Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Attacking Syria Would Be Wrong; Book Of Mormon Cautions Us Against Waging Offensive War

The proposal by Barack Obama and some European allies to bomb Syria because of reports that the Syrian government used poison gas against its citizens has foundered upon the shoals of reality. There is no firm proof that President Assad ordered the use of chemical weapons. There's even suspicion that the rebels themselves used the gas and deployed it to make it appear as if the government had launched the attack. The British Parliament refused to give Prime Minister David Cameron permission to order British forces to participate in an attack upon Syria.

But even if it is found that the Syrian government did originate the gas attack, does that make it our fight? Absolutely not -- Syria has not attacked American soil, American citizens, or American interests anywhere. Thus an American attack upon Syria would be an aggressive act of imperialism, much like our unprovoked carpet bombing of Serbia in 1999.

While the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has avoided taking any official position on the propriety of America's incessant wars, the Book of Mormon cautions people against engaging in offensive war. One of the best examples occurs during the epitaph of the organized Nephite nation -- just before the Lamanites began to sweep them off the earth just as the morning dew is swept off before the sun. Around 361-362 A.D., the Nephites and the Lamanites were battling over possession of the city of Desolation, which belonged to the Nephites by treaty. Here's the account of what happened from Mormon 3:7-15:

7 And it came to pass that in the three hundred and sixty and first year the Lamanites did come down to the city of Desolation to battle against us; and it came to pass that in that year we did beat them, insomuch that they did return to their own lands again.

8 And in the three hundred and sixty and second year they did come down again to battle. And we did beat them again, and did slay a great number of them, and their dead were cast into the sea.

9 And now, because of this great thing which my people, the Nephites, had done, they began to boast in their own strength, and began to swear before the heavens that they would avenge themselves of the blood of their brethren who had been slain by their enemies.

10 And they did swear by the heavens, and also by the throne of God, that they would go up to battle against their enemies, and would cut them off from the face of the land.

11 And it came to pass that I, Mormon, did utterly refuse from this time forth to be a commander and a leader of this people, because of their wickedness and abomination.

12 Behold, I had led them, notwithstanding their wickedness I had led them many times to battle, and had loved them, according to the love of God which was in me, with all my heart; and my soul had been poured out in prayer unto my God all the day long for them; nevertheless, it was without faith, because of the hardness of their hearts.

13 And thrice have I delivered them out of the hands of their enemies, and they have repented not of their sins.

14 And when they had sworn by all that had been forbidden them by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that they would go up unto their enemies to battle, and avenge themselves of the blood of their brethren, behold the voice of the Lord came unto me, saying:

15 Vengeance is mine, and I will repay; and because this people repented not after I had delivered them, behold, they shall be cut off from the face of the earth.

As long as the Nephites were willing to fight only in the defense of their lands and families, the Lord was willing to give them just enough strength to defeat the Lamanites, notwithstanding how totally wicked and depraved the Nephites had become. But when the Nephites swore to avenge the blood of their brethren, and to invade Lamanite territory for the purpose of cutting the Lamanites off from the face of the earth (extermination), they crossed the line from defensive warfare to offensive warfare -- and sealed their doom. Just 23 years later in 385 A.D., the Lord had his "vengeance" at Cumorah, when the Lamanites killed 230,000 Nephites and destroyed them as an organized nation.

In response to a similar post on this subject by Jeff Lindsay on Mormanity, Morgan Deane opined that the Book of Mormon doesn't contain a blanket prohibition against offensive warfare. For example, beginning in Alma 50:25, Moroni sent Teancum and his forces to chase down Morianton and his people who were attempting to flee north after being stymied in their effort to attack the people of Lehi. But the reason Moroni wanted to stop Morianton is that if he and his people had successfully escaped north, the Nephites would have been surrounded by enemies. Morianton's people posed a threat to Nephite security.

In contrast, Syria poses no threat to American security. The example I cited from Mormon 3:7-15 still strongly implies that the Lord is opposed to aggressive or offensive war.

No comments: