Russia Halts Advance, Cheney Wants More

Posted: August 12, 2008 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

Russia ends its push into Georgia, sort-of:

“President Dmitry Medvedev ended the onslaught against the former Soviet republic…But Russian forces had already kicked Georgian troops out of the breakaway province of South Ossetia, surged across the border on two fronts to seize Georgian towns, police stations and military bases, and pounded military installations deep inside Georgia with swarms of warplanes.

Before peace talks began, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia would not deal with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvilli, a staunch U.S. ally, and said that Saakashvili should leave office.

In calling an end to the Russian assault, Medvedev told Russian TV, “The security of our peacekeepers and civilians has been restored. The aggressor has been punished and suffered very significant losses.”

He also gave a blunt warning to Georgia by publicly ordering Russia’s defense minister to be ready to resume attacks, “If there are any emerging hotbeds of resistance or any aggressive actions, you should take steps to destroy them.”

The Russians want Saakashvili gone, as expected. The only problem – he’s a democratically elected president. The Russian may not like him, but unless his own people turn on him in response to his disatrous misadventure into South Ossetia, they are stuck with him.

File this in the “Not Very Helpful” file:

Vice President Dick Cheney called Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to express U.S. solidarity in the conflict with Russia and told him “Russian aggression must not go unanswered,” the vice president’s office said on Monday. 

The vice president’s admonition to Georgia’s president jerks readers back into the frame of the Cold War. One wonders what sort of answer Mr. Cheney has in mind, considering that the U.S.-trained Georgian troops could kill Russian troops but could not stop the advance of Russian forces. The U.S. is certainly in no strategic position for a direct confrontation with Russia for the defense of Georgia, so Cheney’s remarks amount to little more than “Stay strong, and kill as many as you can on the way down.” Statements like this only urge a mimetic spiral of violence. 

The only ray of light that I can see in this disaster is that it provides a teachable moment  for the Georgian government, which has been trying to compel consent through force in South Ossetia for a while now. Nonviolent solutions to the conflict are the only viable options. Christians in the region might want to reflect on their faith’s nonviolent roots for inspiration for a way out of another wreck brought about by using violence, rather than self-sacrificing nonviolent love, to participate in conflict.

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Comments
  1. batguano101 says:

    Non violence is nice but has some draw backs under an artillery barrage.

    There is not much for Georgia to do but call out to the world to stop this with pressure on Russia.

    Don’t take what Cheney says too seriously. He enjoys using power but is not brave personally.

  2. dcrowe says:

    Hi there, thanks for stopping by! I hope you’ll keep coming back.

    Your comment intrigues me…what drawbacks does nonviolence have under artillery fire that do not also apply to violent responses? When you say “There is not much for Georgia to do but call out to the world to stop this with pressure on Russia,” you’re calling for a de facto nonviolent response. Thoughts?

    Hope you’re having a good friday.

  3. batguano101 says:

    You have a point about that de facto nonviolent response.

    Thank you for pointing it out.

    The Georgian Army has fought a valiant holding action in the face of overwhelming odds. I think they believed or at least hoped the US Calvary was coming to their aid.

    The Artillery fire, or mortars or rockets, are indirect fire.
    Bombs from air craft are indirect also.

    When you throw your life down in nonviolent display, you are doing what Ghandi said in South Africa, giving up your life if need be but not taking another life to show the oppressors that they are wrong.

    Consider the Apache Indian raids my great great uncle ( then 100) told me of as a small boy over Hempstead watermellons on his farm.

    The ranch was far out west of Fredricksberg Texas. His father had died, and his mother told them to hide. It was only by chance the raiding party carried on down the trail which was their custom once they stole horses and the Rangers would be coming. If the raiding party had turned into their ranch/farm, they would have been found and killed them if the mother did not fight for the children.

    There is a time to lay down your life, a time to fight, a time to kill, and a time to high tail it over the hill.

    Check out Ecclesiastes 3:11

    11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

    You might consider Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

    A Time for Everything

    1 There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under heaven:

    2 a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,

    3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,

    4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,

    5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

    6 a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,

    7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,

    8 a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

    Everything I read related to wars in scripture points to a time to fight them when need be.

    Besides-

    If that Apache raiding party had turned into the ranch and the mother did not give it the best she had, she was going to be raped and scalped, which was the custom time permitting.

    Dry bones among the hot rocks and cactus undiscovered for decades or a century just do not have that nonviolent impact Ghandi was trying to achieve, so that appears to count in public where someone can see the act.

    That indirect fire is not seen either.
    There is no nonviolent confrontation with indirect fire, it just kills.

    My son spent his 21st birthday in a mine field South of Kandahar.
    They were fighting the people who sent us 911 right where the training base was located that trained them.

    If you step on a land mine it blows up.
    It does not take into account if you are fighting for your life or you are walking down the way with some firewood in hand.

    You take the Ghandi route against oppressors.
    But there is a place for fighting.

    And when you win the battle, it is beautiful in a way.
    And you are tickled it is over, and you can go home to peace again.

  4. dcrowe says:

    I can’t tell for certain from what you wrote, but I hope your son is safe somewhere far from that mine field. I also hope you publish your writing somewhere, because I enjoyed reading your comment quite a bit, even if I disagree with some of it.

    I’m glad you brought up Ecclesiastes. It’s one of my favorite passages in the Hebrew scriptures not due to its content, but because you can sense that the person writing it down has seen more than he wanted to but has still lived a full life, and he is past the reach of inexperienced idealism or broken cynicism. And you are right, that passage does say flat out that there is a time to kill. The Judaism into which Jesus was born was very much at peace with justified violence. But when I read the Sermon on the Mount, I hear Jesus acknowledging that violence in his people’s heritage and urging them to set it aside:

    38 ‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” 39But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

    43 ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,* what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

    Walter Wink has done some great work regarding the word “resist” in this passage, which should be more properly rendered “resist with violence” to be true to the original text’s language. I agree with you totally that there is a time to “fight.” The person who convinced me to be nonviolent was Jesus, not Gandhi, but it’s worth pointing out that Gandhi’s formulation of nonviolence was much more than “throwing your life down in a nonviolent display to convince the opponent that he is wrong,” although that element was certainly present. Gandhian nonviolent resistance was a way to fight, but without violence. They stopped cooperating, broke unjust laws, actively interfered in the functioning of the apparatus of oppression. Gandhi’s movement, in the end, didn’t so much change the British’s mind about the Indians as much as it changed the Indians’ minds about the British. Once India stopped cooperating, the British couldn’t control them.

    As a Christian, I believe that Jesus revealed the ultimate nature of God. Therefore, my choice to offer my life up when confronted by an attacker does not arise out of a desire to show him he’s wrong (although I hope he will realize it before I have to go all the way!) but rather comes from a much simpler, more powerful place: he is my enemy, and Jesus tells me I have to love him. I have to love him so much that I will not harm him no matter how much he harms me. I have to be a faithful witness on behalf of the God whose perfect love falls on the evil and the good.

    It’s not just you and the Apache raider amid the cactus and the rocks and the beating sun. God is there too. It doesn’t matter if anyone else knows what happens out there. God knows. And like Mother Teresa says, “My business is fidelity; God’s business is success.” Christian nonviolence sure ain’t for the weak of heart. 🙂

    Hope your weekend is off to a good start.

  5. batguano101 says:

    Mighty fine. Go to it.

    It is good to understand another world from yours also.

    The tightest locked into God in Christ folk I know are Soldiers and Marines. How can this be?

    Matthew 8:5-13

    5When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6″Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.”

    7Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.”

    8The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

    10When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

    13Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.

    Centurions with few exceptions earned their rank after years of soldiering, which included sword fight in battles. So these fellows had faced death and fought to the death many times by the time they became a Centurion.

    Notice Jesus did not condemn or correct the professional soldier.
    In fact Jesus said his faith was exemplary.

    Remember this was Jesus of Nazareth speaking.

    The first gentile to receive Christ and put his faith in Jesus was a Centurion. The last gentile to receive Christ, at the cross of Jesus, was a Centurion.

    Centurions were absolutely key to God’s instruction of doctrine to the early Church and to Paul’s ministry at important points that saved his life.

    You read the scripture to follow nonviolence. Mighty fine, more power to you.

    US Army Chaplins, the good ones, get out on the line in the wee hours of the morning with a word of encouragement, a bottle of water or poggie bait, checking on the PFC Snuffy fighting to keep awake in the hardest time of the night, dishes out chow in the chow hall to see every soldier face to face, quick with a personal word, preside over honoring the dead, comforts men who’s personal life at home falls apart while deployed, and carries litters in battle to minister to the wounded.

    A Chaplin is very important to troops in the field.

    As to the officers, Warrants and NCO’s, the Specialists and Privates, I look at the military as the last great bastion of Christianity in the USA. Nowhere else comes close.

    Christians in the military are tight with God because they are putting their lives on the line. It is not theory. It is very real and is not for the weak of heart.

    Check it out.

    Thank you for the conversation.

  6. dcrowe says:

    Happy Saturday!

    Again, thanks for posting. I always welcome challenges to my way of thinking and I hope you don’t perceive anything I say as an attack. I’m happy to discuss my feelings on Christianity and the military, but I recognize how touchy this subject is and I hope you don’t take offense to what I’m about to say, especially since I know you have family serving. I fully honor their / your (I get the feeling you may be or have been in the military, but that may be just a perception) willingness to risk their lives for the sake of others. That willingness is absolutely vital if we are to combat evil in the world. Where we differ is in what we view as legitimate methods in line with Jesus’ teachings.

    Regarding the Jesus/Centurion episode, I think it’s important to remember that the early church was aware of this story and prior to the time of Constantine it was not seen as a proof-text for “Christian” violence. Until Constantine, the overwhelming consensus of the church was that killing was not permissible even in service to the state. Soldiers who converted were taught to tell their superiors they could not kill any longer, and if anyone tried to join the military after they had become Christians, they were rejected by the church. In fact, if you held a government position where you could even have the authority to order the death sentence, you had to resign or be rejected from the church. Many martyrs were killed for telling their superiors they could not kill because they were Christians.

    With regard to the specific situation, Jesus and the centurion are not engaged in a discussion about violence. The centurion came to Jesus for help on behalf of another (one of the people the centurion’s country was occupying, no less) and did show great faith in Christ’s ability to heal. Since you brought up the example of Gandhi earlier, I’d note that no one thought that Gandhi approved of violence when he served as a medic. The context is roughly the same. Jesus’ views on violence are consistently articulated and well known. He doesn’t have to re-articulate them every time he comes in contact with the violent. Nowhere in the episode does Jesus endorse everything about every part of this centurion’s life, any more than when he saved the woman from stoning. Jesus ate and drank and showed love and compassion for all sorts of sinners, and his love was not preconditioned on their being sinless.

    I don’t read the Bible to practice nonviolence. The Gospels themselves taught me nonviolence. I was a Christian long before the nonviolence pounded its way into my head. In fact, it was an ex-military chaplain’s speech that finally got through me: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0MKY/is_13_29/ai_n15627685 Take a look if you have the time.

    Hope your weekend is fantastic!

  7. dcrowe says:

    Some additional thoughts re: Jesus and the centurion. The method of argument used – that he condoned what he did not denounce in reference to the soldier – is a dangerous argument. For example, the centurion is there on behalf of a servant – a slave. But Jesus did not tell him to free his slave. Does that mean Jesus was pro-slavery? Would you be willing to say that modern day slave-owners were doing the “Christian” thing by owning people as property? I know that is not what you are saying, but it’s the same kind of argument. You can take this argument in any number of different and absurd directions. For example, the Roman was probably a pagan. If Jesus didn’t tell rebuke his paganism or his probable participation in the Mithras cult or his offering incense to the emperor, does that mean Christians can worship the Roman pantheon or the sun and still be in conformity with the teachings and life of Jesus?

  8. batguano101 says:

    Once long ago, an extraordinary man, a Judge who had been in prison as a young man for murder, went through the Bible for my Sunday School class over a year when I was a child. In the non denominational church I grew up in children had to read the Bible cover to cover before baptism, not as a requirement scripturally, but to make sure children knew what they were doing in full.

    The Judge killed a man as a young man, went to prison in Huntsville Texas, “the walls”, a bad place. A “Hell Fire and Damnation” preacher applied the gospel to him, and he repented of his sins, was baptized, and one after another series of events propelled him to be pardoned, released, eventually becoming a Judge, and a good man in our community and church. He went though the Bible with a Sunday school class of 10 year old boys for a year.

    Now those boys all became different things, a Marshal, a concert musician, a real estate man, two preachers, a Doctor and so on later in life. When we came across one another in life as men, we all brought up and discussed how long it took us to straighten out all the really misguided teaching we had received from the Judge limited understanding of the scripture, and we each without fail considered it to be extraordinarily important in our lives in spite of the poor interpretations presented.

    What is the point? It made no difference that this man who clearly had his life changed was correct or mistaken on every point of understanding the scripture. He went through the Bible with us children, every line of it and the Word itself had great effect in spite of his interpretations of it.

    Each one of those boys have since read the Bible many times through life.

    You have gotten hold of a fellow who had something extraordinary happen to him and he faltered and fell prey to guilt, which is in fact vanity.

    The whole family is or was military,and my son is now an officer.

    The padre was in error at the start of the first page, so all that followed was in error. Total war was his wavering point of self condemnation, the mass destruction of civilians in WWII.

    I will simply state the truth. You are deceived.
    There will be wars until Christ’s return in the biggest war the earth has ever had.

    Based on the Padre’s error all you state is error.

    10When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

    Jesus said this man was going to be in the kingdom of heaven even as many of those he had come for will miss it.

    That is not tacit approval or ignoring the Captain’s life, Jesus said the Captain was going to be in the Kingdom of Heaven.

