From the Editor

The high cost of waging war

When we send our soldiers into the killing fields, the price can be dear

The history of humanity, historians like to say, is the history of war — and the interludes between them. I have rarely found a thinking person who believed that war was a good idea (although a few have argued it’s “good for the economy,” an opinion not safely voiced in the hearing of those with loved ones recently killed in conflict).

Lutherans, like everyone else, are of more than one mind about whether war should ever be waged and, if so, when. A counterpoint essay on page 13 of this month’s print edition makes the argument that Jesus and Christians in the first three centuries rejected armed conflict as an acceptable way to settle conflict.

Martin Luther affirmed St. Augustine’s argument that war could be justified, but only if certain conditions could be met (it has to be a last resort; there has to be a certainty that the cause is morally defensible; there has to be a reasonable assurance that you can win).

Moral giants of the 20th century (some of whom are still alive in the 21st) have called armed conflict “a failure of imagination.” They’re telling us that intelligent people should be able to find other ways to solve disputes.

One thing is indisputable. War is costly. Drive by the military cemetery adjacent to the Humphrey Terminal at Twin Cities Airport and count the grave markers. Every one represents someone who died too soon. Count the cost.

When I served a Lutheran congregation in Iowa, during the years of the Vietnam Conflict, a parish member returned from the battle angry, sullen, and emotionally unstable. Count the cost.

A relative sent me a Web link last month. I’ve been checking it from time to time. You can visit it at There you will find a counter that displays a rapidly escalating figure, which is now well over $218 billion. This is the amount of treasure the United States has spent, and continues to spend day by day, for the military conflict in Iraq.

Someone had told me we were spending $1.5 billion a week in Iraq. I’d found that to be incredible. If this site is trustworthy, the figure is pretty accurate. Here’s what I tracked over ten days:

November 1 — $216,407,600,000
November 10 — $218,478,682,000

For Minnesota the numbers look like this:
November 1 — $5,055,251,700
November 10 — $5,103,628,000

How do we know when we’ve paid too much?