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A Time of War, A Time of Peace: Latter-day Saint Ethics of War and Diplomacy, ed. Valerie M. Hudson, Eric Talbot Jensen, and Kerry M. Kartchner. David M. Kennedy Center, BYU, Provo, Utah, 2013. 283 pages.

This book is a collection of essays given at a symposium sponsored by the David M. Kennedy Center in April 2013 at BYU’s Milton Barlow Center in Washington, DC. The first section includes keynote addresses by award recipients. Succeeding sections are: “LDS Concepts of ‘Just’ Foreign Policy”; “Women and National Security”; “Lifting the Standard of Peace”; and “LDS Perspectives on Tactics and the War on Terror.” These sections are followed by summaries of other presentations, afterwords, selected presentations from prior symposia, and suggested readings.

The thesis of the book is simple: Latter-day Saints have a unique interpretation of national security in this fallen world. A reference familiar to me relates to the material in the book. It is President Spencer W. Kimball’s article, “The False Gods We Worship,” in the June 1976 Ensign. He writes that we rely too much on weapons of stone and steel and have “become anti-enemy and not pro-kingdom of God.” This is true: Satan buys up armies, navies, and governments. We have a world that has experienced many wars throughout history that have taken millions of lives.

There are justifiable reasons for entering a war—particularly to defend our liberties and our families, as Captain Moroni made clear. There might be reasons to enter a war in order to protect other nations—the so-called “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) principle. But all too often, nations enter war for less than noble reasons. This book discusses reasons for war, both good and bad. Another useful reference comes from President David O. McKay, who, in his 1953 book Gospel Ideals (p. 287), listed conditions “which may justify a truly Christian man to enter—mind you, I say enter, not begin—a war: (1) an attempt on behalf of another party to dominate and to deprive another of his free agency, and (2) loyalty to his country. Possibly there is a third, viz., defense of a weak nation that is being unjustly dominated by a strong, ruthless one.” (Italics in the original.)

Remarks by the award recipients include those by former U.S. Senator Robert F. Bennett, who subsequently passed away after this symposium was held, and Professor Stan Taylor, now emeritus of BYU. Senator Bennett’s talk, entitled “The Indispensable Nation,” treats America’s role in the world. Whether people like it or not, Bennett argues, America leads the world in commerce, foreign policy, language, currency, and in other ways. It is the world’s de facto government. Of course, the American people have paid for it. Not all of the actions we have taken have been good—we have made mistakes. So we try to do the best we can.

Senator Bennett tells the young people listening to his talk that their job is to defend America. He urges them to be guided by the US Constitution, and stay close to the Lord and ask His guidance if they are in government service. He recounts an incident about what was then a new temple in Ecuador. Due to the failure of the contractor to pay a tax, there was a lien on the building and there were penalties of hundreds of thousands of dollars assessed to the Church. Although the temple was in operation, the situation festered for years until the Ecuadorian government threatened to seize the temple. After prayer, Senator Bennett telephoned the US Deputy Secretary of State, who called the US ambassador in Ecuador, who went to see the President of Ecuador to ask why Ecuador’s judicial system was so messed up. Bennett was shortly told that the temple would not be seized. This suggests that the Lord is willing to help those in government achieve righteous ends.

Stan Taylor discussed his designation by Senator Jake Garn to be a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) in the 1970s. The committee was created because American intelligence agencies had been conducting some unauthorized and likely illegal activities. As a member of the SSCI, Taylor had a variety of interesting experiences. He learned of three bright LDS students who had served Japanese-speaking missions. They were recruited by the CIA. In their interviews, they were all asked, “Would you be willing to engage in extramarital sexual activities if that were required to obtain important information?” They all said no. The CIA hired none of them. Taylor also learned of a CIA agent who was a lush and blew his cover so that the CIA operation in his area was ruined. (This is reminiscent of a 1958 book by Lederer and Burdick called The Ugly American.) To Taylor, this suggested that the three young BYU students who had been denied would have had the better answer.

Taylor also worked on a study on the oil situation in the USSR, trying to clear up a Washington Post story that claimed the CIA was “cooking” data to fit the Carter administration’s policy, then wrote a report pointing out that the CIA study had been underway for over a year and that there was no data cooking. The Post published an apology—a rare action—and complimented the SSCI for a model report written with “brevity and clarity.” Afterward, Taylor would tell his students to “remember that, in academic writing, brevity is next to godliness, but clarity never faileth.” Taylor also remarks in his essay that we need faithful LDS persons working in international positions, in order to help bring about the Lord’s purposes on earth. The Lord needs us because of the principle of agency; He cannot force people to do good and so relies on us to teach our fellow men and women correct principles.

