Ethics Articles

Articles: War


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A Practical Christian Pacifism (Christian Century, 861022)

Wisdom in a Time of War (Christianity Today, 020104)

Reconciling War (EFC, 020200)

May a Christian Ever Participate in War? (EFC, 020400)

Moral Clarity in a Time of War (First Things, 021200)

When There Is No Peace: On war and the Vatican (NRO, 030221)

No Proof Would Be Enough (Weekly Standard, 030225)

The Peacenik Top 10 (Weekly Standard, 030306)

Catholic doctrine and Saddam Hussein (Washington Times, 030317)

Why We Must Fight — and Now! (Foxnews, 030319)

The Exhausting Pursuit of Peace: A problem with just-war theory today (NRO, 030319)

Casualties of Enlightenment: Peace (of mind) at any price (NRO, 030319)

Dumb and Dumber: Conventional ignorance about the present war (NRO, 030321)

Small War Now…or World War Later (NRO, 030321)

The Four Generations Of Modern War (Free Congress Foundation, 030409)

Radical relativism and the war in Iraq (National Post, 030404)

Two Different Countries: Canadian and American Responses to the War in Iraq (EFC, 030800)

Ancient Christian Commentary on Current Events: What Is War Good For? (Christianity Today, 031028)

Armistice and Insanity? The Horror of War (Christian Post, 051111)





A Practical Christian Pacifism (Christian Century, 861022)


by David A. Hoekema


Dr. Hoekema is executive director of the American Philosophical Association, Newark, Delaware. This article appeared in the Christian Century, October 22, 1986, pps. 917-919. Copyright by the Christian Century Foundation; used by permission. Current articles and subscription information can be found at This article prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.


Few moral and theological positions are as deeply cherished by their adherents, yet so quickly dismissed by their opponents, as pacifism. The moral legitimacy of using violence is among the most urgent issues of our time, and yet its discussion slips quickly into an exchange of stereotypes. Pacifists are to be commended, even admired—runs the familiar observation in mainline Protestant, Catholic and evangelical circles—but we who know what the world is really like cannot share their naive optimism. The pacifist’s reply has become equally familiar: the principles of just war, noble as they may sound, in practice merely pronounce a blessing upon ruling nations and ideologies.


I have grown increasingly dissatisfied with the gulf separating pacifists from defenders of just war. The church in which I was raised, the Christian Reformed Church, is what one draft board, in refusing a friend’s request to be recognized as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam war, aptly termed a “war church.” Calvinist theology has long been hostile to pacifism, and most Reformed churches’ reflections on war begin by distinguishing justified from unjustified wars. Yet the Reformed perspectives on the nature of the person and of society can actually support a realistic form of pacifism—a version that has received too little attention in either the “peace churches” or the “war churches.”


Pacifism need not be politically naive, nor need it place undue faith in human goodness. These may be telling objections to some pacifists, but a careful articulation of the pacifist vision can meet them. By the same token, pacifists ought not deride just-war theory as merely Realpolitik in vestments, for the just-war tradition, when taken seriously, is just as stringent in its demands as is pacifism.


The case for Christian pacifism has been made frequently and fervently by many writers. The Gospel writers record that Jesus called his followers to a way of life in which violence and division are overcome by sacrificial love. We must not return evil for evil, Jesus taught, but must return good for evil; we must not hate those who wrong us but must love our enemies and give freely to those who hate us. These themes in Jesus’ ministry were deeply rooted in the Hebrew prophetic tradition, and Jesus’ ministry an his sacrificial death were a continuation and a fulfillment of that tradition. Followers of Jesus, Christian pacifists say, must follow both his example and his teachings: they must show love for all in their actions and seek healing and reconciliation in every situation.


The early Christian community understood Jesus’ commands to prohibit the bearing of arms. Christians refused to join the military, even though the Roman army of the period was as much a police force as a conquering army. Those who converted to Christianity while in military service were instructed to refrain from killing, to pray for forgiveness for past acts of violence, and to seek release from their military obligations. A striking example of the pervasiveness of pacifism in the early church is the fact that Tertullian and Origen—church fathers who stood at opposite poles regarding the relation of faith to philosophical reasoning—each wrote a tract supporting Christians’ refusal to join the military.


A profound change in the Christian attitude toward war occurred at the time of the emperor Constantine, whose conversion to Christianity helped bring the Christian community from the fringes to the center of Western society. From the time of Constantine to the present, pacifism has been a minority view in the Christian church. The just-war tradition, rooted in the ethical theories of Plato and Cicero and formulated within the Christian tradition by Augustine, Aquinas and the Protestant Reformers, defends military force as a last resort against grave injustice. According to this view, when the innocent are threatened by an unjust aggressor and all other remedies have failed, Jesus’ demand for sacrificial love may require us to use lethal force.


Pacifism and just-war theory reach different conclusions only in a narrow range of cases: both positions insist that Christians must strive always for healing and reconciliation and must act out of love for all, and both traditions unequivocally condemn the reasons—whether nationalism, territorial or economic gain, revenge or glory—for which nearly all wars have been fought. Yet the differences that exist are both theologically and politically significant. Just-war defenders argue that if all means short of violence have failed and organized violence promises to be a limited and effective means of reestablishing justice, Christians may participate in war. Pacifists insist that to resort to warfare, even for a moral end, is to adopt a means inconsistent with the Christian’s calling.


Why is the pacifist vision of a healing and reconciling ministry of nonviolence not universally embraced in the churches? I would single out five prominent arguments to which pacifists, if they are to make their own position cogent and realistic, must respond.


Pacifism is surrender. “The pacifist viewpoint is appealing in principle, but in practice it means surrendering to the aggressor,” is a charge heard often. “Capitulation to the forces of evil cannot be moral.”


The problem with this objection is that it equates pacifism with passive nonresistance. Pacifism is not synonymous with “passivism”: the pacifist rejection of war is compatible with a great many measures for defense against aggression. In fact, pacifist theorists have urged the development of a civilian-based non-military defense, which would encompass organized but nonviolent resistance, refusal to cooperate with occupying forces, and efforts to undermine enemy morale.


The tendency to equate pacifism with “passivism” and capitulation reflects how little we know of the remarkable historical successes nonviolent tactics have achieved, even in the face of brutal repression. From the courageous Swedish and Danish resistance to Nazism to the transformation of Polish society by the Solidarity labor movement, and from the struggle for Indian self-rule led by Gandhi to the struggle for racial equality in the United States led by Martin Luther King, Jr., and others, nonviolence has been a creative and effective force. Whether nonviolent resistance can always overcome aggression and whether its cost in suffering and death will in every case be less than that of war is difficult to say, but at least it cannot be said that pacifism is merely a policy of capitulation.


Pacifism extolls purity. “The main problem with pacifism” runs a second objection, “ is that the pacifist places a higher value on his or her own purity of conscience than on saving others’ lives. If we are going to fulfill our obligations, we have to be willing to get our hands dirty and not hold ourselves on some higher moral plateau than everyone else. Pacifists enjoy the freedom that others ensure by their willingness to resort to arms.


This objection rests on two confusions. In the first place, pacifism is an objection to war per se, not merely an objection to personal participation in war. Pacifists do not ask for a special exemption because of their high moral views or delicate sensibilities; they refuse to participate in war because it is immoral. Their exemption from military service is simply the compromise position that has developed in a society in which moral objection to war is not unanimously shared.


A second confusion in this argument is the notion that taking part in war shall be regarded as a lesser evil, rendered necessary by extreme circumstances. Such a claim has no part in traditional just-war theory—or, indeed, in any coherent moral theory. The just-war proponent believes that war is sometimes required by justice, in which case it is not the lesser of two evils but is itself a good. The issue is whether intentional killing in war is ever a good thing, not whether one ought to grit one’s teeth and bravely commit one wrong rather than another.


Pacifism is based on optimistic humanism. “Pacifism links a noble ideal—the avoidance of violence—to naive and implausible assumptions about the inherent goodness of human nature. If I thought that I could trust people and nations to resolve their differences peaceably and fairly, I would be a pacifist too. But history teaches us differently.”


This objection brings us near the heart of the theological argument against pacifism. Indeed, it is a telling argument against some forms of pacifism. Gandhi, for example, was sustained by a deep faith in the goodness of human nature, a goodness he thought nonviolent action could call forth. “If love or non-violence be not the law of our being,” he wrote, “the whole of my argument falls to pieces” (in Gandhi on Non-violence, edited by Thomas Merton [New Directions, 1964], p. 25). Similar optimism about human nature seems to have motivated some Quaker writers and much of the pacifism of American church leaders following the First World War. Such optimism requires a selective and unrealistic assessment of human behavior and human capacities. If pacifism rests on a trust that people have a natural capacity and an irrepressible tendency to resolve their differences justly and harmoniously, then pacifism is a delusion, and a dangerous one.


Such trust is not, however, essential to pacifism. There can be a realistic pacifism, a pacifism that gives due weight to the sinfulness and perversity of human nature.


Pacifists and defenders of just war can agree that every life is tainted with sin, and that evil will inevitably arise, but still disagree about how we ought to respond when it does arise. An essential companion to the doctrine of sin is the doctrine of grace. Though human nature is corrupted by sin, it is also illuminated by God’s presence and guidance; God’s grace shows itself in countless ways in the lives of Christians and non-Christians alike. In light of this fact, evil demands a response that overcomes rather than compounds evil. Such a pacifist stance differs significantly from a Gandhian or humanistic faith in the capacity of the human heart for goodness, while retaining the conviction that there are other remedies for sin besides war.


It should be noted, further, that realism about human nature cuts two ways: if it undermines a pacifism based on optimism, it also undermines the assumption that weapons of destruction and violence intended to restrain evil will be used only for that purpose. The reality of human sinfulness means that the instruments we intend to use for good are certain to be turned to evil purposes as well. There is therefore a strong presumption for using those means of justice that are least likely to be abused and least likely to cause irrevocable harm when they are abused. An army trained and equipped for national defense can quickly become an army of conquest or a tool of repression in the hands of an unprincipled leader. But a nonviolent national defense force, or a peacekeeping force bringing together citizens of a dozen nations, is of little use except for its intended purpose.


Pacifism confuses moral categories. “The basic confusion of pacifists is their assumption that the principles of Christian morality which we ought to follow in our individual lives can be applied to governments. Only individuals can truly be moral; governments are by their very nature ‘immoral,’ if we judge them as we would judge individuals. Killing is wrong for individuals, but for states an entirely different standard must be applied.”


The notion that morality applies to individuals and not to governments is completely contrary to a central doctrine of Reformed theology which is endorsed, in varying forms, by other Christian traditions as well: that Jesus Christ is the Lord not just of the church, nor of a special sphere of religious activity, but of all of the natural and human world. We are not called to serve God in our religious activities and to carry on as usual in the other areas of life—far from it. We are called to live as followers of Jesus Christ in every human activity. Thus, we must obey God’s demands for justice and reconciliation not only as families and churches but as societies. There is no room in Christian social thought for excluding governments from the realm of morality. If Christian ethics permits killing in certain circumstances, then violence is legitimate as a last resort, both for individuals and for governments. But if, on the other hand, Jesus did in fact demand that the members of the new Kingdom he inaugurated renounce all killing, then we must restructure both our personal and our institutional lives to fulfill that demand.


Pacifism is too patient. “To suffer wrong rather than harm another, to return nonviolent resistance for violent oppression, might have been appropriate at an earlier stage in our struggle. But the violence inflicted on us for so long leaves us no choice but to use force in return. We can endure no more; only arms can bring justice now.”


This argument, the cry raised in Soweto and San Salvador, is painfully familiar, and it is impossible to hear it without feeling the deep pain of those who make it. I am not sure whether this argument can be answered. Those of us who regard it at a comfortable distance may not know the possibilities that remain to those whose lives have been stunted by violence.


Are there wrongs so grave that only violent means can set them right? I do not believe there are, but I do believe that the historical point at which one faces this question is significant. Nazism would surely have been destroyed by sustained nonviolent resistance had Christians and others not averted their gaze from its evil for so long. But whether Nazism could have been destroyed by nonviolent means in 1939 is a far more difficult question. Similarly, the Christian churches of South Africa, both black and white, could once have ended the policy of apartheid through nonviolent reforms, but today, as the black death toll mounts into the thousands, it is difficult to imagine that the system will fall unless commensurate force is brought to bear against it.


Situations of extreme oppression do not invalidate the pacifist vision of nonviolent change. Active but nonlethal resistance is both theologically and practically defensible even in seemingly hopeless circumstances—as the courageous work of André Trocmé in Vichy France and of several church leaders in South Africa today makes evident. Yet many in such situations turn to violence as their last hope in the struggle for justice. We may dispute their conclusion, but our response should be more one of solidarity than of condemnation.


I have argued that the major objections to pacifism can be met by a pacifism grounded in Christian commitment and realism about human nature. To answer these objections is not to show that pacifism is the only responsible stance that a Christian may adopt. The issue of the justifiability of violence needs to be faced squarely and debated vigorously in the churches, and pacifists and non-pacifists can learn much from each other in this debate. Nevertheless, I believe that the practical pacifism I have described deserves more serious consideration than it has received in Christian circles, especially since the major alternative to pacifism in Christian ethics, the just-war tradition, has significant deficiencies. Important as the just-war tradition has been in the development of Christian thinking about war and peace, it gives insufficient weight to the central Christian calling to be agents of healing and reconciliation.


Furthermore, the radical changes that the nuclear age has brought to the phenomenon of war make it impossible to weigh means against ends in the way required by just-war theory. War is justified, according to just-war criteria, when its good result—the restoration of justice—outweights the harm it will cause. But when the possible consequences of war include the destruction of humankind and the permanent defacement of the entire natural and human world, we do not know how to balance benefits against such costs. The just-war tradition cannot guide us in thinking about such a prospect.


What are the practical implications of such a pacifist stance? Several first steps can be clearly identified. The cessation of nuclear testing and of the development of new weapons systems, and the subsequent reduction of existing stockpiles of weapons would stabilize the international balance of terror. If at the same time means of international cooperation were created and international authorities strengthened, the threat of war would begin to hang less heavily over us. To go beyond these preliminary steps to abolish war would require far more drastic attacks on the political and economic roots of war.


No one can consistently call for peaceful alternatives to war without reflecting on the ways in which one personally participates in and benefits from social institutions that cause violence. Some people may refuse to take up arms, others may withhold taxes designated for military ends; and others may renounce jobs or possessions that implicate them in injustice. Here there is an urgent need for more open and honest discussion in the churches, for we are too quick to condemn those who bear witness in a way to which we do not feel called. We ought not to demand the same actions from everyone. Out of more open and honest discussion may come new and still untried ways of putting flesh on a shared vision of peace.


Practical Christian pacifism is grounded in faithfulness and hope, but also in realism. It provides not only a moral basis for dealing with conflicts but a framework within which to carry on the vital task of building structures that can eventually eliminate war and its causes.




Wisdom in a Time of War (Christianity Today, 020104)


What Oswald Chambers and C.S. Lewis teach us about living through the long battle with terrorism.


By J.I. Packer | posted 01/04/2002


So we are at war. The United States leads a loose international coalition pledged to destroy the worldwide terrorist networks, which produced the 19 young men who on September 11 randomly killed thousands of civilians and destroyed billions of dollars worth of flagship property.


America’s war aim is not just retributive justice (though it certainly is that, as far as the terrorists are concerned). It is primarily to prevent such attacks in the future by eliminating their source. War is always evil, but in our nightmare scenario, where more terrorism as a follow-up is confidently promised, a war of suppression appears to most as the lesser evil. However burdensome, it is surely the best and only rational course.


We need to be clear that terrorism, whether religiously, politically, or ideologically motivated, begins as a mindset—what the Bible calls a thought of the heart. In this case, alienated persons are driven by bitterness at real or fancied wrongs, by some form of racial or class hatred, and by utopian dreams of better things after the present order has been smashed. This is an explosive mix.


Terrorists think of themselves as both victims and avenging angels. They act out their self-justifying heartsickness in a way that matches Cain killing Abel. They see themselves as clever heroes, outsmarting their inferiors by concealing their real purpose and by overthrowing things they say are contemptible. So their morale is high, and conscience does not trouble them. Gleeful triumphalism drives terrorists on; they are sure they cannot lose. This is what the anti-terrorism coalition is up against. It is only realistic to anticipate that ridding the world of terrorism will be a long job.


Terrorism is something countries like Ireland and Israel know all about, having lived with local forms of it for decades, and now America must face it too. It would be silly to deny that the prospect is daunting, indeed traumatic. Jesus spoke of a day when men’s hearts would faint with fear and foreboding of what was about to come on the world (Luke 21:26). Such a day may not be far off. Here and there, it seems a measure of panic has already begun to appear.


Where may we find godly wisdom to face days like these? One source is the teaching of two 20th-century British veterans of the Cross. One was a Baptist minister, Oswald Chambers, who died in 1917 at age 43 of complications following an appendectomy. At the time, he was serving as a YMCA chaplain with the British Commonwealth forces in Egypt. The other was an Oxford don, C.S. Lewis, who was in the trenches during the first World War and who, during World War II, taught basic Christianity to the troops, to Oxford undergraduates, and to the whole English nation by a series of books, broadcasts, and addresses. He died of kidney failure in 1963 at age 64. Chambers, little known in his own lifetime, became a Christian icon only when his widow compiled and published My Utmost for His Highest in 1927; Lewis gained that status with the success of The Problem of Pain, published in 1940.


Chambers and Lewis might seem an odd couple to pair up, but they had much in common. As their admirers already know, each had a brilliant mind, a stout faith, an uncannily empathetic and perceptive imagination, and a masterful way with words. Each was a teacher by instinct and gift. Each was spiritually honest and down-to-earth to an almost frightening degree. Each was well versed in the Western theological heritage, and in Western philosophy, literature, and history. Each adored the Lord Jesus Christ unstintingly as his Savior and Master. And each had a similar approach to the nitty-gritty of living through a war.


To be sure, Lewis, the Anglo-Catholic, would not have endorsed Chambers’s acceptance of the Wesleyan belief in entire sanctification; and Chambers, the evangelical, would have felt that Lewis’s treatments of biblical inspiration and the Atonement were a bit loose. But that is irrelevant here. The two men shared a full belief in the triune God, original sin, redemption and regeneration through Jesus Christ, and in the reality of God’s sovereign control of all that happens. Against this background, the convergence of their thinking about spiritual life when surrounded by war is less surprising.


For any who wish to verify what I am about to report, the main evidence on Chambers is in the volume of his Complete Works, published in 2000, and in David McCasland’s Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God (1993). Lewis’s thoughts are most clearly focused in The Screwtape Letters (1942) and his Oxford sermon, “Learning in War-time,” which he preached in October 1939.


The war itself was never the subject of what Lewis and Chambers said, only part of the predicate. As neither politicians nor prophets but Christian nurturers, they took people in perplexity of need as their subject. They discussed war, with its unforeseeable outcomes and certain distresses, as only one of life’s incidentals (granted, a huge one) with which we must learn to deal.


What, then, did they have to say about living with war? Basically, it was the same as they regularly said to help people live for God in this fallen world. It can be set out thus:


First, we must think. It is no surprise that Lewis, a university teacher, should have cast all he said as a Christian spokesman and apologist as an argument. (See Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain, Miracles, and God in the Dock for starters.) Demanding critical thought for the developing of discernment is, after all, what Oxbridge education was (and still is) all about. It is more surprising that Chambers, long the chief speaker for the League of Prayer, a body promoting a second-blessing experience, should have stressed so constantly the need to grapple with life’s big questions and urged so strongly that thinking was vital for spiritual growth and maturity.


The truth is that Chambers and Lewis were teachers to their fingertips. They knew that the unthinking—professed Christians no less than others—live perforce on prejudices, moods, and knee-jerk reactions that keep them from wisdom. They believed that informed thought is integral to the process of discipleship. And so Chambers’s word to a man who read only the Bible and books about it, and who felt stuck and inarticulate, was: “The trouble is you have allowed part of your brain to stagnate for want of use.” The man later wrote, “There and then, [Chambers] gave me a list of over 50 books, philosophical, psychological, theological, covering almost every phase of modern thought,” leading to “a revolution which can only be described as a mental new birth”—just as Chambers had hoped.


Conversely, Lewis’s didactic devil Screwtape warns his naïve nephew and protégé, Wormwood, that humans must at all costs be distracted from pursuing truth by active thought. “The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle onto the Enemy’s own ground . …By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result?” Serious thinking about life’s basic questions is never ultimately on the devil’s side; Lewis knows this and makes Screwtape acknowledge it.


Second, we must think about our own lives. Both teachers agreed that:


* God gives us life to live for his glory.

* Since the Fall, tragedy, distortion, frustration, and waste have been the regular marks of life in this world.

* Reason (with a capital R) cannot save us, as its secular worshipers thought it could.

* Knowing and serving Jesus Christ the Redeemer and his Father, who through Christ is now our Father, is the only thing that gives life meaning.

* “Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice” (Lewis), sometimes with danger to the body and always with danger to the spirit.

* Death is inescapable and wisdom requires us to remember this and live our lives accordingly.

* While God protects his people against spiritual shipwreck, he often puts them through pain for their spiritual progress and sometimes permits and uses war to that end.

* Christians are called not to understand everything God is doing but to be faithful to him.


All of this, to be sure, is mere mainstream Christianity, but it is worth underlining that Chambers the Baptist and Lewis the Anglican were at one in stressing it all.


Third, we must think directly about war. “War is the most damnably bad thing,” Chambers said in Egypt three months before his death. “Because God overrules a thing and brings good out of it does not mean that the thing itself is a good thing . …[However,] if the war has made me reconcile myself with the fact that there is sin in human beings, I shall no longer go with my head in the clouds, or buried in the sand like an ostrich, but I shall be wishing to face facts as they are.” And that will be a good thing, for “it is not being reconciled to the fact of sin that produces all the disasters in life.”


Lewis’s Screwtape knows this to be true. He tells Wormwood not to hope for too much from the war, for it will not destroy the faith of real believers and will under God produce a measure of realism about life, death, and the issues of eternity that was not there before. “One of our best weapons, contented worldliness, is rendered useless,” moaned Screwtape. “In wartime not even a human can believe that he is going to live forever.”


“War,” said Lewis the preacher, “makes death real to us; and that would have been regarded as one of its blessings by most of the great Christians of the past.” Then he told his audience of undergraduates that they were at Oxford to study, that the values of being educated were not affected by the fact of war, and so they should get on with their academic work. Thus they would glorify God. For trusting God for the future, and attending to present daily duties and tasks, is the way to honor God in wartime, as at all other times.


Lewis sharply denies that the experience of war in any form changes everything, as some have been saying that September 11 did. Writing half a century ago of nuclear war, he risked sounding unfeeling in order to enforce the way of wisdom:


Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented; and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways . …It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance but a certainty . …Let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (any microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.


In other words, despite the threat of war, let life—God-given life—go on.


What then of America’s present fears—of more targeted destructions and random explosions, of germ and chemical warfare, and of other science-fiction fantasies becoming grim fact? Many feel panic at this moment, and it is clear, I think, what our teachers would have said to us had they foreseen such things.


Here is Chambers on fear:


It is the most natural thing in the world to be scared, and the clearest evidence that God’s grace is at work in our hearts is when we do not get into panics . …The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God you fear everything else.


And Lewis wrote:


You needn’t worry about not feeling brave. Our Lord didn’t—see the scene in Gethsemane. How thankful I am that when God became man he did not choose to become a man of iron nerves . …Especially don’t worry about being brave over merely possible evils in the future . …If and when a horror turns up you will then be given Grace to help you. I don’t think one is usually given it in advance. “Give us our daily bread” (not an annuity for life) applies to spiritual gifts too; the little daily support for the daily trial. Life has to be taken day by day and hour by hour.


In light of all this, I guess that Chambers and Lewis, were they back with us, would direct us as follows: Accept tightened security. Take all precautions that are responsibly certified as reasonable and desirable. While keeping watch and being careful, always remember that God is in charge and Romans 8:28 is true—he is working for the good of all those who love him. And, finally, pray for courage to cope with whatever comes, in the confidence that Isaac Watts was right when he wrote:


Should all the hosts of death

And powers of hell unknown

Put their most dreadful forms

Of rage and malice on,

I shall be safe, for Christ displays

Superior power and guardian grace.


Here, surely, is the wisdom and comfort we all need today.


J.I. Packer is an executive editor of CT, Board of Governors professor of theology at Regent College in Vancouver, and General Editor of the new English Standard Version Bible from Crossway Books.




Reconciling War (EFC, 020200)


When I was 18, and one of the newest officer cadets in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve, I was ready to die for my country.


That was in 1962, the year of the Cuban missile crisis. When I watched U.S. President John Kennedy outline the threat of Russian missiles in Cuba, it was obvious that the cause was just and a young man had to do the right thing. Fortunately, the crisis passed.


Today’s threats are much less clear-cut, and we are moving away from centuries of Christian tradition that have held that war is permissible. Calvin looked upon soldiers as agents of God¹s love, saying that it is godly to restrain evil out of love for neighbour. Contrast that with the World Council of Churches¹ declaration regarding Afghanistan: “We abhor war.” Most of us learned on the school ground that if you were punched, you had to retaliate if you did not want to be bullied in future. That principle of self-defence is one that most of Christianity, Islam and Judaism agree on. Peace cannot be attained on earth unless we are willing to protect others and ourselves.


Thomas Aquinas and others developed that simple idea into the doctrine of the just war, a way for Christians to avoid the twin perils of uncompromising pacifism and “might is right.” For a war to be justified, it had to be a last resort initiated by legitimate authorities in a just cause, and it could not produce more evil than the good sought.


What is hotly debated now is not that we should protect ourselves, but how we should do it. Israel considers assassination squads ethically preferable to carpet bombing whole villages in order to kill known terrorists. But who wants to choose between bombing children and executions from ambush without due process?


Too often we also live to regret even what seems an obvious choice; for example, American support in the 1980s of those valiant anti-Soviets Osama bin Laden and the leaders we now know as Taliban.


In this century our perception of war has changed permanently. One reason is that now we see war close up. Once television began to bring home the reality of carpet bombing in Afghanistan, public support for the war began to decline, not only in Muslim countries, but also in France, Germany and even hawkish Britain. According to the pollsters, Americans and Canadians were the only ones initially unfazed by the bombing, perhaps because the September 11 attacks hit closer to home for us.


Church leaders have always agonized over whether or not the conditions for a just war have been met. But the horrors of trench warfare in the First World War, saturation bombing in the Second World War and the My Lai massacre and other moral horrors in the Vietnam conflict started to shift the pendulum away from soldiering as a virtuous profession towards the view that war is a distasteful necessity. By the 1980s it had also become clear to most church leaders that the use of nuclear weapons never could be excused as producing more good than evil.


Now the churches are divided on every war that comes along. Britain’s Anglican bishops and most American evangelical leaders supported the Persian Gulf War in 1991. The World Council of Churches, the Canadian Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches in the United States did not. Several Canadian church leaders have called for an end to military action in Afghanistan, though U.S. Catholic bishops have said that military action could be justified as long as it was carefully limited and directed at terrorists and their sponsors.


One thing is sure: we will have more wars. If we are going to fight them and win, we had better believe the cause is just.


Bob Harvey is the religion editor of the Ottawa Citizen. He spent two happy summers on and off ships as an “Untidy,” a member of the U.N.T.D., or University Naval Training Division.




May a Christian Ever Participate in War? (EFC, 020400)


May a Christian ever participate in war?


Christians have pondered this question with fresh intensity since September 11 and the ensuing military conflict. As in many important debates, serious Christians find themselves on opposing sides


Many insist that war is never justified. Although such people are in every denomination, their stance is most often associated with the radical wing of the Reformation: the Mennonites, the Amish, the Hutterites, the Quakers, the Brethren in Christ, and so on. For these Christians, the commands of Christ supersede those of the state (cf. 1 Peter 2: 9-11). Jesus’ ethic, furthermore, is one of non-resistance: “You have heard it said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:38-39 NIV). They therefore conclude that it is always sinful for a Christian to support or engage in warfare and indeed any form of individual or institutional violence.


Do not confuse this understanding of Christian pacifism with cowardice! It is anything but. In each world war, for example, some Christian pacifists served as medics and others were imprisoned for their convictions. Both non-violently opposed evil.


The Western Christian tradition generally, however, has taught that it is a Christian’s civil duty (cf. Romans 13: 1-7) to endorse or participate in war under certain conditions. Presented in various forms since the fourth century, they include the following. (1) The war must be a response to aggression; (2) it has been declared by legitimate leaders; (3) its aim is peace, not revenge or destruction; (4) its anticipated good outweighs the inevitable bad; (5) all peaceful alternatives have failed; and (6) it has a reasonable prospect of success. A Christian’s support ought to be withheld until it is shown that a specific war passes all six tests.


Though they provide a rationale for support, these conditions do not enable one to evaluate actions undertaken in a war. Such assessment is based on the following: (7) in war, actions must serve the just cause (i.e., 1 above) and be proportionate (i.e., 4 above); and (8) non-combatants are never, ever, legitimate targets. Accordingly for these Christians, one may condone a specific war--World War II--but condemn specific actions--the fire-bombing of Dresden or the use of atomic weapons, actions that clearly violated (8).


Though the disagreement is profound, it will not do to question the Christian commitment of exponents of either side. For deeper still is an abiding agreement about ultimate allegiance. Both sides affirm that a Christian’s loyalty belongs first to God as He has made Himself known in Jesus Christ. For pacifists, this entails never engaging in war; for others, it means sometimes supporting, but many times not. Either way, there is absolutely no room for a “my country right or wrong” mentality.


Tim Perry is assistant professor of theology at Providence College in Otterburne, Manitoba.




Moral Clarity in a Time of War (First Things, 021200)


George Weigel

First Things, Journal of Religion and Public Life


In Book Three of Tolstoy’s epic, War and Peace, the hero, Pierre Bezukhov, arrives at the battlefield of Borodino to find that the fog of war has descended, obscuring everything he had expected to be clear. There is no order, there are no familiar patterns of action, all is contingency. He could not, Count Bezukhov admits, “even distinguish our troops from the enemy’s.” And the worst is yet to come, for once the real fighting begins, chaos takes over in full.


From the Iliad to Tolstoy and beyond, that familiar trope, “the fog of war,” has been used to evoke the millennia–old experience of the radical uncertainty of combat. The gut–wrenching opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan brought this ancient truth home to a new generation of Americans: in even the most brilliantly planned military campaign, such as the Allied invasion of Normandy, contingency is soon king, and overcoming it draws on a man’s deepest reserves of courage and wit.


Some analysts, however, take the trope of “the fog of war” a philosophical step further and suggest that warfare takes place beyond the reach of moral reason, in a realm of interest and necessity where moral argument is a pious diversion at best and, at worst, a lethal distraction from the deadly serious business at hand.


To which men and women formed by biblical religion, by the great tradition of Western moral philosophy, or by the encounter between biblical religion and moral philosophy that we call moral theology must say: “No, that is a serious mistake.” Nothing human takes place outside the realm or beyond the reach of moral reason. Every human action takes place within the purview of moral judgment.


Thus moral muteness in a time of war is a moral stance: it can be a stance born of fear; it can be a stance born of indifference; it can be a stance born of cynicism about the human capacity to promote justice, freedom, and order, all of which are moral goods. But whatever its psychological, spiritual, or intellectual origins, moral muteness in wartime is a form of moral judgment–a deficient and dangerous form of moral judgment.


That is why the venerable just war tradition–a form of moral reasoning that traces its origins to St. Augustine in fifth–century North Africa–is such an important public resource. For fifteen hundred years, as it has been developed amidst the historical white water of political, technological, and military change, the just war tradition has allowed men and women to avoid the trap of moral muteness, to think through the tangle of problems involved in the decision to go to war and in the conduct of war itself–and to do all that in a way that recognizes the distinctive realities of war. Indeed, in the national debate launched by the war against terrorism and the threat of outlaw states armed with weapons of mass destruction, we can hear echoes of the moral reasoning of Augustine and his successors:


What is the just cause that would justify putting our armed forces, and the American homeland, in harm’s way?


Who has the authority to wage war? The President? The President and Congress? The United States acting alone? The United States with a sufficient number of allies? The United Nations?


Is it ever right to use armed force first? Can going first ever be, not just morally permissible, but morally imperative?


How can the use of armed force contribute to the pursuit of justice, freedom, and order in world affairs?


That these are the questions that instinctively emerge in the American national debate suggests that the just war tradition remains alive in our national cultural memory. And that is a very good thing. But it is also a somewhat surprising thing, for the past thirty years have witnessed a great forgetting of the classic just war tradition among those who had long been assumed to be its primary intellectual custodians: the nation’s religious leaders, moral philosophers, and moral theologians. That forgetting has been painfully evident in much of the recent commentary from religious leaders in the matter of U.S. policy toward Iraq, commentary that is often far more dependent on political and strategic intuitions of dubious merit than on solid moral reasoning. The fact of the matter today is that the just war tradition, as a historically informed method of rigorous moral reasoning, is far more alive in our service academies than in our divinity schools and faculties of theology; the just war tradition “lives” more vigorously in the officer corps, in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and at the higher levels of the Pentagon than it does at the National Council of Churches, in certain offices at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, or on the Princeton faculty. (There are different degrees of forgetfulness here, of course, and recent statements by the U.S. Catholic bishops on the question of Iraq were of a higher degree of intellectual seriousness than the effusions of other national religious bodies. But the bishops’ statements did, I would argue, continue a pattern of just war forgetfulness whose origins I shall discuss below.)


This “forgetting” in the places where the just war tradition has been nurtured for centuries has led to confusions about the tradition itself. Those confusions have, in turn, led to distorted and, in some cases, irresponsible analyses from the quarters to which Americans usually look for moral guidance. That is why it is imperative that the just war tradition be retrieved and developed in these first perilous years of the twenty–first century. At issue is the public moral hygiene of the Republic–and our national capacity to think with moral rigor about some very threatening realities of today’s world.


In one of last year’s most celebrated books, Warrior Politics, veteran foreign correspondent Robert Kaplan suggested that only a “pagan ethos” can provide us with the kind of leadership capable of safely traversing the global disorder of the twenty–first century. Kaplan’s “pagan ethos” has several interlocking parts. It is shaped by a tragic sense of life, one that recognizes the ubiquity, indeed inevitability, of conflict. It teaches a heroic concept of history: fate is not all, and wise statecraft can lead to better futures. It promotes a realistic appreciation of the boundaries of the possible. It celebrates patriotism as a virtue. And it is shaped by a grim determination to avoid “moralism,” which Kaplan (following Machiavelli, the Chinese sage Sun–Tzu, and Max Weber) identifies with a morality of intentions, oblivious to the peril of unintended or unanticipated consequences. For Kaplan, exemplars of this “pagan ethos” in the past century include Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Roosevelt.


Reading Warrior Politics, and reflecting on the concept of morality that informs it, reminded me of an old story related by Father John Courtney Murray, S.J. During the Korean War, the proudly Protestant Henry Luce, son of China missionaries, found himself confused by the debate over “morality and foreign policy” that Harry Truman’s “police action” had stirred up. What, Luce asked Fr. Murray, did foreign policy have to do with the Sermon on the Mount? “What,” Fr. Murray replied, “makes you think that morality is identical with the Sermon on the Mount”? Kaplan, a contemporary exponent of foreign policy realism, seems to share Henry Luce’s misimpression that in the classic tradition of the West the moral life is reducible to the ethics of personal probity and interpersonal relationships, the implication being that issues of statecraft exist somewhere “outside” the moral universe. The just war tradition takes a very different view.


As indicated above, the classic tradition insists that no aspect of the human condition falls outside the purview of moral reasoning and judgment–including politics. Politics is a human enterprise. Because human beings are creatures of intelligence and free will–because human beings are inescapably moral actors–every human activity, including politics, is subject to moral scrutiny. There is no Archimedean point outside the moral universe from which even the wisest “pagan” statesman can leverage world politics.


Indeed, what Kaplan proposes as a “pagan ethos” is a form of moral reasoning that would be enriched by a serious encounter with the classic just war tradition. One need not be a “pagan,” as Kaplan proposes, to understand the enduring impact of original sin on the world and its affairs; Genesis 1–3 and a good dose of Augustine’s City of God will do the job just as well, and arguably better. One need not be a “pagan” to be persuaded that moral conviction, human ingenuity, and wise statecraft can bend history’s course in a more humane direction; one need only reflect on the achievement of Pope John Paul II and the church–based human rights resistance in Central and Eastern Europe in helping rid the world of the plague of communism.


A realistic sense of the boundaries of the humanly possible in given situations is not foreign to the classic moral tradition of the West; prudence, after all, is one of the cardinal virtues. Nor is patriotism necessarily “pagan”; indeed, in a country culturally configured like the United States, patriotism is far more likely to be sustained by biblical rather than “pagan” moral warrants. As for “moralism” and its emphasis on good intentions, I hope I shall not be thought unecumenical if I observe that that is a Protestant problem, and that Catholic moral theology in the Thomistic stream is very dubious about voluntaristic theories of the moral life and their reduction of morality to a contest between the divine will and my will. (See “A Better Concept of Freedom,” FT, March 2002.)


Kaplan notwithstanding, we can get to an ethic appropriate for leadership in world politics without declaring ourselves “pagans.” And, as Brian Anderson has argued in a thoughtful review of Kaplan’s book in National Review, we can get there while retaining “a crucial place for a transcendent ought that limits the evil governments can do.” An ethic for world politics can be built against an ampler moral horizon than Kaplan suggests.


As a tradition of statecraft, the just war argument recognizes that there are circumstances in which the first and most urgent obligation in the face of evil is to stop it. Which means that there are times when waging war is morally necessary to defend the innocent and to promote the minimum conditions of international order. This, I suggest, is one of those times. Grasping that does not require us to be “pagans.” It only requires us to be morally serious and politically responsible. Moral seriousness and political responsibility require us to make the effort to “connect the dots” between means and ends.


Thus the just war tradition is best understood as a sustained and disciplined intellectual attempt to relate the morally legitimate use of proportionate and discriminate military force to morally worthy political ends. In this sense, the just war tradition shares Clausewitz’s view of the relationship between war and politics: unless war is an extension of politics, it is simply wickedness. For Robert Kaplan, Clausewitz may be an archetypal “pagan.” But on this crucial point, at least, Clausewitz was articulating a thoroughly classic just war view of the matter. Good ends do not justify any means. But as Fr. Murray liked to say, in his gently provocative way, “If the end doesn’t justify the means, what does?” In the classic just war tradition of statecraft, what “justifies” the resort to proportionate and discriminate armed force–what makes war make moral sense–is precisely the morally worthy political ends being defended and/or advanced.


That is why the just war tradition is a theory of statecraft, not simply a method of casuistry. And that intellectual fact is the first thing about the just war tradition that must be retrieved today if we seek a public moral culture capable of informing the national and international debate about war, peace, and international order.


The second crucial idea to be retrieved in the contemporary renewal of the just war tradition is the distinction between bellum and duellum, between warring and “duelling,” so to speak. As intellectual historian and just war theorist James Turner Johnson has demonstrated in a number of seminal works, this distinction is the crux of the matter in moral analysis. Bellum is the use of armed force for public ends by public authorities who have an obligation to defend the security of those for whom they have assumed responsibility. Duellum, on the other hand, is the use of armed force for private ends by private individuals. To grasp this essential distinction is to understand that, in the just war tradition, “war” is a moral category. Moreover, in the classic just war tradition, armed force is not inherently suspect morally. Rather, as Johnson insists, the classic tradition views armed force as something that can be used for good or evil, depending on who is using it, why, to what ends, and how.


Thus those scholars, activists, and religious leaders who claim that the just war tradition “begins” with a “presumption against war” or a “presumption against violence” are quite simply mistaken. It does not begin there, and it never did begin there. To suggest otherwise is not merely a matter of misreading intellectual history (although it is surely that). To suggest that the just war tradition begins with a “presumption against violence” inverts the structure of moral analysis in ways that inevitably lead to dubious moral judgments and distorted perceptions of political reality.


The classic tradition, as I have indicated, begins with the presumption–better, the moral judgment–that rightly constituted public authority is under a strict moral obligation to defend the security of those for whom it has assumed responsibility, even if this puts the magistrate’s own life in jeopardy. That is why Thomas Aquinas locates his discussion of bellum iustum within the treatise on charity in the Summa Theologiae (II–II, 40.1). That is why the late Paul Ramsey, who revivified Protestant just war thinking in America after World War II, described the just war tradition as an explication of the public implications of the Great Commandment of love–of–neighbor (even as he argued that the commandment sets limits to the use of armed force).


If the just war tradition is a theory of statecraft, to reduce it to a casuistry of means–tests that begins with a “presumption against violence” is to begin at the wrong place. The just war tradition begins by defining the moral responsibilities of governments, continues with the definition of morally appropriate political ends, and only then takes up the question of means. By reversing the analysis of means and ends, the “presumption against violence” starting point collapses bellum into duellum and ends up conflating the ideas of “violence” and “war.” The net result is that warfare is stripped of its distinctive moral texture. Indeed, among many American religious leaders today, the very notion of warfare as having a “moral texture” seems to have been forgotten.


The “presumption against violence” starting point is not only fraught with historical and methodological difficulties. It is also theologically dubious. Its effect in moral analysis is to turn the tradition inside–out, such that war–conduct (in bello) questions of proportionality and discrimination take theological precedence over what were traditionally assumed to be the prior war–decision (ad bellum) questions: just cause, right intention, competent authority, reasonable chance of success, proportionality of ends, and last resort. This inversion explains why, in much of the religious commentary after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, considerable attention was paid to the necessity of avoiding indiscriminate noncombatant casualties in the war against terrorism, while little attention was paid to the prior question of the moral obligation of government to pursue national security and world order, both of which were directly threatened by the terrorist networks.


This inversion is also theologically problematic because it places the heaviest burden of moral analysis on what are inevitably contingent judgments. There is nothing wrong, per se, with contingent judgments; but they are contingent. In the nature of the case, we can have less surety about in bello proportion and discrimination than we can about the ad bellum questions. As I hope I have shown above, the tradition logically starts with ad bellum questions because the just war tradition is a tradition of statecraft: a tradition that attempts to define morally worthy political ends. But there is also a theo–logic–a theological logic–that gives priority to the ad bellum questions, for these are the questions on which we can have some measure of moral clarity.


The “presumption against violence” and its distortion of the just war way of thinking can also lead to serious misreadings of world politics. One such misreading, precisely from this intellectual source, may be found in the 1983 U.S. bishops’ pastoral letter, “The Challenge of Peace” (TCOP). TCOP was deeply influenced by the emphasis laid on questions of in bello proportionality and discrimination because of the threat of nuclear war. No doubt these were important issues. But when that emphasis drove the moral analysis, as it did in TCOP, the result was a distorted picture of reality and a set of moral judgments that contributed little to wise statecraft. Rather than recognizing that nuclear weapons were one (extremely dangerous) manifestation of a prior conflict with profound moral roots, the bishops’ letter seemed to suggest that nuclear weapons could, somehow, be factored out of the conflict between the West and the Soviet Union by arms control. And in order to achieve arms control agreements with a nervous, even paranoid, foe like the Soviet Union, it might be necessary to downplay the moral and ideological dimensions of the Cold War. That, at least, was the policy implication of the claim that the greatest threat to peace (identified as such because in bello considerations and the “presumption against violence” trumped everything else) was the mere possession of nuclear weapons.


The opposite, of course, turned out to be true. Nuclear weapons were not the primary threat to peace; communism was. When communism went, so did the threat posed by the weapons. As the human rights resistance in Central and Eastern Europe brought massive regime change inside the Warsaw Pact, creating dynamics that eventually led to the demise of the USSR itself, the risks of nuclear war were greatly diminished and real disarmament (not “arms control”) began. The “presumption against violence” starting point, as manifest in TCOP, produced a serious misreading of the political realities and possibilities.


The claim that a “presumption against violence” is at the root of the just war tradition cannot be sustained historically, methodologically, or theologically. If the just war tradition is a tradition of statecraft, and if the crucial distinction that undergirds it is the distinction between bellum and duellum, then the just war tradition cannot be reduced, as too many religious leaders reduce it today, to a series of means tests that begins with a “presumption against violence.” To begin here–to imagine that the role of moral reason is to set a series of hurdles (primarily having to do with in bello questions of proportionality and discrimination) that statesmen must overcome before the resort to armed force is given moral sanction–is to begin at the wrong place. And beginning at the wrong place almost always means arriving at the wrong destination.


Fifteen years ago, before I had learned something about literary marketing, I published a book entitled Tranquillitas Ordinis: The Present Failure and Future Promise of American Catholic Thought on War and Peace. There I argued that, as a theory of statecraft, the just war tradition contained within itself a ius ad pacem, in addition to the classic ius ad bellum (the moral rules governing the decision to go to war) and ius in bello (the rules governing the use of armed force in combat). By coining the phrase ius ad pacem, I was trying to prise out of the just war way of thinking a concept of the peace that could and should be sought through the instruments of politics–including, if necessary, the use of armed force. Like the just war tradition itself, this concept of peace finds its roots in Augustine: in The City of God, peace is tranquillitas ordinis, the “tranquillity of order,” or as I preferred to render it in more contemporary terms, the peace of “dynamic and rightly ordered political community.”


In Augustine’s discussion of peace as a public or political issue, “peace” is not a matter of the individual’s right relationship with God, nor is it a matter of seeking a world without conflict. The former is a question of interior conversion (which by definition has nothing to do with politics), and the latter is impossible in a world forever marked, even after its redemption, by the mysterium iniquitatis. In the appropriate political sense of the term, peace is, rather, tranquillitas ordinis: the order created by just political community and mediated through law.


This is, admittedly, a humbler sort of peace. It coexists with broken hearts and wounded souls. It is to be built in a world in which swords have not been beaten into plowshares, but remain swords: sheathed, but ready to be unsheathed in the defense of innocents. Its advantage, as Augustine understood, is that it is the form of peace that can be built through the instruments of politics.


This peace of tranquillitas ordinis, this peace of order, is composed of justice and freedom. The peace of order is not the eerily quiet and sullen “peace” of a well–run authoritarian regime; it is a peace built on foundations of constitutional, commutative, and social justice. It is a peace in which freedom, especially religious freedom, flourishes. The defense of basic human rights is thus an integral component of “work for peace.”


This is the peace that has been achieved in and among the developed democracies. It is the peace that has been built in recent decades between such traditional antagonists as France and Germany. It is the peace that we defend within the richly diverse political community of the United States, and between ourselves and our neighbors and allies. It is the peace that we are now defending in the war against global terrorism and against aggressor states seeking weapons of mass destruction.


International terrorism of the sort we have seen since the late 1960s, and of which we had a direct national experience on September 11, 2001, is a deliberate assault, through the murder of innocents, on the very possibility of order in world affairs. That is why the terror networks must be dismantled or destroyed. The peace of order is also under grave threat when vicious, aggressive regimes acquire weapons of mass destruction–weapons that we must assume, on the basis of their treatment of their own citizens, these regimes will not hesitate to use against others. That is why there is a moral obligation to ensure that this lethal combination of irrational and aggressive regimes, weapons of mass destruction, and credible delivery systems does not go unchallenged. That is why there is a moral obligation to rid the world of this threat to the peace and security of all. Peace, rightly understood, demands it.


This concept of peace–as–order can also enrich our understanding of that much–bruited term, the “national interest.” The irreducible core of the “national interest” is composed of those basic security concerns to which any responsible democratic statesman must attend. But those security concerns are related to a larger sense of national purpose and international responsibility: we defend America because America is worth defending, on its own terms and because of what it means for the world. Thus the security concerns that make up the core of the “national interest” should be understood as the necessary inner dynamic of the exercise of America’s international responsibilities. And those responsibilities include the obligation to contribute, as best we can, to the long, hard, never–to–be–finally–accomplished “domestication” of international public life: to the quest for ordered liberty in an evolving structure of international public life capable of advancing the classic goals of politics–justice, freedom, order, the general welfare, and peace. Empirically and morally, the United States cannot adequately defend its “national interest” without concurrently seeking to advance those goals in the world. Empirically and morally, those goals will not be advanced if they are pursued in ways that gravely threaten the basic security of the United States.


In eradicating global terrorism and denying aggressive regimes weapons of mass destruction, the United States and those who walk this road with us are addressing the most threatening problems of global dis–order that must be resolved if the peace of order, the peace of tranquillitas ordinis, is to be secured in as wide a part of the world as possible in the twenty–first century. Here, national interest and international responsibility coincide.


Moral clarity in a time of war requires us to retrieve the idea of the just war tradition as a tradition of statecraft, the classic structure of just war analysis, and the concept of peace as tranquillitas ordinis. Moral clarity in this time of war also requires us to develop and extend the just war tradition to meet the political exigencies of a new century, and to address the international security issues posed by new weapons technologies. Permit me to sketch briefly three areas in which the ad bellum (“war–decision”) criteria of the just war tradition require development, even as I suggest what the policy implications of these developments might be in today’s circumstances.


Just Cause. In the classic just war tradition, “just cause” was understood as defense against aggression, the recovery of something wrongfully taken, or the punishment of evil. As the tradition has developed since World War II, the latter two notions have been largely displaced, and “defense against aggression” has become the primary, even sole, meaning of “just cause.” This theological evolution has parallels in international law: the “defense against aggression” concept of just cause shapes Articles 2 and 51 of the Charter of the United Nations. In light of twenty–first–century international security realities, it is imperative to reopen this discussion and to develop the concept of just cause.


As recently as the Korean War (and, some would argue, the Vietnam War), “defense against aggression” could reasonably be taken to mean a defensive military response to a cross–border military aggression already underway. New weapons capabilities and outlaw or “rogue” states require a development of the concept of “defense against aggression.” To take an obvious current example: it makes little moral sense to suggest that the United States must wait until a North Korea or Iraq or Iran actually launches a ballistic missile tipped with a nuclear, biological, or chemical weapon of mass destruction before we can legitimately do something about it. Can we not say that, in the hands of certain kinds of states, the mere possession of weapons of mass destruction constitutes an aggression–or, at the very least, an aggression waiting to happen?


This “regime factor” is crucial in the moral analysis, for weapons of mass destruction are clearly not aggressions waiting to happen when they are possessed by stable, law–abiding states. No Frenchman goes to bed nervous about Great Britain’s nuclear weapons, and no sane Mexican or Canadian worries about a preemptive nuclear attack from the United States. Every sane Israeli, Turk, or Bahraini, on the other hand, is deeply concerned about the possibility of an Iraq or Iran with nuclear weapons and medium–range ballistic missiles. If the “regime factor” is crucial in the moral analysis, then preemptive military action to deny the rogue state that kind of destructive capacity would not, in my judgment, contravene the “defense against aggression” concept of just cause. Indeed, it would do precisely the opposite, by giving the concept of “defense against aggression” real traction in the world we must live in, and transform.


Some will argue that this violates the principle of sovereignty and risks a global descent into chaos. To that, I would reply that the post–Westphalian notions of state equality and sovereign immunity assume at least a minimum of acquiescence to minimal international norms of order. Today’s rogue states cannot, on the basis of their behavior, be granted that assumption. Therefore, they have forfeited that immunity. The “regime factor” is determinative, in these extreme instances.


To deny rogue states the capacity to create lethal disorder, precisely because their possession of weapons of mass destruction threatens the minimum conditions of order in international public life, strengthens the cause of world order; it does not undermine it. Surely the lessons of the 1930s are pertinent here.


On the matter of just cause, the tradition also needs development in terms of its concept of the relevant actors in world politics. Since September 11, some analysts have objected to describing our response to the international terrorist networks as “war” because, they argue, al–Qaeda and similar networks are not states, and only states can, or should, wage “war,” properly understood. There is an important point at stake here, but the critics misapply it.


Limiting the legitimate use of armed force to those international actors who are recognized in international law and custom as exercising “sovereignty” has been one of the principle accomplishments of just war thinking as it has shaped world political culture and law; over a period of centuries, the classic distinction between bellum and duellum has been established in international law. At the same time, however, it does not fudge or blur this crucial distinction to recognize that al–Qaeda and similar networks function like states, even if they lack certain of the attributes and trappings of sovereignty traditionally understood. Indeed, terrorist organizations provide a less ambiguous example of a legitimate military target, because, unlike conventional states (which are always admixtures of good and evil, against whom military action sometimes threatens the good as well as the evil), the “parasite states” that are international terrorist organizations are unmitigated evils whose only purpose is wickedness–the slaughter of innocents for ignoble political ends. Thus the exigencies of the current situation require us to think outside the Westphalian box, so to speak, but to do so in such a way as to avoid dismantling de facto the distinction between bellum and duellum.


Competent Authority. Two questions involving the ad bellum criterion of “competent authority” have been raised since September 11: the question of the relationship between a government’s domestic and foreign policy and its legitimacy as a belligerent, and the question of whether “competent authority” now resides in the United Nations only.


One of the more distasteful forms of post–September 11 commentary can be found in suggestions that there were “root causes” to terrorism–root causes that not only explained the resort to mass violence against innocents, but made the use of such violence humanly plausible, if not morally justifiable. The corollary to this was the suggestion that the United States had somehow brought the attacks on itself, by reasons of its dominant economic and cultural position in the world, its Middle East policy, or some combination thereof. The moral–political implication was that such a misguided government lacked the moral authority to respond to terrorism through the use of armed force.


The root causes school blithely ignores the extant literature on the phenomenon of contemporary terrorism, which is emphatically not a case of the wretched of the earth rising up to throw off their chains. But it is the moral–political implication the root causes school draws that I want to address. Here, Lutheran scholar David Yeago has been a wise guide. Writing in the ecumenical journal Pro Ecclesia, Yeago clarified an essential point:


The authority of the government to protect the law–abiding and impose penalties on evildoers is not a reward for the government’s virtue or good conduct. . . . The protection of citizens and the execution of penalty on peace–breakers is the commission which constitutes government, not a contingent right which it must somehow earn. In the mystery of God’s providence, many or indeed most of the institutional bearers of governmental authority are unworthy of it, often flagrantly so, themselves stained with crime. But this does not make it any less the vocation of government to protect the innocent and punish evildoers. A government which refused to safeguard citizens and exercise judgment on wrong out of a sense of the guilt of past crime would only add the further crime of dereliction of duty to its catalog of offenses.


The question of alliances and international organizations must also be addressed in the development of just war thinking about competent authority. Must any legitimate military action be sanctioned by the UN Security Council? Or, if not that, then is the United States obliged, not simply as a matter of political prudence but as a matter of moral principle, to gain the agreement of allies (or, more broadly, “coalition partners”) to any use of armed force in response to terrorism, or any military action against aggressive regimes with weapons of mass destruction?


That the UN Charter itself recognizes an inalienable national right to self–defense suggests that the Charter does not claim sole authority to legitimate the use of armed force for the Security Council; if you are under attack, according to the Charter, you don’t have to wait for the permission of China, France, Russia, or others of the veto–wielding powers to defend yourself. Moreover, the manifest inability of the UN to handle large–scale international security questions suggests that assigning a moral veto over U.S. military action on these fronts to the Security Council would be a mistake. Then there is the question of what we might call “the neighborhood” on the Security Council: What kind of moral logic is it to claim that the U.S. government must assuage the interests of the French foreign ministry and the strategic aims of the repressive Chinese government–both of which are in full play in the Security Council–in order to gain international moral authority for the war against terrorism and the defense of world order against outlaw states with weapons of mass destruction? A very peculiar moral logic, indeed, I should think.


Building coalitions of support for dismantling the international terror networks and denying rogue states lethal weapons capacities is politically desirable (and in some instances militarily essential). But I very much doubt that it is morally imperative from a classic just war point of view. The United States has a unique responsibility for leadership in the war against terrorism and the struggle for world order; that is not a statement of hubris but of empirical fact. That responsibility may have to be exercised unilaterally on occasion. Defining the boundaries of unilateral action while defending its legitimacy under certain circumstances is one crucial task for a developing just war tradition.


Last Resort. Among those who have forgotten the just war tradition while retaining its language, the classic ad bellum criterion of last resort is usually understood in simplistically mathematical terms: the use of proportionate and discriminate armed force is the last point in a series of options, and prior, nonmilitary options (legal, diplomatic, economic, etc.) must be serially exhausted before the criterion of last resort is satisfied. This is both an excessively mechanistic understanding of last resort and a prescription for danger.


The case of international terrorism again compels a development of this ad bellum criterion. For what does it mean to say that all nonmilitary options have been tried and found wanting when we are confronted with a new and lethal type of international actor, one that recognizes no other form of power except the use of violence and that is largely immune (unlike a conventional state) to international legal, diplomatic, or economic pressures? The charge that U.S. military action after September 11 was morally dubious because all other possible means of redress had not been tried and found wanting misreads the nature of terrorist organizations and networks. The “last” in last resort can mean “only,” in circumstances where there is plausible reason to believe that nonmilitary actions are unavailable or unavailing.


As for rogue states developing or deploying weapons of mass destruction, a developed just war tradition would recognize that here, too, last resort cannot be understood mathematically, as the terminal point of a lengthy series of nonmilitary alternatives. Can we not say that last resort has been satisfied in those cases when a rogue state has made plain, by its conduct, that it holds international law in contempt and that no diplomatic solution to the threat it poses is likely, and when it can be demonstrated that the threat the rogue state poses is intensifying? I think we can. Indeed, I think we must.


Some states, because of the regime’s aggressive intent and the lack of effective internal political controls on giving lethal effect to that intent, cannot be permitted to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Denying them those weapons through proportionate and discriminate armed force–even displacing those regimes–can be an exercise in the defense of the peace of order, within the boundaries of a developed just war tradition. Until such point as the international political community has evolved to the degree that international organizations can effectively disarm such regimes, the responsibility for the defense of order in these extreme circumstances will lie elsewhere.


Finally, moral clarity in this time of war requires a developed understanding of the “location” of the just war tradition in our public discourse and in responsible governance.


If the just war tradition is indeed a tradition of statecraft, then the proper role of religious leaders and public intellectuals is to do everything possible to clarify the moral issues at stake in a time of war, while recognizing that what we might call the “charism of responsibility” lies elsewhere–with duly constituted public authorities, who are more fully informed about the relevant facts and who must bear the weight of responsible decision–making and governance. It is simply clericalism to suggest that religious leaders and public intellectuals “own” the just war tradition in a singular way.


As I have argued above, many of today’s religious leaders and public intellectuals have suffered severe amnesia about core components of the tradition, and can hardly be said to own it in any serious intellectual sense of ownership. But even if today’s religious leaders and public intellectuals were fully in possession of the tradition, the burden of decision–making would still lie elsewhere. Religious leaders and public intellectuals are called to nurture and develop the moral–philosophical riches of the just war tradition. The tradition itself, however, exists to serve statesmen.


There is a charism of political discernment that is unique to the vocation of public service. That charism is not shared by bishops, stated clerks, rabbis, imams, or ecumenical and interreligious agencies. Moral clarity in a time of war demands moral seriousness from public officials. It also demands a measure of political modesty from religious leaders and public intellectuals, in the give–and–take of democratic deliberation.


Some have suggested, in recent months, that the just war tradition is obsolete. To which I would reply: to suggest that the just war tradition is obsolete is to suggest that politics–the organization of human life into purposeful political communities–is obsolete. To reduce the just war tradition to an algebraic casuistry is to deny the tradition its capacity to shed light on the irreducible moral component of all political action. What we must do, in this generation, is to retrieve and develop the just war tradition to take account of the new political and technological realities of the twenty–first century. September 11, what has followed, and what lies ahead, have demonstrated just how urgent that task is.


George Weigel is Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. This essay is adapted from the Center’s William E. Simon Lecture and the Pope John XXIII Lecture at the Catholic University of America Law School.




When There Is No Peace: On war and the Vatican (NRO, 030221)


By NR Editors , from the March 10, 2003, issue of National Review


Writing in First Things, George Weigel has remarked that “the just war tradition, as a historically informed method of rigorous moral reasoning, is far more alive in our service academies than in our divinity schools and faculties of theology; the just war tradition ‘lives’ more vigorously in the officer corps, in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and at the higher levels of the Pentagon than it does at the National Council of Churches, in certain offices at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, or on the Princeton faculty.”


According to the tradition, the criteria for judging a war to be just are that it be for a just cause, have a reasonable likelihood of success, be unlikely to cause more evil than it prevents, be declared by a competent authority, discriminate between combatants and non-combatants, and be a last resort. For historical reasons, the just-war tradition is most closely identified with the Catholic Church. But its force does not rest on the theological and moral wisdom of the Catholic bishops — which, given how much they have tarnished their reputation in these matters, is a good thing. It has, or ought to have, force for non-Catholic statesmen because its moral criteria are, in the deepest sense of the term, reasonable.


Unfortunately, some Catholic leaders are saying things about a possible war with Iraq that are anything but reasonable. Witness, for example, the recent statement by Roger Cardinal Etchegaray, papal envoy to Iraq, that Saddam Hussein “is doing everything to avoid war.” But clerics have not had to make claims that are obviously empirically false to distort just-war teaching. Angelo Cardinal Sodano, the Pope’s secretary of state, says, “We want to say to America: Is it worth it to you? Won’t you have, afterwards, decades of hostility in the Islamic world?” American policymakers should certainly consider these questions before going to war. But they need no instruction from the Vatican to know that, and Church leaders have no special insight into the answers. The just-war tradition leaves determinations of fact and probability and prudential judgments to statesmen, not clerics.


The Pope himself has been careful to reject pacifism, while urging, appropriately, that war be a last resort. The Church has, however, come close to suggesting that a war must have the support of the United Nations to be just. Anyone arguing that the U.N. is a “competent authority” has an uphill climb. To make the case that it is the only such authority is impossible. The Church is also being shortsighted. The United Nations has been its enemy on important moral questions, and will be once more when the war is over. Does the Pope really want to lend it so much moral authority?


Under the traditional doctrines, a war to overthrow the Iraqi regime is amply justified. The cause of preventing nuclear devastation or its threat is just. War has been authorized by the U.S. Congress and will be, prospectively, by the president. Their best determination is that a war would be very likely to succeed and would be likely to bring more good than ill. No targeting of civilians is contemplated. Alternatives have been tried, and have failed, for a dozen years.


It is sometimes thought that the just-war tradition begins with a “presumption against violence.” It does not. As Weigel writes, it actually “begins with the presumption — better, the moral judgment — that rightly constituted public authority is under a strict moral obligation to defend the security of those for whom it has assumed responsibility.” When war is morally permissible, as it is here, it is also morally obligatory.




No Proof Would Be Enough (Weekly Standard, 030225)


No matter what the evidence, some folks will just never come around to the notion that America could be right.


IN THE COURSE of our adult lives, we all learn lessons about humanity that disappoint us, but, for me, this one has been stunning.


I swear, I cannot fathom the people who insist that Saddam Hussein is not going to merrily kill us and everyone he can reach as soon as he is able. What is it about some people that makes them live in this suicidal denial? I could normally shrug it off, except that now it’s not just suicidal. They’re going to get us all killed, and that makes it homicidal as well.


They have their mantras:


“Osama bin Laden hates Saddam Hussein and would never work with him.” Really? Bin Laden is nothing if not shrewd, and he knows that job number one is killing Americans and Israelis. After that, when the carnage is complete, he’ll have plenty of time to turn his attention to Iraq. Hate Hussein? So, what? If he thought he could get the same results with Larry Flynt, he would do it in a New York minute.


“Peace is good; war is bad.” I don’t even know what this means. Which peace? Which war? Did the people of Europe have peace after being conquered by Hitler? Should we have dealt with him in “peace” in the interest of “stability?”


Do the people of Iraq have peace? Surely not the ones who find themselves led into a basement to find their children hooked up to electrodes. Surely not the Kurds. Surely not anyone who doesn’t work for the government. Who, then? The generals on the file footage who bounce up to The Great Uncle with frozen smiles for a kiss and a chat? The soldiers of the so-called elite Republican Guard? What horrors have they all committed to earn their privileges? What does a man have to do over there to be called “elite?” One shudders to imagine. I can’t help but think of the old restaurant motto from years past: “Where The Elite Meet To Eat.” I wonder where they meet in Iraq. Now there’s a nightspot where the waiters don’t want to screw up an order. (One thing you’ve got to hand the Iraqi General Staff: They all have terrific moustaches. Not as well sculpted as the Saudi princes, but who has that kind of time?)


“This is just about oil.” I know facts don’t matter to people whose favorite hobby is shouting, but has no one noticed that if we wanted Iraq’s oil so much, all we’d have to do is make a deal with Saddam tomorrow? Oil companies aren’t running policy, because if they were, that would be it: Sign a deal with the man. So why don’t we? Saddam would be happy (or, at least, as happy as a guy like him gets), the left would be happy, and Old Europe would be happy. (Shouldn’t we be spelling that Olde Europe?) Yes, everyone would be happy. Ah, but then we’d all have to pretend we don’t know he’s building a giant scimitar out of radium. Aye, there’s the rub.


Of course, what the “just-about-oilers” mean is that President Bush is going to get a skadillion people killed “just” so he can steal Iraq’s oil; and it may be overstating the obvious, but we don’t do that. The phrase “Spoils of War” is as dead in America as Cotton Mather. In fact, if there’s one thing history has taught us, it’s that the best thing that can ever happen to a country is to go to war with us and lose. This was so obvious after the Second World War that a wonderful satire was made, “The Mouse That Roared,” about a little, impoverished country that decides to declare war on the United States for the express purpose of immediately surrendering and being rebuilt afterwards with foreign aid.


No, we’ll never take their oil, and everyone knows it. After this thing is over, whatever this “thing” winds up being, we’ll sign a deal and pay for it, rebuild their country with foreign aid (uh-huh), and show them how to have a government where Tom Daschle and Bill Frist can work together in friendship and respect. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind learning how that one works, too.


“Most people in the world are against this.” So? Most people in the world want us to be as miserable as they are. Sure, after September 11 everyone said, “We’re all Americans today,” but that was baloney. As soon as they got home and closed the door, they all danced a jig. It’s a sad fact of human nature, but most people don’t look at success and try to emulate it. Instead, they look at success and hate it, and hate themselves, and do whatever they can to bring the successful people down a peg. “Most people in the world” don’t mind being buried in boiling dung up to their necks as long as we’re buried there with them. And I don’t know about you, but, as a rule, I hate being buried in boiling dung.


“The Arab world just wants Israel to stop occupying Palestine. Then all of this tension will go away.” The Arab world just wants Israel to stop occupying itself. If Belgium were there instead of Israel, we would be in the exact same situation we are today. They want Israel to die, and the preferred method of that is for every Jew to die. And this “tension” will never go away, because this “tension” is exactly what the world of radical Islam has been planning for the last fourteen hundred years.


“We shouldn’t rush into this.” This is a rush? The World Trade Center was attacked a year and a half ago. As others have observed, eighteen months after Pearl Harbor, American soldiers were in Sicily. (It’s a little ironic that the first European spot in WWII we landed our guys was a place where it was more dangerous for them to ask a local girl on a date than to charge a machine gun nest.)


And never mind the first attack on the Twin Towers years before, or the murders at our embassies, or on the Cole, or in Bali, or all the other assorted throat-cuttings. Last summer, to avoid the “rush,” everyone insisted President Bush get a resolution from Congress, so he did. Then everyone insisted he stop the mad lust for battle and go to the United Nations, and he did, even though the U.N. couldn’t break up a cookie fight at a Brownie meeting. Then everyone pleaded with him to give inspections a chance, and he did. Now Hans Blix is insisting that the inspections are working, when what he really means is that the inspectors are working. (Maybe that’s his idea for full employment.)


Some rush.


“Our most important allies aren’t with us, like France.” You can make up your own jokes for this one. It’s too big a target, and I have my professional pride. I’ll only say that you can never trust people who use those goofy things next to the toilets in fancy hotels.


“Bush is a cowboy.” Well, but it depends how you define “cowboy,” doesn’t it? Robert Redford played a cowboy in “The Electric Horseman,” and everyone loved him.


Of course, Jacques Chirac uses it to mean a reckless, lawless idiot. I think a cowboy is: hardworking; unafraid; clear-eyed; innately understanding of a high, unmuddled morality; possessed of good values; ready for action; ready for a fight; ready to protect the weak; ready to stand alone. In this sense, I would agree completely. George W. Bush is a cowboy. I wish we all were. (I’d like to throw in “periodically hard-drinking,” too, but that wouldn’t apply here. Besides, the rest is what’s important.)


There are some on the left who are sincerely and reflectively engaged. The other day I heard a radio interview on KPFK with Susan Sontag, and I had a lot of respect for what she said, and for this reason. She said she is not against our country using force, in theory, and that she has no love for Saddam Hussein, or the threat he poses, or the way he treats his people. She just felt our invasion now would cost thousands upon thousands of innocent lives. And when the interviewer asked, “But what if you’re proved wrong?” she immediately and honestly answered, “I pray that I am.” I believed her, and I can live with that. No one wants even one innocent life lost.


