Hauerwas on Obama’s Nobel Speech

Hauerwas writes a brief response to Obama’s speech here, where he enunciates once again the importance of maintaining our language about war. What, he asks, lets us know a war is a war? Particularly to proponents of “just war” theory, who list a number of criteria that make a war apparently “just,” Hauerwas asks what a war that fails to meet these criteria would be? Would one still call it war? For instance, one of the just war criteria is that it must be declared by legitimate authority. What if a guerrilla group or terrorist organization declared “war” on a certain country? Would one call this war? Another criterion is that the declared intention of a war must not be different than the actual intention. A country, that is, cannot declare a war looking for weapons of mass destruction, but actually be looking for oil. But then, if this is no longer a war, what is it? A point Hauerwas makes elsewhere, but only alludes to here in his reference to Cain and Abel, is that Christians ought to maintain our language of war as murder. If we fail to name war properly, that is, as murder, then we may lose the resources to see when the wool is being pulled over our eyes with the language of a “necessary war.” Because for those who live by the flesh and blood of one who would not take up arms, the one thing necessary is the peace that is given through the cross.

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