Part II of the book is entitled, “LDS Concepts of ‘Just’ Foreign Policy.” In this chapter, Kristen Olsen analyzes the R2P principle in contemporary war policy and reviews Abraham’s war against Sodom in light of this principle. R2P is not mentioned in the original United Nations charter, which prohibits force with three exceptions: self-defense, Security Council authorization, and consent. The UN charter was firmly committed to non-intervention. However, in recent decades, the UN has sometimes pursued intervention, in part because of the R2P doctrine, and especially because of the occurrence of mass atrocities. While the 1916 Armenian genocide did not arouse international concern, the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which 800,000 people were killed in a 100-day period, provoked international concern and outrage. Human Rights Watch speculated that had a small force intervened in the early stages of the killing, that it could have put an end to it. In 1998, in the face of Security Council’s inability to act (because of the threat of vetoes by Russia and China), NATO created a coalition to intervene in the bloodshed in Kosovo.

These events caused Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, to call on the General Assembly to agree on a basis for collective action to intervene in similar cases of mass humanitarian catastrophes. As the result of this, the Canadian government established the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS). That commission issued a report in 2001, which defined the principles of R2P. They are: (1) “state sovereignty implies responsibility, and the primary responsibility for the protection of its people lies with the state itself,” and (2) “where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression, or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect.” Two threshold matters are: first, the cause must be just; the threat must be severe—involving large scale loss of life or ethnic cleansing; and second, states must operate pursuant to legitimate authority.

The problem lies in the definition of legitimate authority. States must seek approval from the Security Council—but need not actually obtain it. The reason for this is that a veto from one of the permanent members could hold up needed action indefinitely. Yet that vagueness risks undermining world order; states may attempt interventions to satisfy their own interests, such as alteration of borders, or regime change. So states are asked to have “right intent.” Another requirement is “last resort”—all diplomatic, nonmilitary means must be tried before an armed attack is attempted. Still another is “reasonable prospect.” If it looks like intervention would make things worse than better, it should not be tried. Also important to consider is “proportional means.” Use of military force should not exceed what is necessary. Finally, it is appropriate to consider the victims’ wishes. The author notes that, had any state intervened in Gandhi’s nonviolent attempt to gain freedom for India, it would have undermined his program.

Historical issues have clouded the picture, notably the invasion of Iraq by the Bush administration in 2003. That was done for the stated reason of looking for weapons of mass destruction (WMD.) At the time, I did some research into the matter and there appeared to be plausible reason to think that Iraq possessed nuclear weapons. After they were not found, a storm of criticism descended upon President Bush and his advisors. Bush also wanted to overthrow Saddam Hussein, who had oppressed his people—especially the Kurds—and who tried to assassinate Bush’s own father. But after Saddam was overthrown and executed, the war dragged on, leaving Bush open to the criticism that we were simply trying to preserve a source of oil for the U.S.

The author considers Abraham’s war against Sodom in the context of D&C 98, which contains the charge to “renounce war and proclaim peace.” On the surface, that war appears to violate the principles of R2P. Abraham was not being attacked. He seemed to violate the injunctions of D&C 98. He did, however, promise the Lord that he would not seek gain for himself by the invasion of Sodom, although he allowed his associates to profit from the spoils of war. Furthermore, he did it to rescue his nephew, Lot, and his family, who had been carried away. He had thought to offer ransom for the prisoners, but saw that this would be unsuccessful, so then he and his allies attacked. They routed the king’s soldiers, killed some, but let the others go free. God apparently approved, since He sent the Shechinah with celestial hosts as a guide. None of Abraham’s soldiers were killed, despite the overwhelming odds.

Olsen’s conclusion is that war is sometimes justified, in particular for the defense of one’s own nation, or in cases of the need to protect peoples in other nations. That is, the R2P principle is not incompatible with the law of war given to Abraham.

A second essay in this section is by Joseph Osborn, who first remarks on our agency to do good or ill in this modern world, in which disasters like the attacks on the World Trade Center or hurricanes like Katrina can happen. We live in a world of constant decay. Our lives are uncertain and this fosters a concern with national security.

Osborn follows his opening statement with a discussion of the nature of morality. Morality, which should be determined by God’s commandments, is often determined by individual nations and by circumstances instead. The latter is illustrated by the actions of the people of Ammon as described in the book of Alma. In many cases, self-defense against attackers would be warranted, but they refused to take up arms against the Lamanites because of a covenant they had made to lay their weapons down. Incidentally, I have always been troubled about the willingness of the Nephites to defend the people of Ammon; how did those widows feel after losing their husbands to people—formerly their enemies—unwilling to mount their own defense? We have similarly complex situations today in Iraq and Afghanistan, where it seems the sacrifices of our soldiers were for naught.