But the millions of world-wide protestors have been reflexive rather than reflective. I didn’t see a single sign that said, “Maybe Saddam Is A Bad Guy.” No, it was all about Cowboy Bush and oil and greed and American arrogance, and underneath it all, underneath angry, red skin so thin it’s transparent, are jealous, puerile, feckless souls screaming, “America should bleed and be brought low, and then just go away.”


Mr. Bush, Mr. Powell, Mr. Cheney, Ms. Rice, Mr. Rumsfeld, et al, have made a policy and a plan. Every American has the right to ask, “What if they’re wrong?” But I think those in opposition should also sincerely be asking themselves, “What if they’re right?” I think they are. What if I’m wrong? I pray that I’m not.


And what about the furious protestors?


It’s time for us to stop saying, “I don’t get them.” It’s time for them not to get us.


Larry Miller is a contributing humorist to The Daily Standard and a writer, actor, and comedian living in Los Angeles.




The Peacenik Top 10 (Weekly Standard, 030306)


A look at the ten most popular objections to war and some common-sense responses to them.


THOSE OPPOSED to military action in Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein, destroy his weapons of mass destruction, and liberate the 24 million Iraqi citizens under his control cite at least 10 objections to going to war now. These objections range from the arguable to the totally absurd. Let’s examine them.


(1) Rush to war. This is a favorite of congressional Democrats. But the rush is more like a baby crawl. Iraq has been in material breach of United Nations resolutions since a few weeks after the Gulf War ended in 1991. New resolutions have been approved, inspectors ousted, and the United Nations made to look impotent. President Bush has taken all the steps asked of him before going to war: getting the approval of Congress, getting another U.N. resolution (with perhaps yet another on the way), and building a coalition of supporters. He’s hardly rushing.


(2) It’s a war for oil. The United States could buy all the oil it wants from Iraq by lifting the sanctions and helping to reconstruct the Iraqi oilfields. It’s the French and Russians who have oil deals with Saddam and thus are fixated on that issue. They don’t want a war that would upset those deals.


(3) War with Iraq will bring more terrorism. This is a hardy perennial. It was claimed before the Gulf war and the Afghanistan campaign--and when bombs fell on al Qaeda and the Taliban during Ramadan. Rather than more terrorism, removing Saddam will bring more respect for the United States. Terrorists will be increasingly fearful.


(4) The Arab street will erupt. Another perennial. This is often predicted but rarely happens. A swift, decisive victory over Saddam will quiet the Arab street. So far, only the American street has erupted--against the French and Germans.


(5) Bush is doing it for his dad. President Bush the elder stopped short of deposing Saddam in the Gulf war and to this day believes he did the right thing. So do his top aides, such as national security adviser Brent Scowcroft. Instead, they agreed to a truce with Saddam conditioned on Iraq’s full disarmament. Also, consider the source of this charge: Martin Sheen.


(6) Attacking Iraq would be unprovoked aggression. No, it wouldn’t. Andrew Sullivan has pointed out a significant fact: There was no peace treaty, only the truce, so the state of war resumes when the conditions are violated. By attacking now, the United States would be ending the war, not starting it.


(7) Containment is working. The problem is the right threat is not being contained: the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Sure, with U.S. troops and U.N. inspectors in the area, Saddam won’t attack Jordan or Syria or other neighbors. But he could slip chemical or biological agents to terrorists without anyone knowing. And that’s the threat.


(8) America doesn’t have enough allies. What? Forty or so isn’t enough? Is the case for war weakened in the slightest by the absence of the French or the Angolans? No. And despite what Democrats like Howard Dean say, a war with Iraq would not be “unilateral,” which would mean the United States would be acting alone.


(9) Win without war. That’s a nice goal. Unfortunately, it’s Saddam’s goal. With no war, he wins and emerges as the new strongman in the Middle East, forcing people to come to terms with him.


(10) Bush is seeking a new American empire. This is a favorite accusation of Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, the man who once recited the Gettysburg Address in Donald Duck’s voice. I’ll let Secretary of State Colin Powell answer this one. When hectored by a former archbishop of Canterbury on this subject recently, he said: “We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last 100 years . . . and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in.” Well said.


No doubt opponents are capable of coming up with new arguments against war with Iraq. They’d better do so soon because so far they haven’t convinced anyone outside the reflexively anti-Bush crowd.


Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.




Catholic doctrine and Saddam Hussein (Washington Times, 030317)


Two of the sharpest critics of possible military action against Iraq have been the Vatican and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Pope John Paul II has made clear his opposition to a military strike against Iraq, and the head of the U.S. conference, Bishop Wilton Gregory, says his organization “continues to question the moral legitimacy of any pre-emptive, unilateral use of military force to overthrow the government of Iraq.” Bishop Gregory adds that “we believe that resort to war would not meet the strict conditions in Catholic teaching for the use of military force.”


According to the catechism of the Catholic Church, war can only be justified under a limited set of circumstances. The catechism states that: “The damage inflicted by the aggressor” must “be lasting, grave and certain; all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; there must be serious prospects of success; the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.”


Some prominent Catholic lay leaders believe, and we agree, that a war to liberate the Iraqi people from a cruel and vicious dictator like Saddam Hussein is in the best spirit of the catechism. Attempts to get him to change his behavior using economic sanctions, no-fly zones and inspections under pressure from international bodies have proven to be abject failures. And waiting for Saddam to launch a “first strike” (overtly or covertly) against U.S. interests with chemical and/or biological weapons would itself, we submit, “produce evils and disorders graver” than any which would result from a U.S.-led and -initiated military campaign to wipe out his weapons of mass destruction before he has the chance to hit us.


One noted theologian who has been urging the Vatican to rethink its premise that U.S.-led military action against Iraq would be wrong is Michael Novak of the America Enterprise Institute. Mr. Novak says that, were the U.S. to take military action, it would be covered under the traditional Catholic doctrine of self-defense. He notes that Saddam is “an unusually cruel leader who has murdered and tortured his own citizens.” Once the Iraqi people are liberated and begin to describe the full extent of his atrocities, Mr. Novak believes, the world will be “stricken” by the fact that the West waited so long to act. “Those who judge the risk is low, and therefore allow Saddam Hussein to remain in power, will bear a horrific responsibility if they guess wrong and acts of destruction do occur,” he adds.


According to Mr. Novak, while people can disagree about the threat which Saddam poses, in the end, Catholic moral teaching leaves the decision for responsible public authorities to make: In this case, he says, it’s the Bush administration — “those closest to the facts, who have access to highly restricted intelligence” — who should be making the final call on whether to go to war.


One who takes a similar position is George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Mr. Weigel, who has written a biography of the pope, is an internationally recognized scholar on matters involving the Catholic Church. Pursuant to traditional “just war” theory, Mr. Weigel writes of Iraq that “when a vicious regime . . . that has no concept of the rule of law and that flagrantly violates its international obligations, works feverishly to obtain and deploy further weapons of mass destruction, a compelling moral case can be made that this is a matter of an ‘aggression under way.’” He adds that “there may be instances when it is not only right to ‘go first,’ but ‘going first’ may be morally obligatory. Iraq may well pose one of those instances.”


And Mr. Weigel cogently argues that there is nothing morally wrong with the United States and its allies forging ahead with action if the Security Council is incapable of acting on its own. Such a step, he says, “promotes the cause of the peace of world order over the long haul.”


While we have great respect for the pope and his teachings, we believe that Messrs. Weigel and Novak make a much more cogent and compelling case that U.S.-led international action to disarm Saddam Hussein would constitute a just war in every way.




Why We Must Fight — and Now! (Foxnews, 030319)


By William J. Bennett


Three weekends ago, millions of demonstrators across the globe protested on behalf of “human rights.” Their marches, slogans, placards and speeches did not declaim against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, did not cite the human rights reports detailing his tyranny and torture, did not take account the plaints of Iraqis fortunate enough to live in exile.


Rather, they protested the U.S. and the U.K. and their efforts to topple Saddam and liberate Iraq. Now, we are seeing more television advertisements along these lines, and even a “virtual march on Washington.”


Just after the celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, it is appropriate to remember his lament: “The world has never had a good definition of the word ‘liberty.’” With Saddam flouting international law, and President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair attempting to enforce it, portrayals of Bush as Adolf Hitler — as we saw and heard in the “human rights” protests — betray an ignorance of liberty, an ignorance of right and wrong, an ignorance of commonsense. Because Bush and Blair are putting together a coalition of countries to oust Saddam, they are labeled the warmongers and tyrants. We live in a confusing time indeed.


Lincoln described liberty by a useful analogy: “The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty.” Lincoln made it clear who the sheep was and who the wolf was. It is equally important to recognize who the liberator is.


Those who march against the U.S. and the U.K. today, those who condemn Bush and Blair and remain silent when it comes to Saddam, are in league with the wolf’s view that the shepherds are destroying liberty. The people of Iraq will soon know what Afghanis know. The true wolf was devouring Afghanis, the true shepherd saved them.


It is worth remembering what those in the former Soviet republics know and what the anti-American Western street has forgotten: It was, and is, U.S. and British resolve that truly liberates the oppressed and that defends the lives and liberties of the free against the appetites and ill-will of the world’s dictators.


In 1998 then-President Bill Clinton stated: “What if he [Saddam] fails to comply [with disarmament] and we fail to act? He will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then go right on building up his arsenal. Someday, someway, I guarantee you, he’ll use that arsenal.” Last year, former Vice President Al Gore stated, “[W]e know that he [Saddam] has stored away secret supplies of biological weapons and chemical weapons throughout his country.”


It is not President Bush who woke up one day to discover that Saddam was making and harvesting weapons of mass destruction. Yet it is Bush who is blamed for doing something about it. Saddam may be mad, but he is not a scientist. He does not collect chemical and biological weapons for mere pleasure and intrigue. Just ask the survivors of Halabja. So when Saddam acts, it will be Bush and America who are blamed for inaction, for appeasement. We will be liable for such blame because we are the only ones who can do something about it.


We are not at war with Muslims or Arabs around the world; we are at war with some Muslim and Arab leaders who misinterpret their religion and put a primacy on war over peace and slavery over freedom. But among the leadership in the world’s moral democracies there is no misinterpretation, and nowhere is that more true than in the case of the U.S.


This is not a new role for us, but is a unique role we proudly inherit as the world’s liberator. As Wolf Blitzer pointed out: “Over the past two decades, almost every time U.S. military forces have been called into action to risk their lives and limbs, it’s been on behalf of Muslims. ... [T]o assist the Afghan mujahadin … during the Soviet invasion in the 1980s, to liberate Kuwait following the Iraqi invasion of 1990, to help Somali Muslims suffering at the hands of a warlord in Mogadishu, to help Muslims first in Bosnia and then in Kosovo who faced a Serb onslaught, and more recently to liberate Afghanistan from its Taliban and Al Qaeda rulers.”


Those who protest against the U.S. just now are legatees of those who protested against the U.S. in the 1980s, when we fought the focus of evil then, the Soviet Union. But ask a former Soviet, or East Berliner, if he is better off now than he was, say, 15 years ago. Ask a Nicaraguan. Ask a Bosnian Muslim. U.S. resolve can be thanked for all that, even as those who protested our defense and military postures marched in favor of appeasement.


Indeed, we live in a strange time when the anti-nuclear movement and its leaders of yesterday can today suggest a course of inaction such that Saddam will be able to join North Korea in becoming a nuclear power. The only logical conclusion one can reach is that for the protesters today, weapons in the hands of the U.S. are to be met with outrage while weapons in the hands of Saddam are to be met with silence.


We seek to liberate Iraq today, not only because for Saddam “[t]orture is not a method of last resort in Iraq, it is often the method of first resort,” according to Kenneth Pollack, President Clinton’s director of Gulf Affairs at the NSC. We seek to liberate Iraq because after Sept. 11, 2001, we were put on notice. We were put on notice that civilized people can no longer live in a bubble and hope for the best. We were put on notice that there are fanatics and tyrants who want nothing from us but our death. And this notice requires action: the action of the brave, the action of the unthanked, the action of the free.


In Iraq as in other contemporary situations, the responsibility to act has been ours because the ability has been ours. The responsibility has been ours because oppressed people look to us for their deliverance. There is a duty in being the nation that Abraham Lincoln, speaking of our Declaration of Independence, called “a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression.” That is who we happen to be. And it is an honor.


William J. Bennett, chairman of Americans for Victory Over Terrorism, is a former secretary of Education and the author of Why We Fight: Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism, re-released and updated in paperback (Regnery, 2003).




The Exhausting Pursuit of Peace: A problem with just-war theory today (NRO, 030319)


By Joseph Loconte


Even now, as the United States prepares to attack Iraq, war opponents insist that peaceful means to disarm Saddam Hussein have not run their course. Religious critics claim the crucial test for a “just war” — that it be used as a last resort — hasn’t been met. But it’s the distortion of just-war doctrine that has helped delay action against Baghdad and create the current crisis.


The mischief began at least 20 years ago, when the U.S. Catholic Bishops issued “The Challenge of Peace,” a pastoral letter redefining the litmus test for war. Not only must military action be a last resort, they said, but “all peaceful alternatives must have been exhausted.”


That slippery phrase has reappeared — and muddied the entire debate over Iraq. The Vatican today issued a one-line rebuttal to war plans: “Those who decide that all peaceful means that international law makes available are exhausted assume a grave responsibility before God, their conscience, and history.” The American bishops have repeatedly invoked the new standard to denounce a U.S.-led attack. So has the National Council of Churches, which has demanded that all peaceful alternatives be “explored and exhausted.” Last week former President Jimmy Carter used the expression like a club to bludgeon the military option. “War can be waged only as a last resort,” Carter wrote for the New York Times, “with all nonviolent options exhausted.” U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says war is acceptable “only if we are sure that every peaceful means of achieving Iraq’s disarmament has been exhausted.”


Yet there is nothing like this standard in traditional just-war theory, not as formulated by Augustine, or expanded upon by Thomas Aquinas. When the maxim is actually applied — such as during the outbreak of hostilities in Kosovo or Rwanda — it becomes a cover for paralysis. Crises that require serious moral judgments, backed up by swift and lethal force, receive neither. In Rwanda, the United Nations stood by as mindless bloodletting claimed upwards of 800,000 lives. But at least religious leaders were satisfied that their doctrine had been upheld.


One becomes exhausted contemplating what the “exhaustion” of peaceful options might mean. Does it involve tighter economic sanctions, a beefed-up inspections regime, an extension of the no-fly zones, the issuing of more U.N. resolutions? All of these strategies have been tried with Iraq — but not, according to war critics, to the point of exhaustion.


After all, they say, there’s no evidence of an “imminent attack” against the United States. Yet this view of aggression is closer to the fifth century, in which just-war theory was formulated, than the era of nihilistic rage in which we now live. The new reality is the horrific link between terrorist organizations, rogue states, and weapons of mass destruction. According to the latest CNN poll, 85 percent of Americans believe that Iraq belongs in this demonic inner ring.


Can America respond with force only when an Iraqi missile carrying a chemical weapon is seconds from liftoff? Or only after Saddam has slipped a few liters of anthrax into the hands of al Qaeda allies? If there ever was a time when theology must be “updated” to reflect contemporary facts, this is it.


Even now, disciples of the “exhaustive” school of diplomacy refuse to make a final judgment about the basic character — and predictable behavior — of a tyrannical regime. They ignore the evidence that Saddam Hussein represents an intractable evil: his state-backed megalomania, unprovoked wars of aggression, use of chemical weapons against the Kurds, the expulsion of weapons inspectors, attacks on U.S. aircraft, support for terrorist organizations, and defiance of 17 U.N. resolutions since his defeat in the Gulf War.


Saddam is prepared to subject his people to a devastating war for one purpose: to extend his power by developing and deploying the world’s deadliest weapons. Only the marshalling of 250,000 American and British troops on his border has interrupted that pursuit. And only the most naïve moralists could fail to admit its implications.


Just-war doctrine remains essential to international order, but if it can’t sanction action against this menace, it needs revision. Grounded in Christian ethics, the theory guards against warmongerng in the pursuit of national security. But when all peaceful alternatives to war have failed, the doctrine must not become a suicide pact with civilization.


— Joseph Loconte is the William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and a Free Society at the Heritage Foundation and a commentator for National Public Radio.




Casualties of Enlightenment: Peace (of mind) at any price (NRO, 030319)


By Adam G. Mersereau


The more we hear from the antiwar movement, the more evident it becomes that the antiwar movement is not entirely antiwar. War and the brutal killing of innocent people per se do not seem to offend many of the opponents of the pending military action in Iraq. After all, it is Saddam Hussein who is courting war by his defiance of U.N. resolutions and the peace accord that ended the first Gulf War; it is Saddam Hussein who harbors terrorists and hosts training camps for them; it is Saddam Hussein who has orchestrated the deaths of and disappearances of hundreds of thousands of people; it is Saddam Hussein who cuts out the tongues of Iraqi citizens who speak poorly of him; and it is Saddam Hussein who orders the rape of women in front of their children just to get political leverage with their husbands.


Yet the general consensus within the antiwar movement is that that President Bush — not Saddam Hussein or even Osama bin Laden — is the evil one. They have compared President Bush to Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda and have concluded that Saddam Hussein and the terrorists pose the lesser of two threats.


