One of the more common theories that you hear among libertarians and other progressives is that the reason terrorist attacks happen is because of our military presence and operations in other countries. Now in and of itself that is neither here nor there. It is like saying the ice on the road caused the wreck. The statement itself does include a moral element per se. But often the underlying assumption behind this statement is that the terrorists are justified or semi-justified in attacks like Nice because of our military presence. Even Christians tend to justify or soften the condemnation of various terrorists acts based on this line of reasoning.
But, even assuming the American military was purposely targeting civilians in a non-military zone and then killing them through acts of violence done by secret soldiers planted in that city for the express purpose of killing civilians, that does not justify the terrorists doing the same thing. There is a just way to wage war. And ISIS is not doing that. There is no justification for Nice or Paris. It was wicked and should be condemned as such.
I live in West Virginia. Imagine if a military unit from Ohio decided to set up a military or psuedo-military installation in our state. What would be the just options after all peaceful efforts at negotiation were exhausted? There are two and only two. Attack the military installation that they put in place in West Virginia or go and attack their military installations in Ohio. This would be the courageous and just thing to do. It would not be courageous or just for West Virginia to send citizens to Cincinnati and begin picking off children with a sniper rifle. That would be wicked.
This is not a justification of American foreign policy. It is terrible and we have meddled in far too many countries. We should pull out and let the nations deal with their issues. I do not think we should have military bases all over the world. Nor is this to say that the American military has not done some wicked things in her history.
But that in no way justifies ISIS and the barbaric, terrorists acts they commit against civilians. When Christians imply that it does they are buying into the idea that victims have free reign to do as they please. If you have been victimized then you are no longer bound by a moral code. This is a dark lie from the pit and does tremendous harm. If ISIS really had courage and cared about their region and people they would amass an army and seek to drive out the invaders or whatever they call us or they would negotiate for peace, which would include us leaving their countries or region. That is just and right.
We can condemn American foreign policy and at the same time condemn the ISIS attacks. When Christians condemn the former and not the latter they show themselves to be postmodern in their thinking instead of biblical.
Moral justification and a good explanation are two different things that sound very similar. One son smacked his brother in the face. How could he do such a thing? I wondered. After investigating it seems that the one that got smacked had been harassing his brother. This is an important insight. I can say he smacked him because he was tired of being bullied. This is a good explanation and in giving this explanation I have not tried to justify anything morally. I think most people who talk about blow back are trying to explain why terrorists are attacking, not trying to evaluate the morality of their actions. I think a Christian condemning American foreign policy and ignoring the guilt of the terrorist is not trying to justify them, but simply working on the side of the equation they think they have some control over. It’s like when you tell your kids not a tease a strange dog, rather than telling the dog not to bite your kids.
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Evan, thanks for commenting. Of course, you are right in many cases and make some good points. It is a tangled mess over there and like most blog posts this is too simplistic. I know you don’t justify the violence by ISIS and many comments can be simple cause and effect statement. B will naturally follow A.
I agree the US is what we can control so that is where the emphasis should be. As Christians, we can see that American foreign policy is foolish and in many cases wicked. We should work to get the American military back on our shores, protecting our land, and not policing the world. Our presence there is no doubt a fine recruiting tool, helpful way of stirring up the masses, and has not contributed to the peace or health of the region. There is no disputing that. But I think there are some weaknesses with the cause and effect line of thinking when it comes to terrorism and ISIS.
ISIS and other terrorists are not hitting back at the brother. They are hitting a cousin who lives three houses down because the brother bullied them. If they struck at the brother that was hitting them, that is the American military or French military, that makes more sense, is justifiable, and would show they have concrete goals in the war they are waging. But they don’t do this, which makes me wonder if the problem is really the presence of foreigners or something else.
There is no indication from ISIS or other Muslim terrorist groups that us leaving would cause the attacks to abate. They are interested in violence and terror because of their fundamental beliefs. What drives most (not all) terrorism is core religious beliefs not the American military presence. Even if America was not there this would still be happening and the countries that were being attacked by terrorists would need to respond. Part of the reason for writing the post was I am thinking through what is proper military action in our current situation. If I was the leader of France what would I have done after the attack in Nice? Would I be justified in bombing known ISIS strong holds? I am not sure and the answers are not easy given the cowardice of ISIS, their refusal to engage in true military combat, and our own contributions to the problems. But part of my fear is that in our reaction to America’s military overreach we fail to realize there are places where military action is not only justified by actually demanded. In other words, there are times where failing to bomb the enemy is wrong.