By: Mike Hills
Winston Churchill famously said, “There’s something going on in time and space and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.”
The Catholic Church often amazes me. The Jesuit order even further colors the tradition of the faith. As a practicing Catholic, I firmly believe the connection to the military or Catholicism is not mutually exclusive. While I sympathize dearly for Fr. Carney, blaming the military for the problems of today is grossly misguided.
The United States military is first and foremost the fighting force of the American way of life. While undoubtedly violent, the U.S. military fights and wins all endeavors the politicians deem necessary. Love or hate the conflict in Honduras, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan or even the Revolutionary War, the military ultimately solves issues diplomats are unable or unwilling to resolve. Furthermore, top military officials cannot be charged with failure to adhere to Just War Theory, the Catholic teaching that outlines the potential for appropriate military action, because Congress ultimately approves all declaration of war, not the military.
While the military cannot be blamed for the initiation or continuation of violence around the world, it can be credited with the protection and preservation of human dignity, a core belief in Catholic social teaching. In Iraq and Afghanistan, Army troops performed extraordinary duty in assisting citizens of each country to hold democratic elections. In Iraq, they deposed a dictator with a documented history of torture and an affinity for chemical weapons in opposition of the widely accepted Geneva Convention. In 2010 in Haiti, U.S. Army soldiers delivered food, water and medical supplies to a country unable to accept foreign aid because of their poor port and airport infrastructure.
Pope John Paul II outlined the basis for Catholic social teaching and, as a component of that, the Just War Theory, by asserting the importance of human dignity in “Centesimus Annus.” “God has imprinted his own image and likeness on man,” wrote the Holy See, “conferring upon him an incomparable dignity.” Through humanitarian aid and armed conflict the United States Military enforces the foundation for human dignity around the globe.
On the contrary to Fulkerson, I believe the Reserve Officer Training Corps provides the most practical occupation and training to institute human dignity around the globe. The cadets that commission into the regular Army do much more than many who mistake their scholarly work with actual Jesuit service to the poor, who insist on arguing theories and debating potential contradictions. Army soldiers ended torture and the spread of chemical weapons in Iraq and fed hungry mouths in Haiti.
I’m not sure how uniformed service members are to blame for “American imperialism” and the “military-industrial complex.” General Martin Dempsey, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, does not, and cannot, make decisions on whether or not we go to war. General Odierno, army general chief of staff, does not decide the mission of the Army in Afghanistan. Rather, democratically elected officials in Congress charge military tactical experts with winning a mission already determined for them. If Mr. Fulkerson intends to truly end violence and promote peace, he may be inclined to begin with the American voting electorate, and subsequently the interests of those on Capitol Hill.
Perhaps Ronald Reagan, while not a Jesuit himself, said it best. He remarked, “Now let’s set the record straight. There’s no argument over the choice between peace and war. But there’s only one guaranteed way you can have peace and you can have it in the next second. Surrender. Admittedly there’s a risk in any course we follow other than this but every lesson of history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement. And this is the specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face — that their policy of accommodation is appeasement. And it gives no choice but to indecent war only between fight or surrender.”
He goes on, “Where then is the road to peace? Well it’s a simple answer after all. You and I have the courage to stand up to our enemies to say there is a price we will not pay there is a point beyond which they must not advance.” There are injustices in every war. However, the United States military has proven an effective ally to many foreign countries and continues to stand ready to deter war, and if necessary, fight and win.
I would like to thank all members of the Reserve Officer Training Corps for their exemplary service. May the Xavier “All For One” Battalion continue to prosper, modeling Ignatian spirituality. Saint Ignatius was, after all, a soldier himself.
Second Lieutenant Mike Hills is a 2013 graduate of Xavier University in the Philosophy, Politics & the Public program and is the former Opinions&Editorials editor for Newswire in 2011-2012. He is currently stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky.