by Bill Barnwell
Count me as a loud dissenter to one of the latest trendy causes of many younger Evangelicals: Darfur. I have no desire to push our already overstretched military to intervene and bomb foreign warring factions into peace, love, and happiness. Interesting how many of the same people who complain about our continued military presence in Iraq (and I join in their criticisms) want the UN or the US to start dropping bombs in Darfur to kill even more people in the name of humanitarianism.
Darfur is certainly a troubled region. You can read about this very unstable area of Sudan and its long and complicated background here. However, according to some younger "emergent church"-type Evangelicals and a coalition of other voices on the left and right, the situation isn’t really all that complex. We have the power to easily solve the crisis. What’s needed is "social justice," they say. Apparently the socially just thing to do is bomb Sudan, invade yet another country, and involve ourselves in yet another messy civil war. Alas, the facts are always a little more complicated than the humanitarian enthusiasts would have you believe.
So, while many progressive Evangelicals are calling for our exit in Iraq, they are also simultaneously calling for our entrance into Sudan. Their problem is not so much that bombs are falling; they are just are in disagreement with where the bombs are falling. Progressive Evangelicals will take issue with that statement and say they merely support sanctions and UN peacekeepers to start with, and then maybe the tanks and bombs. But if history is any judge, once we insert ourselves into a "UN peacekeeping mission," we seemingly never leave. A timetable is set and pushed back year after year. "Peacekeeping" also tends to be a prelude to "war-making." And as Richard Land (the Southern Baptist Convention’s head of their Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission) says, any peacekeeping mission will need the necessary "military teeth."
According to some of our anti-Iraq war, pro-peace Evangelicals, all we need to do is just give war a chance in Darfur. This turnaround is similar to the peacenik left-wingers who in '99 traded in their lava lamps, open-toed sandals and Grateful Dead CD’s for machines guns during their euphoria to bomb Serbia for "humanitarian" reasons. Of course, those laptop bombardiers weren't the ones actually going to war, just like the belligerent rightwing bloggers and radio personalities are not the ones serving in Iraq today.
Yet eight years later that region is still largely a mess and most the stated reasons for going into that war turned out to be exaggerations or untrue. We were told Milosevic was a "new Hitler" even though he was losing a province every couple of years and his country's economic and military strength was puny. Allegations of genocide were overstated and atrocities were revealed on both sides. There's certainly real atrocities going on in Darfur right now (and that are worse than existed in Kosovo), but I have no reason to believe that we are going to make the situation all better with tanks and bombs, and apparently neither do many of the aid workers actually on the ground over there.And what of all those millions of dollars raised by the "Save Darfur Coalition?" Well, according to this recent New York Times article, it's actually not getting to Darfur and not doing much if any relief. And what do relief workers think of this proposed UN military intervention being pushed for by various left-wing gunslingers and their hipster Evangelical buddies? They claim it will result in more carnage and more damage, not less.
Note that most people attracted to a particular cause think that war should be waged long before all other options are exhausted or facts on the table (See Iraq in the summer 2002–early 2003). Personally as a Christian, I really don't see the New Testament ethic pointing towards a promotion of military strife, certainly not before all the facts are in and all options exhausted.
For every Christian who plays some "gotcha" game with me by pointing to the various wars of ancient Israel, I ask them to actually look at what the New Testament has to say. Romans 13 grants the state the authority to punish its own transgressors, but I don't see this as giving blanket authority for waging undeclared do-gooder wars against other sovereign territories – wars that often cause more harm than good. And this is a disputed point, but some NT Greek scholars would contend that the "sword" being referenced in Romans 13 is a small defensive dagger. Whatever it is, its best application for today probably isn't Humvees and stealth bombers against foreigners and "collateral damage" (a.k.a. innocent civilians).
But I'm a realist, and I know war is not likely to go away anytime soon. As a practical matter, however, I don't see this one meeting a theological or constitutional smell test. Certainly not yet at least. If someone could actually make a convincing case that bombing the bad guys of Darfur would result in a net positive, even though it would probably inflict its own evils, I might entertain such utilitarian notions even though that kind of moral equivocating troubles me. But more likely you'd have a situation similar to what happened in Kosovo, an area most people today have long forgotten about which is still quite screwed up. Or you could have American ground soldiers get in the middle of a bloody and messy civil war. I think we're already in the middle of one too many of those as it is. There is also the unfortunate reality that even though America is big and strong, it is not able, nor should it try to correct all the wrongs in the world. And as we are now seeing, it doesn't always work to try and force people to resolve their differences and get along happily ever after, even when you try and force them with a government-paid-for gun. Also, whether we want to admit it or not, we are just too stretched economically and militarily to insert ourselves into a never-ending stream of global conflicts, even ones like Darfur that involve real human rights abuses.
Make no mistake, both the left and right love military force; they just love it for different reasons. Putting the humanitarian crusaders in charge would not necessarily reduce America’s involvement in foreign wars and entanglements. They too love to play the role of Globocop. Keep that in mind before you enlist in their brigades to hop aboard the Darfur bandwagon.