THE FOG OF WAR

In Matthew 24:6 of the gospels Jesus had this to say about war. “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. Some have misunderstood this comment to mean that we should not care one way or another about war.  I don’t think that is at all what He was saying. He was saying that war unfortunately was going to be an inevitability within the fallen human condition and was not something we should let derail us from our mission to reach the world with the gospel. And even if we personally can’t alter the course of world events, we certainly should care because we are concerned with right and wrong, and the sacredness of human life.

The fog of war is a phrase used today to describe the complexity of military conflicts, and given that, the difficulty of making the right decisions. It is often attributed to Carl von Clausewitz a Prussian Major General (1780-1831), but is in fact a paraphrase of what he said: ‘War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty.’ I actually pity those political leaders who have to make the decisions of war today.  Keeping the fog of war in mind, many of those decisions will be the wrong ones and they will live with the responsibility of sending brave young men to an unnecessary death.  Some think George W Bush is a heartless warmonger.  Opinions of the man aside, I can see in his face the pain that haunts him when he talks about the lives lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We in Canada can feel it as a nation every time one of our fallen soldiers returns from Afghanistan and makes the journey down the Highway of Heroes.

In 2004 Errol Morris produced an award-winning documentary about Robert S. McNamara entitled The Fog of War.  McNamara was the president of Ford Motor Company when he was recruited by JFK to be his Secretary of Defense.  He later served as Secretary of State during the Vietnam War.  The documentary is a fascinating look at the then 85 year old’s introspections about war and the lessons we need to learn from it. One startling admission that McNamara made was in reference to the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima at the end of WWII (before his time).  He said that if we had lost the war, those responsible for the attack would have needed to be tried for crimes against humanity.

The first of McNamara’s eleven lessons is maybe the most important.  Empathize with your enemy. He gives the example of the Cuban Missile Crisis and describes how then ambassador to Moscow, Llewellyn Thompson, knew Khrushchev could save face by saying he saved Cuba from US attack.  Later in the film, he explains how ignoring this lesson prolonged the Vietnam war – the North Vietnamese saw themselves in a Civil War and fighting for independence from enemies like China and the US as colonialists attempting domination, whereas they saw only the conflict in the light of the Cold War.

What, if any of this, relates to Middle East right now?  The present situation in Libya is the one that gives me the most pause.  I sincerely hope we do not find ourselves invading yet another Arab country.  Firstly, I understand the political desire to prevent a possible genocide.  But we must not forget that Al Qaida’s stated strategy is to lure the conflict on to Arab soil because they know that is a battle the West cannot win.  Have we learned nothing from Afghanistan and Iraq not to mention the failed efforts of the 200 years of the Crusades (1095-1291)?

Secondly, and of utmost importance to many of us, every time we enter the Arab world militarily we set the work of the gospel back …who knows how many years.  We repeatedly through history transgress McNamara’s lesson to empathize with your enemy.  If you were to ask the average Arab what is the greatest evil committed by Christians today, they would answer, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.  ”What?  ’Christians’ didn’t invade Iraq!”  They don’t know that.  They do not know the difference between Christianity and The West, much like many of us don’t know the difference between an Arab and a Persian or Muslim and an Islamic fundamentalist.  Why would they want to hear our message of the love of God after ‘WE’ just finished dropping bombs on their heads?

Having said all that, many times throughout history God has used geo-political events to pave the way for the gospel.  Christianity is growing faster today in China than any other nation.  The cause can be traced back not to a brilliant missions strategy on our part but to the Cultural Revolution that began in 1949.  When Chairman Mao Tse Tung ushered in communism he unwittingly swept away the deeply held beliefs of Buddhism.  When the cracks appeared in the fabric of communism, there was a great openness to the truths of the gospel with little resistance from Buddhism.

I cannot help but think that God may be using the events in the Middle East as an opportunity for the gospel to go forth in the Islamic world.  As I said, we have not done a great job of reaching the region for Christ.  There are 1.3 billion Muslims and few of them have ever heard the gospel.  Whatever happens I know this for sure, that one day and maybe soon, we will get our chance.  Jesus made this immutable declaration; This gospel of the kingdom will be preached to all nations and then the end will come.

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17 Responses to THE FOG OF WAR

  1. Betty says:

    Jesus I Praise you, for opening the door, to have a truck load of Bibles brought into Libya and that you care for those people and love them so much.

    Even though the news is so much about wars and rumors of wars, Jesus promised He would be with us and help us in every detail of our lives.

