No to “Nuke the Ragheads”
Among those who are wakeful to the dangers of our time, you will encounter the ones who say, “Nuke the ragheads!” and similar calls to finish off the whole thing with one nuclear strike on the enemy’s centers such as Iran or Mecca. I’m not going to say they’re giving me a bad name, and I’m not going to say they’re “becoming the very evil they have sworn to fight” (a favorite anti-war catchphrase of the Left). I will say, however, that the enthusiasm for nuclear warfare is misplaced and, even, runs contrary to the spirit of the Tanach (the Jewish Bible).
First, to answer the argument that the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought World War II to end much sooner than it would have otherwise: this is the territory of counterfactuals (“What turn history would have taken if event X had not happened”), which is by nature conjectural; and the world is not the same as it was then regarding the view of nuclear weapons. For the dropping of the bombs in 1945 was the first time, when even their inventors did not have the exact idea as to the damage they would do, and all history following that event, throughout the Cold War (1945–91), is predicated on the fear of those now known effects.
Second, the idea of the inevitability of a nuclear engagement is contrary to the spirit of Biblical prophecy, at least the Jewish one. Many people think that prophecy consists in telling the unstoppable future. Such, however, is not prophecy in the Biblical sense, but fortune-telling, which the Torah forbids (King Saul’s final sin). In ancient myth like that of Oedipus, as in modern myth like that of Anakin Skywalker, what is termed “prophecy” is actually fortune-telling, in which the protagonist is told a future that he cannot possibly avert, no matter how he tries. Not so is Biblical prophecy: it is not a simple sentence in a future tense, but a complex sentence with a conditional clause.
The prophets of G-d always delivered their messages of doom with a way out, a way to avert it, which was, in the greatest contrast to that of myths like the story of Oedipus, imperative for the hearers to take. It is only half the truth to consider the prophets’ words about death and destruction; the other half of the truth is the conditional clause according to which repentance from sin would avert those scenarios. Those, therefore, who look forward to a scenario of global death and destruction for the End of the Days partake of the error of prophet Jonah, who complained upon the sparing of Nineveh from destruction. He had erred in thinking of Nineveh’s destruction an inevitability like the bad fortune told to people by the oracle of Delphi (who was not above deceit: it is said the oracle’s answer to Pyrrhus was both, “I say you can defeat the Romans” and “I say the Romans can defeat you”. HaShem never engages in such smoothness of tongue), but HaShem corrected him, showing him even the worst scenario could be averted by repentance, by any person (Nineveh was a Gentile city).
I do not doubt for a moment that the coming World War will be a great trial; but the degree of the hardship can be lessened according as people repent. Nuclear warfare is a possibility but not an inevitability. It is the worst case, not a default, and not something to which believers should look forward to. The fatalism of Ancient Greek and Islamic thought has no room in the Jewish, Biblical view: just as it was not inevitable that Cain murder his brother, but he could, as HaShem said to him, by his willpower resist that temptation, we can avoid the most terrible outcome by our actions, whether the religious ones of heeding G-d’s words and following His statutes, or the secular ones of doing the utmost to correct those who are in the wrong as to which is friend and which is foe, and speaking the truth no matter the price.
Third, and a timely message for the coming Day of Atonement: the death of evil people is not HaShem’s first resort. When Rabbi Meir wanted HaShem to do away with sinners who harassed him, his wife, Bruriah, admonished him with a midrash on Psalms 104:35: that it is written, “Let sins (chata’im) cease out of the earth” and not “sinners (chot’im)”, therefore we should never pray first for the death of the wicked, but rather for their repentance from evil, with their death a second option in case they do not repent. We know that HaShem can wipe out all sins from the earth by wiping out the sinners, but that is midat ha-din (the measure of judgment), so we pray instead that He will wipe out all the sins from the earth by driving the sinners to repent, which is midat ha-rachamim (the measure of mercy).
Consider the picture of these children:
Young children bearing arms in a Hizbullah training camp. Hat tip: Epaminondas.
That’s awful (if you don’t agree, you’re on the other side). Those kids, like the ones who swept the mines in Iraq with their own bodies under a “martyrdom” initiative set up by none other than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (probably one who is so beyond hope that there will be no choice but for him to meet Haman’s fate), are trained to be suicide fighters. They’re emblematic of the Muslims’ cynical exploitation of the non-Muslims’ weakness, namely its aversion to killing humans so young.
What do you think? If you think that, in a confrontation with them, we should just roll over and let them shoot away, then you’re heartless not only toward yourself and your non-Muslim peers, but also toward those children, who will grow up with the view that terrorism pays. If you think that those kids should be confronted just like any other combatants, and G-d hold the adults who perverted them accountable, then you’re contemplating a cruel and brutal necessity. It may come to this, I have no delusions that it can’t. But, I think the best scenario, the first resort if possible, would be the merciful solution of kidnapping those children and raising them as non-Muslims, for example Christians (Judaism doesn’t seek converts). It would be the real best, sparing both them and their targets from death or injury, bringing them upon love of life and freedom of thought, as well as historical payback for Islamic systems, such as the Ottoman Turks’ devshirme, in which non-Muslim children were kidnapped to be brought up as Muslims.
For He (HaShem, not the Islamic god), the merciful, does not wish for the sinner to die, but rather to repent, and if he does so, HaShem holds His wrath from him (Psalms 78:38).
G’mar chatimah tovah.