Dr. Ben Carson claims that our war with ISIS shouldn't have any laws, because rules of war are "politically correct." But does he realize that many of those rules of war have their origins in Christianity?
"If the president wants to have a good legacy, this would be a good time to start it," he said, on the broadcast. "We have people trying to manage the military who know nothing about the military, who know nothing about military strategy. Our military needs to know that they're not going to be prosecuted when they come back because somebody says, 'you did something that was politically incorrect.' There is no such thing as a politically correct war."
He said that if there are going to be any established rules for war, the main one ought to be "no war," he said.
So what does the Bible say about rules of war?
God had some rules in the Book of Genesis (Chapter 9), like not shedding human blood because God made us in his image. I think one of those controversial 10 commandments monuments you can see some sort of law about no killing people (see the Book of Exodus for details). And Jesus warns us in the Gospel of Matthew that "all of those who draw the sword die by the sword."
Moreover, St. Augustine disagreed with those Greek pagans who claimed that "might makes right." He came up with Jus Ad Bellum (the right to go to war) and Jus In Bello (how to conduct oneself in war). There are all kinds of "laws of war" which include a legitimate purpose, a legal process, a proportional response, and that war is a last resort.
St. Thomas Aquinas added to these, refining Augustine's "Just War Theory." For example, you need a decent chance of accomplishing your goals, a minimum of civilian casualties, and only using what force is necessary.
Laws of war aren't just something cooked up in Geneva or San Francisco. They aren't just something designed some abstract "political correctness police." They are the cornerstone of Christianity. We've known some who ignored the rules of war, like Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, William T. Sherman, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Napoleon, etc. All either lost the war, or eventually lost the peace.
Clearly, Carson is trying to play to the GOP base. And it's working, as HuffPost's Pollster has him in third place, less than a percentage point from second place (and Mitt Romney still in the lead), and having twice as much support as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
So how will Christians evaluate Carson's plan? Will they follow someone who tells them what they want to hear, or follow their values? We'll find out soon.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at email@example.com.