Anachronistic Military Imagery

Peace is almost universally valued. Ironically, it cannot be achieved without holding militaristic forces at bay. And preventing them from crushing the weak, requires that a more “benevolent” be strong enough to stand up to the international bullies.

If there is no champion for those unable to defend themselves, the wolves tear their prey apart and the only limits placed on their appetites are the threats posed by other predators. The fate of the small ranges from domination by ruthless powers to domination by less ruthless overlords.

If there is no benevolent “superpower,” or if it is viewed as feeble and indecisive, the Third Reichs of the world will reign.

Historically, imperialistic agendas have been checked by other empires or alliances. Some alliances are small, such as the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) which includes only Canada and the U.S. Others are intercontinental, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), with its thirty members. Further growth of this alliance is at the heart of global tensions as this post is published.

The alliances I have mentioned are established for mutual defense. NATO has not secreted away a covert plan for world domination.

My thoughts turn to the possibility of war because (in view of many) the power of the United States is waning. Wolves are licking their proverbial chops, eager to expand their spheres of influence.

Even as we pray that God would preserve Europe from conflict around Ukraine, remember that there are nations where civil wars have raged for generations. God have mercy.

War & Peace

The “collectable plate” pictured at the top of this post was purchased by my mother when she visited our family in the U.K. in 1990. A decade after my retirement from the USAF, I am still unpacking some of the boxes I accumulated during decades, and after my mom’s passing, this souvenir joined the archives.

It really is beautifully ornate. Such an attractive setting for an awesomely combative image.

Lest they be misperceived as “conventional” weapons, it should be noted that Ground Launched Cruise Missiles were expressly devised to deliver intermediate range nuclear explosives. Deadly.

The great thing about NATO’s cruise missiles is that they were deployed to bring the Soviet Union to the negotiating table, where the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty led to the elimination of all such munitions from Europe!

Combining military and peace imagery has a long tradition. I wrote about “Powerful Names” and how Iran chose the classic name “Peacekeeper” for one of its deadly missiles. But you can find in my post many other, stranger labels. (I’m still confused why the Brits named of their 1950s missiles “Green Cheese.”)

My assignment at Royal Air Force Greenham Common was a joy. And it was a genuine privilege to be part of a mission that literally made the world a safer place.

I hope all people who desire lasting peace will join me in supporting the allied nations of democratic countries as they counterbalance the world’s totalitarians. And if they can combine the power of necessary arms with artistry that celebrates the pastimes of peace, all the better.

C.S. Lewis worked his own magic combining frightening images with peaceful pursuits. Included in the ranks of Aslan’s army, after all, we see not only cute badgers and prickly hedgehogs. Fierce (even beastly) satyrs are found in the ranks of Good. (Think super-gross, goat-faced fauns . . . with axes). Still, when they are aligned in the ranks beside Narnia, they appear noble. I can even imagine them, during seasons of peace, tilling the soil and tending the orchards.

We will close with a piece of trivia about Narnian warriors. In the books, the Minotaurs (nasty creatures these), are all portrayed in a negative light. They are among the troops of the White Witch celebrating Aslan’s death. However, in the films they have been redeemed and some fight beside Aslan and Narnia’s kings. C.S. Lewis’ son, Doug Gresham, explained the change in an interview:

There are several reasons for that. Firstly, we felt that we needed to show that in Narnia as here, old foes can be forgiven and can reconcile and work together, given the will to do so. Secondly, that in Narnia as also it is here, a common adversary will bring even the worst of enemies together and unite them.

Also, that the shapes and colours of a species’ body do not necessarily denote their character, that just because someone is a Minotaur does not have to mean that they are all bad. Finally, we kind of like Minotaurs.

The Church Militant (Or Not)

I was surfing wordpress sites the other day and came across one that linked to a fascinating collection of distinctive church buildings. I’ll include the link at the end of this column (so you don’t get too distracted, and fail to finish reading my impressions).

Many of the edifices are intriguing. Most are unique. A handful are truly inspiring.

One of the “unique” designs is found in the architecture of Saint Joseph Ukrainian Catholic Church in Chicago. For some viewers, the structure suggests minarets. Others see it as a contemporary version of Moscow’s Cathedral of Saint Basil. For me, it evokes a rather more martial memory.

In the early 1990s I was stationed at RAF Greenham Common where we were part of the nuclear deterrence mission. We supported the GLCM (ground launched cruise). We actually accomplished our national goal, in persuading the Soviet Union to mutually disarm through the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. That was a significant accomplishment.

As part of the process, NATO and the Soviets dispatched Verification Teams to ensure that each was following through with the reduction and ultimate elimination of the missiles. After all of ours had been removed, I was privileged to serve as a Soviet Escort Officer during one such visit. It was interesting to watch how the highlight for the Soviets was their visit to our base exchange. (They were shocked by the diverse offerings of everyday capitalism and suspected that we depleted other stores to stock this one in a manner that would impress them.)

While they were visiting, they conducted pro forma inspections of all the locations where a missile could be hidden, including under regular manhole covers, as I recall.

Perhaps by now you understand why the Saint Joseph building reminds me of that tour of duty?

I am probably the only person whose first thought upon viewing this building is: what an amazing disguise for missile silos! Of course, one factor for my reaction is the clearly Russian/Ukrainian shape of the entire structure. A peculiar response to the picture, right? And yet . . . without inspecting the tubes, who can say with certainty whether or not my first reaction may have been accurate?

Here’s the link to the 50 Most Extraordinary Churches.