War Against the Poor: Low-Intensity Conflict and Christian Faith

by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer

Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer holds a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York and has lived in Central America off and on since 1982. He is author of Hunger for Justice and The Politics of Compassion, both available from Orbis Books.

Published in 1990 by Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York 10545. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


(ENTIRE BOOK) An analysis of “low-intensity conflict” — the United States global strategy of warfare waged against the poor — as seen in Nicaragua during the 1980s.


  • Introduction

    Low-intensity conflict is the key strategy by which the United States seeks to project its power in the third world in order to protect perceived vital interests.

  • Chapter 1: Redefining the Enemy

    The global economic order needs fundamental restructuring, and the United States through low-intensity conflict seeks to block or control any such changes. It regards changes in the present world order as communist-inspired threats against U.S. national security interests. The poor whose survival depends on such changes are considered enemies.

  • Chapter 2: The “Crimes” of the Poor

    Why are Nicaragua’s efforts to address the needs of its poor majority by reordering political and economic life considered dangerous to U.S. interest?

  • Chapter 3: Low-Intensity Conflict: The Strategy

    Low-intensity conflict is a comprehensive, totalitarian project through which the United States seeks to manage social change in the third world in order to protect perceived vital interests.

  • Chapter: 4 Distorted Democracy

    How low-intensity conflict undermines democratic institutions at home and abroad.

  • Chapter 5: Faith and Empire

    Since low-intensity conflict defines the poor as enemy, it is clearly in conflict with a biblical God who takes sides with the poor. This calls for confession on the part of American Christians.

  • Postscript

    The murder of Jesuit priests in El Salvador, the electoral defeat of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, the invasion of Panama, the “war on drugs,” and changing East/West relations — all add urgency to our need to confront the U.S. strategy of “low-intensity conflict”.