Of War and Duty

The Colossus of Freedom

The Colossus of Freedom

And so, we come to it, don’t we, ISIS/ISIL/IS has decided they are at war with the United States, which isn’t much surprise. I’m confident that like the other enemies that have found us, such as Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, assorted Barbary Pirates, and a few others, their Hubris will eventually meet Nemesis. I was very angry this week when James Foley was murdered by this thuggish group of so-called terrorists.

I will further admit that my anger deepened as I learned that of all of what we call western civilization, only the United States and the United Kingdom do not pay ransom to these thugs for their captives. In fact, that is one of the major sources of their funding. We don’t because we know better.

But it is very important to make such decision not in anger but coldly and with calculation, and with recourse to prayer, and to our conscience. And so let us reflect on our duty to God, and to man.

The first foreign war of the United States was The First Barbary War which was fought because the Bashaw of Tripoli kept demanding tribute to leave our merchantmen alone. That was in 1801.

The Uk has even older experience, summed up this way

As always, Kipling nails it.

We have an incident from the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, in which an American, named Ion Perdicaris was kidnapped by a tribal leader known as the Raisuli who demanded ransom from the Bey of Algiers, by the time it was resolved the entire Atlantic Flotilla was in Algiers harbor, ready to do what, no one knows (or knew then, for that matter) but the point was made. Do not screw with Americans. I’m fairly certain that there are equivalent British incidents somewhere in the Levant. It’s a lesson that needs to be taught periodically, it seems.

Be that as it may, wise men usually believe people who tell them that their bands of thugs are at war with them. That’s true even if our State department teenage spokeschick doesn’t understand.

I hope (forlornly, most likely) that the government is as embarrassed at her nonsense as I am.

But in any case, these thugs, who claim to be a ‘State’ also claim to be at war with the United States of America. Incidentally, the blowhard who said he was going to fly the IS flag from the White House won’t be, he’s worm food now, courtesy of the United States.

But much more importantly can we, of the west, legitimately claim this is a war, and more, a just war? Well the source for that is St. Thomas Aquinas, in The Summa Theologica; Part II, Question 40. St. Thomas says this, in part:

I answer that, In order for a war to be just, three things are necessary. First, the authority of the sovereign by whose command the war is to be waged. For it is not the business of a private individual to declare war, because he can seek for redress of his rights from the tribunal of his superior. Moreover it is not the business of a private individual to summon together the people, which has to be done in wartime. And as the care of the common weal is committed to those who are in authority, it is their business to watch over the common weal of the city, kingdom or province subject to them. And just as it is lawful for them to have recourse to the sword in defending that common weal against internal disturbances, when they punish evil-doers, according to the words of the Apostle (Rm. 13:4): “He beareth not the sword in vain: for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil”; so too, it is their business to have recourse to the sword of war in defending the common weal against external enemies. Hence it is said to those who are in authority (Ps. 81:4): “Rescue the poor: and deliver the needy out of the hand of the sinner”; and for this reason Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 75): “The natural order conducive to peace among mortals demands that the power to declare and counsel war should be in the hands of those who hold the supreme authority.”

Secondly, a just cause is required, namely that those who are attacked, should be attacked because they deserve it on account of some fault. Wherefore Augustine says (Questions. in Hept., qu. x, super Jos.): “A just war is wont to be described as one that avenges wrongs, when a nation or state has to be punished, for refusing to make amends for the wrongs inflicted by its subjects, or to restore what it has seized unjustly.”

Thirdly, it is necessary that the belligerents should have a rightful intention, so that they intend the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil. Hence Augustine says (De Verb. Dom. [*The words quoted are to be found not in St. Augustine’s works, but Can. Apud. Caus. xxiii, qu. 1]): “True religion looks upon as peaceful those wars that are waged not for motives of aggrandizement, or cruelty, but with the object of securing peace, of punishing evil-doers, and of uplifting the good.” For it may happen that the war is declared by the legitimate authority, and for a just cause, and yet be rendered unlawful through a wicked intention. Hence Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 74): “The passion for inflicting harm, the cruel thirst for vengeance, an unpacific and relentless spirit, the fever of revolt, the lust of power, and such like things, all these are rightly condemned in war.”