Osborn asks: “Is the nature of perfection and morality a work in progress or an end state?” If it is a state, then there can be moral absolutism. While this sounds attractive, it is extremely dangerous, as illustrated in the regimes of Nazi Germany and the communist nations of the Soviet Union, China, and Cambodia. The US is not blame-free, often having defended questionable actions because we were “fighting communism.” It is better to regard perfection from the LDS point of view of progression.

Part III is entitled, “Women and National Security.” Valerie Hudson’s essay in this section discusses an important feature, on which she has written extensively before, that “the relationship between men and women in a given society determines in large measure that society’s level of security.” She illustrates this with several statistical correlations: (1) Measures of food security and women’s economic opportunity correlate at 0.93. A “correlation number” is used in statistics. A correlation near unity simply indicates that high numbers in one area occur when the numbers are high in another. The statistic shown notes that if economic opportunities for women in a given country are low, the country will also have low food security. (2) If women were to be given the same farming inputs as men in their society, global hunger would be reduced by about 17%, since most of the world’s food is produced by women, not by men. (3) High rates of fertility in poor countries are an indication of perilous national security. Women in those societies often do not have the right to refuse sex, and consequently there are more children than they—and the nation—can support. (4) Abnormal sex ratios (with more men than women) are up to 20% in China (with comparable figures in India, Vietnam, Albania, and others). This is because female children are not desired and so there is much female infanticide and sex-selective abortion. This leads to instability in the nation. The surplus of males contributes to a belligerent foreign policy in a variety of ways, such as by fueling instability through rising rates of violent crime.

Many of these statistics are depicted in the information provided by the WomanStats Project that Valerie Hudson and others operate. She observes that the World Bank wants us to not presume that countries treat women badly because they are poor, but rather that they are poor because they treat women badly. The WomanStats data indicates that the level of violence against women is more predictive of a state’s overall peacefulness or lack of it than many other major factors like level of democracy or wealth. (The author of this book review notes that the same correlation holds in terrorism; essentially all male terrorists are men who abuse or degrade women.) Hudson quotes Hillary Clinton: “The subjugation of women [world-wide] is a direct threat to the security of the United States” (spoken in 2010 at the UN International Women’s Day).

Hudson then backs up her remarks by noting the emphasis on the family in The Family: A Proclamation to the World and in Jacob 2 and 3, in which the Nephites are severely chastised because their treatment of women is worse than even the Lamanites’ treatment of women, and the Lamanites are their despised enemies. She concludes by noting that male-female relations—although this is not often recognized—are the basis for peace in the world.

The second essay in this section comes from interviews of Alexandra Z. Tenny, conducted by Valerie Hudson. Tenny is a graduate of BYU who had worked for the State Department in Iraq, Turkey, and Colombia. She was concerned with women in development and in counterinsurgency. It is a new concept in development theory to use women; men in particular have never thought of such a thing. They talk to the tribal leaders, who are men. Yet the women in Turkey told Tenny—with laughter—that the men just sit around. They take credit for things, but it is actually the women who do all of the work.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the US Marines had introduced a program using “Female Engagement Teams,” or FETs. They were formed to facilitate community engagement. Women will not talk with men simply because they are men. The program worked very well: men are not allowed to touch women, so the FETs could talk with community women about health needs, their children, and similar things. Unfortunately, the military never picked up the concept and the FET units in Afghanistan were slated for disbanding (as of 2013). Tenny had the idea of trying to introduce FETs into Colombia and to convince the military to use them. At the time of the interviews, Colombia was still at war with the insurgent FARC guerrillas. She trained the women leaders, got everyone excited about the program, and put everything together, describing the program as “visiting teaching on steroids.” It was amazing to her (and to Hudson) that she was able to get so many people on board. While the matter was unfinished at the time of the last interview (May 2013,) it appeared to be going well; the participants were enthusiastic and optimistic about it.

This link between the security of women and the security of states, though not confined to the LDS worldview, is nevertheless a key contribution by LDS scholars and practitioners to the field of national security.