The anti-war movement’s misguided conclusions make sense only if we first examine the underlying force that drives and unites their diverse movement: a total and utter disdain for moral certainty. Many people who are antiwar are antiwar not merely because war is violent and inhumane, but because war is the ultimate statement of moral certainty — it is the ultimate in “judgmentalness.” The pending war against Iraq is particularly distasteful to them because President Bush presents it as one against “evil” forces. Nothing is more offensive to today’s “sophisticated” mind than this kind of moral certainty.


During the Enlightenment, Western philosophers rediscovered the ancient Greek concept of systematic skepticism. They labored to discredit the idea that anything can be known with certainty, especially matters of morality. Enlightenment thinkers encouraged mankind to abandon the search for Truth and embrace a perfectly delightful and reassuring uncertainty about Truth and morality. “Good” and “evil,” they preached, are the cultural jetsam of a darker age. Today, it is the very essence of intellectual sophistication to believe that the only thing that is absolutely True is that nothing is absolutely True. (Choosing to ignore the inherent contradiction is part of the game.) The truly enlightened person therefore believes that the only “evil” man is the man who points to evil and calls it “evil;” and that the only liar is the man who says that men can know Truth.


Under this belief system, which is prevalent in Europe and (at least) among the cultural elite in America, each man becomes a god (of sorts) unto himself, with the personal authority to reject summarily all external moral guidance and to declare for himself what is “good” and what is “evil.” Western culture has thus wrapped itself in relative morality like a warm blanket. Moral relativism finds diplomatic expression at the United Nations, where representatives of murderous, oppressive and otherwise criminal regimes cast votes of equal value as those cast by representatives of pluralistic democracies. Because all agree that there is no objective morality to be sought, morality is defined by a majority vote; and anyone who doesn’t find the safety that is supposed to exist in numbers is deemed a renegade (or, if they happen to be from Texas, a cowboy).


For the enlightened person, war is never the answer because he can never identify with certainty an evil that must be confronted, or a cause that is unquestionably just. We see this viewpoint at work in any number of social and political disputes, particularly in the gun control movement, which is the domestic version of the antiwar movement. Have you ever wondered what type of person would deny fathers and mothers the right to own a gun to defend their homes and their children against violent intruders? Only someone who refuses to distinguish between the good and noble act of protecting one’s family and the evil act of endangering that family. Only someone who is not certain that the attacker is in the wrong.


Many politicians engage in “God talk” to add gravitas to their speeches. But now comes President Bush, who seems more sincere about it than most, speaking of good and evil in the arena of public policy. He asserts — outside the four walls of a church, mind you — that our notions of good and evil are real, and that mankind has a responsibility to deal with them. He is spoiling the game that is being played by the enlightened. No matter what Saddam and the terrorists have done, they are not guilty of this unforgivable secular sin. Consider this antiwar rationale by Francois Heisbourg, the director of the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris, which recently appeared in the LA Times: “The biblical references in politics, the division of the world between good and evil, these are things that we simply don’t get.”


To all who have swallowed the Enlightenment’s pill, President Bush does indeed pose a more dangerous threat than Saddam Hussein and the terrorists. For if we are truly responsible to confront evil in Iraq, North Korea, and Iran, then we are most certainly responsible for confronting it elsewhere, even in our own hearts, to whatever degree it lurks there. Mankind has spent millennia devising (and sometimes distorting) worldviews, religions and philosophies that will help him to deny more plausibly the existence of good and evil and that will relieve him of the duty to honestly examine his own heart. Many in Europe and America are not about to allow a Christian politician to bring his Biblical view of our “fallen” race — for which war is abhorrent but sometimes necessary — into the public square.


So thousands of people in Europe and America have taken to the streets in protest. Many of them cannot even articulate their reasons. But this we know for certain: They are willing to risk their lives (in future strikes against America) rather than engage in the real human struggle against evil. Unfortunately, they are willing to risk their neighbors’ lives, too, just to maintain their self-delusion.


What could be more frightening?


— Adam G. Mersereau served in the enlisted and officer ranks of the United States Marine Corps from 1990 to 1995. He is now an attorney in Atlanta, Georgia.




Dumb and Dumber: Conventional ignorance about the present war (NRO, 030321)


by Victor David Hansen




Religion, we have been warned, is man’s oldest, his deepest urge. Thus we are stirring up a hornet’s nest in Iraq that will unleash forces beyond our control. The novelist Margaret Atwood recently warned of just that dire scenario. So does al-Jazeera, the electronic madrassa of the Arab world.


Yet we are still trying to acquire bases in a NATO-allied Muslim Turkey to attack Islamic Iraq. A northern front is desirable in large part so that Turks do not butcher the Muslims of Kurdistan (currently under attack by Islamic al Qaedists) even as we liberate other Muslims from Saddam Hussein. At the same time, remember, we are being thwarted by Catholic/Protestant France and Germany as well as by Orthodox Russia.


Iranian Shiites threaten to help their brethren in Iraq against secular Baathists. But they also want to fight Sunni Muslims. Indeed, in the past three decades Iranians, Iraqis, and Egyptians — not Americans — all preferred to fight during Ramadan. And is the Muslim world going to rise up to strike America — which saved and fed Islamic Afghans, Kuwaitis, Bosnians, Kosovars, and Somalis? Or will it hit the Russians, who killed 200,000 Muslims in Chechnya; or the Iraqis, who butchered 500,000 Shiite Iranians; or the Kuwaitis, who ethnically cleansed their kingdom of Palestinians?


The present crisis is far too complex to dismiss as a simple jihad. It resembles more the festering Balkan boil — likewise lanced by the U.S. military. Protestant and Catholic Americans bombed Orthodox Christian Serbs to save Islamic Bosnians and Kosovars — and were met with silence from the Muslim world, outrage from the Orthodox, and indifference from the European Catholic and Protestant.




In a variety of subtle ways, it is alleged that the war is part of a neoconservative (read, Jewish) plot to force us to fight Sharon’s battles. This conspiracy theory usually unfolds with preemptive — and often angry — disavowals that the suspicion is not at all anti-Semitic. Then it proceeds to round up the usual suspects: Perle, Wolfowitz, The Weekly Standard, Commentary, etc.


Yet if we choose to concentrate on individuals rather than on the American public (which is 98 percent non-Jewish and living outside New York and Washington, and is being polled weekly), there are really five people who are preeminent in crafting American foreign policy: George Bush, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld. Three of them may be WASPs; the other two are African American. None are Jewish. All have a track record of being testy and independent, and hardly willing to be railroaded by anyone. And past history suggests that American successes in the Middle East usually lead to pressure on, not a free hand for, Israel.


Prior to the September attacks, Bush & co. were casting doubts on neoconservative ideas of “nation building” and Clintonian-type unilateral interventions — and I suspect they will all return to those affinities once the Iraq and North Korea crises have passed. But while the Bush team shares a wide variety of viewpoints, they all have reluctantly agreed that in a post-9/11 world, the United States will never be safe with an unhinged fascist dictator still in power — especially one who has a long history of surprise attacks against sovereign states, coupled with a habit of both acquiring weapons of mass destruction and abetting terrorists.


Midwesterners, westerners, and southerners — not eastern neoconservative Jews — are running this government. And they are going to war not for Israel, but because, like all Americans (including and especially Wolfowitz and Perle), they don’t like allowing the safety of their beloved country to be contingent on the promises of assassins like Saddam Hussein, or of those appeasing neutrals who say not to worry about Saddam Hussein.




Yet many of those unhappy with the Texan flavor of Bush’s rhetoric wish to listen to more sophisticated, international voices of ethics and compassion. Perhaps they desire to not be “hated” by the Europeans; or they entertain fears about doing anything that might be costly or unpleasant. Or maybe they failed to grasp the two iron laws of this crisis which trump all silly discussions about diplomatic tact and politeness: Saddam Hussein would never have disarmed without force and the French-led Europeans would never have supported the United States anyway.


Who knows? But they should at least reconsider how moral these non-state institutions really are — and perhaps recall that Socrates wasn’t all that popular either, and was condemned by a “liberal” majority.


Try the pope and the Catholic Church. It has forgotten its mistaken warnings about the first Gulf War. Had we followed the pope’s advice of nonintervention then, Iraq would now be sitting on half of the world’s oil reserves, armed with nuclear weapons, and unrepentant about the killings of thousands of Kuwaitis.


Recent history is just as depressing. Take the silence about the takeover and desecration of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by Palestinian gangsters; the hospitality and sightseeing offered to the odious criminal Tariq Aziz in Rome; the seeming indifference to the thousands of Kurds and Iraqis slaughtered by Saddam Hussein. Americans liberating enslaved Iraqis should be the least of his worries.


Perhaps instead we can look to preeminent citizens of the world, such as Nobel Peace laureates? Ignore past embarrassments like the killer Yasser Arafat and note that the two most courageous — Elie Wiesel and Lech Walesa — are both support liberating Iraq. Why, then, should we listen to the newly canonized Jimmy Carter — who has a long record of parlaying with dictators and failing in diplomatic initiatives (from the Iranian hostage crisis to the Korean nuclear fiasco) — to say nothing of campaigning for the award on the widely praised strategy of ankle-biting a current American president in time of war? This was a leader, after all, who sought to “scare” the Iranian mullahs in 1979 by shipping F-15s to Saudi Arabia — all, of course, “unarmed.”


The recent slaughter of 200,000 Balkans under the noses of the EU simply ends all discussion about the moral authority of that undemocratic body. That leaves us with the U.N. No one in Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Haiti, or Afghanistan was saved by the courage of the United Nations. Instead, sanctimonious elites in New York talked on and on between power lunches even as over a million people rotted in shallow graves.


Half the states that sometimes comprise the Security Council deny their own citizens the very voting rights their mouthpieces enjoy in New York. For all the talk of pernicious American unilateralism, all of the permanent members routinely have used force for their own perceived national interests — both preemptively and without UN approval: Britain in the Falklands; France in the Ivory Coast; Russia (omitting the Soviet record in Eastern Europe and Afghanistan) in Chechnya; and China in Tibet, Korea, and Vietnam.


But perhaps the advice of our “allies” could lend us needed moral weight? Turkey balks not out of concern for the oppressed, but because of geopolitical worries over granting more concessions to oppressed Kurds, as well as a desire for cash and political cover for an amoral past in places like Cyprus. Billions pour into Egypt and Jordan as bribe money. Germany and France rearmed Saddam Hussein. Russia would have done more, had its weapons not been so inferior. All worry about debts to be paid. Existing oil concessions and anxiety about the scent of embarrassing footprints in a free Baghdad round out reasons for their current hostility to us.


Our allies, not our enemies, have taken away from us tactical surprise, easy logistics, and political support — and we should hold them culpable for all the needless deaths we incur. The tragedy is not that they wish to ostracize us, but rather that once Americans have died liberating Iraq, they will abandon their principles to elbow their way in and brag of “standing shoulder to shoulder” with GI liberators.




This week there were reports of brave, impoverished Kurds burning effigies of Saddam Hussein even as the Iraqi Gestapo hunted them down. Meanwhile pictures were being broadcast of Europeans torching simulacra of George Bush. That contrast sums up the current abject dissolution of the antiwar protestors — a bankrupt movement that has intellectual roots in the crowds who slurred Churchill and praised Chamberlain.


Go figure. Poor people atop their own oil who have no liberty, little gas, and few cars can risk their lives to express a desire to be free from a mass murderer. Simultaneously, wealthy, elite Westerners (who import their oil to drive nice cars) risk an hour or two of leisure time to damn a democratic leader for risking war to free these enslaved. Poor, tortured, and exiled Iraqis grimace at all this; Uday the Impaler and Chemical Ali smile.


In peacetime some creepy, self-proclaimed “human shields” volunteered to protect Iraqi civilian targets that won’t be hit. But they bolted on the eve of war on being directed instead by their dictatorial hosts to guard military sites that probably will. Some morality.


Novelists and intellectuals decry 45 dead in Jenin and 500 civilians in Kabul killed in the liberation of Afghanistan. Suicide-murdering and medieval fundamentalist fascists are never mentioned. Nor do they say anything about the thousands slaughtered in decades of border-shelling in Kashmir, or the innocents of Chad butchered by the Libyans, or the tens of thousands of Christians executed in Africa. One person killed accidentally by a Westerner, after all, is worth 100 killed deliberately by “them.”


The behavior of elites is similarly disturbing and reveals a deep sickness within American culture. What is the pathology that infects privileged Americans in this present conflict — why is it that the clerics are so out of touch with their parishioners, the actors with their audience, the professors with their students, the reporters with their readers? Hollywood celebrities either trash America abroad to cheering Europeans (cf. Jessica Lange, the Dixie Chicks, or Michael Moore), visit a criminal state on the eve of war (cf. Sean Penn), or talk of the general oppression and unfairness of the corporate America that alone gives Hollywooders a lifestyle undreamed of by the rest of America or the world at large (cf. Barbra Streisand or Ms. Huffington). Lost in all this posturing are some 26 million Iraqis — tortured, exiled, jailed, and brutalized under fascism.


So what is the truth?


We are presently watching the last hand in a long-drawn-out poker game. All the chips — the EU, NATO, the U.N., European anti-Americanism, French chauvinism, domestic opposition, the future of a democratic Iraq, the very nature of the Middle East, and of the war against terror itself — are now stacked on the table, up for grabs. As some of us once argued, it would have been far better and safer to go in last autumn; but war is full of irony, and so by forcing us to wait, our opponents have only upped the ante and may well lose all that they have so recklessly wagered.


If this war is immediate, quick, and successful, and results in the destruction of the Hussein regime and the liberation of its people, the world abroad will be made anew as we call in our markers. We will see either the reform — or perhaps the de facto end — of many flawed and hypocritical trans-national institutions we have known for a half-century. Then will follow the disgrace of our critics, the embarrassment of the utopian Left, and the sudden appearance of all sorts of European allies and Arab friends eager to mount our strong horse and ride down the remaining scattered Islamic terrorists.


And if we lose this last hand? We won’t, partly because the consequences — as in any failed high-stakes gambit — would be so catastrophic that we simply cannot contemplate them all. And so we watch, as the beginning of the 21st-century global order rests in the hands of thousands of brave Americans now battling in the desert. God be with them.




Small War Now…or World War Later (NRO, 030321)


By Kenneth Hart Green


The war with Iraq has begun, and I think it is no exaggeration to say that the West’s entire future depends on this war. I believe President Bush sees this clearly, and has the resolve to carry through with what needs to be done. Indeed, I think the president has been using his time well and deliberately, and the delay has accorded nicely with his intention. The delay has allowed the president to look to attaining the main goal from several angles: It has allowed Colin Powell to persuade the hesitant, and has also allowed Donald Rumsfeld to rally the troops into a state of armed readiness. This strategy aims to scotch the snake’s evil head, so as to neutralize its venom as quickly as possible.


Why is the war absolutely essential? There are a number of reasons. First, we can only preserve our way of life in the West if we’re willing to be lions — if we’re willing to fight our enemies when they threaten us. Second, we must recognize that if this war were not to be carried through, our enemies — both the Islamist terrorists and the Arab tyrants who sponsor them — would view the U.S. and its allies as windbags mouthing empty threats. Third, if we do not fight, our enemies would not only be emboldened, they would be determined to throw at us everything they’ve got, because they would see us as easy prey, unable to stand up for our own principles and unwilling to lay down our lives for them if necessary.


And we must not doubt that we have such implacable enemies. This has been proven sufficiently by the events of the year and a half since September 11. But what they had learned about us in the preceding 12 years was that we have been hesitant to fight them — even though they have been trying to kill us, and even though they proclaimed their eternal hatred for us. These lessons were taught them by the wobbly Bush, Sr., who snatched shameful defeat from the jaws of most impressive victory in order to appease the Arab and Muslim world (by supposedly impressing it with American mildness); and by the feckless, cowardly, and vain Clinton, who closed his eyes to the need to defend America from its declared and active enemies even despite the attacks on the World Trade Center (1993), on the African embassies, on the Cole, etc. (One could even draw these conclusions from the last 24 years — beginning with the Ayatollah Khomeini’s seizure of power in Iran, as it was responded to by the perennially foolish Jimmy Carter; or from Ronald Reagan’s decision to abandon Lebanon and run, following the murderous attack on the U.S. army barracks in Beirut.) Indeed, our enemies have been growing fiercer and crueler: The less we resist them by arms, the more we confirm our ostrich-like unwillingness to face the threat they pose. The moment for choice has arrived; it can no longer be dodged.


The lesson of recent events, though, should be a simpler one. We are experiencing a strange repetition of the 1930s, but with one big difference: We get the chance to do things differently — if we absorb the right lessons of history. In fact, I believe that had the U.S. and its allies not made war on Iraq, World War III would have been upon us in very short order. Yes, you read me right — and I’m not being rhetorical: The choice is war now with Iraq, or World War III later. This war has been long in preparation, and yet we’ve been trying not to acknowledge it. Only by eliminating Saddam and his nuclear weapons program (linked closely, as he clearly is, with Osama’s al Qaeda and its secret army in the West) prior to its completion, can we hope to save ourselves from complete disaster.


