Is God Against Drones?

He is not, according to former CIA analyst and current Christian axis of evil candidate Mark D. Tooley, as long as it is just the United States that is using them.

I first wrote about Christian “leaders” moonlighting as apologists for Bush and the Iraq war – the Christian axis of evil – back in 2006. The original group of inductees included Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Hal Lindsey, Cal Thomas, and Pat Boone, with WorldNetDaily publisher Joseph Farah getting an honorable mention.

Since then I have written about other candidates like Tod Kennedy, a pastor; Craig Parshall, a lawyer; Doug Giles, a Christian killer par excellence; Bryan Fischer, a Christian warmonger on steroids; Michael Milton, a seminary chancellor and theological schizophrenic; Joe Carter, a conservative Christian warmonger; and Ellis Washington, the greatest Christian warmonger of all time.

Now we have Mark Tooley asking the question: “Is God against Drones?” He might as well have asked if he could join the Christian axis of evil. Tooley is the president of The Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), “a faith-based alliance of Christians who monitor, comment, and report on issues affecting the Church.” “We are Christians working to reaffirm the church’s biblical and historical teachings, strengthen and reform its role in public life, protect religious freedom, and renew democracy at home and abroad,” says the group’s mission statement. Founded in 1981, the IRD is headquartered in Washington D.C.

To get a sense of where Tooley might be headed in his article on drones, we can look at the IRD’s issue statement on “War & Peace”:

Christian citizens in a great democracy like the United States, living in a world with all too many oppressive and aggressive regimes, regularly confront questions of war and peace: When is it right to use force to keep or restore international peace? When is it necessary to intervene militarily to stop a tyrant from killing his people?

These are not easy questions. The IRD helps U.S. Christians to wrestle with such questions, without giving easy answers. We believe that the Christian tradition offers valuable resources to guide our thinking. The Scriptures direct us to seek peace, but warn that there are evildoers from whom the citizens must be protected. This is why, according to the apostle Paul, the state “bears the sword” (Romans 13: 4).

The IRD works within the “just war tradition” that has been the Christian mainstream. That tradition offers criteria to help discern when and how the state should resort to military force.

The IRD has examined how those criteria might apply in situations ranging from the Cold War to the first Persian Gulf War, the U.S. response after September 11, 2001, and the current Iraq War. We have not offered firm answers to these questions of political judgment; we try to help Christian citizens draw their own conclusions.

At the same time, the IRD has challenged church leaders who categorically oppose every U.S. military action since the 1960s. We respect a genuine pacifism that is willing to pay the price of not resisting evil. But we dispute the dishonest quasi-pacifism that pretends that all dangers could be averted by disarming our nation and appeasing its enemies. Within denominations that affirm the just war tradition, the IRD has contested the pacifist and quasi-pacifist minority that has tried to monopolize the church’s social witness.

The two questions in the first paragraph are not difficult questions to answer at all. It is never right “to use force to keep or restore international peace” or “intervene militarily to stop a tyrant from killing his people,” unless, of course, you are the world’s self-appointed policeman hell bent on carrying out an interventionist and evil foreign policy.

The state bearing the sword in Romans 13 has nothing whatsoever to do with national defense, as I wrote about here.

The “just war tradition” is used to justify rather than to prevent war. Just war theory can be used effectively by all sides to justify all wars. As I pointed out in “The Warmonger’s Lexicon,” to a warmonger a just war means any war the United States engages in.

I can give a firm answer as to how the “just war tradition” relates to these situations: it doesn’t.

What is wrong with categorically opposing “every U.S. military action since the 1960s”? And doing so has nothing to do with disarmament or appeasement or being a “pacifist” or “quasi-pacifist.” Is there any good reason not to oppose the Vietnam War – a war in which over 58,000 Americans died so they could get their names on a wall? Is there any good reason not to oppose the War in Iraq – a war in which 4,448 Americans died for a lie? Is there any good reason not to oppose the War in Afghanistan – a war in which 2,169 Americans died in vain?

