Until I ran across it this morning in Morning Prayer, I had forgotten that Paul’s injunction for treating enemies (Rom. 12:20 “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”) is a citation from Proverbs 25. While it’s likely that the writer of Proverbs and Paul had in mind individual persons as enemies, the saying is consistent withe the ethical prophets through whom God ascribed the starvation of peoples and the destruction of their means of livelihood as sins of society. It is also consistent with the beatitudes recorded in Matthew and Luke, which I take to be more prescriptive than descriptive.
If that is a reasonable argument, then it has something important to say about any government’s international and defense policies. The only example we have of something like this at work is the Marshall Plan of the post WWII era. Of course, it will immediately be pointed out by someone that the Marshall Plan came into existence only after we unconditionally defeated the Axis powers and utterly destroyed everything that could be destroyed.
I wonder what would happen if we diverted some of our customary military endeavors and defense oriented foreign aid to a proverbial Pauline plan of action that did not require total destruction followed by unconditional surrender. Would it be a more effective policy vis a vis “enemies” than the our usual practice? Would it be any worse? I don’t know. I do know that simply calling the idea naive would be naivety itself.