This time, we get the chance to do things differently because the lesson of history is right there before us. It is the Rhineland once again. As Churchill said during those dark days, and as he reiterated in the clearer light that followed the last war, had we in the West acted together and defeated Hitler then, there would not have been a Second World War. It would have been a relatively easy job if the Western powers had acted in concert, since Hitler and Nazi Germany were still quite weak. By halting or even killing the “guttersnipe” (as Churchill called Hitler) and vanquishing the Nazis early on, we would have been spared all the later bloodshed and horror of World War II. Again we face a similar choice: It’s either a small war now, or a large, even massive, war later — but not much later, maybe two or at most three years (as it similarly was between Hitler’s seizure and illegal re-occupation of the Rhineland, in 1936, and the Nazi conquest of Poland, in 1939). And the massive world war we face if we do not fight Saddam’s Iraq will, it is almost certain, involve nuclear bombs — since historical experience with Saddam has shown us that he will not hesitate to use this or any type of weapon of mass destruction, if he thinks he can get away with it and if it will demoralize his enemy.


As for my Rhineland analogy, permit me to quote some of Churchill’s comments from The Gathering Storm (p. 190), which show several striking parallels with our own time:


“There was, perhaps, still time for an assertion of collective security, based upon the avowed readiness of all members concerned to enforce the decisions of the League of Nations by the sword. The democracies and their dependent states were still actually and potentially far stronger than the dictatorships, but their position relative to their opponents was less than half as good as it had been twelve months before. Virtuous motives, trammeled by inertia and timidity, are no match for armed and resolute wickedness. A sincere love of peace is no excuse for muddling hundreds of millions of humble folk into total war. The cheers of weak, well-meaning assemblies soon cease to echo, and their votes soon cease to count. Doom marches on.”


By the way, the alliance of Saddam’s secular national Arabist-socialists with the fundamentalist Islamists of Osama (also known as the Islamofascists) is not so strange as it might at first appear. Consider again the history of the past century. Hitler’s Nazi Germany made an alliance (the greater “Axis”) with Tojo’s miliarist-imperialist Japan, even though the Japanese were by no stretch of the imagination of the correct race, namely, “Aryans.” Yet race was supposedly the be-all and end-all of the Nazi ideological program, and of the Nazi state organized around it. How could it be? No difficulty: He solved the problem by sleight-of-hand. To get around the contradiction, Hitler simply made the Japanese “honorary” Aryans — just as Osama (or the dummy who fakes his voice and uses his slogans) has made Saddam a great servant of the Islamist cause — the veritable prophet of Allah. In other words, setting aside the fictions of propaganda (which are devised for the fools who will believe such stuff and nonsense), the “racially pure” Aryans of Nazi Germany and Tojo’s miliarist-imperialist Japan — suddenly racially redesigned as majestically tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed “Aryans” — were united by their mutual hatred of the West. That shared hatred was enough to make them join forces. The same thing is happening here.


The president has made the right choice for all of us — even for those of us like the majority of my fellow Canadians, who are in utter denial. But it is also for all of us — we who rely and who depend on the U.S. to preserve our way of life and to save us from the evil ones, from the likes of Osama’s al Qaeda and Saddam’s Iraq — to make a decision as to how we shall stand, whom we shall help, and in favor of which cause we shall speak in these troubled times: Do we stand with the evildoers, do we stand with the fools, or do we stand with the lions?


If we stand with, speak for, and lend aid to the lions, then we shall be justly gladdened by the victory, for we shall behold a righteous vision of the liberated people of Iraq waving U.S. flags in the streets of Baghdad, and singing and dancing for the joy of freedom.


— Kenneth Hart Green is a professor of religion at the University of Toronto.




The Four Generations Of Modern War (Free Congress Foundation, 030409)


I thought it might be a good time to lay out a framework for understanding that and other conflicts. The framework is the Four Generations of Modern War.


I developed the framework of the first three generations (“generation” is shorthand for dialectically qualitative shift) in the 1980s, when I was laboring to introduce maneuver warfare to the Marine Corps. Marines kept asking, “What will the Fourth Generation be like?”, and I began to think about that. The result was the article I co-authored for the Marine Corps Gazette in 1989, “The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation.” Our troops found copies of it in the caves at Tora Bora, the al Quaeda hideout in Afghanistan.


The Four Generations began with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the treaty that ended the Thirty Years’ War. With the Treaty of Westphalia, the state established a monopoly on war. Previously, many different entities had fought wars -- families, tribes, religions, cities, business enterprises -- using many different means, not just armies and navies (two of those means, bribery and assassination, are again in vogue). Now, state militaries find it difficult to imagine war in any way other than fighting state armed forces similar to themselves.


The First Generation of Modern War runs roughly from 1648 to 1860. This was war of line and column tactics, where battles were formal and the battlefield was orderly. The relevance of the First Generation springs from the fact that the battlefield of order created a military culture of order. Most of the things that distinguish “military” from “civilian” - uniforms, saluting, careful gradations or rank -- were products of the First Generation and are intended to reinforce the culture of order.


The problem is that, around the middle of the 19th century, the battlefield of order began to break down. Mass armies, soldiers who actually wanted to fight (an 18th century’s soldier’s main objective was to desert), rifled muskets, then breech loaders and machine guns, made the old line and column tactics first obsolete, then suicidal.


The problem ever since has been a growing contradiction between the military culture and the increasing disorderliness of the battlefield. The culture of order that was once consistent with the environment in which it operated has become more and more at odds with it.


Second Generation warfare was one answer to this contradiction. Developed by the French Army during and after World War I, it sought a solution in mass firepower, most of which was indirect artillery fire. The goal was attrition, and the doctrine was summed up by the French as, “The artillery conquers, the infantry occupies.” Centrally-controlled firepower was carefully synchronized, using detailed, specific plans and orders, for the infantry, tanks, and artillery, in a “conducted battle” where the commander was in effect the conductor of an orchestra.


Second Generation warfare came as a great relief to soldiers (or at least their officers) because it preserved the culture of order. The focus was inward on rules, processes and procedures. Obedience was more important than initiative (in fact, initiative was not wanted, because it endangered synchronization), and discipline was top-down and imposed.


Second Generation warfare is relevant to us today because the United States Army and Marine Corps learned Second Generation warfare from the French during and after World War I. It remains the American war of war, as we are seeing in Afghanistan and Iraq: to Americans, war means “putting steel on target.” Aviation has replaced artillery as the source of most firepower, but otherwise, (and despite the Marine’s formal doctrine, which is Third Generation maneuver warfare) the American military today is as French as white wine and brie. At the Marine Corps’ desert warfare training center at 29 Palms, California, the only thing missing is the tricolor and a picture of General Gamelin in the headquarters. The same is true at the Army’s Armor School at Fort Knox, where one instructor recently began his class by saying, “I don’t know why I have to teach you all this old French crap, but I do.”


Third Generation warfare, like Second, was a product of World War I. It was developed by the German Army, and is commonly known as Blitzkrieg or maneuver warfare.


Third Generation warfare is based not on firepower and attrition but speed, surprise, and mental as well as physical dislocation. Tactically, in the attack a Third Generation military seeks to get into the enemy’s rear and collapse him from the rear forward: instead of “close with and destroy,” the motto is “bypass and collapse.” In the defense, it attempts to draw the enemy in, then cut him off. War ceases to be a shoving contest, where forces attempt to hold or advance a “line;” Third Generation warfare is non-linear.


Not only do tactics change in the Third Generation, so does the military culture. A Third Generation military focuses outward, on the situation, the enemy, and the result the situation requires, not inward on process and method (in war games in the 19th Century, German junior officers were routinely given problems that could only be solved by disobeying orders). Orders themselves specify the result to be achieved, but never the method (“Auftragstaktik”). Initiative is more important than obedience (mistakes are tolerated, so long as they come from too much initiative rather than too little), and it all depends on self-discipline, not imposed discipline. The Kaiserheer and the Wehrmacht could put on great parades, but in reality they had broken with the culture of order.


Characteristics such as decentralization and initiative carry over from the Third to the Fourth Generation, but in other respects the Fourth Generation marks the most radical change since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. In Fourth Generation war, the state loses its monopoly on war. All over the world, state militaries find themselves fighting non-state opponents such as al Quaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the FARC. Almost everywhere, the state is losing.


Fourth Generation war is also marked by a return to a world of cultures, not merely states, in conflict. We now find ourselves facing the Christian West’s oldest and most steadfast opponent, Islam. After about three centuries on the strategic defensive, following the failure of the second Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683, Islam has resumed the strategic offensive, expanding outward in every direction. In Third Generation war, invasion by immigration can be at least as dangerous as invasion by a state army.


Nor is Fourth Generation warfare merely something we import, as we did on 9/11. At its core lies a universal crisis of legitimacy of the state, and that crisis means many countries will evolve Fourth Generation war on their soil. America, with a closed political system (regardless of which party wins, the Establishment remains in power and nothing really changes) and a poisonous ideology of “multiculturalism,” is a prime candidate for the home-grown variety of Fourth Generation war -- which is by far the most dangerous kind.


Where does the war in Iraq fit in this framework?


I suggest that the war we have seen thus far is merely a powder train leading to the magazine. The magazine is Fourth Generation war by a wide variety of Islamic non-state actors, directed at America and Americans (and local governments friendly to America) everywhere. The longer America occupies Iraq, the greater the chance that the magazine will explode. If it does, God help us all.


Now The Real War Starts (030424)


War, by its nature, is full of surprises. Like most observers, I did not expect the Iraqis in the south to fight us, and they did. Also like most observers, I expected the Republican Guard around Baghdad to fight us, and they did not. The question of why they did not fight is an interesting one, although it will probably be years before we know the true answer. (As always, the official answer will be air power; as always, that answer will prove false). My guess, and it cannot be more than that, is that the senior Iraqi leadership fled Baghdad and the troops found out they had done so. You can’t say, “Fight fiercely, fellows,” while you bolt out the back door and expect any army to fight.


The result, thankfully, is that the Second Generation war with the state of Iraq’s armed forces is over and we won. Saddam and his government are gone, U.S. armed forces occupy Iraq and the whole thing went off with relatively few casualties, on both sides. Did we see any evidence of Third Generation maneuver warfare on the part of the Americans? I will not know until I can talk to people who were there, but at present I am skeptical. Overall, I think we have seen our better-equipped, better-trained Second Generation army beat another Second Generation army.


The problem is, now the real war starts.


There are three basic forms it may take, none of which lend themselves to a Second Generation response. The first is simple chaos. The initial chaos that followed the American victory seems to be subsiding, but that is no guarantee that there will not be new waves of chaos to come. The essential characteristic of chaos is that it is spontaneous. It is caused by large numbers of people responding to circumstances: no water or food, no jobs or money, outrage over perceived humiliations (we have chosen a woman to rule over central Iraq, including Baghdad, which is an enormous insult to Arab men), whatever draws a crowd. Chaos may be manipulated, and there will be many who benefit from it and want it to continue, but its nature is that it is “bottom up.” That makes it all the more difficult to control.


A second form the real war may take is a War of National Liberation, a guerilla war to free Iraq from foreign occupation. The essential characteristic of this kind of war is that it is for the nation. The term -- Nationale Befreiungskrieg, in the original German -- comes from Germany’s, especially Prussia’s, effort to free itself from Napoleon’s yoke. Here, there is likely to be some sort of underground national leadership, and the basis for the war would be Iraqi nationalism. It is possible, though not likely, that rather than fleeing, Saddam and other senior Iraqi leaders have gone underground to organize this kind of war, using the vast remaining structure of the Ba’ath party as a base and the Republican Guard troops who went home as the guerillas.


The third and, in my view, most likely form the real war may take is Fourth Generation warfare. Washington thinks it has destroyed the Iraqi regime, but it may find it has also destroyed the Iraqi state and cannot create it again. (The best chance of doing so is probably to use the remaining Ba’ath party structure, if it can be co-opted, but the Bush administration will probably reject this on grounds of “moral principle.”)


In place of the state of Iraq, we will find ourselves facing a vast array of competing loyalties, based on religion (Sunni or Shiite), ethnicity, tribe, clan, source of income or source of local security (gangs and warlords), and simple appeals to fight the Crusaders from non-state actors such as al Quaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and countless imitators. As in Afghanistan, the puppet government we establish in Baghdad will have no authority outside Baghdad, maybe not much in Baghdad, and will survive only because it is propped up by American troops. Iraq will become for us what the West Bank is for Israel, an ulcer that drains us physically, mentally and morally. Further, if an intifada against America arises in Iraq, it may well spread elsewhere in the Arab and Moslem world, aimed at any local government that supports the United States.


These alternatives are not pure; we may and probably will face a mixture of all three. This, the real war, is likely to begin slowly, allowing Washington to believe it has won, perhaps for long enough to start more wars, with Syria the probable next target. But once it does start, our Second Generation armed forces will prove to have little ability to stop it. We will find ourselves recalling the immortal words of Marshal McMahon to Napoleon III at Sedan, where the Emperor and his army were trapped by the Prussians: “Nous somme dans une pot de chambre, et nous y serrons emmerdes.”


William S. Lind is Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation.




Radical relativism and the war in Iraq (National Post, 030404)


Elizabeth Nickson


‘Join the other superpower,” said the bumper sticker on the back of the clapped out Chevy van on the ferry, “world opinion.”


How I wish I could. Just walk right into that ocean of warmly felt righteousness until the waves were over my head, then breathe. But that would mean I had an IQ of twelve. That would mean I conflated Bush and Saddam. That I was somehow convinced that Saddam, causing the death of an estimated 300,000 children, not to mention the brutal torture or murder of unnumbered Iraqi adults over the past 10 years, is somehow equal to this transparent, painstaking invasion that counts and publishes every wound and loss on both sides. And that the hatred and ill will towards the West in the Middle East propagated by their intelligentsia, religious figures, media and leadership is less depraved than, say, the corporate malfeasance that has been so thoroughly investigated, criticized and punished for the past 10 months in the West. That this viciously expensive war has been undertaken by the Americans and British so that Dick Cheney and Haliburton can rebuild the Iraqi oil fields and profit. And that a Jewish cabal in New York is pulling Bush’s strings.


We are finally reaping the rewards of postmodernism. Thirty years of radical relativism propagated by my addled and destructive generation in the universities, seemingly unchallenged by parents or university regents adds up to this: People believe that there is no objective truth. Truth has become something to be invented, rather than pursued. Reasoned argument is a tool of white males so has no value. If you feel it, only then can it be true. War feels bad, therefore in every case is bad, and any argument against it will do. Make it up. Exaggerate. Blow conspiracy theories hard. It doesn’t matter. People unashamedly complain in the same breath about the Americans not invading Iraq in 1991 to rescue the Kurds, and invading Iraq today. They complain about the Americans not insisting that Kuwaiti women receive the vote after the first Gulf War and that Americans are now planning to seed the principles of democracy in Iraq. If one points out that since 1979, Iraqi median annual income has dropped from a respectable $12,000 a year to less than $3,000, that when Saddam took Iraq in 1979, it had a surplus of $50-billion, and now has a debt of $100-billion solely based on his arms build-up, they waffle and fade, still convinced they are right. This tyrant is on the side of right, the Bush team always wrong. Why? Don’t know. Just feel it.


We are living within Vaclav Havel’s lie. All the things that we think are true, say the people we pay to teach our treasured youth, are merely the constructs of dominant groups, the creations of the powerful. Last weekend, at an anti-war teach-in, Columbia anthropology professor Nicholas De Genova told 3,000 students and faculty, “Peace is subversive, because peace anticipates a very different world than the one in which we live -- a world where the U.S. would have no place.” De Genova continued: “the only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S.military. I personally would like to see a million Mogadishus. If we really [believe] that this war is criminal ... then we have to believe in the victory of the Iraqi people and the defeat of the U.S. war machine.” Was De Genova reprimanded? Guess. What would have happened to him had he said the same thing that same weekend in Baghdad? He would have been skinned, dropped in boiling oil, fed through a meat grinder, then plopped down on his family’s front lawn with a bill for the grinding attached to the twist tie on the garbage bag.


So what is the difference between Nicholas De Genova, or say, Michael Moore or Martin Sheen’s hate-filled, militant, purpose-filled, bourgeois-baiting language and that of Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein? It’s merely a matter of degree, since its purpose is fundamentally undemocratic.


Martin Sheen has been arrested 70 times for protesting various things. One might well ask about his associations. Until now, the largest organization behind the “peace” movement has been International ANSWER, which has been revealed as front for a Marxist-Leninist party with ties to the Communist regime in North Korea. According to a comprehensive, sympathetic report in The New York Times, factions on the left became disturbed that the overtly radical slogans of the International ANSWER protests were “counter-productive.” Last fall, they met in the offices of People For The American Way to create a new umbrella organization called United for Peace and Justice that would present a more palatable face to the American public. The associated Not in Our Name campaign onto which actors and writers piled in huge numbers last month, pays for, almost exclusively the appeals of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, and is organized by a member of the Maoist Revolutionary Communist Party. This outfit is closely associated with another which supports the brutal confiscatory dictatorship that is Fidel Castro’s.




Two Different Countries: Canadian and American Responses to the War in Iraq (EFC, 030800)


Reactions to the recent war in Iraq reveal significant differences between American and Canadian evangelicals


[Editor’s note: this column seems to have displeased an unusually high number of our readers. Watch for some of their letters in the September/October issue.]


If Canadians learned nothing else from the war in Iraq, it has at least taught us once again that we are not Americans.


Even if we had had the Americans’ military might and their population of 300 million, it would have been psychologically impossible for us to attack a country of 23 million people who had been worn down by 10 years of United Nations trade sanctions and the polluted water, disease and short rations that came with them.


We Canadians are simply not as belligerent as Americans. We are not also nearly so sure that we are always right.


Our history of compromise as a nation of francophones and anglophones has taught us to be conciliatory.


