Despite the fact that I commented on Jerry Falwell as recently as Wednesday, I've tried to keep my more recent posts away from being explicitly political. While I do have some fairly strong opinions, there are some extremely complex issues out there, and I find that when I weigh in such matters, I tend to generate more heat than light. Nevertheless, the events of the past week have meant that political matters have been on my mind enough that I need to weigh in.
After hearing this letter during this past Sunday's broadcast of Speaking of Faith on my local NPR station, I had to pass on a link. The letter responds to a scholar who argues (and I'm being a bit simplistic here) for a self-sacrificing attitude to all of life, including military disputes. It tells of a soldier whose battalion was ordered not to retaliate when attacked. Only under very specific circumstances ("if we were 100 percent certain that a particular person had thrown a grenade or fired a shot at us") could a soldier fire back. You'll need to read the letter yourself for the full details, but the end result was that the civilians in the area of the dispute ended up realizing that the soldiers themselves weren't a threat, and they worked to make it clear that insurgent attacks were not welcome. This "victory" did not come without cost. Many soldiers were injured, and one was killed. But how many more people (especially civilians) might have injured or killed if the battalion had responded differently?
I do not know how much of this soldier's experience could actually be applied to Iraq, but it certainly sounds like a similar environment in many ways, and the soldier himself seems to think so, as well. It certainly serves as an anecdotal counter-argument against those who argue that unless such attacks are met with force, they will continue, and the insurgents will become emboldened. I pray that those who are in charge of our military action in Iraq may at least be exposed to letters like these, and that wisdom may be drawn from these experiences.