The Common Good

A Duty to Love in a Time of War

When President Obama addressed the American people and the world on the military operations in Libya, he spoke of a responsibility to act. He said: "For generations, the United States of America has played a unique role as an anchor of global security and as an advocate for human freedom. Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world's many challenges. But when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act. That's what happened in Libya over the course of these last six weeks."

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The truth is that even with the vast military might of the United States and its international partners, with the array of non-military coercive measures that may be taken against Libya, the power of nation states to force an outcome without an inordinate loss of life is limited. Thus, I say, there ought to be a deployment of power that is more powerful than the military force available to the nations of the world, even more powerful than economic sanctions and the freezing of Moammar Gadhafi's considerable assets. Believers have a duty to love Gadhafi and to pray for him.

President Obama gave a list of particulars that show that Gadhafi has ruled as a tyrant. He has "denied his people freedom, exploited their wealth, murdered opponents at home and abroad, and terrorized innocent people around the world -- including Americans who were killed by Libyan agents."

This is a hard man to love, and even if as we follow the radical love teachings of Jesus, we are not required to like Gadhafi. However, we are required to love him.

President Obama authorized military action to help enforce U.N. Resolution 1973(2011) that calls for a "no fly zone." In this, he has again acted according to just peace theory principles. These principles include efforts to foster and to support democracy and human rights. They call for the strengthening of international organizations both regional and global. The president explained last night that one reason for the action was to put muscle on the skeleton of resolutions passed by the U.N. Security Council.

He said: "The writ of the United Nations Security Council would have been shown to be little more than empty words, crippling the institution's future credibility to uphold global peace and security."

I look forward to the blessed day when leaders will act justly knowing that if they do not, the entire world will put them into economic and cultural isolation, and such will be enough to cause them to fulfill their responsibility to protect their people. Such is the responsibility of governments, but the duty to protect is also an international responsibility. This logic is the basis for the most recent U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Since giving his address, people question whether or not there is an Obama doctrine that sanctions military intervention in every case where innocent civilians suffer violence from their government, where there is a plea for help, where the cost and benefits of military action are practical, and where there is broad international support. President Obama has made it clear that each case is different. One size foreign policy does not fit all.

As believers, we do have an imperative and a power that does fit every situation. It is the power of limitless love that comes from a limitless divine source. Our duty is to love even the most hateful tyrant in the world. It is this love that will finally force Gadhafi from power.

Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.

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