Fortnight For Freedom: A Just War

Sunday, July 2, AD 2017

 

 

 

Based on the just war doctrine first enunciated by Saint Augustine, the American Revolution was a just war.

 

Over the centuries the precise content of the just war doctrine has varied.  The classic definition of it by Saint Thomas Aquinas is set forth in Part II, Question 40 of his Summa Theologica:

“I answer that, In order for a war to be just, three things are necessary. First, the authority of the sovereign by whose command the war is to be waged. For it is not the business of a private individual to declare war, because he can seek for redress of his rights from the tribunal of his superior. Moreover it is not the business of a private individual to summon together the people, which has to be done in wartime. And as the care of the common weal is committed to those who are in authority, it is their business to watch over the common weal of the city, kingdom or province subject to them. And just as it is lawful for them to have recourse to the sword in defending that common weal against internal disturbances, when they punish evil-doers, according to the words of the Apostle (Rm. 13:4): “He beareth not the sword in vain: for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil”; so too, it is their business to have recourse to the sword of war in defending the common weal against external enemies. Hence it is said to those who are in authority (Ps. 81:4): “Rescue the poor: and deliver the needy out of the hand of the sinner”; and for this reason Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 75): “The natural order conducive to peace among mortals demands that the power to declare and counsel war should be in the hands of those who hold the supreme authority.”

Secondly, a just cause is required, namely that those who are attacked, should be attacked because they deserve it on account of some fault. Wherefore Augustine says (Questions. in Hept., qu. x, super Jos.): “A just war is wont to be described as one that avenges wrongs, when a nation or state has to be punished, for refusing to make amends for the wrongs inflicted by its subjects, or to restore what it has seized unjustly.”

Thirdly, it is necessary that the belligerents should have a rightful intention, so that they intend the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil. Hence Augustine says (De Verb. Dom. [*The words quoted are to be found not in St. Augustine’s works, but Can. Apud. Caus. xxiii, qu. 1]): “True religion looks upon as peaceful those wars that are waged not for motives of aggrandizement, or cruelty, but with the object of securing peace, of punishing evil-doers, and of uplifting the good.” For it may happen that the war is declared by the legitimate authority, and for a just cause, and yet be rendered unlawful through a wicked intention. Hence Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 74): “The passion for inflicting harm, the cruel thirst for vengeance, an unpacific and relentless spirit, the fever of revolt, the lust of power, and such like things, all these are rightly condemned in war.”

The most recent formulation of the Just War doctrine for the Church is set forth in the Catechism at 2309:

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4 Responses to Fortnight For Freedom: A Just War

  • Reading this post I am so glad that Thomas Jefferson had the foresight to enumerate the failings of King George III to acknowledge the colonists’ freedom: taxation without representation, disrespect of the colonists’ private property and especially trials in absentia. In Isaiah 50: 6-9 Isaiah writes: “…if anyone wishes to oppose me , let us appear together. Who disputes my right? Let him confront me.” Being faced in a court of law is a law as old as the Old Testament. This law is our Fifth Amendment in our Constitution. There is no way that King George III could have not known about the freedom of Justice. Had King George III repented of his egregious crimes against Justice, Americans may still be English citizens. But alas, much blood was spilled to water the Tree of Liberty and a new nation was born, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal in original innocence and sovereign personhood. Every sovereign person is a child, an adopted child of God, but we must adhere to the Truth or be lost. WHO is the Truth? Jesus Christ is the Truth. Jesus Christ, who prayed in the public square to “…deliver us from evil.”
    Every newly begotten soul is innocence growing, our Constitutional Posterity. Every child is Liberty walking, the rebirth of our nation.
    “And for support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” ratified by every state.
    They did not die in vain.

  • Nice to see. Shortly after I became Catholic, I was stunned to see how many Catholics on how many Catholics sites decried the Revolution as a sinful and unjust war that failed to live up to the standards set.

  • Dave, there are certain radical traditionalists who issued by some Pope in centuries past that the only legitimate government is a Catholic monarchy. King George was no Catholic monarch of a Catholic confessional state but certain radtrads still hold to a monarchy. Without help from then Catholic Spain and France, the Americans would have had a much more difficult time achieving independence.

  • and please remember Casimir Pulaski, a Pole.

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Henry V, Shakespeare and Just War

Sunday, October 25, AD 2015

Five hundred years ago Henry V and his army won an amazing victory over a French army that heavily outnumbered his.  Shakespeare in deathless language has ensured that this victory will be indeed remembered until the ending of the world.  It was a brilliant victory, but was it won in a just cause?

 

In answering the question we must first examine how the formulation of the Just War doctrine has changed from the time of Henry V to our time.

Over the centuries the precise content of the just war doctrine has varied.  The classic definition of it by Saint Thomas Aquinas is set forth in Part II, Question 40 of his Summa Theologica:

“I answer that, In order for a war to be just, three things are necessary. First, the authority of the sovereign by whose command the war is to be waged. For it is not the business of a private individual to declare war, because he can seek for redress of his rights from the tribunal of his superior. Moreover it is not the business of a private individual to summon together the people, which has to be done in wartime. And as the care of the common weal is committed to those who are in authority, it is their business to watch over the common weal of the city, kingdom or province subject to them. And just as it is lawful for them to have recourse to the sword in defending that common weal against internal disturbances, when they punish evil-doers, according to the words of the Apostle (Rm. 13:4): “He beareth not the sword in vain: for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil”; so too, it is their business to have recourse to the sword of war in defending the common weal against external enemies. Hence it is said to those who are in authority (Ps. 81:4): “Rescue the poor: and deliver the needy out of the hand of the sinner”; and for this reason Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 75): “The natural order conducive to peace among mortals demands that the power to declare and counsel war should be in the hands of those who hold the supreme authority.”

Thirdly, it is necessary that the belligerents should have a rightful intention, so that they intend the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil. Hence Augustine says (De Verb. Dom. [*The words quoted are to be found not in St. Augustine’s works, but Can. Apud. Caus. xxiii, qu. 1]): “True religion looks upon as peaceful those wars that are waged not for motives of aggrandizement, or cruelty, but with the object of securing peace, of punishing evil-doers, and of uplifting the good.” For it may happen that the war is declared by the legitimate authority, and for a just cause, and yet be rendered unlawful through a wicked intention. Hence Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 74): “The passion for inflicting harm, the cruel thirst for vengeance, an unpacific and relentless spirit, the fever of revolt, the lust of power, and such like things, all these are rightly condemned in war.”

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5 Responses to Henry V, Shakespeare and Just War

  • I’ve also wondered how dynastic wars measured up under the just war theory, especially given the tangled skeins of royal family trees.

    I suspect that simple power politics often entered in. If Henry (or any king) had a possible claim that he failed to pursue he might be seen as weak and perhaps subject to future aggression. Whether that possible future evil makes a present was just — ???

  • Excellent series of posts. Thank you.

  • Donald,

    Since you don’t have a general comments section, I thought I would bring this newish blog to your attention. Seems good so far – http://reformclub.blogspot.com/2015/10/st-thomas-more-as-conservative-reformer.html

    –Jonathan

  • An interesting blog Jonathan. I will keep an eye on it!

    “He was no radical; rather he sought to retain essential truths of the faith while working to correct abuses in the Church’s way of life. Unlike his opponents, he was not a doctrinal innovator; he sought reform for the Church instead of its replacement. Once this is understood, More’s actions during the early Reformation can be understood to be a continuation of his efforts to improve the Church prior to the Reformation. As such, More’s basic approach to the question of reform stands well within the conservative approach to societal change set out by later authors such as Edmund Burke (himself a practicing Anglican who was married to a Catholic & sympathetic to Catholic freedom in England & Ireland). Far from being a reactionary, a fundamentalist or any kind of religious fanatic (as he has been portrayed recently by the historical fiction Wolf Hall), More stands as a conservative voice for both reform of and fidelity to the Catholic Church, of necessary change within the constraints of substantive continuity.”

    I have often noted similarities between the thought of More and Burke.

  • Very good article, but I disagree on some points: I would point out that on the “serious prospects of success” issue the English themselves have doubts and are faced with troops outnumbering them. Hard for me to make this argument when history shows the English won — but that was not known in advance! Many reasons to think they would NOT be successful — how sure do you have to be? Miracle upsets can always occur — is that a basis to go to war?

    Also when discussing the summary execution of prisoners by the English, mention is made of behavior by the French — this is a non-sequitor, as moral behavior in war is a duty to humanity at large, and is in no way contingent upon behavior by the other side — in fact it is presumed that the cause of going to war in the first place is to address evil behavior by the other side and to restore a peaceful and moral climate.

Quotes Suitable For Framing: Martin Luther

Saturday, August 23, AD 2014

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Hattip to Holly Scheer at The Federalist.

 

 

When men write about war, then, and say that it is a great plague, that is all true; but they should also see how great the plague is that it prevents. If people were good, and glad to keep peace, war would be the greatest plague on earth; but what are you going to do with the fact that people will not keep peace, but rob, steal, kill, outrage women and children, and take away property and honor?”

 

Well, even that great heresiarch Martin Luther couldn’t get everything wrong.  Of course in regard to war, like much else, he merely lifted just war concepts from Catholicism for his new religion.  His quote is interesting however, because it does underline a problem with how many elites in the West, including elites in the Catholic Church, look at war.  War is viewed by these elites as something to be avoided at all cost.  Lip service is sometimes paid to confronting aggression, but endless excuses are brought up to avoid doing so at all, or doing so effectively.

 

Why this is the case is usually because it is thought that we can pick and choose our wars and we should always choose to avoid wars.  Most Western nations since World War II, if they have fought a war at all, have fought it far away from their shores.  The illusion has grown up in the minds of many Western elites that wars can simply be walked away from without consequences.  Of course, this is a self-serving falsehood.  After Congress, for example, cut off funding for the US military in South Vietnam in 1973, it was the South Vietnamese people who endured Communist rule, with a million of them being tossed into re-education camps, hundreds of thousands summarily executed, and a million boat people risking their lives on the high seas to escape.  Refusing to fight is rarely a cost free exercise, it merely means, for contemporary Westerners, that some people we do not know over seas will pay the price.  Acting in this manner is usually dressed up in glowing terms of being anti-war, pacifist and non-violent.  Perhaps this is a true description for the motivation of some, but I think for most it is simply a deeply cynical assessment that it is not my neck on the line or the necks of anyone that I love.

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19 Responses to Quotes Suitable For Framing: Martin Luther

  • Luther knew what dwells in the hearts of men. And it ain’t pretty. Even within our own hearts.

    Of course, as a Lutheran, I’d say that he got it right, much more than he got it wrong. But he wasn’t alone in his staunch defense of the gospel. Many Church Fathers, long before Luther, knew that it was Christ’s work for the sinners, and that work alone, that justifies the ungodly…people like us.
    But it was the timing of Luther and the Medici Pope Leo X, that brought necessary reform to a head.

    That aside, we must never relent in the battle with Islam. It is a scourge and the devil’s counterpunch to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Thanks.

  • Oops.

    I meant to include these 21 quotes of Catholic Church Fathers, long before Luther:

    http://theoldadam.com/2011/06/24/long-before-luther/

    They are worth a perusal.

  • Here is another town on the verge of being executed by ISIS and it’s Shiite and apparently neither a Shiite government nor nearby Shiite Iran can manage to drop them more guns and food or better still strafe the beseigers.

    http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/23/world/meast/iraq-violence/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

  • 60,000 KIA and 150,000 WIA in Vietnam – not to mention the great, lasting cultural wound as it’s legacy. Kind of a big deal.

    What’s unfortunate is it took such a great loss of life, suffering, and the injustice of a draft for us to swallow our pride and realize that it Vietnam was an unending quagmire and it was in the best interest of Americans and America to go home.

    This chest thumping needs to stop. Don’t rationalize this unending, nationalist, paternalistic desire to rule the world with our faith.

  • “What’s unfortunate is it took such a great loss of life, suffering, and the injustice of a draft for us to swallow our pride and realize that it Vietnam was an unending quagmire and it was in the best interest of Americans and America to go home.”

    Of course that is a complete misreading of the history. In the 1972 Year of the Rat offensive US airpower alone aided the South Vietnamese in fighting off the North Vietnamese offensive. Congress cut off funds when victory was in our grasp and the people of South Vietnam abandoned to their fate. Of course, judging from your comment, the South Vietnamese were of no consequence as far as you were concerned.

  • And we couldn’t bomb certain enemy air bases and anti air craft batteries of the enemy according to President Johnson…nor could we bomb Hanoi of Haiphong. One of my relatives was over there and wrote back to other relatives not to come over because one hand was being tied behind our backs by the president:

    ” Though Rolling Thunder attacked strategic targets such as electric plants and fuel storage facilities, the limited number of these targets and restrictions against bombing near Hanoi, Haiphong, and the Chinese border made interdiction its prime focus. Throughout the campaign, American pilots clamored to “go downtown” (bomb Hanoi), but President Johnson, who approved and sometimes picked the targets, constantly turned down these requests. He believed the threat of more intensive destruction implicit in limited, incremental bombing would have a greater impact on Hanoi’s willingness to negotiate than an all‐out terror offensive. He also believed that this gradualist approach would stave off possible Chinese intervention.

    For pilots, the most frustrating aspect of the bombing restrictions was that most North Vietnamese fighter bases and surface‐to‐air missile (SAM) batteries fell within restricted areas. To cope with these defenses, the services developed elaborate “strike packages” consisting of fighter‐bombers, fighter escorts, electronic warfare aircraft, search and rescue planes, and airborne command and control aircraft. Yet North Vietnamese air defenses claimed over 900 American aircraft during Rolling Thunder. Most of these aircraft were downed by simple 23–100 mm antiaircraft artillery. The North used high‐altitude SAMs to compel American aircraft to fly low, thereby bringing them within range of their guns. Russian‐built MiGs were used sparingly, generally making just one pass before retreating home. These “guerilla” tactics yielded meager results: only seventy‐six planes shot down during the war, or about 7 percent of U.S. fixed‐wing losses over the North. On the other hand, such caution made the U.S. kill ratio just 2.5 to 1 from 1965 to 1973; consequently only five Americans qualified as aces (with five or more “kills”).

    Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/u-s-air-operations-in-the-vietnam-war#ixzz3BIyTtV38

  • Donald McClarey: “Of course, judging from your comment, the South Vietnamese were of no consequence as far as you were concerned.”
    .
    I read that, too.

  • If we fought Hitler and Tojo the way we fought Ho, Hitler’s grandson would be ruling the Third Reich, which would run from GB to Siberia, from the Arctic Circle to the Indian Ocean. The Japanese would control the rest of Asia and Australia, possibly the west coast US.
    .

    The Vietnam thing ties in to the PC rewrite of American History post.
    .

    The Vietnam lies (based on US VC sympathizer and Comintern propaganda) were being written as the war was fought.
    .

    Right! We knew the1970 mining of Haiphong harbor worked b/c the US subversives went ballistic. The Spring 1972 NVA offensive was a disaster for the NVA/VC, as ARVN and US air power murdered the mass murderers when they came in the open. Also, The Christmas 1972 bombing in two weeks proved LBJ wrong. NV broke the 1973 Paris Peace Accords and the US did nothing. If in 1975 the post-impeachment VietCongress had sent (they 24/7 airlift resupplied Isr in the 1973 Yom KIppur War) any military supplies, the ARVN with US air power would have again killed the NVA in May 1975.
    .

    But, the gravest lie was told by Conkite (burning in Hell) when he lied about the immense NVA/VC defeat in Tet 1968.

  • Europe would not have remained Christian if it wasn’t for Christians fighting & defeating the Muslims 500 years ago. (The Pope released his own army)
    READ the following 2 EXCELLENT books on this subject matter by Roger Crowley:
    “1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West”
    and
    NYTimes Bestseller: “Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World”

  • The Pope still has an army. It’s called the Swiss Guard. He makes his pacifist statements as he, personally, is well protected by it. I’m still trying to figure out how IS is supposed to be stopped without dropping bombs.

  • mommy3 wrote, “Europe would not have remained Christian if it wasn’t for Christians fighting & defeating the Muslims 500 years ago.”

    In 1690, a group of London Quakers obtained permission to establish a trading post or “factory,” as it was called. Having conducted negotiations with the Grand Vizier, Fazıl Mustafa Köprülü, he submitted their petition to the Sultan Anmed II Halife, in which they uncompromisingly declared declared their Christian principles: “All bloody principles and practices we do utterly deny, with all outward wars, and strife, and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretence whatsoever, and this is our testimony to the whole world.”

    The Sultan wrote a hatt-ı hümayun or handwritten rescript on the Vizier’s petition, giving them his protection, together with settlement and trading rights throughout the Ottoman dominions. Six years later, they obtained a firman from Sultan Mustafa II Halife, allowing them to establish a second factory at Alexandria in Egypt.

    Later, they obtained similar privileges from the Mughal Emperors of India.

    they continued to enjoy these rights until the outbreak of WWI.

  • I should have said the first factory was at Constantinople (present-day Istanbul)

  • I am sure the Royal Navy ruling the roost in the Mediterranean, and John Company, and then the British Raj, doing the same in India, had a wee bit to do with the Quakers being able to profit securely from trade in the East. The Quakers have been fortunate that they almost all live in powerful nations where they never suffer the consequences of their embrace of pacifism, due to the willingness of others to do their fighting for them.

    Benjamin Franklin noted this irony and told this story of William Penn:

    “The honorable and learned Mr. Logan, who had always been of that sect . . . told me the following anecdote of his old master, William Penn, respecting defense. It was war-time, and their ship was chas’d by an armed vessel, suppos’d to be an enemy. Their captain prepar’d for defense; but told William Penn and his company of Quakers, that he did not expect their assistance, and they might retire into the cabin, which they did, except James Logan, who chose to stay upon deck, and was quarter’d to a gun. The suppos’d enemy prov’d a friend, so there was no fighting; but when [Logan] went down to communicate the intelligence, William Penn rebuk’d him severely for staying upon deck, and undertaking to assist in defending the vessel, contrary to the principles of Friends, especially as it had not been required by the captain. This reproof, being before all the company, piqu’d [Mr. Logan], who answer’d, “I being thy servant, why did thee not order me to come down? But thee was willing enough that I should stay and help to fight the ship when thee thought there was danger.””

  • “I being thy servant, why did thee not order me to come down? But thee was willing enough that I should stay and help to fight the ship when thee thought there was danger.””
    Smart answer and a saver. Thank you Donald McClarey. I would have loved history more at school if I had known there was so much wisdom there. Better late than never.

  • T. Shaw: Hitler had every intention to enslave the U.S. Britain was only his stepping stone. Hitler’s was world domination and I often wonder what Hitler and Tojo would have done when they met.

  • The question of whether the US could have “won” the Vietnam War is a strawman argument.

    Meddling with politics and then fighting proxy wars in the Third World is hardly charitable, no matter how you church it up.

    Lets not confuse cases of legitimate defense with white flag operations, political wag-the-dog, “conservative” social engineering, and the interests of the military industrial complex.

  • “The question of whether the US could have “won” the Vietnam War is a strawman argument”

    You obviously know little about strawman arguments. You, erroneously, said we were in an endless quagmire and I provided facts, to which you did not respond, that indicated otherwise. You also fail to make any comments about what happened to the South Vietnamese people after Congress cut off funding for US military operations, supporting my contention that you couldn’t care less about what happened to them.

  • Donald R McClarey wrote, “Perhaps the nuclear 9-11 I foresee in the not too distant future on some Western city…”
    I certainly accept that that is a real possibility. At the same time, I would lay any odds that that city will not be Lisbon or Prague, Lima or Caracas.
    Now, why do you suppose that is?

Fortnight For Freedom: A Just War

Monday, June 30, AD 2014

Fortnight For Freedom 2014

As we approach the Fourth of July we celebrate American independence and the liberties we enjoy.  Independence was won on the battlefield.  Was the American Revolution a just war is therefore a question that should be asked and answered.

Based on the just war doctrine first enunciated by Saint Augustine, I believe the American Revolution was a just war.

 

Over the centuries the precise content of the just war doctrine has varied.  The classic definition of it by Saint Thomas Aquinas is set forth in Part II, Question 40 of his Summa Theologica:

“I answer that, In order for a war to be just, three things are necessary. First, the authority of the sovereign by whose command the war is to be waged. For it is not the business of a private individual to declare war, because he can seek for redress of his rights from the tribunal of his superior. Moreover it is not the business of a private individual to summon together the people, which has to be done in wartime. And as the care of the common weal is committed to those who are in authority, it is their business to watch over the common weal of the city, kingdom or province subject to them. And just as it is lawful for them to have recourse to the sword in defending that common weal against internal disturbances, when they punish evil-doers, according to the words of the Apostle (Rm. 13:4): “He beareth not the sword in vain: for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil”; so too, it is their business to have recourse to the sword of war in defending the common weal against external enemies. Hence it is said to those who are in authority (Ps. 81:4): “Rescue the poor: and deliver the needy out of the hand of the sinner”; and for this reason Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 75): “The natural order conducive to peace among mortals demands that the power to declare and counsel war should be in the hands of those who hold the supreme authority.”

Secondly, a just cause is required, namely that those who are attacked, should be attacked because they deserve it on account of some fault. Wherefore Augustine says (Questions. in Hept., qu. x, super Jos.): “A just war is wont to be described as one that avenges wrongs, when a nation or state has to be punished, for refusing to make amends for the wrongs inflicted by its subjects, or to restore what it has seized unjustly.”

Thirdly, it is necessary that the belligerents should have a rightful intention, so that they intend the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil. Hence Augustine says (De Verb. Dom. [*The words quoted are to be found not in St. Augustine’s works, but Can. Apud. Caus. xxiii, qu. 1]): “True religion looks upon as peaceful those wars that are waged not for motives of aggrandizement, or cruelty, but with the object of securing peace, of punishing evil-doers, and of uplifting the good.” For it may happen that the war is declared by the legitimate authority, and for a just cause, and yet be rendered unlawful through a wicked intention. Hence Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 74): “The passion for inflicting harm, the cruel thirst for vengeance, an unpacific and relentless spirit, the fever of revolt, the lust of power, and such like things, all these are rightly condemned in war.”

The most recent formulation of the Just War doctrine for the Church is set forth in the Catechism at 2309:

Continue reading...

A Just War

Saturday, July 6, AD 2013

 

 

(I originally posted this on July 6, 2009 when the blog readership was much smaller.  I therefore have decided to blow the dust off of it and present it again today.  It also reminds me that I need to complete a much delayed project, looking at the Civil War from both the Union and Confederate sides and applying a just war analysis.  I will attempt to do so by the end of the year.)

 

Based on the just war doctrine first enunciated by Saint Augustine, the American Revolution was a just war.

