“nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore”
Several studies over the past few years have indicated that, when it comes to education - particularly in math and science - the United States has fallen behind several other nations in terms of student learning.
If only we could fall in the “learning war” rankings.
As we are being reminded by Ken Burns’ latest documentary, while most accounts have the Vietnam War lasting about 10 years, in truth the hostilities lasted much longer. In fact, according to Department of Defense records, the “official” start of our military involvement was in 1955, making it closer to 20 years that we were at war there.
It is an important reminder, because the same accounting differences can be applied to our current military involvement in the Middle East. While the Iraq War is generally dated from early 2003 through the end of 2011 - a little less than 9 years - our military involvement there has been unceasing since the Gulf War of 1990. That’s 27 years. Now add in the War in Afghanistan, which has been ongoing since 2001, the Korean War of the early 1950’s (a war which has actually never officially ended), World War II, and our military actions in Kosovo and Panama in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s, and it adds up to a nation that has essentially been at war for almost all of the past 77 years.
We may have fallen behind in math and science, but we are honors students at learning war. Not learning from war necessarily - learning as an agent of change - but certainly learning as in the development of habit. War is now an ingrained habit for us, something we both claim to lament, but also seem to accept as a given. And yes, there are forces in the world that wish to do us harm that we must be able to defend ourselves against. But at the same time, the great irony is that the more powerful we became as a nation, the more we went to war. All the talk about the need for constantly increasing military might, talk that is the one constant when it comes to bipartisanship in Washington, seems to have only encouraged us to “learn war” more. Now we are entertaining a second war in Korea. Perhaps it is time to learn something new. Time to acquire a new habit. Time to do what the God and Jesus of the Bible and our Christian tradition ask us to learn instead - that power should be the means for not learning war anymore. Our nation’s power should be the means through which we become able to fall behind in our inclination to engage in war and instead go to the head of the class when it comes to engaging in diplomacy and alleviating the economic and social conditions which far more often than not are what give rise to war.