Into Bosnia

As the warring parties in the former Yugoslavia emerged from their peace talks in Dayton, Ohio, it was hard not to be hopeful that the bloodshed in Bosnia might finally be grinding to a halt. But along with the accord came a dilemma for those committed to biblical nonviolence.

Could we-should we-in good conscience support the massive infusion of NATO troops? Should we see this as an honest-to-goodness "peacekeeping" mission, or was it merely the latest example of the U.S. military's propensity for sticking its nose into other people's business, usually to their great harm? And even if it didn't fit our definition of nonviolent intervention, was it the best we could hope for in the circumstances?

But since Dayton, the language used by those making the case for intervention has shifted substantially. The humanitarian intent-to stop the slaughter-is still mentioned, but now it's almost an afterthought. The primary mission, judging by the rhetoric issued by the White House and its supporters, is to preserve and protect the "credibility" of the president and of NATO.

Rallying 'round the flag, the commander in chief, or the nation's military alignments are precisely the worst reasons to support such an intervention. For Christians, in fact, such arguments are at best irrelevant, and could even be seen as reasons to oppose the action. Some even suspect the humanitarian motives altogether, and see this latest military adventure as merely an attempt to provide justification for the continuation of NATO and for massive Pentagon budgets-both remnants of the Cold War era that are becoming increasingly hard to justify.

EVEN ADMITTING that the motives behind the operation are at best mixed, it's hard to deny that a venture with a goal of enforcing a peace treaty is morally preferable to war, the goal of which is to destroy and vanquish the enemy. But even so, does that make the Bosnian intervention right?

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 1996
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