God, Weapons & Morality stevenwoolley.com

Securing national borders and interests against violent attack from others requires disciplined and well equipped armed forces.  Would that it were otherwise, but every time it seems war has become outdated we are proven wrong again.  It’s a cruelly evil truth and one that provides no end of opportunity for the invention and distribution of ever more deadly weapons.  Justified by a specious argument favoring cheaper ways of killing others without risk to one’s own troops, we now have remotely controlled, unmanned weapons. Reduced to video game reality, it can seem like a war of computer against computer facilitated by human agency.  In some ways it’s science fiction turned macabre reality. The temptation is too great not to use the technology against vulnerable non-combatants whose mere presence may stand in the way of some military objective.  And why stop with weapons for national defense forces?  There are plenty of receptive war lords and gang leaders for weapons merchants to peddle their new and deadlier toys.  The opportunity for profit is too great to pass up and all the greater if a little needling here and there can provoke an armed conflict.

The forces of evil enjoy nothing more than fomenting death and destruction in the face of the commandment to “Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6.8). That’s God’s justice, not human justice. It’s important to remember because the forces of evil, often in the name of God, use the language of human justice and put themselves in the place of God.  It’s a clever move that works far too well fooling entire populations, far too often.

An example of a new twist on an age old game was reported in a July 12, 2022, Pro Publica article, citing a Turkish weapons company selling sophisticated drones to warring parties in various parts of the world.  In makes some sense that national defense departments would want them, but more than many are being sold to para-military war lords, rebels, and vicious dictators in places of unending armed conflict.  The weapons are used to attack civilian populations without discrimination, wreaking death and destruction, poverty and starvation.  It will take decades, if ever, for some of these areas to recover a semblance of stable, peaceful, civilization.  Nevertheless, it’s a lucrative trade for the Turks, and not them only.  It seems most drone components are manufactured in western Europe and the United States by companies that know full well what the end use of their products will be.

It’s the ‘If we don’t sell them weapons indiscriminately someone else will.  It doesn’t make any difference and we make the profit.’  The same logic is used by pharmaceutical companies and drug pushers peddling opioids.  It avoids consideration of any moral question.  Critiques of the weapons industry often focus more on outsized profits earned and treat the cost of lives as quantitative measures. The moral questions remain unasked and unanswered.

At the dawn of the atomic age, jet engines, rocketry, and lightning fast developments in electronic technology, Eisenhower warned us (Jan. 17, 1961) of the looming danger of an out of control military industrial complex.  I wonder if he anticipated that the military industrial complex would quickly become trans-national.  From the Cold War on, competing world powers have looked for areas of armed conflict to weaponize, each trying to tilt the balance of global power in their favor.  The last 75 years have seen little gain for the great powers and enormous suffering for impoverished peoples.  In the meantime, weapons merchants have honed their marketing skills and done well for themselves.

I have little knowledge of the rules by which business is conducted in other countries, but in ours senior management and investors in big  companies are rewarded for profits, period.  It isn’t simply a matter of greed and hubris. The tax code and investment fund strategies require it. Failure means the ruin of careers.  Questions of corporate morality may have front page coverage in annual reports and press releases, but at the operational level if things can’t be quantified they have little value.  It’s not a personal thing.  It’s systemic.  The only effective checks come from government regulation authorized by legislation and actively enforced by the executive branch.

We are each commanded by God to live with moral integrity, as best we can.  In Christ Jesus and the prophets, we are fully instructed in what moral integrity means.  Our limitations and failings are not hidden from God, and in Jesus we have the help we need to recover from error.  It means we have no excuse not to do the best we can. The best we can has got to include influencing public policy in the direction of godly justice, which, in this case means seeing that the federal government tightly regulates the military industrial complex as the public monopoly that it is.  It must severely limit the markets to whom weapons can be sold and require profits and executive compensation to remain within reasonable boundaries.  Fund managers would, of course, scream bloody murder, warning that all of our 401k and IRA savings would be in jeopardy. Bah! They need to reexamine that argument and stop preaching such nonsense!

We need to stop allowing it to even cross our minds. The morality that is threatened is much too big a risk for fund managers and individuals to place personal profits above it.

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