Like many, I'm wary of U.S. military intervention in other nations. I opposed the war in Afghanistan early because, along with the church I served at the time, I felt that U.S. intervention there would be harmful to the civilian population and that the United States would leave Afghanistan in a position similar to that of the Soviet withdrawal, weakened and humbled, without achieving our legitimate goal of defeating the terrorists who attacked the U.S. on 9/11. I also opposed the war with Iraq. Here I had more company as nearly every Christian denomination across the globe that issued a statement concerning the matter opposed invading Iraq. A preemptive war is never legitimate. What is happening in Libya today is not the same as Afghanistan or Iraq. The United Nations, not a U.S.-led coalition under cover of a UN mandate, is working to stop the slaughter of a civilian population. This is what should have occurred in Rwanda.
I'm not sure how other Christian leaders will react. Already, many people I respect have been critical of President Obama and the allied forces attacking Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and his forces. There are legitimate concerns to be raised about civilian causalities. But I agree with Peter Daou, a former campaign aide to John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, who tweeted tonight: "I don't see a parallel between a war Bush launched based on lies and Obama's action to prevent atrocities in #Libya." So far I have seen no statements from the National Council of Churches or op-ed pieces from religious leaders offering support or criticism. But while I believe that war is always a failure of the human imagination and tainted by sin, I also believe there are times where it can be necessary. Much of my own thinking on the use of violence to protect civilian populations is informed by Samantha Power's book A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. Power now works in the Obama Administration. For now, I will offer support and prayers for President Obama, prayers for the allied forces, and prayers for all the people of Libya that the violence there ends quickly and that the civilian population can be free from terror. I extend that prayer for all the people of the world and hope for the day when democratic nations no longer support governments that commitment human rights violations with weapons contracts and other forms of aid that prop up too many corrupt governments.
I will also continue to closely monitor the events as they unfold and continue to reassess my views as needed.