 

Over the centuries the precise content of the just war doctrine has varied.  The classic definition of it by Saint Thomas Aquinas is set forth in Part II, Question 40 of his Summa Theologica:

“I answer that, In order for a war to be just, three things are necessary. First, the authority of the sovereign by whose command the war is to be waged. For it is not the business of a private individual to declare war, because he can seek for redress of his rights from the tribunal of his superior. Moreover it is not the business of a private individual to summon together the people, which has to be done in wartime. And as the care of the common weal is committed to those who are in authority, it is their business to watch over the common weal of the city, kingdom or province subject to them. And just as it is lawful for them to have recourse to the sword in defending that common weal against internal disturbances, when they punish evil-doers, according to the words of the Apostle (Rm. 13:4): “He beareth not the sword in vain: for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil”; so too, it is their business to have recourse to the sword of war in defending the common weal against external enemies. Hence it is said to those who are in authority (Ps. 81:4): “Rescue the poor: and deliver the needy out of the hand of the sinner”; and for this reason Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 75): “The natural order conducive to peace among mortals demands that the power to declare and counsel war should be in the hands of those who hold the supreme authority.”

Secondly, a just cause is required, namely that those who are attacked, should be attacked because they deserve it on account of some fault. Wherefore Augustine says (Questions. in Hept., qu. x, super Jos.): “A just war is wont to be described as one that avenges wrongs, when a nation or state has to be punished, for refusing to make amends for the wrongs inflicted by its subjects, or to restore what it has seized unjustly.”

Thirdly, it is necessary that the belligerents should have a rightful intention, so that they intend the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil. Hence Augustine says (De Verb. Dom. [*The words quoted are to be found not in St. Augustine’s works, but Can. Apud. Caus. xxiii, qu. 1]): “True religion looks upon as peaceful those wars that are waged not for motives of aggrandizement, or cruelty, but with the object of securing peace, of punishing evil-doers, and of uplifting the good.” For it may happen that the war is declared by the legitimate authority, and for a just cause, and yet be rendered unlawful through a wicked intention. Hence Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 74): “The passion for inflicting harm, the cruel thirst for vengeance, an unpacific and relentless spirit, the fever of revolt, the lust of power, and such like things, all these are rightly condemned in war.”

The most recent formulation of the Just War doctrine for the Church is set forth in the Catechism at 2309:

Continue reading...

16 Responses to A Just War

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  • I completely disagree, and I think the proof in the pudding. Firstly, I think you are making an enormous comparative error by using just war theory to analyze an internal revolution. Wars and revolutions are hardly the same thing: they are, in fact, very particularly distinct events. By your analysis—which entirely lacks consideration of the role of Christ’s authority in government—both the Glorious Revolution which preceded the American Revolution and the French Revolution which followed would have to be declared “just wars.”
    But to the pudding: from a Catholic perspective, there is nothing in the constitution–the fruit of the “just” revolution—even approaching “justice”! Justice is the sovereign reign of Christ the King, period. Without Our Lord, there is no “justice.” The founding documents, either sparks or ashes of the Revolution, demonstrate there is a careful and particular rejection of the Church and her authority, and Jesus Christ. The founders were nearly to a man Diests, which is in my opinion some kind of post-Enlightenment euphemism for moral relativists, and what, in nearly any opinion, were anti-Catholic and anti-Christ.
    Of the Constitution in particular, it is no wonder that this “just” document enshrined “rights” immediately or nearly-immediately such unjust institutions such as black slavery and divorce, and in a short order was used to enshrine perhaps the most abominable institution in Western Civilization, “legalized” abortion. There can be absolutely no surprise, then, that this same “just” revolution and its documents are now, successfully, being used to “justify” such likewise disordered institutions as homosexual union and modern “total war” theory.
    I am apt to point out to pro-abortionists that when their “logic” ends in the death of an innocent person, it might be a clue that there is a problem with their “logic.” Likewise, when the American Revolution ends with the kind of anti-Christ society that the American Revolution ended with (then and now), it might be a clue that there was a problem with the American Revolution.
    You might be interested to read “Liberty: The God that Failed” by Ferrera. I think it will challenge your contentions to the core, on many, many levels.

  • “Wars and revolutions are hardly the same thing: they are, in fact, very particularly distinct events.”

    Completely disagree. The theory that Christians may never rebel against unjust rule is not the teaching of the Church.

    “which entirely lacks consideration of the role of Christ’s authority in government”

    Christ does not give a blank check to governments to rule as they will and for the subjects of such government to endure whatever it pleases such governments to do.

    “But to the pudding: from a Catholic perspective, there is nothing in the constitution–the fruit of the “just” revolution—even approaching “justice”!”

    Rubbish on stilts as such Catholics at the time as Charles Carroll of Carrollton who signed the Declaration, Daniel Carroll who signed the Constitution and John Carroll, the first American bishop, who all supported the Revolution, would have cheerfully agreed. Then we have this from Pope Leo XIII:

    “Nor, perchance did the fact which We now recall take place without some design of divine Providence. Precisely at the epoch when the American colonies, having, with Catholic aid, achieved liberty and independence, coalesced into a constitutional Republic the ecclesiastical hierarchy was happily established amongst you; and at the very time when the popular suffrage placed the great Washington at the helm of the Republic, the first bishop was set by apostolic authority over the American Church. The well-known friendship and familiar intercourse which subsisted between these two men seems to be an evidence that the United States ought to be conjoined in concord and amity with the Catholic Church. And not without cause; for without morality the State cannot endure-a truth which that illustrious citizen of yours, whom We have just mentioned, with a keenness of insight worthy of his genius and statesmanship perceived and proclaimed. But the best and strongest support of morality is religion.”

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2009/02/22/pope-leo-xiii-on-america-and-george-washington/

    “The founding documents, either sparks or ashes of the Revolution, demonstrate there is a careful and particular rejection of the Church and her authority, and Jesus Christ.”

    Actually it was the American Revolution that began the process by which Catholics in the American colonies gained full civil rights. To enlighten your obvious ignorance you might wish to read the post linked below:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2012/06/28/fortnight-for-freedom-day-eight-catholics-and-the-father-of-our-country/

    “You might be interested to read “Liberty: The God that Failed” by Ferrera.”

    Ferrara is an ignorant crank. If you are reading him you are wasting both your time and your mind. When Tom Woods calls someone an extremist crank, you know that you have entered cloud cuckoo land:

    http://www.tomwoods.com/on-chris-ferrara/

  • “The Eighteenth Century has a reputation of a gentlemanly period of limited war.”

    That is certainly true in comparison with the wars of the previous century, such as the French Wars of Religion, of the Thirty Years War in Central Europe, or the English Civil War, especially the Scottish and Irish campaigns.

    How many modern readers appreciate that most of Jane Austen’s novels describe life in England during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (and written by the sister of two admirals)?

  • England was untouched by war except for the 45. Parts of Germany during the Wars of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War were quite thoroughly ravaged. Prussia was absolutely devastated by its victory and suffered a half a million loss of population during the war from civilian deaths.

  • If we’re going to discuss the American revolution from a just war standpoint, we may as well start with the Boston Tea Party and the British response.

    1. The Boston Tea Partiers dumped tea belonging to the British East India Company to the bottom of Boston Harbor. Was this a legitimate protest? Or was it an act of vandalism in violation of the Seventh Commandment?

    2. In response, London closed down the Port of Boston. Was this a valid punishment on a city that aided and abetted wrongdoing? Or was it disproportionate and vengeful?

  • Many of the colonial leaders, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, were repulsed by the Boston Tea Party as an act of vandalism. The reaction of the British government to it, treating all colonials as guilty, created more patriots overnight than all the years of agitation by Sam Adams. If the colonists were treated as Englishmen with all of the rights of the English, I doubt if the Revolution would have occurred. Instead they were treated as a subject race, fit only to be governed by their “betters” in London.

  • “I do not believe it is a particularly close call.” It is a close call, then, if both side are guilty of injustice.

  • Not if one side, the Brits, are guilty of massive injustice and the colonists are guilty of hardly any. The British government sought to take away the right of the colonists to rule themselves and that is always worth fighting to preserve.

  • Among American grievances, one should not overlook the Navigation Acts. Franklin probably expressed the views of many, when he wrote to the French economist, Morellet: “Nothing can be better expressed than your sentiments are on this point, where you prefer liberty of trading, cultivating, manufacturing, etc., even to civil liberty, this being affected but rarely, the other every hour.” They were far more burdensome in their application than the taxes, which even Marshall described as “too inconsiderable to interest the people of either country.”

  • “They were far more burdensome in their application than the taxes, which even Marshall described as “too inconsiderable to interest the people of either country.”

    One penny was too much for the colonists. They would be taxed only by laws passed by their legislatures and not by laws passed by the Parliament in London.

  • It has been suggested that the Navigation Acts were the underlying cause of the War of Independence, just as the tariff was the real cause of the War between the States.

    In any conflict, the root causes are always economic; the rest is a mere superstructure; three bad harvests produced the French Revolution.

  • “It has been suggested that the Navigation Acts were the underlying cause of the War of Independence, just as the tariff was the real cause of the War between the States.”

    Both suggestions are complete historical idiocy MPS.

    “In any conflict, the root causes are always economic; the rest is a mere superstructure; three bad harvests produced the French Revolution.”

    Rubbish on stilts. Napoleon did not seek to dominate Europe because of economics, but because he wanted to dominate Europe. Economic explanations of historical events remind me of attempts to reduce music to mathematical formulae: missing the point as art form.

  • I am an American, so I probably ought to just say “My country, right or wrong.” But in the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, not a single witness came forward to bring the perpetrators to justice. So the entire city of Boston seemed more interested in aiding and abetting the wrongdoers than in obeying the law.

    The American Revolution was the birth pangs of two nations. The colonists who rebelled became Americans. Those who remained loyal to the Crown became Canadians. Maybe the British government did over-react in closing down the port of Boston. Much of their behavior, however, is what you would expect that a European crown and parliament would do in trying to deal with restive colonists. Further, Westminster showed that it could learn from its mistakes, by governing Canada, Australia and New Zealand with a more lenient hand.

    People in America tend to think of her as paradise on earth. Then I look at Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and I must admit that life in these countries is probably just as good. We Americans value self-fulfillment. People in other English-speaking countries value it as well, but they also value social harmony.

  • “People in other English-speaking countries value it as well, but they also value social harmony.”

    I don’t think we value social dysharmony. Perhaps we just differ from other countries on how to achieve it. This would be consistent with Catholic Social Teachign.

  • Whether the American Revolution was a just war depends on which book you abide by, Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan or John Locke’s On Civil Government. A comparison of which book hews closer to Catholic doctrine would make for a good TAC post.

Henry V, Shakespeare and Just War

Friday, March 18, AD 2011

In the comments to  my post last week, Henry V Times Four, which may be viewed here, and which had four versions of the immortal “band of brothers” speech, commenter Centinel posed a very interesting question to me:

Mr. McClarey,

I’ve come to respect your knowledge of history and your insights. I just wanted to get your honest opinion on oneissue. As I understand it, Catholic doctrine would say that wars of aggression are not justified (most of the time). Though I enjoy Shakespeare’s plays, it bothers me that Henry V was fighting a war of aggression – hence, an unjust war.

From Henry V’s point of view, the war was about his (legitimate?) claim to the French throne. But from the point of view of the French peasantry, whichever dynasty sat on the French thronedid not really make any difference in their lives. They were merely caught in the middle; the longer the war lasted, the greater the collateral damage to French civilians. Besides, Henry V already had the Kingdom of England. Hence, it was just pure greed driving Henry V to claim the French throne.

I would appreciate your opinion on this.

