No Easy Answers

It is hard to be against the United States' intervention in Somalia to feed the hungry. Those of us committed to nonviolence are forced to admit that sometimes having an army is a good idea.

Of course, that is part of the problem. The U.S. military no doubt sees Somalia as a wonderful public relations event to demonstrate the "humanitarian" side of the military. It seems that the Pentagon has indeed learned much from Vietnam. They will only fight wars where they can kill the enemy without endangering our military, and they will intervene for humanitarian causes.

If Christians are going to think clearly about American intervention in Somalia, we first need to ask ourselves who we are. It is so easy to be quickly domesticated by the question, Do you not think we should intervene? The problem is in that "we." It makes all the difference who you think the "we" is.

I suspect part of the problem in thinking about intervention in Somalia is that we assume the Christian "we" and the "we" of government are the same. When we do so we are robbed of what it means for Christians to think differently about these matters.

For example, even on just war grounds one can question whether there ought to be a standing army ready to intervene. John Howard Yoder has argued that a significant distinction can be made between an army and a police force, which can be understood as the most limited form of coercion necessary for securing cooperation in society. Such a force would not necessarily be ready for "intervention" outside that society, though those in such a force might feel "called" to aid a neighbor in distress.

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