While President Obama dithers about whether to “destroy” ISIS or “manage” them, the Christian left is urging him to engage the butchers in nonviolent, “community-level peace and reconciliation processes.”
The Catholic, Washington-based Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns recently posted a letter addressed to President Obama and other White House officials at the end of August. Signed by 53 national religious groups (including Maryknoll), academics, and ministers, the letter urged the White House to avoid warfare in Iraq by resorting to “a broader set of smart, effective nonviolent practices to engage hostile conflicts.” The strategies are part of “a fresh way to view and analyze conflicts” offered by an emerging ecumenical paradigm called “justpeace” (a cutesy combination of justice and peace). This approach was initiated by the Faith Forum for Middle East Policy, a “network of Christian denominations and organizations working for a just peace in the Middle East.”
The signers expressed their “deep concern” not so much over “the dire plight of Iraqi civilians” being slaughtered by ISIS as “the recent escalation of U.S. military action” in response. “U.S. military action is not the answer,” they claim, sounding a pacifist note common among left-leaning Christians. “We believe that the way to address the crisis is through long-term investments in supporting inclusive governance and diplomacy, nonviolent resistance, sustainable development, and community-level peace and reconciliation processes.”
Good luck with that. It doesn’t take a diplomatic genius to know that ISIS’ response to such flaccid tactics would be the same as the one they delivered recently in a video warning to the U.S.: “We will drown all of you in blood.”
But the left deals in wishful thinking, not reality. Thus the signers affirm, with Pope Francis, that “peacemaking is more courageous than warfare” – a statement that makes a great bumper sticker for Priuses but has no basis in fact. “It is licit to stop the unjust aggressor,” concedes Pope Francis, but “stop” does not mean wage war, which he calls the “suicide of humanity.”
Typical of the blame-America-first left, the letter’s signers faulted “decades of U.S. political and military intervention, coupled with inadequate social reconciliation programs,” for “the current crisis in Iraq.” More violence, they believe, will simply lead to “a continual cycle of violent intervention” that does not address “the root causes of the conflict.” You know that when the left speaks of “root causes,” they mean poverty, social injustice, imperialism – all of the familiar grievances whereby the left legitimizes “freedom fighters” such as ISIS. The left is also fond of the notion of the “cycle of violence” – as if both sides are equally to blame, and if one side takes the bold step to end that cycle, the other side will stop as well.
“We… deeply share the desire to protect people, especially civilians,” the letter continues, but “there are better, more effective, more healthy and more humanizing ways” to do that. Those steps include the following recommendations:
- Stop U.S. bombing in Iraq “to prevent bloodshed, instability and the accumulation of grievances.”
- Provide “robust humanitarian assistance” to refugees fleeing the violence, “in coordination with the United Nations.”
- Engage with the UN, all Iraqi political and religious leaders, and others in the international community on diplomatic efforts.
- Support community-based nonviolent resistance strategies to transform the conflict and meet the deeper need and grievances of all parties.
- Strengthen financial sanctions against armed actors in the region by working through the UN Security Council.
- Bring in professionally trained unarmed civilian protection organizations.
- An arms embargo on all parties to the conflict.
- Support Iraqi civil society efforts to build peace, reconciliation, and accountability at the community level.
I don’t see how any of these are more effective than annihilating ISIS militarily, particularly since the UN is worthless and hardcore jihadists would simply consider the above methods to be indications of weakness from our side. The signers close the letter by asking Obama to “move beyond the ways of war and into the frontier of just peace responses to violent conflict.”
Priests like those at Maryknoll naturally seek peaceful solutions – that’s understandable, and peaceful solutions are certainly preferable if they are available or possible. But working toward peace requires the willing participation of all parties. If one side is hell-bent on genocide, and views conciliatory overtures from their enemy as pathetic weakness, then all the “community-based nonviolent resistance” in the known universe isn’t going to persuade them to compromise for the sake of peace; on the contrary, it will only encourage and embolden them to keep slaughtering. This ugly reality may not sit well with the utopians of the Christian left, who believe that harmonizing “Kumbiyah” will soften savages who think nothing of burying children alive, selling women into slavery, and sawing people’s heads off.
ISIS is not an isolated group of “extremists,” as Obama likes to call them (“extreme” what?). They are part of a surging worldwide jihad against a Western civilization that the jihadists view as weak, decadent, and dying. A falling camel attracts many knives, as the Arabic saying goes, and the jihadists smell blood. They are not impressed or moved by promises of “inclusive governance” or “reconciliation processes.” They don’t respect interfaith dialogue or hashtag diplomacy. They don’t desire peace – at least, not as we define it. Peace for them means not coexistence, as our bumper stickers urge, but worldwide submission to Allah. They respect only strength. When we work up the cultural and military will to show them that we, and not the jihadists, are the strong horse of which bin Laden spoke, we will be on our way to peace.
(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Mag, 9/8/14)