Our nation has been involved in some sort of conflict for most of the last thirty years. During that time we have been involved in wars around the world with many different nations. The reasons for these wars vary and can differ depending on who you listen to. One of the constant statements throughout the years has been in reference to a quote from a former President. While in office, Ronald Reagan said… “We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression.”
What did Reagan mean by peace through strength? Was he trying to say that in order to demonstrate our strength we must force ourselves upon other nations? In that same speech, Reagan also said… “I believe with all my heart that our first priority must be world peace, and that use of force is always and only a last resort, when everything else has failed, and then only with regard to our national security.” Ronald Reagan
Reagan’s notion of peace through strength was more about promoting peace, while being prepared for war, then it was about demonstrating how dominant we can be. It is clear that Reagan desired peace above anything else, as demonstrated by his words and the fact that our nation experienced relatively little conflict while he was in office. He believed that force was a last resort as opposed to a highlight of our foreign policy. If you study the words of our Founding Father’s, you will find that they said similar things…
“Peace and friendship with all mankind is our wisest policy, and I wish we may be permitted to pursue it.” Thomas Jefferson
“The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.” James Madison
Our policy of force
For many of us, there is a major disconnect between our nation’s recent foreign policy and the phrase “peace through strength”. A more fitting phrase for our recent foreign policy is “peace through force”. Our nation’s leaders have decided to use our military to forcefully impose our values through nation building efforts around the world. This is in direct contrast to Reagan’s idea of the United States not being an antagonist to other nations.
US Armed Forces have become a tool for establishing dominance around the world in order to bring peace to other nations and protect our so called interests. While that type of foreign policy seems to be accepted by most Americans, it is a policy that leads to what is commonly referred to as blowback. Blowback is unintended consequences suffered by the aggressor for an offensive action. Until we admit that is exactly what has happened here, we will continue to suffer the consequences.
While many believe that foreigners hate us for our freedom, it could be easily argued that they hate us more for our acts of aggression against them. That is exactly why the Founding Fathers warned us about entangling alliances with foreign nations. As Thomas Jefferson said… “Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.”
Although, we will likely never achieve what most people consider world peace, we can experience more peace than we have in recent times. However, that will mean that Christians will need to pray for peace. We will need to be peaceful ourselves. We will need to desire peace through strength (the peaceful kind of strength), not peace through force. We will need to overcome evil by doing good. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21
We should heed the words of Ronald Reagan when he said, “The defense policy of the United States is based on a simple premise: The United States does not start fights. We will never be an aggressor. We maintain our strength in order to deter and defend against aggression – to preserve freedom and peace.”
Most of all, we should remember what Jesus said in regards to how we treat our enemies… “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” Luke 6:35
Let us go to God to find His way for peace and let us demonstrate peace through strength the way it was intended. “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14