“War is Not the Answer”

Posted on March 12, 2015


That was one of many stickers on the back of a car I was idly looking at while at a stop sign or red light. In fact, various signs, among them “Obama/Biden,” and others, were pasted all over the back window and door of the small SUV, kind of a rolling advertisement for the owner’s political agenda I suppose.

The all-time best bumper sticker I saw was a few years ago. “Beam Me Up Scotty, There’s No Intelligent Life Here.” Of course, you have to be old enough to remember Scotty and Star Trek, but youngsters can Wikipedia both if they want to know.

War is an ugly human activity. I had to agree in general principle with the car’s owner. But I suspect s/he felt that war was not the answer in general to anything that provoked or irritated you. Or, worse of course, anything that included all forms of human outrage up to, and including, genocide.

My mind turned the question over as we went our separate ways. I was reminded of an article I read not too long ago in one of my aviation magazines. I have little single engine Cessna, really, it should be classified an antique it has so many hours on it, and the guys at NASCAR races go twice as fast as I can go, even descending, but it gets me around in the air, and the view is much better than just the same old crowd at a track going past you in a blur at 200+ mph.

Anyhow, I read aviation magazines regularly to keep abreast of what’s happening, which, in my case, is simply dreaming about new equipment, new airplanes, and a GPS that could take you to the moon and back if you had a fast enough vehicle to escape the earth’s gravitation.

Anyhow, the columnist wrote a piece on “asking the right question.” It was about, generally, how you get out of tough situations, like weather-related problems, mismanagement of fuel (try running out of gas in a single-engine aircraft), a blown cylinder, and the like, most of them nightmare scenarios. And if you don’t ask yourself the right question, a hard and correct one, you will substitute an easy one, with an easy answer, and maybe get in serious doo doo.

“War is Not the Answer” is obviously in response to the question, “When is War Right,” or “Appropriate,” or “Just,” or whatever you want to substitute in that question. Or, what do we do when under a tyranny, a demented ruler, a theocracy gone autocratic, or any one of dozens of scenarios that have dotted history.

What do you do: when you have expended all the diplomatic efforts; when the conversations and dialogues no longer produce results; when you are attacked, like at Pearl Harbor in 1941, or the World Trade Center in 2001?

What do you do? “War is Not the Answer” is, I suggest, a copout. It is a simple answer to a complex question. It will, as in simple answers, get you in trouble.

Some bumper stickers are funny. Some are witty. Some are spot on. And some are political sloganeering, the result of sloppy thinking.

By contrast, I like the bumper sticker “WWJD,” or “What Would Jesus Do?” Perhaps that is the answer (the right, and the tough one) to “When is War Right?”

At the core of his message was love and forgiveness, but he also chased the moneychangers out of the Temple in Jerusalem and excoriated the Pharisees on numerous occasions for their hypocrisy and lack of true understanding and compassion. If there was evil in his world, he called it for what it was and did something about it. And he told his followers–you will be called to account for what you say and do.

Is war ever just? Determining what is just, or, conversely, unjust is the subject of another column, or, even better, a book, because that is what makes a war right. Personally, I would be happy with an enemy who had “War is Not the Answer” as their cardinal principle when it came to making war.

“Well, we don’t have to worry about them.”

Maybe that’s the message we are projecting to the radical Islamicists. As a recent column by Earl Tilford told us, we can be very good warriors when on a crusade for justice and when war is right.

It is never good, but it is sometimes very right. Lincoln understood that principle. So did Franklin Roosevelt, and other great wartime leaders.

I am not espousing making foreign policy and war based on bumper stickers and political slogans, but I’d rather have someone thinking deeply and clearly about what Jesus would do, rather than one cluelessly living by “War is Not the Answer.”

Published in my blog, The Port Rail” as ” ‘War is Not the Answer’is too easy an answer for a complex problem” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday March 8, 2015