    When he stopped the stoning of the woman he did not say, Listen this woman is going to be in the Kingdom of Heave, but go and sin no more.

    You have laid a foundation on scripture applied with the guilt of a man, the vanity of one man.

    James 2:14-26

    14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

    18But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

    Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder.

    20You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

    25In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

    Try not to lose any more time than necessary over another man’s guilt and vanity.

    We learn from men before us, are blessed by them, and hopefully fill in the blanks or correct any error they taught us because they are men.

    I can give you one good tip to applying that. Stop reading what other men say about the Bible and read the Bible itself exclusively.

  9. dcrowe says:

    Sir:

    I don’t think you really want me to apply your tip, otherwise I’d go right on reading just the scripture, ignoring you, and still come out of it firmly against violence. 🙂

    I think it’s important for neither of us to pretend that if we just read “scripture alone” we’d necessarily come to the same conclusions. Much of what we believe is inferred from the text, or handed down by tradition as you point out. I don’t know if you’ve read the top post on this blog at the moment, but there’s a bit in there about how Christian views of what it means to be “saved” and how salvation works have evolved over time, usually interpreted through the prevailing worldview of the time. Even the verse you’re relying on in your comment can be read on its face in a variety of ways, and even in your reading you’re making an inferrence and reading what you believe to be an implication. Jesus never says the words “This centurion will be in the kingdom of heaven.” You’re inferring it. You might believe it to be an obvious inference, but it’s still not “just what the scripture says.” One could read this scripture, as I do, to use the obviously abundant faith of the Roman as a foil against which to measure the lack of faith of some of his Jewish contemporaries, and go no further.

    As an example of how one can “just read the scripture” and disagree totally, I’d point out that you and I have different methods by which we read scripture. As an example, I believe when Jesus says something explicit like “Love your enemies” or “turn the other cheek,” “return good for evil,” etc., you should not use things like non-explicit inferences or “approval by silence” to try to disprove the explicit statement. So before anyone claiming to know that Jesus approves of violence and certainly before anyone can claim to know that he approves of taking money from the government for services that include killing other people when ordered, they bear a heavy burden of proof that needs more than what I believe you’re offering with this verse, especially when faced with Scriptures, which we both agree are authoritative, like the Sermon on the Mount. That burden gets heavier when you consider the following:

    1) For the first three centuries, the first generations of the church closest to Jesus and the apostles and to the original movement, there was widespread consensus on the centrality of nonviolence among the early church. I feel that’s particularly problematic for your argument because they were the ones who wrote the New Testament scripture you’re referring to.

    2) As this began to change, church leaders prior to Constantine strongly protested.

    3) The church only became widespread believers in the acceptability of violence *once they held the levers of power.*

    Beyond this, the word translated as “faith” has many connotations, one of the most key being that of “loyalty.” For example, when Josephus discovered a Jewish revolutionary plotting against his life, his admonition to the man can be translated “Repent and believe in me,” meaning “Give up your agenda and trust me for mine.” N.T. Wright has written quite a bit on this aspect of the word faith, (and i only bore you with this since the word “faith” is so central to the text you’ve cited) and has concluded the following:

    –The symbols of Judaism about which Jesus and the Pharisees clashed had become symbols for the violent revolutionary movement that drew Rome down on Jerusalem in AD 70, destroying it. Jesus recognized where this was all headed (hence his weeping over jerusalem and other relevant scripture) and warned them that violence would not defeat evil and that the Romans were not the true enemy. The true enemy was Satan and he had infected the Judaism of his day with pagan methods of winning the world: violent nationalism. When Jesus says “Repent and believe in me,” he’s telling others to abandon their agenda, specifically their agenda of violent nationalism, and trust Jesus for his.

    Whew! Sorry for the long reply. Have a great night!

  10. dcrowe says:

    Dangit, i forgot to make a point i meant to make:

    Yes, there will be wars until Christ comes, but there’s a world of difference between saying that something will persist until Christ comes and saying he approves of those things that he’s coming back to fix.

  11. batguano101 says:

    Ugh!

    You discount the scripture.
    Use a rewrite of history to discount the Bible.
    And have an agenda.
    Kid you are a 3 dollar bill.

  12. dcrowe says:

    I’ve never actually heard that phrase before. 🙂

    But I do not discount scripture, unless you draw no distinction between the way *you* understand scripture and the actual text itself.

    I’m also not sure how reading historical scholarship is using a “rewrite of history.”

    And I’d also point out that you have an agenda as well.

    But be that as it may, I have enjoyed your challenges. I hope you stick around to keep me honest.

  13. Thank goodness some bloggers can write. Thank you for this read..

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