My response:

Centinel thank you for very kind words and for inspiring a forthcoming post! The more I thought about your question the more complicated my answer became and only a post length reply, which I will attempt to do in the next week, will do it justice. The short answer is that Henry V, by the just war analysis of his day, had a defensible claim to be fighting a just war, while under the just war analysis of our day his war would be unjust. However, there is much more to say than that, and I will attempt to do this intriguing question justice in my forthcoming post.

In answering the question we must first examine how the formulation of the Just War doctrine has changed from the time of Henry V to our time.

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10 Responses to Henry V, Shakespeare and Just War

  • Very convincing. I have no doubt that Henry V sincerely believed in the justness of his cause. But I cannot help feel that God was on the French side all along. It was never God’s will that the English conquer the French. St. Joan of Arc received visions from St. Michael and other saints commanding her to raise an army, lift the seige of Orleans and see the Dauphin crowned at Reims.

    That God would use a lowly maiden to defeat the English, shows which side He favored.

  • Interesting, although I don’t think Shakespeare was a Just War philosopher, and as a historical source you must take him with a grain of salt!

    But I think you should also discuss the conditions of war at the time. European wars (as opposed to wars in Europe against barbarian invaders, who in some cases slaughtered and enslaved everyone they encountered) were fought be very few people, relatively speaking, all of whom had some kind of societally recognized obligation to fight when their lords told them to. Some were professional soldiers, others were men who had an obligation to military service a certain number of weeks or months every year. They did not have large paid armies, and they did not have army bases. They brought their food with them and/or lived off the land. As a consequence, they could be quite brutal to the people whose land they were on, but didn’t have much of an impact on other people unless they were besieging a town or city. The large number of civilian casualties and destruction of civilian property we expect in a modern war were unknown. Deaths in war were brutal, but then so were many deaths outside of war, and more soldiers died of disease than died of wounds.

    My point is that not just philosophical considerations for a just war are different now than they were then — but that war itself was also different in many crucial respects than it is now.

  • “That God would use a lowly maiden to defeat the English, shows which side He favored.”

    I agree Centinel. It also shows the inscrutability of God. Why He decided that Charles the Well Served, not a very inspiring monarch, should have received divine aid in driving the English from France, while many ultimately defeated worthy causes have not, is a mystery to me, but that is why He is God and I am not! 🙂

  • “but that war itself was also different in many crucial respects than it is now.”

    True Gail, although as wars of the Middle Ages went, the Hundred Years War, albeit an inaccurate title, got pretty bad. A good history of the wars is in the process of being written by a British barrister\historian Jonathan Sumption. In three first rate volumes he has gotten up to 1393. I hope he lives long enough to complete the series.

    http://www.amazon.com/Hundred-Years-War-Divided-Houses/dp/0812242238/ref=pd_bxgy_b_text_c

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  • Writing from England and as an English Literature graduate, I must congratulate this website on the very thorough and fair analysis of HENRY V. American readers might not quite grasp that when William the Conqueror ( of Normandy) defeated the Saxons in 1066 and became King of England, he had many French claims. For about three hundred years, the official language of England was French. The French in 1944 were very glad to see the English ( and Scots and other British, and Americans, and Canadians, and Poles and the others).

    As for Joan of Arc, well, she was not canonised until 1920 – no “Santo subito” there. A good English joke is: “When and where did the English Catholic bishops last help someone to become a saint?” Answer, “1431 in Rouen.”

    Keep up your good work. God bless.

  • Thank you Eric. Yep, after the Conqueror, with the approval of the Pope I would note, took over England, England and France were intertwined for centuries. The Hundred Years War can be looked at as the ending of a very long process begun at Hastings.

    As for Saint Joan, many English in France, and those French who supported the English, at the time viewed her as a Saint, and thought her execution was an incredible sin. The words of Jean Tressard, secretary of King Henry VI reflected this sentiment: “We are all lost for it is a good and holy woman that has been burned. I believe her soul is in the hands of God, and I believe damned all who joined in her condemnation.”

  • The Church recognizes Joan as a saint, so her visions about St. Michael and others pushing her to battle must be considered as true. She was handpicked by God for a mission – like David confronting Goliath.

    As a tangent, the Pope also authorized Henry II of England to conquer Ireland. Of course, the Pope did not foresee the long history of English oppression in Ireland, but that’s another story.

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Fighting the Evil Empire

Tuesday, February 16, AD 2010

Whether as a sign of intellectual curiosity or general aimlessness, I often find myself reading about random subjects late at night. The other night, I found myself reading about Finland in World War II.

It’s an interesting subject. Finland was invaded by the USSR in 1939, at pretty much the same time they occupied the Baltic states and split Poland with Germany.

In the Winter War of 1939-1940, the Finns successfully slowed the Soviet advance, and eventually the USSR agreed to a peace treaty. Finland was forced to cede the parts of her territory she had not yet won back from the Soviets, but 90% of the country’s territory remained intact. This itself was an amazing military feat for such a small country. It’s also interesting in that they essentially out-Russianed the Russians. Just as Napoleon’s and Hitler’s armies bogged down and froze while trying to invade Russia, the Soviets bogged down and froze while trying to attack Finland, which was even better versed in winter warfare than Russia.

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51 Responses to Fighting the Evil Empire

  • Finland was fighting a just war from beginning to end.

  • For Finland, it was either ally with Germany, or revert to being another Russian province.

    I applaud what the Finns did in beating back an atheist regime.

    I’m curious as to how Finland resolved their “war” with Britain?

  • There are also parallels here with Franco’s Spain.

  • I see absolutely no parallels whatsoever.

  • There are if you consider that Franco received assistance in his war efforts from Germany and Italy. Much to the chagrin of the Axis powers Franco didn’t return the favor. The parallel being that Franco fought a just a war while having bad allies who waged an unjust war.

  • That would be the *only* parallel.

    Franco was fighting for the freedoms of the Spanish people against atheist enemies that were determined to “transform” Spain.

    /begin sarcasm of Henry K. connecting Finland’s war with Soviet Russia to Franco’s war against the atheistic “Republican” regime.

    Just like Obama and Rahm Emmanuel want to “transform” America into another European socialist state.

    /end sarcasm;

  • Franco was fighting for the freedoms of the Spanish people against atheist enemies that were determined to “transform” Spain.

    Describing Franco as fighting for the freedoms of the Spanish people is a bit much, I think.

  • Franco was fighting for the freedoms of the Spanish people against atheist enemies that were determined to “transform” Spain.

    Not much unlike Finland was, right? Granted it was civil war rather than war against an invading army, but invading army in Finland was also knee deep in supporting one or more of the SCW factions.

  • Wars do make strange friends but I am not sure the lines are ever clear. the USSR was allied with Nazi Germany until it was decided that Leninist Communism was less masculine that National Socialist Communism. Then the evil special interests within our borders who financed both the Nazis and the Soviets decided that German Communism should be painted as right-wing fascism and the Soviet Communism should be painted as Democratic Socialism so that the USA would become the ally of the Soviets against the Nazis who were destined to lose and then the USA and the USSR could divide Europe and eventually the USA/USSR European alliance would become the USSA. Of course all this happened before Obama was born otherwise they just might have tried him from the beginning. 🙂

    Nothing new under the sun.
    Wasn’t Finland ruled by Catholic Sweden before and after the Protestant Heresy? I also think Sweden ruled Finland until she was conquered by the Russians, Orthodox Czars not atheist Leninists.

    Sadly, it is unlikely that nation would be able to mount a successful, just war against such fierce foes today. For that matter I don’t know if we have what it takes to liberate the world from the Axis powers either.

    Rome died due to diminishing warrior capacity which was preceded by the moral debasement of her young men by effete Greeks – sounds like a typical college campus today, especially where ROTC is not welcome. I wonder if that is why the president wants his own ‘civilian corpsmen’ (pronounced CORPSE-MEN).

  • RL,

    I don’t know what SCW is.

    BA,

    That or be executed for practicing Catholicism. Religious freedom.

  • “Franco was fighting for the freedoms of the Spanish people against atheist enemies that were determined to ‘transform’ Spain.”

    Franco’s rebellion was an effort to preserve “traditional” Spain, which was rather loosely defined inasmuch as his coalition included both the agri-traditionalist Carlists and the more revolutionary Falange, with a broad swath of rightist elements in between. As far as the Falange goes, he pretty well neutered it before the end of the war, and it was a mere adjunct to his government. It was to his great fortune that the Republic was even more fractious than the Nationalist coalition.

    If you had told Franco that he was fighting for “freedom,” he probably would have blinked in utter incomprehension. I guess to the extent good Spaniards were free of the Reds and anarchists, yes, he was fighting for that kind of freedom–freedom *from*. He was fighting for a Spain rooted in its traditional past, including the Church, the monarchy and what was left of her overseas possessions. Which is why Hitler’s adventures interested him not at all, even when Nazi Germany looked to be victorious.

  • Say all you want about Franco and some of it may even be true but he supported the Church and killed Communists. At the time, in that context he was the choice to make. It is sad when we have to choose between the lesser of two or more evils but fallen man is likely to put us in that position often.

    Sort of like picking progressive Republicans who want to kill babies despite what the platform says against progressive Democrats who want to kill babies because that is what their platform says.

  • AK,

    Yes, Finland was under Swedish rule and then under Russian rule.

    Through Russian efforts to engender friendly relations with their new Finnish lands, the Russians allowed greater autonomy and widespread use of Finnish (to undermine Swedish).

    This eventually backfired since the Finns actualized a greater sense of nationhood that resulted in independence around 1907, with permanent independence after WWII.

    Rome also died due to abortion. Since many Roman couples saw it as an inconvenience, infanticide rose. Also, male Romans didn’t want to have sons since Patricide began to rise as well. So throw that in with no desire for baby girls and their moral debasement of those children that did “survive” and there you have it, Blue state New York and California, I mean, Rome.

  • Dale,

    We are in agreement then. Franco was fighting for freedom from his atheistic adversaries.

    Franco was also clever enough to sideline the Carlists to the point of making them part of the furniture instead of the process.

  • Here’s to eliminating Communism in all of its manifestations! (raising a bottle of Shiner brew)

  • Within the last week or two, I assured someone (who claimed that conservatives were using rhetoric that suggested they were likely to start a coup) that I’d never heard a conservative compare Obama to the Spanish communists and anarchists in the ’30s. I guess I need to be more careful what I say…

    Two thinks I think it’s important to keep in mind:

    – While I have no doubt in my mind that Franco was preferable to the socialist/communist/anarchist forces on the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War, that’s hardly a ringing endorsement, nor should we make it so. Sure, he defended the Church rather than persecuting it, but to list the Christ Rock line, “You’re supposed to do that.”

    – While Obama’s inside clique would doubtless like to see the US looking much more like modern European social democracies (and I think that would be a bad thing), those social democracies are nothing like as despicable and oppressive the Spanish Republicans. Sure, I think they’re too government heavy, but I think they fall within the range of things which one might in good conscience advocate, while the Republican cause clearly didn’t.

  • Say all you want about Franco and some of it may even be true but he supported the Church and killed Communists.

    He also killed a lot of Catholics.

    I’m having visions, however, of another 100+ comment thread that has nothing to do with the original post, so I’ll leave it there.

  • Tito,

    You bring up a great point re: Roman abortions. It is amazing that the Republic that razed Carthage for her child-sacrifice and salted the land to ensure that the abominable practice did not spread.

    Imagine that the great liberator, honest-broker and moral backbone of the world would raze an entire civilization to prevent the sacrifice of children only to turn around and begin the same practice albeit for convenience and not direct sacrifice to devils. It is a good thing no one else would be so stupid to do that. Wait. Where am I?

