Disappointingly (but not surprisingly), a prominent evangelical leader has once again provided alleged moral justification for war in the Middle East. Russell Moore is to be commended for the cautious and thoughtful manner in which he approached this crucial question. However, even as he claimed that “[he doesn’t] have a definitive answer to offer,” his conclusions on how Just War principles relate to Syria nevertheless lead one to conclude that war with Syria would be just.
The topic at hand came on the heels of the U.S.-led missile strike on the Al Shayrat airfield in Syria on April 7, 2018. People had been asking Moore, who heads a prominent Christian ethics commission, if a broader war with Syria would be just. Moore rightly noted that there already is a war raging in Syria. This points to a broader fact that many evangelical leaders often fail to address. The most recent military action against Syria did not occur in vacuum. Escalation into a broader war with Syria would not emerge from a vacuum, either.
American aggression in the Middle East can arguably be traced back to the U.S. and British-led Iranian coup d’état of 1953.1 The desire for regional transformation continued through the decades and was accelerated during the administration of President George W. Bush (e.g., Iraq, Iran, Syria, Hamas). The agenda of reshaping the Middle East through “regime change” continued through the Obama administration (e.g., Libya, Syria) and appears to still have life in the Trump administration (e.g., Syria, Yemen). Any discussion of Just War in Syria ought to consider the just or unjust nature of the broader agenda of regional transformation through regime change.