Monday, August 11, 2008
On Georgia, Russia and the Cause of Freedom
As a theologian one of the toughtest questions that one is asked to answer is, “Are wars always moral evils?” I have written in the past that I am a “near passificist,” which means that I prefer peace to militarism, but also understand that there are indeed worse things than war. There is repression, there is ethnic cleansing, there are pogroms, this is evil taking advantage of the tools of peace.
Which brings us to the horrible news coming out of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.
Map is of the old Soviet Republic of Georgia so you can see the former boundaries more clearly.
When the Russians elected Putin as president after the days of Yeltsin, many of us knew what this meant. Because democracy in its earliest stages had shown itself corrupt and impotent, the Russian people had chosen force, brutality and effeciency. Say what you will about regimes like Russia and China, but they do now how to have the trains run on time. And they, like Hitler before them, have produced material benefit for many of the people. And because, at least in America, both political parties are beholding to the idea of “foreign trade” (i.e., we dont want to miss out on new markets), we willingly turn our heads whenever these two regimes do things that we would prefer they didn’t. There was of course Tienemman Square, where the protestors were stupid enough to think, “Hey, we have our own lady liberty, surely the U.S. is on our side!” Within months the first Bush regime sent their special representatives to tell China, “You should not have done that...now how about opening up a new Coke bottling plant.” Today China threatens Taiwan, represses Tibet, supports Sudan and they know that we will do nothing because everyone wants to make a dollar in China. Note, the Clinton White House was everybit the lapdog of China that the Bush’s have been, so, this is non-political.
Of course our friends in Russia have been equally brutal. They violently snuffed out Chechnya’s independence (hmm, not wantint outside influence in the internal matters of a country, should like russia has changed her tune on that now). They supported the Serbs in their genocidal wars against their fellow former Yugoslav neighbours. They give aid and comfort to Iran. And the West, we do nothing. Europe can do nothing… they need the gas and oil from Russia. They are held hostage because of their insane policies. And America? Well, President George W. Bush has said only two really bad things in his presidency (sorry folks, those calendars which bash him, you speak in front of million so of people every year with cameras and microphones on and see how often you make slips of the tongues, right Barak “57 States” Obama). The first was in the days after 9/11 when he told us to “go out and shop.” Yep, the most patriotic thing we could do was...shop. Geez.
But the other, and far more dangerous slip, was his statement that he had looked into President Putin’s soul and seen a man he could trust and do business with. Oh boy, got that one wrong. Putin has no soul. He has ego, he has vision, he has power...but soul? No, he long ago traded it to the devil for the reigns of Russia, and, well, he got a good deal by all accounts.
So now we see Russia acting to first undermine the internal operations of a sovereign and recongized nation, Georgia. Yes, Georgia’s attempts to re-assert controle over their two break-away provinces was at least ill-timed. One does wonder though what information they had on Russian goings-on there in the weeks before their attack. Clearly the Russian “peace-keepers” were not merely keeping the peace and we do know that over 40,000 Russian passports were fast-tracked for citizens of the two provinces (try and get a Russian passport that fast if you are, say, an American missionary in Russia).
So today, when asked if i am against war, I must say no. Russia is a beast who if she consumes Georgia will look next to other of her former territories (don’t forget what they did in Ukraine several years back). The Georgian people are already at war, the question now is what their fate will be. And so, the voice of justice and mercy calls me to say, “We must stand with the Georgian people today. If that means putting our soldiers in harms way, then, as we did in South Korea, where our actions saved a people newly freed to develop their own country and eventually gain democracy, we must stand against the foces of Russian militarism. Georgia is worth saving. And what is more justice demands it!”
For updates on Georgia, try the website of the Georgian economist Gia Jandieri at http://giajandieri.blogspot.com/
Pray for peace and justice in Georgia and in Russia. Pray that good men and women will rise to the top in both countries and that they will seek trade and mutual cooperation and not war. But pray that Georgia does not become the appetiser for Russia’s full-course new Imperialism.
Now, to those who will respond back that they are amazed a theologian can argue for war (is this not what turned Barth against theological liberalism, at least in part), my response is that God has used war, especially defensive war, in the Old Testament. Those who say that Jesus makes no room for wars place the Son in opposition to the God of the Old Testament, which is an argument from the heresay of Marcion. War is not God’s primary weapon, but because of the hardness of our hearts and the desire of some to do evil, war is one of the tools of God to defend justice and goodness. While Georgia is like all nations a fallen state, the agreesion of evil in the hearts of the Russians makes us all stand up and say, “there are worst things than war, especially when war is already present.” Pasficism is not a coherent response in a fallen world. In a fallen world passificism is the response of the fool, and at that, the dead one. Yes, Gahndi freed India through non-violence, but that is largely because he opposed a nation whose roots were Judeo Christian, not one whose roots are imperialism and violence.