The proliferation of the use of drone aircraft overseas with ordnance capable of killing an individual person or destroying an entire village has made the president alone the judge, jury, and executioner. And if that weren’t bad enough, drone strikes more often than not have killed more innocent civilians than “terrorists” or “insurgents.” Now the president claims the power to target for death via drone anyone anywhere in the world – including American citizens – on the suspicion that they might threaten U.S. national security. So much for due process of law.

So, then, according to Mark Tooley, why is God not against drones? There are several reasons.

One, “Religious Leftists” are against them. Tooley mentions David Gushee, a liberal Baptist ethicist at Mercer University; Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, former president of Chicago Theological Seminary, and now a fellow at the Center for American Progress; and Jonathan Merritt, a liberal Baptist columnist. Tooley doesn’t like Gushee’s stating that drones exemplify a “disturbing combination of American arrogance and self-righteousness” and “that America would never accept China or Russia launching drone attacks inside the U.S.” Tooley takes issue with Thistlethwaite for complaining “that some drone targets do not actually present an ‘imminent’ threat” and others kill civilians. Tooley is upset with Merritt for liking “Gushee’s comparison of U.S. drone attacks to China or Russia launching strikes in the U.S.” The Religious Left is “reliably opposed to whatever tools are currently deployed in defending America.”

Two, America is the “exceptional” nation. Why, because “the United States is the most powerful nation.” With this power “flows responsibility not just for the security of our own people but also a wider duty for upholding a global peace.” American power helps to keep wars largely contained to “places like Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan” and “provides an approximate peace for most of the world.” In other words, the U.S. military fights “over there” so we won’t have to fight “over here.” The Religious Left can’t comprehend the distinction between the United States and China employing drones due to their “seething anti-Americanism.”

Three, the United States is the policeman of the world. Says Tooley: “Absent a global police force, the United States is the final arbiter of an approximate global stability. That stability requires America to deter, contain and sometimes deploy lethal force against renegade states and terror groups.” Since Afghanistan and Pakistan “are unable to police their own nations,” U.S. drone strikes are justified and necessary.

And four, “homicidal terrorists” are dedicated to killing Americans. The U.S. is locked in an “ongoing conflict” with terror groups.

So, is God against drones?

Tooley is asking the wrong question. Asking if God is against drones is like asking if God is against guns or knives. The question is very ambiguous. It all comes down to how drones are used. Drones can actually serve some useful purposes like tracking the spread of wildfires or helping to find missing hikers. Just like a gun can be used for self-defense and a knife can be used to cut a steak. What Tooley is asking about, and what he supports, is the use of drones by the U.S. military and CIA to kill people around the world that are perceived as threats to U.S. military personnel, American interests, and national security.

It is easy to pick on “Religious Leftists.” Just like a broken clock is right twice a day, they may oppose drone strikes one day, and then support humanitarian military crusades the next; they may oppose drone strikes one day, and then support “good wars” the next.

But it is not just religious leftists that oppose the use of drones for targeted killings. I am anything but a religious leftist, and I oppose not only the use of drones for targeted killings, but the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Navy as a global force for good, American exceptionalism as a pretense for imperialism, the United States as the world’s policeman, the U.S. empire of troops and bases that encircles the globe, a reckless, belligerent, and interventionist U.S. foreign policy, and the whole bogus, liberty-destroying war on terror.

There is certainly nothing wrong with using drones for defense, but the U.S. military wouldn’t know a defensive war if it saw one. With over a thousand foreign military bases and troops in over 150 countries and territories, the U.S. military is engaged in offense, not defense.

No wonder “homicidal terrorists” are dedicated to killing Americans. Could U.S. foreign policy have anything to do with it or do they just hate us for our freedom and values?

Drones used to wage unnecessary and unjust wars are evil, just like tanks, planes, bombs, bullets, and grenades that are used to wage unnecessary and unjust wars. It all depends on how they are used.

Originally posted on on March 7, 2013.