  • Darwin,

    To make you feel better I was mocking Henry K. for connecting Finland’s war with Soviet Russia to Franco’s war against the atheistic “Republican” regime.

    I was being sarcastic.

    In no way does Obama’s administration resemble that of the God-hating Spanish Republicans.

  • BA,

    And leave all the fun of dissecting Finnish Nationalism contra Soviet Expansionism!

    Or how about the only time in history that a democracy declared war on another democracy, ie, Britain declaring war on Finland!

    Gerald Naus may even make a guest comment appearance.

    😉

  • SCW – Spanish Civil War.

    Why was Franco’s betrayal of the Carlists seen as a good thing? In my mind, it was one his greater faults.

  • BA,

    Franco killing Catholics is like shooting fish in the barrel to get to the crabs.

    By default 99% of Spaniards were *Catholic* by baptism alone in Civil War Spain.

  • RL,

    I didn’t say it was a good thing.

    I was just “showing off” my Spanish Civil War knowledge.

    I myself think it of a very bad thing indeed.

    Imagine how Spain would have turned out if the Carlists had any influence at all by the end of the war, *sigh*.

  • Tito,

    To make you feel better I was mocking Henry K. for connecting Finland’s war with Soviet Russia to Franco’s war against the atheistic “Republican” regime.

    Henry’s comment wasn’t out of line. I thought I demonstrated that. Parallel doesn’t indicate same. Finland was fighting an atheistic republic too. ironically enough, that athiestic republic had the most influence on Spain’s atheistic republic. There’s another parallel.

  • DC,

    I suspect that modern social democracies in Europe are considerably less oppressive than those envisioned by the perpetrators at the end of WWII. I suspect that Commies intended more Soviet-style governments than the namby-pamby nanny-state welfare of Europe today. It is a ruse, the nice social democracies like the UK, Sweden and the USA are designed to get us used to servitude so we will be happy in a global feudal order. You know those nice scientific dictatorships that medicate and indoctrinate you into being a happy slave.

    Makes you wonder why the Finnish and the Spanish bothered fighting for liberation at all.

  • RL,

    You have to admire the Finns though.

    A small republic of barely 3-4 million fought to a standstill the then 70 million strong (or more) Soviet Empire.

    Put it in the context that the USSR was also able to absorb Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia, in addition to half of Poland and a sliver of Romania.

    Contrast that to what Finland did and it is utterly amazing.

  • At the risk of starting another bizarre tangent:

    You bring up a great point re: Roman abortions. It is amazing that the Republic that razed Carthage for her child-sacrifice and salted the land to ensure that the abominable practice did not spread. Imagine that the great liberator, honest-broker and moral backbone of the world would raze an entire civilization to prevent the sacrifice of children only to turn around and begin the same practice albeit for convenience and not direct sacrifice to devils.

    I seem to be bad at guaging when people are being arch in this thread, but if this is meant seriously, I’m aware of no evidence that the Roman Republic razed Carthage because of its tendency towards infant sacrifice. The impetus behind Carthago delenda est was more driven by the first two Punic wars, and in particular the lingering memory of Hannibal’s invasion of Italy. Further, exposure of infants was an accepted practice in the Roman Republic back to the earliest days.

    I’m certainly an admirer of the Roman Republic as seen in sources like Polybius, but at a moral level, they were distinctly pagan in their outlook and practices.

  • The little I know about the razing of Carthage is that both Darwin and AK are correct. That or I’ve watched one too many skewed PBS specials on the subject.

    Yes, the Romans practiced infanticide for quite a while, though it may have increased towards the end of its epoch.

    If not, it definitely contributed to Romes decline combined with other factors.

  • I’ll take responsibility for the bizarre tangents, thank you very much.

    I have no source to site for what I wrote above. I think I heard it on radio from the mouth of a priest who was also an historian. But I have no facts to back it up.

    It does make some sense though. Romans were certainly pagans but they seemed to have a deeper insight into the natural law than the barbarian pagans and event he middle-eastern fertility cults. After all, God had Joshua raze the people of Palestine before Israel entered the promised land and yet he allowed the Macabbes to call on Rome to come to the aid of Israel.

    Additionally exposure of infants may have been tolerated and even accepted but that is a more practical discarding of a life rather than a willful sacrifice to demons. I am not excusing child exposure, yet for a non-Christianized pagan society it is understandable and I can see how they would be horrified by sacrificing children to ‘gods’.

    Then again, I may not know what I am talking about.

    To try to bring this back I am fairly confident that modern Finland has gone the way of Carthage and Rome. Abortions are provided ‘free’ in their nationalized ‘health care’ system. Maybe they will be razed soon.

  • I thought the Spanish always had the same liberties as we did? 😉

  • I’m aware of no evidence that the Roman Republic razed Carthage because of its tendency towards infant sacrifice.

    Your the student of the classics. I think he is referring to a thesis advanced by G.K. Chesterton. I cannot remember in which work.

  • BA,

    As of this post we’re about 67 comments short of a 100.

    See you guys later, I have a class to attend to.

  • Both sides in the Spanish Civil War engaged in sickening atrocities during the war. Both sides were none too choosy in regard to who they accepted aid from. Both sides aimed to establish authoritarian regimes, outside of the Basque Republicans on the side of the Republic, and some of the Catholic groups on the side of the Nationalists. The big difference between the two sides was the massive persecution that Catholics suffered in the Republic, outside of the Basque controlled areas.

  • So you’re saying that war is hell and total war is totally hellish.

  • Spanish civil wars certainly tend to be hellish AK. They make our Civil War look like a very well behaved military exercise by comparison. Having said that, I have always found the Spanish Civil War of the last century endlessly fascinating. All that was best and worst in Spain was on full display. Jose Maria Gironella’s magnificent trilogy of novels on the War are an excellent starting point for anyone wishing to understand the war and why Spaniards fought each other so savagely: Cypresses Believe in God, One Million Dead and Peace After War. They are the best novels I have ever read and left me with a much deeper understanding of the War and of Spain.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1586170465/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=999741120X&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=171T10TQDJRJMH3NJZHR

  • Chesterton made that argument about child sacrifice in Carthage in The Everlasting Man. As usual, Chesterton was a good writer and a poor historian. Horror over Carthaginian child sacrifice played absolutely no role in Rome’s desire to obliterage Carthage.

  • Thanks for clearing that up. OK, so Rome simply razed Carthage because Rome did not want to have to go back and fight them again and again and again. It seems as if North Africa has a war resiliency. I suppose if Jefferson had finished the Barbary Pirates once and for all we would not be dealing with piracy in the same seas today.

    The war in North America of the 1860s (I have yet to be convinced that it was a civil war) was fairly brutal. Many consider it the first war of the pre-nuclear modern age. I am not as familiar with the Spanish Civil War (I am convinced that it was a civil war), but I understand it was extremely brutal. It makes sense that atrocities would occur during a mutli-faction civil conflict then a conflict between the organized armies of two countries (if’n y’all don’t recognize the CSA as a separate country, then at least concede that there were only two sides to the conflict).

  • AK, the organized armies on both sides committed the bulk of the atrocities in the Spanish Civil War. Mass executions, with only the quickest of drum head military trials, if that, was the rule for both sides. Most Spaniards on all sides were convinced that the only way to bring peace was to physically eliminate their adversaries. The Spanish Civil War is an object lesson of what unchecked political hatreds can lead to.

  • I wouldn’t go so far as saying that both sides committed equal amounts of atrocities. The Republicans by far committed more heinous acts in depth and volume with an exceeding amount of enthusiasm.

    According to argueably the best Christian historian alive, Warren H. Carroll, comparing the atrocities of the Nationalists on par with those of the Republicans is a gross error when conveyed against the reputed facts.

    Remember that the overwhelming amount of history written on the Spanish Civil War were written by the Republicans. Which is ironic since it generally known that the victors are the ones who write history.

    So when Donald says that “both” sides committed atrocities, I hope that he was saying it rhetorically and not of equal number and depth.

  • Tito

    While I support the Franco side of the civil war, and indeed, own coins of Franco and books written by people who were involved with the war on his side, obviously both sides did commit grave evils. Moreover, Warren Carroll is not arguably the best Christian historian alive; he is far from the best, in fact. He often gets history wrong — look to his discussion on SAINT Photius (yes, he is a Saint in the Catholic Church) and look to any relevant modern historical treatise on the Photian Schism — he shows his rather shallow approach quite well when you compare the two.

    Give me Christopher Dawson any day (alas he is not alive). And if you want a living historian, check out Eamon Duffy!

  • Christopher Dawson is the Ratzinger of Christian history. I need to put the book down and digest what I just read. He is very good and is prominent in my miniature library.

    Eamon Duffy is on my Amazon list of books to buy and I look forward reading his works!

  • In regard to the Spanish Civil War Tito, if you take into account the post war executions, which were massive, by the Nationalists, the body count of the Nationalists was higher. I am sympathetic to the Nationalist cause due to the demonic anti-Catholicism of most of their opponents and the fact that most of the leaders who wielded power within the Republic were intent on setting up a totalitarian state of one sort or another. However, the Nationalist leadership were not saints. They set up a fairly squalid dictatorship, engaged in massive atrocities and showed almost no mercy to their defeated adversaries.

  • The best, and I think most objective, historian of the Spanish Civil War and the Franco regime is Stanley Payne.

    https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=stanley+g.+payne

    Warren Carroll’s The Last Crusade is not a bad book on the first year of the Spanish Civil War. He is obviously completely in sympathy with the Nationalists, but his work is a useful corrective to many other historians of the War who are completely in sympathy with the forces of the Left.

    http://www.amazon.com/Last-Crusade-Warren-H-Carroll/dp/0931888670/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1266418125&sr=8-1

  • What Donald said about the post-war executions. Franco was not merciful. That his enemies would have been no more merciful had they triumphed is no absolution.

    Alas, it is highly likely that the executions were popular with the Nationalist population at large. A grandson of Spanish Nationalists was an exchange student at my high school, and was delighted to give me the Nationalist perspective on the Civil War. He mentioned that the Republicans had brutally murdered his great uncle and, IIRC, some other members of his family. The exchange student still hated the Republicans, flipping a picture of “La Pasionaria” the bird.

  • “The exchange student still hated the Republicans, flipping a picture of “La Pasionaria” the bird.”

    I would have joined him in that Dale! “La Pasionaria” was a real piece of work. By the end of the Civil War almost all families in Spain, including Franco’s, had a member of the family who had been murdered by the other side. Most of the victims executed by the Nationalists probably had committed hideous crimes. The true injustice of course is that no such justice was ever visited on the Nationalist victors in this world.

  • Excellent links.

    I like reading objective history. Especially when it is on a favorite subject of mine like the Spanish Civil War.

  • My wife is going to be upset with y’all because I won’t take responsibility for all the books that I just put in my Amazon cart that y’all referenced.

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Abortion, Capital Punishment and War, One of these things is not like the other

Friday, November 27, AD 2009

Ed Stoddard of Reuters’ religion blog Faithworld carries a roundup of the skirmish between Congressman Patrick Kennedy, the son of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, has claimed that Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin.

In conclusion, Stoddard asks:

This leads to a question about the consistency of views in the U.S. Catholic Church leadership. The Church opposes abortion and therefore liberal politicians who support abortion rights risk being refused communion. The Church supports a healthcare overhaul that would make the system more equitable. So does a conservative Catholic politician who opposes this reform risk being denied communion for ignoring the Catholic social teaching that justifies it?