Part IV is entitled, “Lifting the Standard of Peace.” The first essay, by Steven A. Hildreth, who is a national security expert with the Congressional Research Service, refers to D&C 98:16 and its dictum to “renounce war and proclaim peace.” Readers are counseled that “forbearance and entreaties of peace hold absolute primacy over repeated acts of direct injustice to ourselves and our families…” Warfare engenders more warfare. Yet there are conditions in which warfare can be justified as a last resort. But even then, we are not justified in waging war unilaterally. The Lord will fight battles for us. Unfortunately, many Latter-day Saints seem to advocate war in response to injustice, even in far off places where we ourselves are not threatened.

Hildreth emphasizes that the guidance found in D&C 98 is an eternal principle, a law given to Nephi, Joseph, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and “all mine ancient prophets and apostles . . . they should not go out into battle against any nation . . . save I, the Lord, commanded them.” Perhaps information from that section and others that we do not have can help us come to grips with the genocide perpetrated by God’s people in parts of the Old Testament. But our modern people are just as warlike. He quotes the statement, given above, by President Kimball: “Where is our humility?”

Hildreth says, “ . . . U.S. national security strategy is not the same as the national military strategy . . . ” Under the George W. Bush administration, we witnessed the “militant and perhaps strident promotion of security, democracy, and free enterprise by the U.S. abroad . . . ” and the “progressive disengagement from . . . traditional allies and institutions . . . ” and that the Bush administration had “embarked this nation on a permanent war footing and fostered an atmosphere of fear in part for political purposes unrelated to the U.S. national security strategy.”

A second essay in this section is by Patrick Mason entitled “Why the Cross? The Nonviolent Ethical Considerations of Christ’s Crucifixion.” Mason asks why both Gethsemane and the Cross? Most Christian denominations focus on the cross and not on Gethsemane. LDS authors tend to reverse the two. Yet they both seem to be necessary. And why that particular mode of dying? Could something less traumatic have sufficed?

Mason suggests that in the garden Jesus accomplished a spiritual redemption and on the cross, a physical one. But again, why the cross? Mason says that in this way, Christ could publicly show that He had overcome the world and its kingdoms and empires, like the Roman one. Thus He undermined Caesar’s temporal authority and definition of politics (including dominion, lordship, and violence) in one remarkable sacrifice.

Chapter 10, by Marshall Thompson, is a treatment of the Enhanced Interrogation Program (used particularly in the Iraq War) from the LDS point of view. The program used enhanced interrogation techniques (EIT), which included such acts as: subjecting detainees to humiliation through nudity and mockery (sometimes by female interrogators); cramped confinement; stress postures of various kinds; water dousing; sleep deprivation; and waterboarding. Rather shockingly, this program of torture was devised and sold to the US government by two LDS psychologists.

LDS Army soldier Alyssa Peterson killed herself after participating in the program, apparently because she could not reconcile it with her beliefs. Karla Williams, also from an LDS background, refused to participate after one day.

The article, in an extensive discussion, states unequivocally that the EIT violates both US domestic law (cf. US Constitution Amendments 5 and 8) and International Law in the form of three treaties that address torture and other cruel or unusual treatments.

There is no current statement by the Church regarding torture or such treatment. But it is clear that such acts violate Christ’s gospel. Thompson insists that he does not attempt to judge actions by individual Latter-day Saints, but simply addresses general Church policy. In doing so, he notes the importance of the injunctions of D&C 134 and Article of Faith 12 to uphold the law of the land. (There may be exceptions to this, however, such as the famous case of Helmut Hübener, who defied the Nazi government and was executed for it.)

One may ask whether such extreme methods are justified in the case of extreme military peril. However, the examples cited went well beyond any necessity (for example, detainees were subjected to over a week of painful sleep deprivation, or were waterboarded repeatedly, even after volunteering information. This simply indicates malice and sadism). One sometimes tries to justify such actions by appeal to the example of Nephi’s killing Laban; however, that was a very special case, which does not apply in these circumstances.

Chapter 11, by Mark Henshaw, considers similar matters. What is a “just war?” (Latin Jus in Bello.) The weakness of the traditional study of this question is that it was worked out by Catholic scholars. However, with the benefit of the Restored Gospel, some of the shortcomings become more clear, such as the primacy of the State.

In view of these shortcomings and the need for a better theory, Henshaw develops his own concept of just war. He says: “The abrogation of agency for material means is unacceptable—God the Father values agency so much that He denied one-third of His children life on earth when they supported a plan to abolish it.” He notes the phrase “murder and get gain” (Moses 5:29–31). Satan’s plan, personified here by Cain, illustrates Henshaw’s remark about material means. One might also remember the scripture, “For the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). We see corruption in high places in government and business all the time. Henshaw remarks that nations should be held to the same moral and ethical standards as individuals.