We also lack the Americans’ sense of a divine mandate to reform the world, a trait that showed up during the lead-up to the war as Bush used more religious imagery than any American president since Abraham Lincoln.


He declared that the U.S. has a “calling as a blessed country to make this world better” and described Iraq as part of the “forces of darkness.” His critics at home accused him of treating God as a kind of mascot, and other nations’ leaders were none too subtle, either. Germany’s president Johannes Rau said that “Nowhere does the Bible call for crusades.” And France’s prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, said that “In no way can God be called on for a vote of confidence.”


Not surprisingly, Iraq responded in kind. Saddam Hussein’s information minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, called for a holy war, and described the U.S. and Britain as “aggressors, evil, accursed by God.” In his speech, al-Sahhaf invoked God 18 times, a rare departure from the Iraqi government’s normally secular tone. Suddenly, a war over weapons of mass destruction had become a religious war


A recent study by a respected American social scientist sheds further light on the different ways of Americans and Canadians. Daniel Yankelovich spent 40 years probing his fellow citizens’ psyche and put that expertise to use in a series of day-long sessions with Canadians in cities from Halifax to Vancouver.


Among the differences that he identified between Americans and Canadians were two that are particularly relevant to the Iraq war.


Yankelovich said that Americans draw a clear line between right and wrong, and favour punishing those who cross that line. Canadians are more likely to try working out an agreement to abide by shared norms and to use social pressure, rather than punishment, to keep the peace.


Americans also “feel that their power buys them independence from world opinion,” according to Yankelovich. We Canadians prefer to work together at solving world problems.


The even-handed response of our own prime minister, Jean Chrétien, to the September 11 terrorist attack, is an example. He not only lamented the attack, but also linked it to the attitude of the West, particularly the way the U.S. “flexes its muscle” and imposes its “values” on the rest of the world. And, of course, he also banned any mention of God at the Parliament Hill memorial for the September 11 victims. That, too, is a characteristic of Canadian politicians: they fear conflict, particularly when it involves something as potentially divisive as religion in a multi-faith country.


American and Canadian evangelicals also have temperamental differences. Before the Iraq war got under way, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada declared, “We do not desire war. Our first impulse and duty as Christians is to pray for a resolution to the current tensions. . . . Evangelicals are motivated by the biblical injunction to promote peace, justice and human well-being.”


Contrast that with Jerry Falwell’s description of the Prophet Muhammad as a “terrorist” and similar aspersions directed against Islam by other leading American evangelicals, like Franklin Graham, Pat Robertson and Jerry Vines, the former Southern Baptist president. Such public interfaith insults would be inconceivable in Canada.


Bob Harvey is the religion editor of the Ottawa Citizen.




Ancient Christian Commentary on Current Events: What Is War Good For? (Christianity Today, 031028)


What early church leaders thought of Christians and the military.


In 1998, a Christianity Today article called the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ACCS) “one of the most promising publishing ventures in evangelical scholarship.” Books & Culture went even further, calling it “the most important project in religious publishing at the end of the millennium.” Twelve volumes (out of 28) and five years later, the ACCS, published by InterVarsity Press, continues to earn plaudits from evangelicals, mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox Christians.


There is much in this “Christian Talmud” that speaks directly from the early church fathers to Christians of today. Each month, the ACCS team will comb ancient letters, sermons, commentaries, and other writings on specific topics in the news (the ACCS series, in contrast, is arranged biblically rather than topically).


Like the ACCS, the Ancient Christian Commentary on Current Events draws from the church’s first seven centuries, and the selections are chosen for their insight, rhetorical power, and faithful representation of the consensual exegesis of the early church. Where possible, we’ve linked to the full text of the original writings (Note, however, that the linked documents are generally public domain—and thus older—translations than the ones appearing here).


“It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between,” said C.S. Lewis. The same could be said about the analysis of current events—never allow yourself to read more of what today’s experts have to say until you’ve read how the first Christian experts already weighed in on the subject.


* * *


The ancient church understood that war has been around as long as human beings and sin have coexisted. It is a consistent tenet throughout the Christian tradition that war is the result of sin. The responses to war, however, have followed two basic trains of thought: pacifism, and the idea that certain wars can be just.


Pacifism is characteristic of the early centuries of Christianity in someone like the North African apologist Tertullian (160-220 A.D.), who regularly warned Christians to distance themselves from pagan culture. He wrote: “How will he serve in the army even during peacetime without the sword that Jesus Christ has taken away? Even if soldiers came to John and got advice on how they ought to act, even if the centurion became a believer, the Lord by taking away Peter’s sword, disarmed every soldier thereafter. We are not allowed to wear any uniform that symbolizes a sinful act” (On Idolatry 19.3).


The third-century Roman Presbyter Hippolytus wrote The Apostolic Tradition, Canon 16, (ca. 215 A.D.) which opposed serving in the military as a matter of church discipline: “A soldier in the lower ranks shall kill no one. If ordered to do so, he shall not obey, and he shall not take an oath. If he does not want to comply with this directive, let him be dismissed [from the church].”


Origen (185-254 A.D.), sought to defend Christians against the charges of the pagan Celsus. Speaking in defense of the support Christian’s provide to the empire, he nonetheless admonishes that the Christian’s only role in war should be that of intercessor: “This would be our answer to those who are strangers to our faith and who ask us to take up arms and to kill men for the common good … Christians fight as priests and worshippers of God while others fight as soldiers. Christians fight through their prayers to God on behalf of those doing battle in a just cause and on behalf of our emperor who is ruling justly in order that all opposition and hostility toward those who are acting rightly may be eliminated. … We do not go out on the campaign with him [the emperor] even if he insists, but we do battle on his behalf by raising a special army of piety through our petitions to God” (Against Celsus 8.73). He, however, also notes in this same document that “if wars are ever necessary, they ought to be just and ordered” (Against Celsus 4.82).


Lactantius (240-320 A.D.) proves to be a transitional figure in the Christian understanding of pacifism and war. In his Institutes, written in the last days of Roman persecution from 304-311, he condemns war and military service: “It is not right for a just man to serve in the army since justice itself is his form of service. … It does not matter whether you kill a man with the sword or with a word since it is killing itself that is prohibited. And so there must be no exception to this command of God. Killing a human being whom God wills to be inviolable, is always wrong” (Divine Institutes 6.20.16-17). However, when he writes his Epitome to the Institutes after Constantine came to power, fighting and killing are no longer always wrong: “Courage is good if you are fighting for your country, but it is evil if you are fighting against your country”(Epitome 61.3). He even has further hope for a similar liberation of other repressed peoples even as the Christians had been liberated by Constantine: “On those who continue to afflict the just in other parts of the world that same omnipotent Father will wreak vengeance for their wrong doing (Divine Institutes 1.1.14).


The Constantinian era brought about a change. Previously marginalized Christians were now involved in affairs of state. Though there were many Christian soldiers before the time of Constantine, it wasn’t until previously marginalized Christians became involved in the affairs of state that the church fathers began nuancing their opposition to military action. The issue then became how one could remain a Christian when the demands of the state required use of force to combat evil or prevent injury. This caused Athanasius (296-373 A.D.) to make a distinction between murder and warfare in the fifth commandment’s prohibition against killing: “One is not supposed to kill, but killing the enemy in battle is both lawful and praiseworthy. For this reason individuals who have distinguished themselves in war are considered worthy of great honors, and monuments are put up to celebrate their accomplishments. Thus, at one particular time, and under one set of circumstances, an act is not permitted, but when the time and conditions are right, it is both allowed and condoned” (Letter to Amun, PG 26:1173).


Ambrose, who himself had been in public service before becoming a bishop, praises the courage of the soldier who “protects one’s country from destruction [rather] than protecting oneself from danger, and that exerting oneself for one’s country is much superior to leading a peaceful life of leisure with all the pleasures it involves (On the Duties of the Clergy 3.3.23). “The kind of courage which is involved in defending the empire against barbarians, or protecting the weak on the home front or allies against plunderers is wholly just” (On the Duties of the Clergy 1.27.129).


Having received baptism from Ambrose, Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.) also continues many of the distinctions spoken of previously, adding further clarifications that would become normative for the Christian tradition which followed. He speaks of the proper motivation for war in a letter to the Roman general Boniface: “Peace should be your aim; war should be a matter of necessity so that God might free you from necessity and preserve you in peace. One does not pursue peace in order to wage war; he wages war to achieve peace. And so, even in the act of waging war be careful to maintain a peaceful disposition so that by defeating your foes you can bring them the benefits of peace. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’ says the Lord, ‘for they will be called the sons of God’ (Matt. 5:9)” (Letter 189.6). It is also important that the proper authorities carry out the war: “It makes a difference for what reasons and under whose authority men undertake wars that are to be waged. The natural order of things, which is designed for the peace of mankind, requires that the authority for waging war, and the planning of it, rest with the chief of state. Soldiers, in turn, for the sake of the peace and safety of all are obliged to carry out a war that has been decided on (Against Faustus 22.75). If possible, it is better to “prevent war through persuasion and seek or attain peace through peaceful means rather than through war” (Letter 229.2). In the end, however, it is the “wrongdoing of the other side [that] forces the wise man to wage just wars” (City of God 19.7).


Joel Elowsky is Operations Manager for the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture.


For a fuller exposition of this topic, see Louis J. Swift, “The Early Fathers on War and Military Service” in Message of the Fathers of the Church, vol. 19 (Michael Glazier, Inc.: Wilmington, DE, 1983), from which much of the above material was taken.




Armistice and Insanity? The Horror of War (Christian Post, 051111)


“Hostilities will cease on the whole front at 11 hours today, French time. Until that hour, the operations previously ordered will be pressed with vigor. At 11 hours our line will halt in place, and no man will move one step forward or backward.” Those were the orders released just before 9:00 a.m. on November 11, 1918 in an address to the U. S. Army’s 79th Division. That order announced the end of “The War to End All Wars,” now known as World War I. Yet in one of the most bitter ironies of this bitter conflict, thousands would die between the time the armistice was signed and hostilities ceased.


November 11, 1918 is now separated from us by the space of 87 years. We can all too easily lose sight of World War I and its significance. This cultural amnesia is both tragic and dangerous, for the lessons of World War I were learned only through the senseless sacrifice of millions of lives.


Looking back at the twentieth century, historians now generally agree that we should not think of two great world wars in the first half of that century, but rather of one long war interrupted by a brief and awkward span of relative peace. A German soldier headed back through the lines on Armistice Day warned an American soldier that the war was not really over. “You didn’t lick us,” he said. “We knew when to quit. We’ll be back in twenty years.” As we now know, they were.


The principal causes of the war are still subject to historical debate. The fuse that detonated the bomb was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. The archduke, heir to the imperial throne of Austria-Hungary, was assassinated by a young anarchist named Gavrilo Princip. Within days, the world was at war. Of course, the actual casus belli of the war was more complicated. Rivalry between the Austrians, Germans, Russians, French, and British had been building for decades. The French remained bitter in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War, in which they had lost precious territory. The Germans remained dissatisfied, and the German emperor, Wilhelm II, was convinced that Germany’s glory would be revealed in a great military resurgence under his Kaiser Reich. The Hapsburg dynasty in Austria-Hungary was losing its grip, even as the Romanov dynasty in Russia was losing credibility.


Still, no one knew exactly why the war had begun. Nevertheless, as diplomatic efforts failed and hostilities began, Britain’s foreign secretary, Sir Edward Grey, accurately assessed the situation: “The lamps are going out all over Europe,” he observed. “We shall not see them lit again in our time.”


America came into the war only in 1917, driven into the conflict by Germany’s resumption of unrestricted warfare on the high seas and by the discovery of the infamous “Zimmerman telegram,” in which the German foreign minister, Arthur Zimmerman proposed to Mexico’s president, Venustiano Carranza, that Mexico should enter the war as Germany’s ally and, in return, would be allowed “to reconquer the lost territory in New Mexico, Texas and Arizona.”


On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson appeared before the U. S. Congress to ask for a declaration of war. “We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion,” Wilson asserted. “We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifice we shall freely make.” Famously, Wilson declared that America would go to war only for the purpose of “keeping the world safe for democracy.”


In military terms, World War I was an unmitigated disaster. In essence, the war was pointlessly murderous. Joseph Persico, author of Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Armistice Day, 1918 summarizes the gruesome death toll, noting that “Graveyards were the chief legacy of World War I.”


On the Western front alone, the total losses amounted to 11,004,530 men, with fully 3,258,610 killed. On all fronts, the casualties exceeded 29,800,000. Beyond this, there were millions of civilian deaths directly attributable to the war. The conflict left 600,000 widows in France and over 1 million French children fatherless. England lost three men in World War I for every man killed in World War II. The 26,000 Americans killed in the battle at the Meuse-Argonne “represented the greatest loss in a single battle to that point in the nation’s history,” Persico explains. Further, “One out of every five West Pointers in action in France was killed.”


The battlefields associated with the war are now etched in the human memory as reminders of senseless slaughter. Passchendaele, Verdun, Ypres, and the Marne became the graveyards for millions, many of whom were never found and never formally buried.


The murderous character of the war was amplified by several factors. In the first place, World War I represented the widespread use of mechanical weapons with awesome killing capacity, such as the machine gun. Early versions of the tank were invented, even as some soldiers carried weapons hardly advanced over those of wars that had occurred a hundred years earlier. Both sides in the war resorted to weapons of unthinkable horror, such as the use of poisonous gas.


Furthermore, the war on the Western front was a series of senseless infantry charges in which the Allied general staff threw millions of British, French, and American soldiers against the meat grinder of entrenched German forces. Throughout the war, the generals appeared to learn very little. For months, the forces would face each other from trenches separated by mere yards, murderously killing each other in the mud, the snow, and the carnage.


Many of the soldiers hardly knew why they were there. Others resorted to poetry. The most famous poem of the war was inspired by the fields of Flanders blooming with red poppies. As Canadian physician, Lieutenant Colonel John McRae famously worded his poem: “In Flanders field the poppies blow, Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place, and in the sky, The larks, still bravely singing, fly, Scarce heard amid the guns below.” The wasted young lives were commemorated with these words: “We are the dead. Short days ago, We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow . . . .” Siegfried Sassoon considered the plight of the common British soldier. “Tonight he’s in the pink; but soon he’ll die. And still the war goes on; he don’t know why.” Arthur Jensen, an American survivor of the war, considered what the German dead would say to their American victors: “We are the dividends of war; We’re what you came to Europe for. Our cause is lost; we died in vain, And now we’re rotting in the rain.”


By the time the war came to an end, the European forces were largely reduced to old men and young boys. An entire generation had seemingly been destroyed on the fields of war. In Britain, the “missing generation” continues to haunt the nation’s consciousness. Persico describes the tragic logic of the war: “One side would not give up its gains; the other would not accept its losses. Thus both sides came to the same solution: that the way to stop the killing was to win. And both believed God was on their side.”


The war made some reputations and destroyed others. America’s leading general, John “Black Jack” Pershing, emerged from the war as a hero, at least among common Americans. Britain’s field marshal Douglas Haig saw his reputation largely destroyed. The war saw the end of three great monarchial dynasties--the Romanovs in Russia, the Hapsburgs in Austria, and the Hohenzollerns in Germany.


The carnage of the war demands an explanation--as does the fact that thousands died even after the armistice was signed. Why did the Allies determine that the armistice should come into effect hours after it was signed? Furthermore, why did British, French, and American generals send their forces into battle, knowing that many men would die in order to gain territory they would have received by surrender in just hours and minutes?


The last day of World War I saw Allied forces take more casualties than would be taken on D-Day in 1944. As Persico explains, “According to the most conservative estimates, during the last day of the war, principally in the six hours after the armistice was signed, all sides on the Western front suffered 10,944 casualties, of which 2,738 were deaths, more than the average daily casualties throughout the war.” Those casualties included at least 320 Americans who gave their lives after the war had been won and the armistice had been signed.


In the end, the delay in ceasing hostilities was due to the fact that the British, American, and French military leaders wanted to seize yet more territory in order to score political points. Units ordered to rush into the face of murderous enemy fire could not believe that their own leaders were causing men to die by the hundreds, just in order to make a point. The other factor that played into the delay was perhaps even worse--someone’s idea that the number eleven (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month) would end the war on a poetic and memorable note. Were men to be slaughtered for the sake of a poetically-packaged ending?


Looking back at the war, Winston Churchill would observe: “It was not until the dawn of the twentieth century of the Christian Era that war began to enter into its kingdom as the potential destroyer of the human race. The organization of mankind in the great states and empires, and the rise of nations to full collective consciousness, enabled enterprises of slaughter to be planned and executed upon a scale and with a perseverance never before imagined . . .” And for what?


Within a single generation, the world would once again be at war--and over much of the same territory. Persico recalls that when a celebrating French soldier yelled out to an American, “Finie la guerre!,” the American soldier--a Southerner--responded: “Well, . . . don’t start another one unless you can finish it yourself!” The Americans were back all too soon.


Armistice Day, now known as Veterans Day, is seen by far too many Americans as simply another legal holiday. It’s much more than that, of course. Even as the last veterans of World War I pass from our midst, we must remember that this great and awful conflict serves to remind humanity of the horror of war and the insanity of senseless violence. Many lessons unlearned in World War I were learned far more expensively in World War II. The “War to End All Wars” reminds us that war, though sometimes necessary, is never to be celebrated. The war may have come to an end at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month on 1918, but its lessons must not be forgotten.




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.