2/22/2003

An Idiotarian Manifesto (first draft):

You might be an Idiotarian if…

… you are outraged at radical Christians who say bad things about Islam, but think we need to show "understanding" to radical Muslims who kill Christians.

… you believe that France and Germany make up the majority of the world’s opinion.

… you protest trade agreements between the U.S. and China because of China’s human rights abuses while calling for trade agreements between the U.S. and North Korea, Iraq, and Cuba because of their poor human rights records.

… you read the New York Times.

… you believe we need to cure the “root causes” of terrorism (poverty and depression), but refuse to support any action that might solve those problems.

… you believe that if everyone jumps off a bridge, you should jump too.

… you believe that if everyone tells you to jump off a bridge, you should jump.

… you make sure that no dirt will ever cover the Greenpeace sticker on your SUV.

… you believe George W. Bush stole the 2000 election, but have no issues with Saddam’s electoral victory last year.

… you believe George W. Bush stole the 2000 election, but have no issues with Robert Mugabe’s electoral victory last year.

… you believe that George W. Bush is worse than Adolf Hitler.

… you believe it is worse to work with the U.N. to enforce its resolutions in order to help end the root causes of terrorism, promote human rights, and spread democracy than to try to unilaterally take over the world, killing millions in battle and millions more at home because of their beliefs.

… you believe that people should be judged by the color of their skin

… you complain about being censored while you express your views in your weekly major-newspaper column.

… you believe it is okay for individuals to act violently in the name of peace, just not democratically elected and supported governments.

... you believe a trial-by-jury capital punishment system is evil, but have no qualms about the Palestinians arresting and executing people without a trial.

... you want world peace and an end to poverty, as long as the U.S. doesn't benefit in some way.

… you believe that all the problems in the Middle East can be solved by the elimination of democracy.

If you have any other ideas, until we get comments, please e-mail me, and I will post and cite.

2/21/2003

Man I wish I had tests this hard in college. The BBC is calling Blix's order for Iraq to begin destroying its long range missiles a "key test of Baghdad's willingness to disarm." Oh come on. We found 'em, proved they were banned, and said destroy them. This isn't a key test of Saddam's desire to conform, if anything it's a test of Baghdad's absolute stupidity. Of course they're going to eliminate the missiles - whenever they've been caught red handed they've always played along. Saddam's in violation is he's making us find these weapons.
In his latest National Review article, Victor Davis Hanson presents the interesting historical parallel between how the left wants to separate Iraq from the overall war on terror and the wars of ancient Greece:

"We speak of the "Persian Wars" of 490 and 480/79. But only later did Herodotus and the Greeks look back on the defeat of Darius I at Marathon (490) and Xerxes at Salamis (480) as related events in one overarching campaign. In retrospect, they saw that these battles were not isolated victories over various Persian kings with different agendas, but, in fact, all part of a ten-year struggle to free Greece from Persian despotism.
Thucydides wrote of a single, long Peloponnesian War. Most of his contemporaries probably disagreed. Plague, 21 sieges, two major hoplite battles, half a dozen sea fights, five invasions of Attica, far-off campaigns, helot insurrection, revolutions from the Ionian to the Aegean seas — how was all that terror and tyranny connected?
So many at the time thought that the Archidamian War, the Peace of Nicias, the Sicilian War, the Pachean War, and the Ionian War were all discrete events. Had all the fighting really been a war of Athens against Sparta — or, at times, Athens against Thebes — and against Sicily, the Peloponnesian States, and Persia? Did the terrorists on Corcyra have anything to do with the Athenian fleet or the Spartan army?
By contrast, Thucydides in a fit of genius understood that a single conflict involved a single theme — radical democratic imperialism pitted against conservative oligarchy. And in his view such fighting went on in a variety of confusing contexts and landscapes until one side capitulated — as Athens in fact did 27 years later. He didn't care much who joined in or where the conflict flared up and died down — only that it was one terrible war "like none other." Whether waged in Sicily, the Black Sea, the western Peloponnese, or outside the walls of Athens, it ended only when the reason for war — Sparta's "fear" of a grasping Athenian empire — no longer existed."


This is why arguing over whether Saddam has control over this or that al Qaeda base is beside the point. The argument that Saddam should be eliminated as part of the war on terror rests not on the contention that Saddam personally controls dozens of al Qaeda divisions but that, given that he shares many of al Qaeda's goals, allowing Saddam to keep his WMD presents an unacceptable threat. Arguing specific points of contact is therefore in a sense counterproductive, bogging us down in minutia while missing the bigger picture. We are not at war with al Qaeda nor are we simply extracting revenge for September 11th. Instead we are at war with Islamofacist ideology that hates what America stands for and will do anything to see it destroyed. This war will only end, like the Peloponnesian War, when either the ideal of America or the ideal of Islamofacism is destroyed.
Glenn Reynolds, writing in his big-media blog, has some advice for how protestors can back peace yet at the same time avoid hypocrisy:

1. Support the UN
2. Support the Iraqi people
3. Support democracy


Its an interesting piece and while these suggestions would certainly help prevent the anti-war crowd from being seen as pro-Saddam, what is most interesting about the article is that Reynolds shows how its almost impossible to support these liberal ideals yet remain anti war.

He writes:

"The Security Council has resolved — over, and over, and over again — that Iraq must disarm. Nobody thinks Saddam has genuinely tried to comply. Instead of telling Bush to “give the inspectors more time,” how about telling Saddam to give the Security Council everything it’s demanded, and then some. The anti-war movement rallied thousands upon thousands in major cities around the world to protest against Bush. Surely it can get — at least — several hundred people to march on the Iraqi embassies and interest sections in various countries, and the Iraqi mission to the United Nations, to demand that Saddam disarm."

As for supporting democracy and the Iraqi people, he asks:

"We hear all the time that war is bad because innocent Iraqi civilians would die. So where are the signs demanding that Saddam stop torturing, murdering and imprisoning political opponents? Nobody’s shy about criticizing U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft for (comparatively) trivial offenses against civil liberties, so why should Saddam get a free pass?"

and

"You can bet that, after Saddam is overthrown, a lot of people who currently oppose that overthrow will demand democratic elections for Iraq. But if it’s good to demand them then, surely it’s better to demand them now. Right?"

The problem is that by carrying signs demanding Saddam give up his weapons, treat his people humanely and allow genuine free elections, you invite the question "how?" It's great to demand that Saddam obey the will of the United Nations, but what if they don't? Iraq has thumbed its nose at the international community for the past 12 years, how do you force compliance now? Similarly, if you admit that Saddam is a murderer of his own people, how do you then oppose the war on the grounds that innocent Iraqis will die? .

This is the real reason the vast majority of protesters are content to be simply anti-war without balancing their argument with attacks on Hussein's regime. By taking the non-hypocritical stance Reynolds advocates, not only would they be forced to explain how their goals can be accomplished without war, but many of their arguments - innocent death, for example - would be jeopardized. They would be dragged into a debate over the practical methods of accomplishing the same goals as the pro-war camp. Instead, although hypocritical and arguably anti-liberal, they'd rather just remain on their platitude-covered high ground.
Famously biased Reuters "reporter" Nidal Al-Mughrabi took his game to a new level with his article in today's Jordan Times:

"GAZA — Their heads bent against the ocean spray, Palestinians trudged along a wind-swept beach to detour Israeli road checkpoints that severed the Gaza Strip after rockets fired by freedom fighters hit a town in southern Israel.
Israel called its decision to slice the Gaza Strip into three a “security” move, aimed at stopping rocket attacks. Palestinians said on Thursday the travel restrictions were humiliating and only stoked anti-Israeli feeling and violence."


Amazing.
The BBC is reporting that Turkey and the US appear close to an agreement allowing the US to use Turkey as a base for an attack on Iraq.

2/20/2003

Been meaning to link to this Daniel Pipes article from Tuesday presenting a brilliant argument why negotiations with and concessions to the Palestinians by the Israelis are counterproductive.
Juan Gato on Clinton and Carter:

"After reading this latest Carter centered Impromptus it finally hit me what grates me most about Carter and Clinton. And it wasn't what might have at first seemed the obvious (such as my distaste for all humanity). I finally realized what bugs me most is that they both spend a lot of energy trying not to be all that American. That's an annoying trait in a former president."

He further explains:

"[B]oth seem to want to be extra-America, as in beyond American. Man of the World status. Their interests are not American interests but the interests of the whole world. When they speak, it is not for themselves, but for the interest of the whole world. Again, nothing is really wrong with that, it's just a little annoying to me in my ex-presidents."

