United States' intervention in Yugoslavia condemn ethnic cleansing, and when their words go unheeded, they bomb the perpetrators. Analogously, some folks condemn abortions, and when they are unheeded, they bomb the clinics. Neither bombing can be justified Biblically.

So if we can't find a moral imperative to intervene in Yugoslavia, perhaps we can make a case that we do so because it is in our own self-interest to do so. President Clinton has claimed that his actions will help avert a repeat of the sequence of events in the Balkans that lead up to the start of World War I. But it can be argued equally well that the acts of war which are being committed by the United States and NATO invite a spreading conflict that will ignite World War III.

What is our self-interest? First and foremost, it is self-defense. But our defenses are being gutted. Our stockpile of conventional-warhead cruise missiles has been dangerously depleted, even to the point that the Clinton Administration is considering cannibalizing our arsenal of nuclear-warhead cruise missiles to make up the shortfall. This is not in our self interest.

Before the Kosovo crisis, the news was filled with reports of Chinese Communist spies deeply penetrating our nuclear laboratories, of the Clinton Administration facilitating transfer of additional sensitive dual-use (military/commercial) missile guidance and related technologies, and of the Communist Chinese conducting successful demonstrations of those technologies. Before the Kosovo crisis, Russia-watchers were sounding alarms that Russia was deploying new warships equipped with a new generation of nuclear weapons, that Russia has installed an anti-ballistic missile defense capability (unlike our undeveloped, undeployed "star-wars" counterpart), and that old-guard Communists were gaining sway within Russia's government. Despite the campaign rhetoric of President Clinton to the effect that no longer are our children targeted by nuclear missiles, we DO need to be concerned about maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent.

But even beyond the strategic defense issues are the foreign relations problems caused by our military stance. I remember reading of a conversation between a high ranking Soviet official and a United States official, in which the Soviet official said regarding their debacle in Afghanistan something to the effect of:

Militarily, our involvement in Afghanistan hasn't hurt us that much. Yes, we have some casualties, but it allows our next generation of soldiers and officers to gain experience in battle with live fire. But diplomatically, Afghanistan has been a disaster. Our Foreign Minister travels around the world, seeking to expand relations with third-world countries. But their response is that they don't need the kind of 'help' we are giving our friends the Afghans.
The United States is now cultivating that same "bully" image in world public opinion. The more we use military action to enforce our view of the way the world should be, the more cause other countries will have to mistrust us and even to arm against us.

We need to return to the doctrine of Teddy Roosevelt, and "Walk softly but Carry a Big Stick." The Clinton doctrine of "Talk loudly and fragment your military in a myriad of actions" is a disaster waiting to explode in our face. No, the United States should not isolate itself from the rest of the world. But when the United States decides that it has a moral imperative to attack some other sovereign nation, it had best first gain the true backing of the rest of the world community as President George Bush did in the Gulf War. President Clinton has failed utterly in building broad international support for our actions in Yugoslavia. Even his support base in the United States is dwindling. It is time to cut our losses and get our military out of Yugoslavia.

For Further Information Check Out These Books

Further Background on the War in Yugoslavia

Book Cover A Republic Not an Empire: Reclaiming America's Destiny
Patrick J. Buchanan
America should walk softly and carry a big stick, and only engage military threats to our own nation.

Book Cover Costs of War: America's Pyrrhic Victories
John Denson
U.S. military involvements from the Civil War Between the States to the present have lead to a strengthening of centralized Federal authority and programs. The author argues that it is time for the United States to return to the philosophical vision of the 'Old Right': limited government and a retreat from the 'New World Order'.

Copyright © 1999 Daniel Weyrich.

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Last updated: October 15, 1999; Version: 1.3