Spending a week in the museums of Washington, DC, one is continually confronted with the many wars that have been and continue to be fought on this planet. I have found myself asking many questions about war. When must a country go to war? Is there ever a good reason to defend ourselves or defend a weaker people? Was it necessary for countries to go to war in the Seven Years War of 1754–1763; the War of 1812; the American Civil War; World War I; World War II; the Korean War; the Vietnam Conflict; the Gulf War; the Iraq War; the War in Afghanistan; the Syrian Uprising; the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria? Although I tend toward pacifism, I find that my answers to such questions are ever changing based on individual circumstances. I believe that J.R.R. Tolkien had more in mind than the wars of his fictional Middle Earth when he said,
War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.1
Perhaps that is all one can say. There are times when war must be, such as when a political or religious power threatens to destroy and devour all. Yet, we do not glorify war or the weapons of war; we rejoice in those things against which war can and has defended. We glory in people who have freedom to choose their politics, their religions, and their philosophies. We reluctantly go to war so that we might love peace.
1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers