Of the many atrocities committed and the genocides performed throughout the 20th Century, few cases rival the stories that have come from of the Cambodian “killing fields”. Between 1970 and 1979, an estimated 1.2 – 2.2 million Cambodians were killed by the Khmer Rouge (Genocide). The barbaric nature of slaughter, the torture committed on innocent civilians, and the beliefs that fueled this genocide is a surprising combination of the accidents of history, ideological extremism, blundered US foreign policy, and clandestine US militarism. In reviewing the history of Cambodia, the horror of this mass-genocide appears to establish a universal and moral mandate on mankind to ensure that something like this will never take place again. An important question to ask is concerning how the United States may have failed to keep the killing fields from happening.
Over two thousand years ago, Marcus Tullius Cicero observed that “in times of war, the law falls silent”(Silent enim leges inter arma) (Cicero 17). Today, political philosophers, policy makers, and political leaders argue over this same topic: What laws, if any, are applicable during war? More specifically, what laws, if any, apply to war itself? These questions presuppose a shifting ethical relationship between individuals, societies, and states during a time of war that do not exist in peacetime. But the important question is whether Cicero is necessarily correct – can there exist a time and place where the law is not silent in times of war?
For nearly as long as mankind has maintained written records, it has argued over the ethical actions of war – the idea of a just war is not a Western concept. The ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, and Chinese all discussed various forms of just war. The Egyptians were known for showing great moral restraint in battle (Wilkinson 274), and Laotse – a Chinese philosopher – argued that war is undesirable and should never proceed beyond a minimal objective (Laotse 154). The Babylonians, under Sennecherib, displayed the modern jus in bello notion of distinction, when they would not destroy innocent non-combatants but they would only fight against active soldiers (Friedman 3). Even the Bible establishes the Israelite rules-of-war against the Canaanites in Deuteronomy 20. These examples appear to negate any necessary claim to Cicero’s observation.
In a previous article I wrote concerning the nature, order, and power of a true testimony. A testimony is an account given by a witness who has firsthand knowledge, and whose testimony is made true through sure evidence. As the world classifies and substantiates various forms of evidence, the Holy Ghost is the sure witness of a true and eternal testimony. It is through the evidence of the Holy Ghost that knowledge becomes truth. Once truth is established, there is a fundamental process through which the possessor of truth will follow.
The YouTube video(s) (part 1, and part 2) of Hugh Nibley’s discourse on preventive war and the Book of Mormon has been posted in various places. However, it is difficult to find a definitive source that offers a text of Nibley’s statement. I found a text, and I am re-posting it here for those interested in reading it.
Is Preemptive War A Christian Principle?
By Hugh Nibley
There is no possibility of confrontation here between Good and Bad. This is best shown in Alma’s duel with Amlici. The Amlicites are described as coming on in all the hideous and hellish trappings of one of our more colorful rock groups, glorying in the fiendish horror of their appearance (see Alma 3: 4-6). Alma on the other hand is the “man of God” (Alma 2: 30) who meets the monster Amlici “with the sword, face to face” (Alma 2: 29), and of course wins.