But then there is the question of tactics. This topic was extensively debated at the conference. A guiding principle is that intentionally causing unnecessary death and suffering is wrong. (But what is the definition of “unnecessary”? And who gets to decide that matter?)

Four ideas are paramount in the historical tradition: 1. Distinction: It is wrong to attack civilians. 2. Do only what is necessary to achieve objectives. 3. Proportionality—acts of war should not be excessive for the expected military gain. 4. Prisoners of war should be treated fairly.

Henshaw sets all of this against the background of Cain’s question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer, of course, is yes.

In traditional warfare, it was easy to distinguish the enemy soldiers from civilians. In fact, wearing military uniforms helped make that distinction. But if that distinction is not made, tragedy can result. Henshaw cites the example of the Sack of Béziers in 1209 A. D. Abbot Arnaud Amalric, leading an army into the city to find heretics, found it hard to distinguish them from faithful citizens, so he said simply, “Kill them all.” In our day, we have the problem of terrorism, in which the perpetrators try to blend into the population, so that it is very difficult to find them.

Henshaw contrasts Amalric’s behavior with that of Captain Moroni, as recounted in Alma 43 and 44. Moroni hadn’t even eliminated the Lamanites’ military abilities before he offered them peace. The Lord doesn’t want us to wait until the enemy surrenders before stopping the fight. Henshaw says that he cannot find a scripture allowing us to minimize our own side pain at the expense of our enemy’s wellbeing.

The matters of necessity and proportionality are illustrated negatively by the behavior of the last bloody war between the Nephites and the Lamanites, in which both sides engaged in war simply because of hatred of the other side. They even took delight in committing atrocities against their enemies.

Note that the gospel is not incompatible with confining prisoners of war in a camp. That said, they must be treated humanely. In this case, the prisoners were even fed well: Captain Moroni worries about having enough rations to feed them as well as to feed his army (Alma 53:1–5).

In an interesting side comment, Henshaw remarks that sometimes an action that shortens a war is considered ethical. He argues that this confuses ends with means. Shorten wars where possible, but shortening the war is not an end in itself. Two controversial examples come to mind: the use of atomic weapons to shorten World War II, (which, I argued, in an article in the Summer 2015 issue of SquareTwo, was necessary), and the proposed withdrawal of our forces from Iraq and Afghanistan in our current day. It has been argued in the media that this may not be a good strategy because it leaves those countries open to insurgents.

Another chapter in this section is by Eric Jensen, who discusses the developing technology of weapons. He comments that the Lord does not prohibit weapons and may encourage development of new ones. Captain Moroni stayed ahead of the Lamanites in his stratagems, which included heavy clothing for armor and high wall fortifications. Moses had divine help in his conflict with the Pharaoh. With his hands raised, Moses enabled the Israelites to prevail in battle. Joshua had help in the conquest of Jericho; Elisha and Samson were aided in their battles. It should be noted that in most cases, creating an asymmetrical advantage in warfare is desirable.

After these more substantive sections, an Afterword by Valerie Hudson offers some thoughtful and sobering summaries of talks at the symposium. She observes that a number of different perspectives—particularly on pacifism—were offered, and she remarks with dismay that they sometimes were interpreted as the difference between righteousness and unrighteousness. An example is the matter of conscientious objector status, which the Church has discouraged in every conflict in the twentieth century, although noting that any member is free to object to military service.

A final section presents three relevant presentations from prior symposia, including pieces by Eugene England and Michael Young, which the editors wished to preserve for new generations of students (since the symposium is only held once every decade). The book concludes with recommended additional readings, including an overview of CoJC doctrine on war and national security that was previously published in SquareTwo (http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleHenshawNatSec.html).

In conclusion, I observe that the book’s thesis is clearly justified. LDS persons have much to contribute to the discussion of war and national security in today’s world. If possible, war should be avoided; it can be justified only when appropriate, as illustrated in the many cases treated in the book, as I have summarized above. The ruling principles seem to be: Christ’s gospel always applies and we are indeed our brother’s and sister’s keepers. But all actions must be done with respect to the agency of others. In view of continued military conflicts around the world, it is important for members of the Church to consider carefully their actions, and especially so for those who may be required to participate in them. Itt is also important for members of the Church to continue to articulate principles of justified state conduct in international affairs in a world that grows increasingly confused concerning these matters.



Full Citation for this Article: Harrison, B. Kent (2019) "A Time of War, A Time of Peace, Review," SquareTwo, Vol. 12 No. 1 (Spring 2019), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleHarrisonReviewWarDiplomacy.html, accessed <give access date>.

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