Seems pretty clear cut to me, as long as we are protecting (or attempting to, the victims of ISIS, we are fine, and I fail to see anything these folks have that we want enough to fight a war over.

I’ll readily grant that opinions over the second gulf war are divided, although I recognize that the way it worked out it would have been better not to fight it.

But that’s a reason not to attempt nation-building, not an excuse to shirk our duty to protect the weak. We have learned, or at least we should have, that we cannot, in a reasonable time, teach people how to build a western country. We accomplished it in the Philippines, Britain almost accomplished it in India (that might yet work out). But in all cases it is a very long drawn out process, requiring scores of years to centuries.

And in truth, it took us centuries to make the “rule of law’ work in our home countries, and we are again wondering if we shall have to fight a civil war for it.

The sad part is, that given our leadership in America, and maybe Britain as well (although Cameron sounds much better lately than Obama) we will likely have to wait until we have new leadership. That will have costs to our countries, and may have catastrophic cost to those who are neighbors of or conquered by IS. But our countries have never yet been ready for war when it came, and it has always cost us, and it has always cost innocent people but, it is the mark of peaceful people, I think.


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16 Responses to Of War and Duty

  1. boudicabpi says:

    Reblogged this on BPI reblog and commented:
    Of War and Duty


  2. One thing is certain, no one in this Obama Administration is going to quote The Old Ox: Thomas Aquinas! And when will this Administration realize that we are at war with much of Radical Islam? And at least in most areas of ideology, we are in a war of ideas with Islam generally! They of course don’t see a division between religion and the state! But do “we” realize that this is a war of complete survival? This is the way our enemies see it! And make no mistake, when they can, they will lob a nuke into America and the West! Lets hope and pray it won’t happen? But we must be vigilant, and ready for war! But can we wait for new leadership, that is a real question! Hopefully the American military leadership can press and convince the present Administration that America must go full bore with ISIS/ISIL!


    • NEO says:

      Same thought I have. I hope that the boys at Fort Fumble can hold the line, cause you’re correct, nobody in this clown car government is going to recognize that there is a war.

      But there is, and it’s for civilization. What I didn’t put into this is that St Augustine and St. Thomas both recognized an individual right of self defense. I’m afraid we will need it.


      • Amen, both Augustine and Aquinas have it right here, as to the general individual right of self defense! Btw, Aquinas spoke of himself as something of an “Augustinian”. I too like the Old Ox, and read him often actually, but sadly he appears to be sort of “history” now to so-called modern Catholicism. If they use him, it is only eclectic! Time to break out the old classic by Etienne Gilson: The Christian Philosophy Of St. Thomas Aquinas! (But note, I have myself of late been reading John Calvin! Though I am always something of his “disciple”. He was too his own version of an Augustinian!)


        • NEO says:

          Heh! I came up in the old E&R and was confirmed using the Evangelical Catechism, I came to prefer my Luther unadulterated, so to speak but, Calvin does have much to offer, the problem there was trying to combine the two-especially to Prussia’s glory.


        • For me, Luther and Calvin are somewhat a one-two punch! As Law and Gospel! And I surely love Luther’s doctrine of his “theologia crucis”! But, the real Calvin is really still unknown in much of modern so-called Calvinism! And still much of his written ministry is still in Latin. Btw, see if you care, Bruce Gordon’s new (2009) historical bio: “Calvin” (‘But if there be no certain knowledge for the present, and no constant and unhesitant persuasion for the future, who dare glory?’ – John Calvin on Romans 5: 2, quoted by Gordon, under “For Rona” above the copyright page, second page). This book will become the new great Bio on Calvin’s life! It is from Yale University Press, where Gordon is professor of Reformation history. – It is now out in paperback, since 2011. The New York Times wrote: ‘Gordon’s detailed portrait of Calvin is a man in constant motion, beleaguered by political and religious turmoil, a leader who “never controlled his agenda” … has special value.’