How about support for capital punishment, which the Vatican says is unjustified in almost all possible cases, or for war? In the build-up to the Iraq war, Pope John Paul was so opposed to the plan that he sent a personal envoy to Washington to argue against it. Did bishops threaten any measures against Catholic politicians who energetically supported that war despite Vatican opposition?

The author’s questions reveal an elementary ignorance concerning the moral issues in question and their relationship to varying levels of Church teaching. While I am disappointed by his answer (Faithworld is generally one of the better and more educational “religion blogs” in the secular media), it is understandable — as even many Catholics find themselves confused on this matter.

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33 Responses to Abortion, Capital Punishment and War, One of these things is not like the other

  • Thanks for this excellent clarification, Chris.

    It’s going on my facebook 🙂

  • What about Justice Scalia who not only disagrees with the prudential judgment of our bishops on capital punishment but rejects Church teaching on the matter entirely?

    Also, as pro-choicers like to point out, there’s a difference between supporting abortion and supporting abortion rights. Can’t one accept Church teaching on abortion and still believe that criminalization is bad? Isn’t the legal status of abortion a matter of prudential judgment? I realize that this still doesn’t apply to Rep. Kennedy who not only supports keeping abortion legal but also supports promotion through subsidies.

    And can’t some prudential judgments concerning capital punishment or war be so obviously correct no reasonable person can oppose it without supporting the underlying evil? For example, suppose Obama stated that we’re waging war against Canada to raid their natural resources.

  • “Also, as pro-choicers like to point out, there’s a difference between supporting abortion and supporting abortion rights. Can’t one accept Church teaching on abortion and still believe that criminalization is bad? Isn’t the legal status of abortion a matter of prudential judgment?”

    The distinction between supporting abortion and supporting abortion “rights” is completely fallacious. That is akin to attempting to argue a distinction between being pro-slavery and supporting the “right” to own a slave. As to criminalization of abortion Catholics are required by the Catechism to support that:

    “2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:
    ‘The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.'(79)

    ‘The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights.’ (80)”

  • I understand what Restrainedradical means — sometimes it seems reasonable to concede the legal matter (abortion is legal) and work on the practical one (getting people to stop aborting, or to not get pregnant). But that’s where prudence comes in. That approach has not worked, any more than (per D. McClarey’s example) attempts to get slave owners to give up their slaves worked when slavery was legal. Concentrating on the practical matters only ensures (barring a widespread change in social mores) they will continue as they are.

    All those practical things should be done, of course, because that’s all that most people CAN do. But it is a fallacy to think that because a thing has been declared legal, it is therefore right. Unjust laws can and should be repealed. People who make and influence legislation have a different obligation than the rest of us when it comes to action. We can and should work on the practical matters that are in our power, but we should also demand the legislative action that is within the LEGISLATORS’ power, and they have a moral obligation to do something about it. If a law is unjust, and a legislator does nothing about it, then is that legislator not guilty of perpetuating injustice and, in the case of abortion, murder?

    If we were talking about apartheid, wouldn’t we agree that the legislators had an obligation to end it, even if it were difficult and unpopular?

  • Ditto and amen to Gail’s, Donald’s and Christopher’s points above. Much like the ridiculous, one-sided “debate” b/w Chris Matthews and Bishop Tobin, the entire specious argument of “should women who procure an abortion be put in jail?” betrays a logical fallacy in thought. Nobody who makes that argument would ever make a similar one against women’s right to vote, legalized slavery, etc. And the ones who don’t recognize the difference b/w an intrisic evil like abortion and Just War or even the judicious use of the death penalty would also never make such an argument “defending” those who make the decisions to apply the death penalty or to prosecute a Just War.

    For the amateur philosophers out there, what kind of logical fallacy is the one that such wishy-washy “pro-lifers” use, namely the one we’ve all mentioned here on this thread? I’m no logician, but even I recognize that such thinking must be the result of some logical fallacy!

  • I’d like to clarify that Justice Scalia doesn’t reject Church teaching on the death penalty, he rejects the recent stand– counter to, in his phrasing, the “2,000-year-old tradition of the church approving capital punishment”— where various members of the leadership claim that the death penalty isn’t needed to protect society.

    This is solidly inside of prudential judgment, although it has (of course) been very poorly reported. Ton o’info here, including a response from Justice Scalia and a defense of the Justice by Cardinal Avery Dulles. (who does not agree with him)

  • I’d like to clarify that Justice Scalia doesn’t reject Church teaching on the death penalty, he rejects the recent stand– counter to, in his phrasing, the “2,000-year-old tradition of the church approving capital punishment”– where various members of the leadership claim that the death penalty isn’t needed to protect society.

    Exactly. As Cardinal Dulles himself emphasized the prudential nature of the disagreement:

    As to the Pope’s assertion that the death penalty should today be rare, I would reaffirm, against Justice Scalia, that this is to be understood as an exercise of the Pope’s prudential judgment. “Prudential” has a technical theological meaning with which Justice Scalia seems not to be familiar. It refers to the application of Catholic doctrine to changing concrete circumstances. Since the Christian revelation tells us nothing about the particulars of contemporary society, the Pope and the bishops have to rely on their personal judgment as qualified spiritual leaders in making practical applications. Their prudential judgment, while it is to be respected, is not a matter of binding Catholic doctrine. To differ from such a judgment, therefore, is not to dissent from Church teaching.

    It is of course possible to hold, with Justice Scalia, that the Pope is imprudent. Catholics are not obliged by their faith to hold that their pastors are always prudent. I personally agree with the Pope that the death penalty should be very rarely, if ever, applied in the United States today. In saying this I do not rely only on “steady improvements in the organization of the penal system,” the motive mentioned by the Pope. I would add that limitations and deficiencies in the penal system create a danger of miscarriages of justice. In our society, moreover, the death penalty is often seen as an instrument of popular vindictiveness and retaliation rather than of divine justice, since the transcendent order of justice is not generally recognized. The practice of capital punishment also reinforces that disrespect for human life which is all too prevalent in our society. For these and other reasons, I would be reluctant to approve of the death penalty except in cases of rare and prudential judgment assisted by the wisdom of the duly appointed pastors of the Church.

    And agreed with Scalia, that John Paul II’s intention was not to overturn traditional Catholic teaching on the death penalty:

    Like Justice Scalia, I doubt that the older tradition is reversible, but even if it were, I contend any ecclesiastical authority reversing it would have to propose the new doctrine with great emphasis and show why the older position is no longer tenable. In fact, however, the Pope says nothing against the traditional doctrine.

  • In my view, the greatest penalties ought to be reserved for the abortionist himself and whatever propagandists or pushers he might have at his disposal.

    I also don’t think a woman should be punished for abortion until an investigation into the father of her child’s status is conducted, due to the high number of coerced abortions.

    Hysterical liberals like Chris Matthews and NARAL promote the fantasy that every abortion is some kind of feminist triumph over patriarchy. The reality is that many abortions are coerced – the father has threatened the mother with violence, or with abandonment. Or her own parents have done the same.

    In the end, someone must be held responsible. But I don’t believe it should always be the woman who gets the abortion. And this we must make absolutely clear. Too many women who end up in the abortion clinic are themselves victims.

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  • Boo-Hoo for whomever is “responsible”, what we still have is A DEAD INNOCENT CHILD.

    With respect to the tradition of the Church on Capital punishment.

    There are serious fissures in the Catholic Church over traditions, that can be argued were “reversed” in Vatican II, so poo-poo on that Scalian argument, thus you have the discontinuity and continuity problems with many kinds of quasi-schismatic Catholics.

    Perhaps the Church needs a much more comprehensive revaluation than just what it is talking with the SSPX about. Perhaps Catholics in the United States need to see things in a BIGGER picture as well.

  • That is akin to attempting to argue a distinction between being pro-slavery and supporting the “right” to own a slave.

    Or being pro-war and supporting the right to wage war. There is a difference.

    As to criminalization of abortion Catholics are required by the Catechism to support that

    Thanks.

  • “Or being pro-war and supporting the right to wage war. There is a difference.”

    The analogy to war is telling restrainedradical. The Church acknowledges just war. The Church does not acknowledge a just abortion. It is also possible to support the right to wage war while being opposed to individual instances of war. Once someone is pro the “right” to have an abortion, the ability then to oppose instances of abortion goes out the window due to the support of a “right” to abortion.

  • Maybe a more fitting analogy would be “Or being pro-murder and supporting the right to murder. There is a difference.”

    Perhaps “Or being pro-rape and supporting the right to rape. There is a difference.”

  • This moral hierarchy you are discussing is imperceptible to most modern thinkers. One of the most unfortunate consequences of political liberalism and the democratic ethos is the overpowering influence of equality. Equality is the fundamental end of our moral thinking and our political life, even when it contradicts justice and charity.

  • Or being pro-obesity and supporting the right to be obese. Or being pro-smoking and supporting the right to smoke.

    A supporter of abortion rights wants abortion to be legal. A supporter of abortion wants to increase the number of abortions.

    Anyway, that’s the pro-choicer’s argument and it does make sense but I too use pro-abortion as shorthand for pro-abortion-rights just as I use pro-death-penalty to describe not only those who want to see more capital punishment but also those who think it should be allowed.

  • “A supporter of abortion rights wants abortion to be legal. A supporter of abortion wants to increase the number of abortions.”

    Not necessarily. Some pro-aborts do want to increase the number of abortions, usually for mercenary or ideological reasons. Others are merely content to have abortion remain legal. In both cases the key agreement is that neither would want any abortion to be prevented by the State, which is what makes them pro-aborts.

  • For this simile to work the thing substituted in has to be not just bad but immoral– war, the death penalty, being fat or being a smoker aren’t inherently immoral.

    Killing babies, committing murder or raping someone are inherently immoral.

  • Some war can potentially be inherently immoral – for example, Cheney’s 1% pre-emptive war doctrine. There may not be definitive pronouncement on it, but I would consider such a position to be very close to, if not actually, inherently immoral.

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  • To clarify I am against abortion! But it seems to me the church in its teachings apriory sets a double standard in at least two ways:
    1) in cases of war and capital punishment the justification for respectful disagreement is in knowledge or presumed knowledge / interpretation of the facts
    In abortion this ” caveat” is denied since the beginning of human life if postulated without any further proof or facts proffered.
    could it be that the abortion is an individual decision and war and capital punishment is a system’s decision , made by the “king”
    according to your response …..“The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.”…..
    Hitler had the responsibility for the common good at least de facto therefor according to your thoughts the Germans really had no further responsibility but to say: The Fuehrer knows best…. ( Well most followed the churches advice? lead ? and said Sieg! Heil!)
    May be this is the foundation to Hochhuth’s novel The Deputy
    I think the Catholic Church should move away from its over reliance on legal maneuvers and learned logical reasoning and return to its roots which seem to me to require to make firm moral stands and demand firm moral comittments, especially where life and death questions are involved, regardless of the costs to itself or its members. Anything short of this, degrades it into a mere club
    Revelations come to mind: But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you… .(Rev3:16)

  • With regards to the determination of moral criteria, the Catechism maintains “The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.”

    to my knowledge throughout history there never was an unjust war in the eyes of those who started it and have been at the time “responsibility for the common good” as you call it.
    This makes the Just War Theory a practical sham , without any significance for the people. It also is insulting to our intelligence and smells of the discontinued practice of the “Index”

  • …You’re really not even trying to understand the arguments, are you?

    If you really are, please try to say what, exactly, you’re having trouble with– I’d be pleased to try to help you understand it.

