Tuesday, September 19, 2006

...cry peace, peace...

An increase in Canada's commitment to the mission in Afghanistan, together with the inevitable increase in casualties has both raised the public profile of the Canadian Forces, and led to questions, not only about the mission, but also about the purpose of this war, and of the Canadian military itself. As the war has made the military more visible, complaints have arisen not only about the war, but about the visibility of the military itself.

While some "exposures" of the military treat war as a game, simply making the military visible, particularly in wartime, hardly constitutes militarism. Indeed, since we have (involuntarily) gotten into a war, we have an obligation to take note of the military, and the sacrifices Canadian soldiers make on our behalf. Simple distaste for the horrors of war, or worse, blaming the military for wars, does not come close to the ethical and personal commitment required to truly make peace. To make peace here, we will have find a way to love a genuine enemy, a theocratic and political movement at odds with everything we believe. Allowing for the inevitable exaggerations in the Western media, finding a way for our society to coexist with a movement such as the Taliban will involve enormous difficulty. To argue, or suggest, that if the military did not exist, then we should have no problems living with the Taliban (and their allies) amounts to a form of escapism.

Plenty of Leftists (and some thoughtful conservatives) have had plenty to say about the "chickenhawks", who cheer-lead for the "war on terror" from a safe (a very safe) position on the sidelines. But simply saying "no" to war doesn't relieve us of the obligation we rightly deride the "chickenhawks" for shirking. In 1984, Ron Sider put it to the peace churches:

We must be prepared to die by the thousands.

Those who have believed in peace through the sword have not hesitated to die....

Why do we pacifists think that our way -- Jesus' way -- to peace will be less costly? Unless we Mennonites and Brethren in Christ are ready to start to die by the thousands in dramatic vigorous new exploits for peace and justice, we should sadly confess that we really never meant what we said....

Unless we are ready to die developing new nonviolent attempts to reduce international conflict, we should confess that we never really meant the cross was an alternative to the sword.

Ron Sider issued his challenge to professed Christians, but the same challenge goes to secular pacifists as well: we will succeed in making peace, but only at a personal price we cannot imagine. Some of us, perhaps many of us, will have to spend months or years working under tough conditions, far from home, doing the hard work of building peace. Some of us will have to face machetes or guns with our empty hands-- and, almost certainly, some of us will have to die.

This does not mean that everyone who writes or demonstrates against this war needs to pack their bags for Kabul or Darfur or Baghdad, or Guatemala City or Tehran, or any of the hundreds of places embroiled in lethal conflicts. But we should recognise that someone must pay the price. And if we cannot or will not take on the job of making peace, then let us at least have the decency to face the sacrifice that Canada's young warriors will have to keep making, until we finally find a way to make a lasting peace.

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