The Nuclear Sword Is Not In Vain

Dr. John Mark Reynolds | The Torrey Honors Institute | Monday, October 5, 2009

The Nuclear Sword Is Not In Vain

October 5, 2009

Pray for peace, but pray for a peace where the free nations of the world, led by the United States, maintain a strong military—including a nuclear deterrent. Millions are now alive because of the United States' nuclear weaponry and millions more are free. The United States has not borne the nuclear sword in vain.

Some Americans have an obsession with nuclear disarmament, but since World War II the strength of the United States has allowed previously war-torn Western Europe to peacefully unite. Since the goal of a Christian is to limit war, it is important to remember that hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in battle without a single nuke being fired. World War I demonstrates how deadly a conventional war can be. A strong United States with her allies, armed with a nuclear arsenal, has brought on a period of unprecedented human achievement and prosperity.

More people are alive today living better and freer lives than in any period of human history. There are great global problems, and the United States has behaved imperfectly, but by any fair historical standard this nation and her allies have used their armed might with remarkable restraint.

We should pray for peace, but pray wisely. Our practical prayers would be better directed to the end of the statist regimes that provoke war than to banning the nuclear weapons that have helped keep the peace.

Dying at the hands of a barbarian in ancient Rome did not make a man any deader than dying from a nuclear weapon. Dropping "conventional" bombs, as the United States did to break the back of Nazi Germany, annihilated a city just as thoroughly as a nuclear bomb. All wars have dramatic environmental impact and the use of conventional weapons can degrade an area for decades.

Decades after the advent of nuclear weaponry the free nations of the world have proven their capacity to have them without using them irresponsibly. Traditional Christians have not been pacifists, because we are not Utopian. War is bad and every Christian prays for peace, but war is sometimes necessary in a broken world in order to avoid worse evils.

War is sometimes the answer to the difficult questions of living in an imperfect world. We also know from experience that strong nations have to fight less often than weak ones. A rich nation without a strong military, or a powerful protector, will certainly have to fight.

The tendency to obsess about nuclear disarmament demonstrates why the United States should keep some nuclear deterrent. Nuclear weaponry creates greater fear, even irrational fear, in some, and so is a greater deterrent. If the free nations abjure nuclear weapons soon only the tyrants will have them with the corresponding ability to blackmail democratic nations.

The most important thing to remember in any discussion about arms is the source of real danger to global peace. Israel is not the threat. Nuclear France and Great Britain are not the dangers, but rogue and wicked regimes in places like North Korea and Iran are. Thousands more die from civil wars in nations that have rejected civilized ways or have starved their people through the adoption of state-run economies.

The contrast between North Korea and South Korea demonstrates the point. The world does not need to fear a heavily armed South Korea, but shudders at an armed North Korea. South Korea can only exist as a free, peaceful, and prosperous nation because her own people and the people of the United States have kept their military strong. The nations of Western Europe are free to spend mightily on social services, because the American military guarantees their liberty. Israel's neighbors do not need to fear her, but Israel has good reason to fear some of her neighbors. Israel has no president who dreams of wiping Persians from the world the way some mad Iranian leaders dream of destroying Jewish people.

Ronald Reagan was right when he argued for peace through strength. He was right that the only hope of ending the threat of nuclear world would come when technology rendered such weaponry useless. Before that goal is achieved, unilaterally disarming in a world where nuclear technology is becoming more widely available is folly.

The end of the Cold War means that the United States probably can and should reduce her nuclear arsenal, but total nuclear disarmament is not a reasonable short-term goal.

I pray that Jesus Christ will return quickly to bring true peace to the world. A world free of weapons will result and no good man can fail to long for this outcome, but no wise man believes that any human society will achieve this perfection. My trust is in God, but God prizes prudence and wisdom in the governance of human affairs. Nations that disarm imprudently out of misplaced piety presume on the grace of God. We cannot bring on paradise by wishing it so.

This side of heaven, my prayers are for a strong United States and a spreading Pax Americana.

John Mark Reynolds is the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute, and Professor of Philosophy at Biola University. In 1996 he received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Rochester. John Mark Reynolds can be found blogging regularly at Scriptorium Daily.