  • I thought the argument is pretty clear.
    there seem to be two standards in taking a life. One is ( in the case of abortion) to be on the safe side and and postulate when life starts since it cannot start any earlier than with conception therefor that’s when its starts . We have no proof for it but rather err on the possibility that it might start there. Fair and good, i fully support this.
    In the other two cases – capital punishment, war a different standard is invoked. It seems to me this is clearly expressed in the phrase given earlier ( (paraphrased)….the Prosecuting attorney can respectfully disagree with the Church on individual case of capital punishment….
    In this case a life can be taken even if the judgment of the person involved turns out to be wrong.
    In case of war there are 2 points , to my humble opinion involved:
    1) again the parties involved respectfully agree to dis agree and this is morally justified … Well we are all humans and mistakes are made….
    since never in history the aggressor felt the war was not absolutely necessary the whole just war theory became a mute subject it est meaningless
    2) Your argument that the moral decision should be left to the proper authorities seems to me to patronize any believer who is not in power. this leads to my comments regarding Germany etc.
    what is important to the argument here however is the willingness to agree to respectfully disagree
    This in my opinion is a double standard and is probably based on political considerations as it can be demonstrated throughout much of history ( especially since Constantin)
    What I think the stand of the Church should and has to be is consistent. Since I think the stance of the church and beginning of life is the prudent decision the same principles should apply to the other two cases. Anything short of this smells of intellectual dishonesty.
    By the way, in arguing this case I don’t think the Catechism can be invoked since the argument is consistency in reasoning the cases and not what the cases actually say.
    I thank you for your interest in setting me straight.

  • Innocent life vs non-innocent life.

    There’s no justification for me walking into a mall and shooting someone; there is a justification for me shooting a guy who is trying to kill me.

    We have no proof for it but rather err on the possibility that it might start there.

    Scientifically speaking, conception is the start of life– an embryo is a unique organism from the mother, while an egg or sperm cell is not. We don’t know when that organism gets a soul— but then, we’re guessing that you or I have a soul, as well.

    since never in history the aggressor felt the war was not absolutely necessary the whole just war theory became a mute subject it est meaningless

    Highly improbable. Beyond that the just war theory doesn’t just say whoever starts it has to think it’s needful, even with my horrible history education I can think of wars that were started for advantage, not need. I seem to remember Bismarck was famous for them– he had a tactical goal, expansion/reuniting Germany, but that’s not absolute necessity.

    Your argument that the moral decision should be left to the proper authorities seems to me to patronize any believer who is not in power.

    1)”It’s patronizing” isn’t a refutation of an argument.
    2) Hitler did have a responsibility for the public good. He did not fulfill that responsibility, needless to say.

    In human interactions there will always be leaders and followers– that’s the only way there can be cooperation. If there are leaders, they have to be able to lead– especially in the case of large organizations, it’s not possible for everyone to have all the information and properly assimilate it, and get everything else done.

    Life is highly valuable. What, then, does your notion of consistency make of those lives who try to take lives?
    Should those who are innocent be slaughtered at will by those who are not, simply because we’re all valuable– or is killing, as a last resort of defense, acceptable?

    By the way, in arguing this case I don’t think the Catechism can be invoked since the argument is consistency in reasoning the cases and not what the cases actually say.

    I try not to quote the Catechism unless the topic is what the Church believes– even if what I end up saying is simply a rephrasing of what it says. If someone agrees, then there’s no argument– and if they don’t, why cite something they disagree with to try to change their mind?

  • You dodged the topic by starting your defense with innocent versus non innocent life this does not seem to me a serious attempt to set me straight. May be that is not your intent?
    patronizing is a remark that is used in my opinion to indicate that the argument lacks substance and is movind into areas of emotional domination not a good thing to do in an argument.
    The Hitler example does not focus on Hitler but on the obligation of the Germans as suggested by your argument.
    Actually the historic response by the Germans can by justified with your argument. And by extension the dire consequences

    Life is highly valuable. What, then, does your notion of consistency make of those lives who try to take lives?
    Should those who are innocent be slaughtered at will by those who are not, simply because we’re all valuable– or is killing, as a last resort of defense, acceptable?
    Again this is not the argument. The question is are we consistent in our moral judgement
    take the Iraq war; it was deemed and turned out to be an unjust war , however you claim a different mechanism for the individual , up to the pope himself, than for the decision of abortion or euthanasia. What i am arguing for is that the same methods and principles are applied. After that we can start to talk about innocent life versus not innocent life.
    This latter discussion might prove even thornier than the first, especially if one allows for biblical guidance.

    I try not to quote the Catechism unless the topic is what the Church believes– even if what I end up saying is simply a rephrasing of what it says. If someone agrees, then there’s no argument– and if they don’t, why cite something they disagree with to try to change their mind?
    It might be that I see inconsistencies in the catechism and I said I might not that I necessarily did.
    In that case it would be good to grapple with the passage instead quoting it as gospel which it is not.
    I guess I subscribe to the motto Schiller coined in his poem “Die Glocke” what you have inherited from your fathers earn it in order to own it.
    this – I suppose – means grapple intellectually with it in order to understand it. It does not have much value intellectual or moral if one just accepts it without an earnest attempt towards understanding to ones capabilities. I think this would be demeaning to the human dignity.
    I still hope you will take the time and effort in truly showing me the light, since despite of what I wrote I feel the topic is much deeper and important than we both touch upon this far.
    thank you in advance for your effort.

  • You dodged the topic by starting your defense with innocent versus non innocent life this does not seem to me a serious attempt to set me straight.

    You seem to be dodging the topic by not seeing a difference between killing without cause and killing in defense.

    That’s what just war and the death penalty boils down to– it’s a nation-sized case of self defense.

    If you support self defense by individuals, but not by leaders on behalf of those they have responsibilities towards– or, more so, if you support defense on behalf of one’s children, but not on behalf of one’s citizens– then the lack of consistency lies with you.

    Actually the historic response by the Germans can by justified with your argument.

    A bold claim; so justify it, using my arguments.

    In that case it would be good to grapple with the passage instead quoting it as gospel which it is not.

    You’re getting off topic, reindl. You stated that I should not “invoke” the CCC because you disagree with it, and I did not quote the CCC.

    ((On the side– you can make it easier to read what you’re replying to by using < brackets around I and /I to trigger italics.))

  • Thank you for the suggestion I will try to use it, but I do not quite understand your hints Do you mean:
    I will try this!

    We are arguing two different things
    I am NOT touching the subject Killing versus not Killing.
    the subject – as I see it – is the way killing is justified in principle.
    in abortion case it is easy to argue not to kill no problem!!
    In case of war there might be the justification to as you call it self defense etc. the problem arises to determine when it is Justified.
    You seem to say in this case it depends on all sorts of things completely beyond the capabilities of the lay person , because he or she is incompetent.
    (that is where the patronizing comes in by the way)
    if that is the case however it is the Church’s responsibility to educate and support the “flock of sheep” so they can make the right moral choice. If the church is incapable of doing so it should say so.
    That it is possible for lay persons to make the right choice can be seen in the case of Franz Jaegerstaetter who resisted serving Hitler and was beheaded for his pains. he did this against his bishops advice ( Bishop of Linz Austria)who used precisely the argument you are using and urged him to serve in Hitler’s army.
    I am certain you are aware that the Church has beatified F.Jaegerstaetter proving him justified or right and his bishop or your argument wrong.

    I also would like to remind you that you intended to explain things to me. I am only raising questions and from me perceived inconsistencies


    You misunderstood me, I did not mean to imply that you cannot use the ccc as you call it, what I meant was that you would have , or should argue the points from first principles. I apologize for the mis-understanding.

    I am still looking forward to your responses to my original arguments. The ” stuff” in between as far as I am concerned was an attempt on my part to clarify my side of the argument and to give you enough info to refute correct … it as you please and can.
    Let me point out that I am trying to argue a Moral/ethical point that could be perceived as being “to the right” of your position as I perceive it now (if it would be a political debate of course)
    As always thank you for your interest

  • I tried to quote a passage of yours but it did not work I am too ignorant in these and of course also other matters If you could give me some more detailed instructions I would appreciate it. Thank you.

  • Use I to start, and /i to end.

    In case of war there might be the justification to as you call it self defense etc. the problem arises to determine when it is Justified.

    If you agree that it is ever justified, then your complaint that allowing the death penalty is inconsistent, due to allowing killing, is invalid. It becomes a matter of you not agreeing where the line is drawn, rather than if the line should be drawn at all.

  • You are avoiding the argument. I like you to comment on the Jaegerstaetter example I gave , as it is pertinent to this discussion. The argument was not whether killing might be allowed or not the argument IS to determine within a morally consistent framework when killing is allowed and it expanded – the argument that is – to who is allowed or has to make these choices.
    Please use the Iraq example I gave the pope determined that the just war theorem indicate that the looming – at that time- war would be unjust. Yet after the war started there was no further comment that participating in a unjust war – according to the just war theorem – is tantamount to murder.
    It is at that point that moral inconsistencies arise
    because murder is murder if nothing else killing a conscious being adds torture to the act of murder which – if one has to /wants to categorize these things-. The torture part comes with the fear and realization that you have to die I presume , never had to do it myself-.
    I think the abortion/ war/ capital punishment/… debate goes much deeper since there are corollaries to all this. And it are these corollaries that , in a practical sense might be even less palatable to us as a society than the results of the Killing argument.
    In any event I think any relativism in arguing the case should be avoided otherwise anything goes and the result is strictly utilitarian devoid of any claim to
    morality. one has to be able to argue the case consistently and continuously starting with abortion if you like and ending with war if you like.
    I am sure you understand what I mean.
    You asked in the beginning whether I am serious. I think this is and has been the defining challenge for the Church in the last and undoubtedly this century.
    The Church seemed to have failed its test during WW1 and WW2 (as well as many other conflicts thereafter. (see Jaegerstaetter example consider it a case study)
    But this does not mean we cannot remedy our transgressions in the future.
    Splitting up the argument of killing or shall I say murder – which would be unjustified killing and which would equally apply to abortion and war – certain wars etc into separately compartments to my mind is a moral dodge and with it makes our whole stand immoral one acts morally or does not.
    A murderer does not always have to kill in order to create immense suffering. it enough if he does it only in one case and not the other.
    thanks for the info on writing . the following is just a test so please ignore it.
    i test test test /i

  • Your original argument was that by differentiating between murder and abortion on one hand, and war and capital punishment on the other, there is a “double standard” in place.

    You futher claimed that, due to war and capital punishment being decided by the “system” or a “king,” Hitler was somehow justified.

    If you cannot manage to hold to your own argument and feel the need to accuse those who do of dodging the topic, I have no further time for you.

  • Sorry you feel that way

    I do have to respond to your interpretation – insinuation that:

    You futher claimed that, due to war and capital punishment being decided by the “system” or a “king,” Hitler was somehow justified.

    I never claimed that . What i did say is:
    IF your interpretation that responsibility for moral decision is vested in those of proper authority THEN
    The Germans where justified to line up behind their Fuehrer I think quite a bit different from your interpretation
    Unfortunately as in many of these discussions it often turns out that folks are not really interested in finding out or letting others find out the “Truth” or their truth and try to explain it in logical and dispassionate ways.
    It seems they are more interested in formulas than arguments and convictions ( I don’t mean just adopted beliefs) they can be passionate enough to defend.
    It was not me who offered to set me straight remember.
    the task obvious became too difficult
    Thank you for your time

  • a bit different from your interpretation

    No, it isn’t. Your argument against there being a difference between war and abortion was exactly as I stated.

