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War: The Most Dreaded Enemy of Liberty

During the course of my lifetime (b. 1949) America has fought many wars. In fact, we have been engaged in foreign struggles and combat for almost the entirety of my lifetime, with the exception of the four years of President Carter’s administration (1977-1981). This simple fact got me to thinking recently about an anniversary of a historic document in American history that is 222 years old tomorrow, April 20.

This statement goes as follows:

 

Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.

War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.

In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.

The same malignant aspect in republicanism may

Pondering the Syrian Context on the Day After Our Nation Launched Fifty Tomahawk Missiles

Late late night I read the first news reports of our president’s authorization of the launch of fifty missiles on Syrian air bases. (He warned the Russians in advance so their soldiers would leave, wanting to avoid a direct conflict with Russia.) It appears this morning that we hit military targets and human casualties will be small, perhaps even none. The reason for this attack was the outrage felt by our nation, and our president, upon seeing the helpless children who had died at the hands of President Assad through the use of chemical weapons. (Of course, Assad is denying he was behind this and blames the rebellion for the use of such weapons.)

I am deeply troubled by these events. Let me explain why.

Is this strike a one-time military action? If not, what is our strategy going forward? If there is “no red line” that Assad can cross to lead us into a “hot war” with him (which Mr. Trump promised for months he would not do) then why did these photos of dead children prompt this response and why now? Is there a policy for

What You Can Do About the Kenya Massacre: Choose to Love

Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe

IMG_9498Once again the senseless massacre of almost 150 students in Kenya has demonstrated the fallenness and depravity of humanity. It is impossible to comprehend the depth of brutality that human beings can perpetrate against others, particularly children and young people. Lives filled with so much hope and potential were snuffed out by the barbarity of those who seemingly will stop at nothing to promote their twisted ideology and beliefs.

What should be responses to such acts of cruelty? We have already seen swift military action by the Kenyan government in retaliation for the atrocities committed. Yet what should your response be, and the response of every individual Christian before God? The natural inclination is anger, to lash back, to punish the perpetrators. Yes, justice demands we respond and hold accountable the killers. But is that all we can do and will it bring an end to these senseless attacks?

It is a primary responsibility of governments to protect its citizens. However, given the fact the growing threat of terrorists is not contained within a specific geographic border,

Two Modern Films That Define Us as Americans, Part Two

11181470_oriIn complete contrast with American Sniper the new film McFarland USA is a Disney movie. It is also based on a true story. It is an against-all-odds story of the 1987 McFarland high school cross country team in an economically challenged community in the central valley of California. Some reviewers think the film is “corny” and hopelessly romanticized. I found it pure, unadulterated inspiration. Kevin Costner plays the lead role as a high school teacher and coach who is stuck in a small town with a largely Hispanic population of poor immigrant farm workers. (The issue of documented or undocumented people never arises in the movie but reality says both kinds of immigrants are in the story!) The story revolves around a family of four moving to this small California farm town of McFarland, which really is the name of the town. (McFarland is about ten miles from where one of my best friends lives, Rev. David Moorhead. David a Reformed Church in America church-planting pastor in Shafter.) Costner’s character takes a job as a science and physical

Two Modern Films That Define Us as Americans, Part One

11180834_oriI have not reviewed a movie here for many months, maybe for a year or more. I am not sure why this is true. I simply lost interest in film reviews I suppose. I’ve also seen some fairly bad movies in the last year. I think the Academy nominees for this year included some of the weakest films and performances in years. But I have not lost my interest in film.

In the first few months of 2015 I have seen several films that I enjoyed. Today I’d like to compare and contrast two films that capture something of the spirit of America. One is being deeply debated, American Sniper. The other film, McFarland USA, is not so well known but should be. (I will give the compare and contrast part of my blog in tomorrow’s post.)

American Sniper is a critically acclaimed movie that is debated left and right. It features Clint Eastwood’s sure-handed direction and has a gripping central performance from Bradley Cooper, who plays the lead role as a sniper in Iraq. It is tense, violent,

Max Boot's "Twelve Articles" on Guerrilla Warfare and Terrorism

Colonel Roger Trinquier (1961) said, “We . . . attack an enemy who is invisible, fluid, uncatchable.” Perhaps no statement included in Max Boot’s masterful history of guerrilla and terrorist warfare better sums up what we have faced since 9/11.

imagesHistorian Max Boot concludes his massive tome on guerrilla and terrorist warfare with a postscript called: “The Lessons of Five Thousand Years.” In 1917 T. E. Lawrence wrote an essay called “Twenty-Seven Articles” which summed up many of the lessons that he had learned as an insurgent fighter. Boot provides twelve articles that sum up the lessons we can learn from Invisible Armies. I will not develop each one extensively but provide some brief comments.

1. Guerrilla Warfare has been ubiquitous and important throughout history.

Much of the world’s population lives in states whose current boundaries and forms of government were determined by insurgencies waged by or against their ancestors. This is not just true in the two-thirds world. Think of the United Kingdom. It is united because the English defeated the Scottish and Irish insurgencies. America is united because

Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present

UnknownMax Boot’s new book, Invisible Armies (New York: W. W. Norton, 2013), presents an encyclopedic survey of guerrilla warfare in a readable, vivid narrative that has to be the comprehensive work on the subject. I confess that I would never have read a book on modern warfare had it not caught my eye on the “New Non-Fiction” shelf in my public library. But there it was – “speaking to me”– so I decided to give it a go. I did not read it word-for-word, and frankly felt no desire to do so since I did not buy the book @ the list price of $35.00. (This is one of the many advantages of using the library since I do not feel “guilty” when I dip into such a big book and browse only what truly interests me!) End notes and text make the book come to exactly 750 pages!

Max Boot is the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal, and

Muslim Attacks in Kenya: "Blessed are the Peacemakers"

On July 1 International Christian Concern reported that suspected members of the Islamic radical group, Al-Shabaab, attacked two Christian churches and killed 17 Christians in Harissa, Kenya. These attacks took place during Sunday morning worship services. The news is now global and viral.

Pastor Ibrahim Magunyi, of the East Africa Pentecostal Church, confirmed the incident to ICC and said, “Many people were injured and rushed to Garissa Provincial hospital.”

The Islamists killed two policemen guarding the African Inland Church before entering and throwing grenades among the worshippers and shooting people randomly. This apparently coordinated attack also prompted grenades to be thrown at the town’s Roman Catholic Church.

Al-Shabaab has infiltrated Kenya over recent months and placed the nation, and especially Kenya’s Christians, on terror alert. I wonder if we even begin to imagine what it would be like attending worship with fear and terror surrounding us when we gathered? I wonder who would consider “forsaking the assembling of ourselves” to be a serious option in order to save our lives?

But there is another side to this horror story. The

By |July 6th, 2012|Categories: Islam, The War on Terrorism|

The Tragedy of Syria: Christians in the Crossfire

Map_of_syriaIf you watch or follow American news, from the left or the right, you hear continual calls for our government, working with the United Nations, to engage militarily with the Syrian government in support of the rebels in that nation. I submit that the simple view held by the vast majority of Syria's Christians is very different from what we hear day-to-day. Their message is: "Please stay out!" Why? After all, some Christians have died in the present cycle of extreme violence. And this uprising is now nearly a year old. The images we generally see are of government oppression and open attacks on rebels that defy imagination. 

As with Iraq so it now is with Syria. If the secular government is removed the end result will likely be much worse for minorities, especially for Christian minorities. Syria's religions are as follows: 74% Sunni Muslims, 13% other Muslims, 10% Christian and 3% Druze. President Bashar Assad, an autocratic leader for

9/11: Did America Overreact?

The Wall Street Journal offered an op-ed response to this question in their Friday, 9/9, issue. The responses were extremely varied. Some suggested that invading Iraq was a huge mistake. Some disagree. All thought a response to Afghanistan was called for militarily. You could predict the responses in advance if you knew their personal stance on international engagement and the use of military force. Paul Wolfowitz and Joe Lieberman were OK with the wide-scale use of force while Zbigniew Brzezinski and Robert McFarlane were not. One commentator, the author Mark Helprin, argued that we should have invaded the countries that held terrorists in them, brought down the dictators, and then left! He argues that “reforming” the Arab world will never work so why should we have begun a course that has led to failure. Hmmmm.

military-2.121184821 What is the right answer? I have no idea. And if you do then I think you will believe in your own view of the world regardless of the complications involved in holding