Very interesting point, but I'd take it a step further. Clinton and Carter's perspective on America's place in the world is, generally speaking, the same as the larger intellectual left's.

Seaking very broadly, we on the right love being Americans. We like cowboys and guns and cheap beer. Even those of us who are cultured, I think, like the fact that we don't shove it in our neighbors' faces - indeed the average conservative is probably more apt lie about having attended an opera than a monster truck pull.

This is not how coastal liberals view themselves. Certainly they are just as proud to be Americans as are conservatives, recognizing the freedoms and opportunities that America provides. Yet they are envious of European culture. To leftist intellectuals, while Americans are busy dipping Skoal and watching Joe Millionaire, Europeans are sitting in cafes sipping cappuccinos and discussing Keats. Europe is the land of opera and poetry while America is the land of the Coors Twins and World Wrestling Entertainment. Thus they yearn not to actually become Europeans but to gain the approval and acceptance of these their cultural betters. I think this is an especially acute need for men like Clinton and Carter, East Coast Intellectual types whose upbringing just happened to be in what they see as America's redneck heartland. Thus everything in their post-Presidential lives has been a desperate effort to gain the approval of European leaders as that acceptance would finally signify their ability to rise above America's lowbrow pop culture and up to the level of the world's intellectual greats.
On his show this morning, Rush Limbaugh expressed his hope that if the liberation of Iraq goes smoothly the anti-war crowd will be discredited for years to come, a wish that, I suspect, is shared by a great many conservatives. Unfortunately, I'm afraid this is simply a fantasy. The next time the US threatens to use force the same usual suspects will be spouting the same rhetoric they are using today. The arguments of the anti-war crowd, no matter how successful our attack of Iraq is, will not be discredited any more than they are already prior to the action. It's easiest to understand this by examining their arguments one at a time:

1) Innocent people will die.
This argument will continue to be used because, even if we liberate Iraq without killing a single Iraqi (admittedly an incredibly unlikely scenario), the next war will have the same potential for civilian casualties. They said thousands would die in Afghanistan yet the anti-war crowd still trots that argument out on Iraq. "This time the situation is different," they say. The situation will also be different in the next war, and the anti-war crowd will continue to fret about civilian deaths. We on the pro-war side say this collateral damage is justified given the benefits of liberation to both ourselves and the Iraqi people, but if you don't believe that now, you won't in 6 weeks.

2) This war is about oil.
Remember, I'm not saying these arguments aren't stupid, I'm saying that if you believe this war is about oil, how is a successful attack on Iraq going to persuade you otherwise?

3) America is acting like a bully.
4) War against a sovereign state is immoral.
I've combined these two because they have the same reason for being impossible to discredit. In an earlier post, I reflected on the concept of a "fog of history." We are justifying war on Iraq on the grounds that, if we fail to address Saddam's WMD, great tragedy could result. A successful war eliminates this risk, but, ironically, also eliminates proof that the war was justified. Therefore if you believe today that we need to work with the UN to disarm Iraq or simply let it be, nothing in the outcome of this war will persuade you otherwise as we will have eliminated the terrorists' ability to get Saddam's WMD. We won't be able to prove that relying on inspectors or even leaving Saddam alone entirely would have necessarily resulted in a catastrophic terrorist attack. The next time the US faces a conflict with the international community like the present situation, how will disarming Iraq now prove that preemptive attacks are justified? The answer is it won't.

Unfortunately, what I'm presenting here is one of the great problems faced by supporters of an activist foreign policy. If we succeed in Iraq, we'll still be faced with exactly the same arguments against war next time and we'll have little additional ground from which to argue our position. Yet if we fail, as Vietnam proved, an entire generation will likely reject similar actions for years to come.
Ha! How cool is this? Maybe we can offer them Massachusetts or Vermont as a trade . . .
Looks like they finally got enough to nail Al-Arian.
The Washington Times is reporting that the timetable for starting any war has been pushed back to mid-March for both diplomatic and military reasons. While it's perhaps unfortunate that this date seems to be moving farther away, the delay should be blamed on the administration's difficulties over the past several months in solidifying a plan of action on Iraq. Fortunately it's appearing more and more like a firm deadline is solidifying and our troops are taking their places for the final attack making this indecision a thing of the past.
Antione makes some interesting points in his follow-up to my last piece on the Pope's anti-war position:

"I still disagree with the idea "that the Church has abandoned this concept of evil", since it is in my opinion a baseless slander. (I.e. the evidence doesn't support this accusation.)
I also disagree that "No one today (I suspect) would argue that dialog with murderers such as Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot could have made them change their paths in life." Perhaps some of them were insane, in which case I would agree what dialog would be pointless, since they would have no power of reason - but in that case, I don't think they could be called evil. But if they were sane and evil, I would always hold out hope for their conversion, if only through a miracle (think of St. Paul).
And, if they were sane, we could also change their ways through dialog, via threats (as I suggested earlier). For instance, Hitler would not have started World War II if France and Britain had made it clear that they would not tolerate his actions. He tested them, and they let him get away with his first aggressive actions, and so he built up from there. But if he had been resisted in the beginning, when he was merely sending troops to a demilitarized part of Germany, then he would have backed off. So
Hitler, at least, was open enough to persuasion to prevent a war.
It is this sort of argument ("You will be attacked if you don't comply with the UN resolutions, so it is in your best interest to do so") that I believe the Pope was trying to use with Saddam Hussein. If Hussein could be made to see the pointlessness of non-compliance, then perhaps war could be averted.
Even if Saddam Hussein were completely evil, he could in theory be reasoned with, even if only through an appeal to his self-interest.
I agree with the rest of what you wrote, though. I would add that the Pope's negotiations, if rejected by Saddam Hussein, would help to establish the justness of an American attack, since war would now be closer to being a final resort."


I would just say that while I do think a credible threat of force can certainly persuade an evil tyrant to modify his actions based on self interest, I question how credible the threat of force is from leaders making this argument. Wasn't 1441 supposed to be a last chance? Now this time we really mean it?

Any yes, we are working on getting a comment section!
You want to know why the party Reagan built is now the preeminent party in the United States while Thatcher's Tory party is fighting for survival? Well, lots of reasons, but idiocy like this doesn't help.

2/19/2003

Reader Antoine disagrees with my contention that Saddam Hussein is inherently evil:
"Well, Saddam Hussein *isn't* inherently evil. He's a human being, not a demon. By saying that Saddam Hussein can't be converted, by the grace of God, it is you who are rejecting the basic message of Christianity. It may be unlikely that Mr. Hussein converts in the near future, given his history, but we must accept that everyone has the possibility of turning away from their evil ways. There is hope for everyone. And, getting back to the current Iraqi situation, even an evil man who has no intention of doing good can do good out of self-interest. So there is hope on that level also."
Well, perhaps I did overstate the case a bit. Antoine's right that Saddam isn't inherently evil in that he was not born destined to do evil without any hope of salvation. The essence of both free will and Catholic salvation is that everyone has the potential to turn from the devil.
This does not mean, however, that Saddam has not been so corrupted by evil that hope for his transformation - at least within the short enough time frame needed to stop his WMD programs and the suffering of the Iraqi people - is effectively beyond hope. This is why I contend that the Church has abandoned this concept of evil, maybe not that Saddam is inherently evil but that he is effectively evil. No one today (I suspect) would argue that dialog with murderers such as Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot could have made them change their paths in life - they needed to be defeated or at least contained by force of arms. Then why do many today argue that Saddam is different, that he can be reasoned with?
Now, completely contradicting all my past arguments about the Church's refutation of the concept of evil, let me toss out another theory on the Vatican's actions. What if the Church is not motivated by the naive beliefs I'm attacking but are instead actually acting in a very calculating manner? Go with me on this. If the Church gives moral support to an attack on Iraq, as I and many on the right are encouraging it to do, what good would it really accomplish? Sure Bush and Blair would use the Pope's support to bolster its war effort but, in the end, nothing would really change. Hussein would declare JPII the new Urban II while Bush would continue his march to war.
Yet if the Pope comes out against conflict, as he has, and engages in dialog with Hussein, at worst Bush's war effort becomes a bit more difficult. As we are seeing, however, the Vatican's stamp of approval is hardly a prerequisite for military action. Therefore, even if there is only the slightest chance that the Vatican can convince Saddam to peaceably disarm, isn't it worth trying? Antoine acknowledges that it is "unlikely" dialog would cause Saddam to change his ways and I suspect the Pope knows the same thing. Yet perhaps John Paul II realizes this chance, however slim, is the only way he can contribute to finding a solution to the problem as giving moral authority to the conflict, even if that is the correct choice of action, actually accomplishes nothing.
Happy Birthday to Nicolas Copernicus, born in Poland on this date in 1473.
Iain Murray links to an interesting poll by the Telegraph that seems to give mixed messages about British support for any action in Iraq. Favorably, 80% of Britons feel that "Saddam Hussein should be given a deadline by which time he must satisfy the UN that he has eliminated all weapons of mass destruction in his possession" and, of that 80%, 76% percent feels that the US and Britain should take military action if he fails to meet that deadline. Over 60% of the British people would thus support a war under these conditions presumably even if the Security Council never explicitly authorizes the final action. Murray jumps on this point to call for just such a resolution. While I worry that this deadline would once again be misused by the anti-war crowd to prevent an invasion - are inspectors required to prove, following that date, that Iraq has actually failed to disarm? - I'm generally accepting of this plan as the best possible one given the current diplomatic impasse.
But what I found most interesting about this poll is the seeming contradictions exhibited in popular thought. 60% favor a deadline and then war, yet, at the same time, 54% of Britons say "the use of force is not justified at this time. There is an alternative to war: disarming Iraq through inspections." Furthermore, 76% percent feel that "inspectors should be given more time in which to satisfy themselves that Iraq no longer possesses weapons of mass destruction." Assuming this poll is reasonably accurate, it doesn't seem that there's any way around the conclusion that there is an inherent contradiction in these views. Unless a good number of those supporting a deadline are looking for one months in the future, how can we reconcile these two positions? It seems to me the most reasonable explanation is that the 60% number is based on a reasonable belief that Saddam must be disarmed, something that can only come through force, while the majorities backing the inspectors reflect the genuine and justified fear of the negative repercussions of war. This view is supported by the 74% percent of respondents who state that "Saddam Hussein has no intention of disarming" with only 12% dissenting. If a respondent didn't want to support an immediate war, it's reasonable to suspect that when posed the inspector question, he would give his support to Mr. Blix. Yet he realizes, as the majority supporting action after a deadline indicates, that the only real way to disarm Saddam is through war (or, at least, by making him believe this really is his final chance to survive).
The poll, therefore, seems to indicate that Blair's support on war is not as tenuous as many would believe. If what I'm contending is correct and much of Britain's support for inspectors is based more on concern over the uncertainty of war and not on genuine anti-American, pro-status quo, or anti-war sentiments, then a quick and victorious war even without the "proper authorization" would prove popular. It's not just Americans who like a winner. Now if the war goes wrong, all bets are off.
Sorry about the lack of blogging today. Blogger's having issues.

2/18/2003

John, I was specifically talking about the Church of Rome as opposed to all Christian denominations because, you are right, there are a number of churches that are anti-war due to specifically pacifist reasons. My contention is that because Catholic doctrine is specifically not pacifist, it is a shame that its leaders are moving to make it effectually pacifist. Regardless of whether the Church (or church) has a moral foundation for its opposition to war, which I never argued that it didn’t, I think in practical terms it is necessary to recognize that the pacifist and postmodern beliefs of many Church leaders has overshadowed its historic teachings on the nature and fundamental existence of evil.
You are absolutely right, however, that the Catholic Church, and generally Christian Churches as a whole, does place a great emphasis on the ends never justifying the means. However my argument here is that we need to recognize that that our choice is really between two evils, the evil of war and the evil of continued suffering in Iraq combined with the presence of weapons of mass destruction. In my view, the second is so much greater that while war might not be justified, it is necessary. I agree that the Church’s current stand is a legitimate Christian position however, unlike how many on the left want to portray it, the choice isn’t between a moral peace and an immoral war but between two distasteful and even arguably immoral positions – war and the status quo.
I want to finally address the topic of “turning the other cheek” because I’ve concluded that it presents interesting insight into the mentality of the anti-war movement both religious and non. You’re referencing it primarily in terms of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, I think, and while that argument does present an interesting quandary for the religious pro-war crowd,
I want to look at this concept of forgiveness not in terms of WMD but as it relates to the second great sin of Saddam’s regime – the continued suffering of his own people. Consider this scenario: If while walking home one evening I see one man beating another with a baseball bat (forget about the reason for the attack in this example). If I have a gun and thus the power to stop the attack, am I morally compelled to do so? I would argue yes. If I choose to pass by pretending not to notice, aren’t I nearly as morally responsible for that man’s death as the one who actually rained the blows? Herein is the difficulty with a “turn the other cheek” argument against war. While you can certainly argue that a nation is not justified in taking preemptive action against Saddam based on this moral construct, I contend that if we do reject war on these grounds and thus prevent the slaughter of innocent Iraqis at the hands of Saddam when it is well within out power to do so, we are as responsible for their suffering as the man ignoring the baseball bat beating on the street. This is what the left refuses to recognize. Its arguments about Iraq focus on the potential sin of an American invasion while simultaneously ignoring any moral culpability we might have for the suffering of the Iraqi people should we refuse to help when it is well within our means. Thus, again, the moral choice to be made is unfortunately between two evils.
T minus 336 hours until the decision is made on the attack of Iraq, the Washington Post is now reporting. A senior administration official said that the US would likely push for a Security Council resolution this week that would essentially say to Saddam "This is your last window."
This to me seems like the best possible solution to the current diplomatic row. While part of me would certainly love to force France to veto a war resolution and simultaneously the UN's legitimacy, I fear that course would simply be more trouble than it's worth, creating an especially difficult situation for Tony Blair. Under the two week plan, however, everyone is given a way out - France can keep its asinine pacifist stance while Blair and Bush get the political cover needed to liberate Iraq. No, it may not be ideal, but we can't forget that the ultimate goal is the downfall of Saddam's regime and not the destruction of the UN. While I may agree with that secondary objective, if we act in a way not best affecting the ultimate goal but instead manipulate the current situation to advance objectives independent of the war on terror, we become no better than the French.
Jay Caruso emails:

"We see the comparisons of Bush to Hitler, the United States to Nazi Germany, as well as signs that say “The United States are terrorists!” along with all the nonsense about “It’s all about oil” and blah blah blah. The usual nonsense.
The question I have is: Where are the signs telling Saddam Hussein to disarm? Where are the calls for him to comply with UNSC resolutions? If the anti-war protestors are truly opposed to war, then they should be coming up with slogans to send a message to the man who is responsible for any military action."


Absolutely right - a huge swarth of the anti-war crowd marching this weekend has no desire for Iraqi compliance. As John noted about Congresswoman Lee, these protesters are pro-inspection not because they want to disarm Saddam but as a means of blocking US military action. They're against American military action wherever it appears and truly believe, to which the lack of anti-Saddam signs attest, that America is a greater threat to their utopian dreams than Saddam Hussein. Sad.

2/17/2003

Steve, you are leaving out probably the primary motive for the church's position. Remember Jesus' teachings, that you should turn the other cheek and that those who live by the sword will die by the sword (said to Peter who was trying to save Jesus from being murdered). I am assuming that the Pope is claiming in this situation, as in others, that it is better to do what is right and die, than to render evil (war and killing) for evil. While I do not think most protestors can claim this defense for their position because it is based on the belief that those who die doing what is just will be rewarded in heaven and most of the protestors think a belief in God is simplisme, I do believe that the church can take this stand. I, personally, have a different interpretation of what it means to “do what is right”. I place a higher emphasis on the ends (short and long term) than the means. In this situation, that means helping the Iraqi people and potentially saving the lives of people who might die in Iraqi-sponsored or enabled terrorism, and, in doing so, inflicting the short term evil of war. However, I do understand where the church is coming from, and I wrestle with the issue of “turning the other cheek” in many different aspects of life (when is it right to stand up for yourself), but the church is presenting a viable Christian position, even if the ends are obviously bad.
Presidents' Day Thought: The Founders today - Washington, Adams, Jefferson and others - are occasionally called, at worst, racists, and, more regularly, simply not given the proper credit for their truly remarkable achievements. This is tragic. Consider that less than 100 years after John Locke published his Two Treatises of Civil Government, our Founders put those principles in effect by building a government unlike any the world had ever seen. Sure their vision was imperfectly realized initially, but it was the fact that they created a country not based on birth or religion but on, as Lincoln so brilliantly described, "the proposition that all men are created equal." The greatness of America today is directly traceable to the vision of our Founders.
I’ve avoided blogging about the Catholic Church’s fight against action in Iraq due primarily to my admiration for Pope John Paul II. I’ve wondered how this man, as well as the other leaders of the Church, didn’t see the rational of the liberation of Iraq which I see as so obvious. What was I missing? Yet after papal envoy Cardinal Roger Etchegaray’s was dispatched by the Vatican to affect a diplomatic solution to the conflict, I’ve accepted that the Church’s position depends on a strange postmodern rejection by the Church of genuine evil that not only do I fundamentally disagree with but also one, I believe, that flies in the face of traditional Catholic teaching.

The Church’s position and, at the risk of giving protestors too much intellectual credit, that of many others in the anti-war camp, seems to be largely based on St. Thomas Aquinas’ statement, as stated in the Catechism that:

“An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention.”

In this context, the action of making war against Iraq, which can certainly be considered unjustified under a strict reading of Just War Theory, itself negates action in Iraq regardless of any potentially positive outcomes that may result.

Yet the Church argues that it isn’t blind to potential threats posed by Iraq, with Cardinal Etchegaray stating that Iraq should completely comply with UN resolutions, seemingly acknowledging that the US does have legitimate problems with Iraqi actions. Giorgio Ruini, editorialist for L'Osservatore Romano, argues (quoted by Zenit News Service):

“It is vital to maintain united the concepts of peace and justice. In this sense the Vatican's position is not at all "pacifist," Ruini affirmed, but rather in favor of a "pacification" of the situation. Such a pacification would involve removing the causes of conflict, he added.”

But the source of the conflict isn’t difficult to ascertain - Saddam Hussein’s unquenchable thirst for weapons of mass destruction. And herein is the basis for the difference in the Church’s position my own. While we both recognize the need for Saddam to disarm, the Church believes that diplomatic means alone can bring this about. Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls believes it’s the responsibility “of all sides” to prevent war. It’s with this mentality that Etchegaray was dispatched to Baghdad to negotiate. Yet essential to the view that negotiations can bring about Iraqi compliance is the belief that the Iraqi leadership desires to live in harmony with the international community, that they, in the words of Navarro-Valls, actually want to work at “ensuring the people's peace.”

Given Saddam’s actions of the past 35 years, this is a dubious proposition. It seems hard for me to accept that Saddam would unilaterally disarm for the betterment of his people, when he’s allowed sanctions to starve his people over the past 12 years while he became richer under the food-for-oil program.

The Church, however, for some reason seems to believe that Saddam can be convinced to have a change of heart. While I don’t know how the Church can expect such a transformation given Saddam’s history, expecting one is essentially a rejection of the concept of evil. This is where I differ from the practice of the modern Church although, thankfully, not the official doctrine. Evil is not a simplistic view of the world but instead one that fills the pages of the Catechism:

“Scripture and the Church's Tradition continually recall the presence and universality of sin in man's history.”

Saddam, to me, is simply the latest incarnation of sin in the world, and evil cannot be negotiated with but must be entirely rejected. To argue for negotiations with Saddam you must argue that he is not evil, but, as President Bush said, if Saddam is not evil, “then evil has no meaning.”

Where does this leave the Church’s argument? To begin with, I accept that it is legitimate to reject war with Iraq on the basis of Just War Theory. However, if one does that, it is imperative that the consequences of that rejection are examined, and only two outcomes of this rejection are possible. The first is that, as the modern Church now seems to believe, Saddam can be talked into disarming. As I’ve said, however, this seems to fly in the face of both the Church’s own teaching on evil as well as the history of Iraq. Therefore, if you accept, as logic dictates, that Saddam can’t be simply talked into playing nicely with others, acceptance of this reading of Just War Theory means that we have to accept both Saddam’s continuing development of weapons of mass destruction and the continued suffering of the Iraqi people itself.

It seems to me that, presented with the continued suffering of the Iraqi people, the leaders of the Church have clearly, as I have, demand another option. Yet while I have accepted the need for military action, the Church has instead chosen to believe the fantasy that Saddam isn’t inherently evil. This is a fairytale that I cannot accept and by basing one’s position on this reading of Just War Tradition you are additionally actively accepting the status quo. Therefore the choice is not between the evil of war and the good of peace but is instead between two evils. To me the military option is in this case, perhaps unfortunately, the best option.
A new French poll supports the argument that France's Security Council intransigence has less to do with legitimate arguments about the Iraqi threat and is more about anti-Americanism.
Of the 87 percent of French opposed to military action:

"76 percent of the anti-war camp said they 'dislike they way the United States is behaving in the crisis.'
Just nine percent said the were mainly against military action because Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was not a threat to international security and 13 percent chose to explain their view by saying the crisis did not affect France's interests."


Absolutely amazing - just 22% of anti-war opposition is based on an actual analysis of the situation and 76% is from a petty hatred of the United States proving that the French aren't just Surrender Monkeys, they're also a small, bitter people unable to accept the realities of the modern world.
The Daily Rant noticed that God has begun blogging. Read it, it's hysterical in addition to answering many of our deepest theological questions. Most importantly, however, it does confirm my longstanding belief that God is indeed a Southerner.

2/16/2003

Also on the news reports from the protest was Congresswoman Barbara Lee claiming that more inspections are what is necessary to solve the Iraq problem. Where was she in 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001 speaking out on the need for inspections in Iraq?
Protestors in San Francisco today resorted to vandalism and throwing bricks at the police. They seem to believe that violence is sometimes necessary to getting across the message of peace. Isn't that the position of the U.S. army?
The world community seems to be finally admitting that France's objections to war are based on nothing more than a hostility to American power. BBC Washington correspondent Tom Carver writes:

"The French speech . . . soared up into the rafters of the Security Council chamber.
This was high diplomacy at its most elegant.
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin talked about these hallowed halls and La France's love of Peace.
It earned a rare round of applause from the congregation of diplomats and journalists.
But as far as the US and British delegations were concerned, Monsieur de Villepin's words were completely beside the point.
It did not address the fundamental question of whether Saddam Hussein is or isn't cooperating with the substance of UN resolutions by disarming voluntarily.
And there is the rub.

The two sides in this crisis are basically talking at cross purposes.
Waiting for war won't make Bush's position easier
The US and UK want to wrestle these chemical weapons out of Saddam's grasp.
The French are obsessed with America as a superpower and whether it has a right to go to war."


Despite Carver's unfortunate need to use the diplo-speak hedge that this is the Americans and British perspective on the situation, it is refreshing to see that the left is slowly giving up the pretense that the French are actually engaged in a legitimate debate over Iraqi disarmament instead of simply blocking America for the sake of blocking America. While this is certainly a positive, it shows the continuing difficulty we will have in bringing the world around to our position. So long as the French were willing to debate the implementation of 1441 and the need to disarm Saddam, we won because of the clear superiority of the American argument. However, once France (and Germany, Russia, etc.) essentially conceded this point by changing the subject and, most importantly, world opinion permitted this shift, no amount of evidence of Iraqi violations can ever win the day. We need to recognize this before we continue to pursue a debate that is therefore essentially unwinnable.
A thought while I'm waiting for the rain in Florida to clear:

Can anti-globalists go to a NASCAR event? Really, are their any bigger corporate shills than these drivers? Just saw an interview with Michael Waltrip and in 2 minutes he named no less than four companies - Coke, Dominoes, Napa Auto Parts, and Chevy. And probably more disturbingly for left wingers, fans actively root for a company - everything else being equal, I pull for GM products out on the track. That's gotta kill the Not In Our Name crowd.

I love NASCAR.

UPDATE: Not 5 minutes after my post Darrell Waltrip says, "We're shamelessly corporate here."
Great statement from 19 year old Iraqi exile Rania Kashi:

"You may feel that America is trying to blind you from seeing the truth about their real reasons for an invasion.
I must argue that in fact, you are still blind to the bigger truths in Iraq.
Saddam has murdered more than a million Iraqis over the past 30 years, are you willing to allow him to kill another million Iraqis?"


Anyone think the anti-war crowd will answer her question?
The green flag has dropped at the Great American Race. Little E is the clear favorite, but the most interesting battle might be Richard Childress Racing vs. Dale Earnheart Inc, whose cars start in the first four spot. Should be a great day of racing!