        • NEO says:

          I’ll have to keep that one in mind, he does have a lot to offer.


        • Btw, someone asked me just the other day, which are you a Lutheran or a Calvinist? And I had to say as something of a classic Anglican, I am a Neo-Calvinist, but one who loves the historical Luther, but sees and believes in being a “Calvin – Calvinist”! The latter is still rolling out theologically! The pastor-teacher must also be in constant motion to some degree, always learning and tweaking biblically and theologically! ; More of his own refinement therein, however. (1 Tim. 4: 16)


        • NEO says:

          Jess (who is an Anglo-Catholic) and I have found our beliefs to be very close. Which is a bit strange, I’m in ELCA which is in communion with the Episcopalians but would fit better with the MS (and maybe Confessional) Lutherans, who aren’t, but are closer to both you and her.


        • I can still remember when I was first an Anglican, after leaving Catholicism, I was certainly Anglo-Catholic, and for a few years. And there I became close to the EO or Orthodoxy too. And I still somewhat respect both places, but the Reformation and the Reformers always seem to get the best of me! As I have written because of the liberalism of modern Anglicanism generally (and now I am certain of even some Apostasy therein), I came close to going to Orthodoxy several years back, but there again the Reformation principle’s, of course with men like Luther and Calvin, I just could not move all that way theologically. But again I respect the EO generally with their Trinitarian doctrine (to degree) and Christology. But their loss of both Imputation and Adoption, is just too much to bear for my Reformational mind-set! And of course I see St. Paul as surely closer to the Reformers! And then I do surely believe very strongly in what I believe and see to be the Pauline doctrine of Predestination and Election! (And this is NO Ivory-tower doctrine for me, after being in my share of combat over the years, and just further life experience!) Indeed GOD is His own Sovereign! (Romans 8: 28-30, etc. / Eph. 1: 4-5-6)


        • NEO says:

          Always interesting how we get to where we are. One of my Brit friends started out low church anglican went to Orthodox and finally (and happily) ended u with Rome. I haven’t actually changed since i got involved in the theology, I became a Lutheran because my ex was, and there were no E&R (now UCC, EEK!) churches here. it was either Lutheran or Methodist.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I must confess it is always strange, and somewhat odd to me that some former biblical Christians are drawn to Rome? I have come to the conclusion that these people are looking for that idea of authority, which I see as only coming from that Reformational place of sola Scriptura itself! This does not negate “tradition” to some degree, but it does place the Holy Scripture as the absolute authority, in things biblical and revelatory, and tradition as surely secondary. And here most certainly even the historical church is subordinate! It is here btw, that I so love Luther’s…Here I stand! Such a providence and history! (I.e. Dr. Luther!) 🙂

          *And btw, Luther surely had a most profound and positive biblical and theological effect on the Wesley brothers and Methodism! (They were classic Anglicans so degree)


        • NEO says:

          Sure enough. Of course in the last few years before the Act of supremacy the charge was usually “Lollardry or Lutheranism”. No wonder we’re a bit alike, we always have been.


        • Yes, they hated old John Wycliffe, and “Lollardy” was a derogatory! Not much has really changed, if one stands upon Holy Scripture “alone”, even today it is thought to be a negative place! But “alone” here really means Scripture in total/tote and finality! And church tradition comes secondary! Good old Luther! 😉


        • NEO says:

          And old Tyndale was lucky to live through it. Yep, it need to be read through Faith and tradition but Scripture is the foundation.

          he was indeed a good ‘un. 🙂


  3. Pingback: BPI reblog Daily Archives: August 22, 2014 | Boudica BPI Weblog

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