    I say Thankyou, to every solder, of our country, for trying their best in letting Jesus work through them in which ever way it is, that He wants them to do it.

  2. Sally says:

    The bell is already begining to toll…are we ready?..when we see all these things occurring right before our eyes thanks to modern day technology; Jesus said look up your redemption is nigh even at the doorstep. We do not know the time or the hour but as we see all these things taking place, we know that we are nearer than we were before.
    I have heard some very sobering things lately like the pale horse in Egpyt and the prediction of a great earth quake to happen on the heels of the 9.1 Japanese quake…and now this fog of war…wars and rumours of wars. It is time to make oneself ready and to tell as many people as possible that they need Jesus! Time is running out…

  3. Evelyn Bennett says:

    It is funny how we see the wars from our television set. We are unable to comprehend the reasoning behind their actions because they will not talk to the media one on one.

    Does this mean they know they are doing wrong and going through the war anyways?

    Christian missionaries have been given a bad rap. These countries do not know goodness. They do not know the Lord. If we pray and wait on the Lord perhaps those hearts can be melted.

  4. Patricia says:

    Many people feel the answer is through the Women of the Muslim culture to get the Gospel out. They believe that by doing this they can show the love of Juses to their families and have the Christian religion flex right through the country at a fast and easy pace.

    Make sure that you always remain thankful and praise the Lord for what we have here in our country. Enjoy the clean air. The fact that we have social programs that help us when we are under priviledged. If this war is going to show us anything, I hope and pray that it will be how to appreciate eachother and have some people pick up the Bible in this time of great importance. With the whole planet pointing towards the beginning of the end. For the Glory to begin.

  5. Jim says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how people call themselves Christians, or Christian nations, and then they have not problems starting wars with other countries for whatever reason. Is this a Christian attitude? Of course not..it is not following Jesus..Jesus said “love our neighbour as yourself” when questioned about who the neighbour is he included enemies..He said if your enemy is thirsty give him drink, if he hungers give him food..Jesus did not say go out and kill your enemies..or go out and get revenge…nope God says He will take vengeance..it is not for us to do..so it is really time for we arrogant, cosy north american so called Christians to really study this aspect of the Bible, and do some soul searching before we are too critical of other people and cultures on the planet, because do not feel so secure in thinking that we are right..we are not..and our salvation depends on being right!

  6. Jusuf says:

    I’ve learned from the history that the West was built by Christian’s values, including love your enemies. Those people were gone and leaving wealth to their children children who unfortunately have a mixed religious values or a modified Christian’s values.
    It’s easier to shift from ‘pure faith’ into ‘mixed faith’ than the other way around. Zakaria Butros is small example just like Saul became apostle Paul.

    Whatever the outcome in middle east, one thing I’m certain that GOD’s plan never fail. If middle east (in the worst case) fall into the hand of what people called radical or terrorist, then the end times have been speed up for Jesus to come.
    China also is very interesting as a silent world power that sometimes I got a feeling of God’s plan working to fullfill HIS end times purpose in middle east.

    I hope more politicians keep the pure faith in making decisions so that IQ + EQ + SQ = awesome results

    • David Bodunde says:

      Dear Pastor Hughes,
      I do agree with you that dropping bombs on people is not the best way to spread the gospel (and i will not folllow up with’but’) You say that ” i understand the POLITICAL desire to prevent a possible genocide–” When did preventing a genocide become a political accomplishment? If Gaddafi had slaughtered thousands in Benghazi like he promised to do, the hue and cry would be on how the west allowed genocide to happen.If you were President Obama (president Hughes) what would you have done? Should Obama have said “oh! I know the tricks of Al-Quaida, They want to suck us into another war, sorry the people of Benghazi, you are on your own”

    • Jim says:

      So what you are saying is, is the USA et al go in and kill a bunch of Libyans as collateral damage from all the bombs and missiles..that is okay..it is okay for the western forces to play God..that does not make sense..the USA et all are supposed to be Christian nations..if you are then follow the Biblle..”by your works you will be known” Gaddafi never has said he is a Christian, he is a Muslim, and provided schooling, health care, and a very good standard of living for the people of his country..now some rebels want to overthrow his government..he has to answer to God for his actions in putting down the rebellion. That is between him and God..in the meantime it is up to the so called “Christian” nations to live up to their name, and “walk as Jesus walked”, and that does not include killing. Remember, we are all made in the image of God whether Libyan, Iranian, Chinese, or whatever..so called “Christian” nations and individual “Christians” should get over their arrogant attitude and remember this fact..

  7. Mark Hughes says:

    It is just a statement of fact. It’s a political decision because it is elected politicians that make it, not diplomats, generals or military experts. And I said that I understand it… and that I pity them having to make such a decision. I would not want to make it and that is why I am glad I am not the President.
    But look at the big picture. The track record of the US and allies has been to go in like a bull in a china shop. Civilian causalities are inevitable. Look at the situation around 9/11. They invaded Afghanistan looking for Osama Bin Laden. Nine years later the war still rages and we don’t even know if Bin Laden is in that country. I would say it didn’t work. If they really wanted Bin Laden, why can’t they find a 6’6″ Arab hooked up to a dialysis machine?
    When George Bush Sr had invaded Iraq and pulled the plug before he got Saddam. Why? The political agenda is trumped by the supply of oil not human rights. Do you think they will attack Tunisia or Bahrain or Syria? I think not.

  8. Hanna says:

    Mark, you might like ibethel.org ‘s March 20th sermon of the week ‘Revealing His Heart’ by Bill Johnson. I think it somewhat complements what you wrote.

  9. Victoria says:

    Proverbs 16:1

    To man belongs the plans of the heart,
    but from the lord comes the reply of the tongue.

    All a mans ways seem innocent to him,
    but motives are weighed by the Lord.

    Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
    and your plans will succeed.

    The Lord works out everything for his own ends-even the wicked for a day of disaster.

    • Jim says:

      So our society is such a fine example of God’s word, that He would entrust us to go and convert Muslims by force..in other words, if they do not convert kill them..that is not what Jesus taught..he taught of Love and Compassion and helping people, and no where does he ever condone violence as a means to deal with people, in fact he used only the opposite..and that is the New Covenant..and what it is based on..so to start wars and kill people is not the Christian way..this all proves that our society is not a “Christian society”..just because we say we are, and go to a church once a week for an hour or so, and sing a few songs, and listen to a sermon..does not make us worthy of using the word “Christian”..the proof is in our actions and if we look at what our society has become it speaks volumes, about why we are not qualified as a society to teach any other society how to live..as Jesus said “take the sliver out of your own eye first”

  10. John Luimes says:

    I think it is quite presumptuous to assume that the military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq was not God’s will. Our God has used war in the past as part of his plan. In fact in 1 Sam 15:2-3 His plan includes genocide of the Amalekites. It is quite possible that he will use military action to spread the gospel in the arab world.

  11. David says:

    John. Why is it “presumptuous to assume that the military action was not God’s will.”? “Our God has used war in the past as part of his plan.” Well, He also used an ass, had Tamar play an harlot and had Hosea marry one, a harlot I mean, not an ass. I think the NEW Testament makes it quite clear what the Will of God is for a Christian, if you believe Paul and John, or Jesus when he said, “Put up thy sword.” or “My Kingdom is not of this world, if it were of this world, then would my servants fight.” “We wrestle not against flesh and blood.” We are called to love our neighbor. Love doeth his neighbor no harm. Christianity flourishes under hard times as Pastor Mark illustrated with China under Mao, or as the early church did for 300 years until Constantine made it politically correct to be a “Christian”. I agree with Jim. There is no such thing as a “Christian Nation” it’s an oxymoron. America is definitely not a Christian Nation. If it were it would be passing bills to take care of the oppressed, not rewarding the oppressor. (See “Inside Job” for more information.)
    Pastor Mark nailed it when he said, “Secondly, and of utmost importance to many of us, every time we enter the Arab world militarily we set the work of the gospel back …who knows how many years.” In my nearly 40 years of missionary work outside the continental USA, the underlying attitude towards the US and often times my mission is one of resentment and disdain. The American Brand of Christianity is not popular. Even Anne Rice refuses to be called a “Christian” because of the image it carries. I read recently that missionaries from Africa are going to North America and they call it “The Dark Continent.” I think it’s a shame that the only political figure in modern history to truly apply the principles taught by Christ and practiced by the primitive church was an Indian of Hindu background. Does anyone know England’s causality rate in India’s “War of Independence”? How about, how many English men died to abolish slavery in England. Both of those battles were lead by men who practiced the principles taught by Jesus. Maybe if we stopped killing to impose democracy and started loving to share Christianity the world would be a better place. “Rationality will not save us.” (Lesson #2 Fog of War)

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