Thursday, January 22, 2009

Moroni The War Criminal? Part 2

Without further ado, here is part two:
While not a war crime, Moroni’s tendency to insist on unconditional surrender and treaty acceptance seems to prolong the war. Much like Germany after World War I, the Lamanites, when they lose, must always accept complete defeat. The resentment, under these conditions, seems to build up quickly, resulting in more fighting to come. Oddly enough, when Moroni’s son, Moronihah loses half the kingdom to the Lamanites later, the Lamanites shortly give all their acquired territory back (after the religious intervention of Nephi and Lehi). Perhaps Zarahemnah and Ammoron would have responded better to Nephite peace overtures if Moroni hadn’t insisted on implying they were the children of hell.

John's history is wrong. In World War I, Germany was not completely defeated, and the untouched German territory allowed the stabbed in the back myth to perpetuate. John’s criticism sounds much like WWII revisionists who argue that the United State’s demand for unconditional surrender prolonged the Pacific War. And just like the WWII revisionists, John is completely wrong. The Lamanites were ruled by a man arguably more authoritarian and cruel than Japan’s Emperor. To suggest that something less than death would have stopped him is wrong. John's Book of Mormon knowledge is also wrong, apostates in the Book of Mormon were worse than the non believers that Ammon, Nephi, and Lehi converted in other times. (Alma 24:30) Amalickiah swore to drink the blood of Moroni (Alma 49:27), and revealed an almost sociopathic lust for power. (Alma 47) In response to this homicidal blood drinker with an eternal hatred of the Nephite people, Pahoran articulated a fairly restrained policy. Alma 61:11-14. This restrained policy was simply to recover their lands already lost, not to invade and dominate Lamanite lands. (Status quo ante bellum) Thus, the unconditional surrender that John cites was not even that.

John C. also seems to think that Moroni "insulted" them into fighting. When Moroni called Ammoron a child of Hell he had already: attempted a coup in the Nephite government, seized Lamanite power through intrigue and murder, attacked two cities in Nephite lands, instigated internal rebellion in Nephite lands, swore to drink the blood of Moroni, invaded again, and plundered several Nephite cities. Moroni was defending Nephite lands against enemy slaughter and depredation, the fact that Moroni was still able to negotiate without a blinding revenge is remarkable.

Mormon, a participant in a scorched earth campaign, presents these details without comment. I believe this is, in part, due to his deep admiration for Moroni. Moroni was a man who did great things. At the same time, Mormon is a wonderfully subversive editor. Even if our all being like Moroni would shake the gates of hell, Moroni is presented with flaws intact and with subtle commentary. Why else the inclusion of Moroni’s threats of military coup when writing to the legally-elected, civil authorities of his country?

From the viewpoint of Moroni the legally elected representatives where guilty of gross negligence at best, thus his letter was justified from his point of view. There was actually a coup against the government and Moroni provided the needed corps of loyalist forces to restore the government. Thus Mormon included Moroni’s letter (threatened coup and all) as an indicator of how forceful, determined, and ultimately successful Moroni was as a defender of God’s people and representative of the “true spirit of Freedom-which is the Spirit of the Lord”. (Alma 61:15)

Clausewitz described war as a being that moves towards a violent absolute. (On War: Book 1, chapter 1) With the passion and hatred displayed by the Lamanite leaders, it is remarkable that Moroni did as well as he did in resisting the tendency of war to move towards it violent absolute. In fact,I get that sense that Moroni was like the leader of the Latins in Virgil's Aeneid. The King resisted the call to war, and tried to hold back his people, knowing the disastrous consequences that comes with the foolishness of the heroic impulse and the encouragement of war's enmity. But the people opened the gates of war anyway. Once the War started, Moroni prosecuted it with vigor, skill, and a comparative amount of restraint and civility: he gave a trapped enemy a chance to surrender, allowed prisoners to leave after swearing an oath, he resisted the chance to slaughter passed out soldiers. He also acted with spirituality and sensitivity: He consecrated his banner, he dedicated the land, he supported the civilian government, he knew gospel principles and received revelation. In short, Moroni is a hero not a war criminal; and deserves the respect of LDS and non LDS alike. He acted within the context of ancient society, but with significant righteous "twists", proving that we can be good soldiers and good people, and we can live in the world but not of it.

No comments: