No Force, No Peace

Prior to the war in Iraq, critics argued that North Korea was a bigger threat to American security than Iraq. Instead of Saddam, the argument went, we should deal with Kim Jong Il and his nuclear ambitions. But this argument now seems backwards. By decisively dealing with Saddam, we may have found an effective way to deal with Kim. According to an article in the New Republic, our actions in the Middle East appear to be having an impact in northeast Asia. The assessment by Jasper Becker, a journalist specializing in Asian affairs, is that a "workable North Korea policy is taking shape." Before the Iraq war, both China and South Korea "kept silent on, or even opposed, U.S. efforts to deal with North Korea." They insisted that Washington accede to Pyongyang's demand for bilateral talks. This emboldened Pyongyang and produced provocative actions like North Korean MIGs intercepting American aircraft over international waters. But this has changed. The Chinese are now pressuring "North Korea to accept multilateral talks and to restrain its provocations." This pressure included temporarily shutting a pipeline that supplies Pyongyang with badly needed oil. The Chinese about-face doesn't stop there. Becker says that "China has even begun considering how to push Kim Jong Il from power" and replace him with a government "committed to economic reform and regional stability." And the pressure seems to have worked. In what the New York Times called a "major concession," Pyongyang has agreed to immediate multilateral talks in Beijing. Becker calls this the Iraq War's "first political aftershock." It convinced the Chinese and the Koreans of "Washington's willingness to launch preemptive action against North Korea." Other "aftershocks" include a new attitude in Germany, the offer of peacekeeping troops from the Dutch, and a rethinking of policy even by the French who have seen the sales of French wine plummet since their opposition to the war began. The New York Times refers to these developments as "an apparent victory for President Bush." But more than that, they're a vindication of Christian ideas about the need for force in a fallen world. One of the most persistent ideas of the past century has been utopianism: People are good; so just give us power -- we'll create a perfect society. The tragedies of communism and democratic socialism littered the twentieth century. Utopian visions also fueled the peace marches: the belief that force should never be used; rely on people's good will; and through negotiations, peace can be achieved. This approach failed in both Iraq and North Korea which continued developing weapons of mass destruction. Utopianism can't preserve peace because it doesn't understand what peace is. Peace isn't the absence of conflict; it's the peace of the right order --tranquillitas ordinis, as St. Augustine called it. The maintenance of this order in a fallen world sometimes requires force, just as Romans 13 says. In fact, if the right order is threatened, using force isn't permissible; it's required since the alternative allows evil to flourish. The tradition that shaped Western thought about war and peace still holds true. The "aftershocks" of Iraq not only bode well for peace, but they also validate -- as you might tell your secular neighbors -- the truth of the biblical worldview. For further reading: Jasper Becker, "Sudden Impact," New Republic, 21 April 2003. (You must be a subscriber to access this article.) David E. Sanger, "North Koreans and U.S. Plan Talks in Beijing Next Week," New York Times, 16 April 2003 (free registration required). Read the "Statement of Principles for U.S.-North Korean Relations," first published in the Wall Street Journal on January 18, 2003. Phil McCombs, "The Fire This Time: To Some Scholars, Iraq's Just Part of Something Bigger," Washington Post, 13 April 2003, F01. Mark Gauvreau Judge, "The Resenters: Moralism without Morality," BreakPoint Online, 21 February 2003. See BreakPoint's "Fact Sheet on Just War Theory." St. Augustine, City of God (Modern Library, 2000).


Chuck Colson



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