    Unfortunately as in many of these discussions it often turns out that folks are not really interested in finding out or letting others find out the “Truth” or their truth and try to explain it in logical and dispassionate ways.

    Exactly why I am not going to waste any further time, barring some sign of actual interest in information– as opposed to dancing from claim to claim, then accusing those responding to you of “avoiding the argument.”

    If you admit any instance where self defense, unto death, is admissible– then you commit the same “inconsistency” you accuse the Church of committing. You may draw the line in a different spot, but still admit the difference exists.

    It seems they are more interested in formulas than arguments and convictions ( I don’t mean just adopted beliefs) they can be passionate enough to defend.

    A logical argument is a formula.
    And there is no inherent exclusion of conviction in an adopted belief, let alone an exclusion of passion in adopted beliefs.

    It was not me who offered to set me straight remember.

    Amazingly, it was not I who offered to set you straight, either; I offered, if you were truly trying to understand, to attempt to aid you in understanding. The latter has happened, but the prior is in doubt.

Support the Troops- Here's One Way

Monday, July 13, AD 2009

The idea of supporting the troops is not one where you find a whole lot of argument. Of course in the Vietnam era there are the stories of how hippies used to spit on servicemen, calling them “baby killers”. I’ve heard that scenario repeated so many times, I’m starting to wonder if this reaction was really so widespread, or if it got an urban legend boost at some point. I’m sure this type of thing happened, I was too young to take in the riots, the protests against the Vietnam War to fully appreciate the dynamic of the times. But in any case, we are now pretty much united in the notion that while a given war may be unjust, we don’t blame the average man or woman in uniform. In fact, we seek ways to honor or show respect for them, even if we are seeking to end the conflict in which they are engaged. This is a good thing on the whole.

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109 Responses to Support the Troops- Here's One Way

  • I think anyone who suspects they might have moral qualms about fighting in a war is crazy to sign up for our all volunteer military. Best if they choose another career. As for spitting on troops, yes, it did happen.

    http://www.bizzyblog.com/2007/03/01/the-vietnam-no-spitting-on-soldiers-occurred-myth-jim-lindgren-piles-on-yours-truly-adds-a-little/

  • It’s the height of hypocracy to disagree with the war but to “support the troops” at the same time. The troops are the ones conducting the war! As we learned at the Nuremburg Trials, the excuse, “I was just following orders”, is not valid, especially from a Catholic perspective, as it negates an individual’s conscience in making decisions.

    There is also a HUGE difference in national defense and what is currently happening today, waging aggressive, interventionist wars that have nothing to do with legitimate self-defense.

  • Here’s the thing- someone may sign up for the armed services after something like 9-11 with the comprehension that the nation will probably go to war with an aggressive state or terrorist organization- and then the political class decides to divert or take advantage of the chaos to start up an unjust war that has nothing to do with the original pretext for which the young soldier signed up for action.

    This is pretty much how I see what happened with the Iraq invasion- it was a betrayal on many levels- but on one level it was a betrayal of those men and women who signed up for military service after 9-11, and then somehow found themselves in Iraq, not Afghanistan chasing Bin Laden. There must be some provision for the conscience in such circumstances, if we are a Nation under God, we must respect that if our soldiers have the right to their conscience, they will be another check on the powers that decide to war or not to war. It is then the responsibility of the elders, to take cues from Mother Church, and educate the young and help form their consciences correctly, so they may see through the sometimes wicked designs of those in power.

    So no- I disagree that someone who even suspects they may have moral qualms about fighting in war is crazy to sign up in a volunteer military- if that is the case then no one in their right mind and heart should ever sign up for the military- if their conscience is to be forfeited so completely. There is a higher contract between Man and God- to deny our soldiers a conscience-clause at any point in his/her career is to make that person into a mere weapon of the state- too often a weapon in the hands of one man- the president (and his chosen advisors). How dehumanizing.

  • I’ve heard that scenario repeated so many times, I’m starting to wonder if this reaction was really so widespread, or if it got an urban legend boost at some point.

    Three uncles had it happen to them, when they got off the plane home. One of them was on his way back because his swift boat had been blown up, and he was the only survivor– woke up holding his buddy’s hand. The rest of his buddy was on the other side of the river.

    It wasn’t hippies. It was normal looking people, mostly.

  • Ok- I accept that the stories coming out of the Vietnam era are accurate- that was a side point setting the stage for my central thesis- any takers pro or con on my proposal- and if anyone has information on the legalities currently in play for service members who refuse immoral orders or who chose to conscientiously object to a new conflict that comes up after they have volunteered and signed a contract with the Armed Services- I would appreciate that update.

    I would only add that instead of just terminating the contracts of those soldiers who disagree with the moral status of say the invasion of Iraq for example- that they may continue on in public service- for example to serve out their time helping the nation or internationally with disaster relief, fighting fires, and the like- I believe that those who join the military are usually motivated to no small degree by a solid sense of patriotism and public service- the fact that they want nothing to do with an unjust military conflict is actually a big indicator of their moral fortitude, not some failure of patriotic duty- quite the opposite- unjust military actions only undermine the health and well-being of any nation.

  • It’s the military, not social services.

    If folks can claim a “moral objection” to fighting and thus get out of fighting, you’ll just have leaches sign up to get the bennies without the danger. Same thing happened when they use to have the policy of female sailors with children never having to work on ships.

    Those who refuse unlawful orders have to be very, very sure they’re unlawful– if they’re right, they’re in the clear; if they’re not, they’re in jail.
    If you’re sure enough to risk the lives of fellow soldiers, sailors and Marines in refusing an immoral order, you’d better be sure enough to risk some jail time.

  • No one is addressing the source point of my proposal- the Catholic social doctrine- it seems there is no meeting ground in Catholic circles if there is no coherent attempt to base one’s views on a Catholic principle derived from natural law or divine revelation. I’m not talking about “unlawful orders”, I am talking about immoral orders- the law is what needs to be changed to address the right to conscience protection- for the sake of us all. And the military does more than just fight, they are often called to do things like disaster relief- see the National Guard, and how in international crises many times it is military personnel performing “social services” to those in desperate need.

    Yes, you have the possibility of individuals abusing the spirit of selective conscientious objection- but the alternative is one that removes a critical right and responsibility to follow one’s developed Catholic conscience- if one is Catholic- I thought this was supposed to be a Catholic forum?

  • The irony, of course, is that some of the same people who called US troops ‘baby killers’ were also most vocal for legal abortion.

    That said, our soldiers did engage in atrocities in Vietnam. To look the other way is not patriotism, but moral cowardice.

  • Some atrocities Joe, but consideration should be given that for the enemy we were fighting, the NVA and the Viet Cong, My Lai type massacres were an everyday occurence. Unlike our opponents, American troops were subject to prosecution for such activities. It should also be kept in mind that the vast majority of Americans served honorably in Vietnam and more than a few helped the civilian population of South Vietnam in building schools, churches, temples, bridges, hospitals etc.
    http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq67-5.htm

    Of course the Catholics of Vietnam suffer from bitter persecution still from the Communist government, something that would not be occuring today if the US and South Vietnam had won the Vietnam War.

  • Yes, you have the possibility of individuals abusing the spirit of selective conscientious objection- but the alternative is one that removes a critical right and responsibility to follow one’s developed Catholic conscience- if one is Catholic- I thought this was supposed to be a Catholic forum?

    I think that the tension we’d see here from a Catholic point of view (and which people are expressing above) is between the need for the rule of law balanced against the primacy of the conscience.

    On the one hand, “I was under orders” is not an excuse for committing a grave moral evil. On the other, if people only obey orders when they think it’s a good idea, then the whole concept of authority breaks down completely.

    Theologians have struggled with this over the centuries, include St. Thomas Aquinas, who argued that one was generally required to obey even wrongful laws and orders — the fault landing upon the giver of the law. In truly grievous matters, however, one must refuse to obey and suffer the consequences.

    Here is where, I think, the legitimate argumentation on how these issues should be replied in regards to the military come in. On the one hand, the military will at times involve situations where immediate obedience is very important to preserving the lives and safety of many other people. It is, thus, very important that authority itself not be broken down.

    And yet, clearly, from a Catholic point of view it’s is not desirable that people be forced to do things contrary to their conscience.

    While different people are going to his different balance points on this, I think it’s certainly not out of line for a Catholic to argue that it is acceptable for the potential consequences for disobeying orders to be very severe — and rely upon the judgment of a court of inquiry as to whether the soldier in question was indeed being ordered to do something wrong.

  • Theologians have struggled with this over the centuries, include St. Thomas Aquinas, who argued that one was generally required to obey even wrongful laws and orders — the fault landing upon the giver of the law. In truly grievous matters, however, one must refuse to obey and suffer the consequences.

    While different people are going to his different balance points on this, I think it’s certainly not out of line for a Catholic to argue that it is acceptable for the potential consequences for disobeying orders to be very severe — and rely upon the judgment of a court of inquiry as to whether the soldier in question was indeed being ordered to do something wrong.

    Bingo.

    I really wish folks would stop assuming that those who don’t agree with them were ignoring the Catholic Church’s teachings, though– unless it’s as black and white as the abortion issue, it’s a heck of a big assumption. It really doesn’t do anything but make folks less likely to listen to what I really hope are your good-faith arguments.

  • Good- The post by DarwinCatholic is getting to the higher ground. I can see the twin demands of justice for the need for authority lines to be intact and for the individual conscience to be a check on that authority. Now how do we string together these two demands in a functioning society?

    I do think that there should be an opt out when it comes to a new war scenario that pops up down the road from when a young person signs up to serve in the military. Like I said, if Catholics had stood up within the military to beg off participating in the Iraq invasion- wow- what a witness to the nation and the world that would have been- but few have access to good parents, teachers and pastors, who would deliver the Magisterium views to the young- and most “elders” are simply afraid to be seen as unpatriotic- so the political elite have little problem in pursuing wars good or bad- at least in the beginning.

    So- I do think that there should be a pretty open process for selective conscientious objection to going to particular war- and they should have the option to serving in some capacity that is of benefit to society like I mentioned above with disaster relief or prep, fire fighting, etc.. This could be a clearly written law.

    As for choosing to disobey specific commands in a war that the soldier agrees is just, this would have to be handeled much, much more delicately- given that someone might pull out the conscience clause out of cowardice or some other negative motivation. So- what to do? There needs to be a thorough list drawn up of possible scenarios that may apply for conscience protection- the rules of engagement should be clear for all soldiers- from the top-down. There is nothing new under the sun, so with all the wars fought in the past, we can foresee most if not all the kinds of things that must never be done- not even in war. Targeting civilians is terrorism- the grey zone is when you have cold calculations of civilian deaths as collateral damage- this is something that requires a lot more soul-searching than we have had as a nation up to now. As well the use of landmines and weapons of mass destruction need to be addressed. And of course- torture- and what constitutes torture from a practical application point of view. Geneva conventions, international law and such are relevant here.

    Now if someone disobeys and order that is the result of his/her laziness or fear or some such thing, there must be a tribunal that can sort that out- and be well known so that individual soldiers are clear about what the conscience protections are all about- and what they are not about. All of this is premised upon an educated populace and sophisticated military command and informed rank and file service men/women.

    I would compare this to the conscience protections we demand for health care professionals- they shouldn’t be told- hey abortion and contraception is perfectly legal- if you want to be a doc, a nurse, a pharmacist et al, you better be prepared to dispense/perform/refer these type of medical options to patients. Well- we don’t agree with this as Catholics do we? Well, I would put soldiering in a similar category- we shouldn’t be excluded from the ranks of the military just because we may have some real objections to some future order or war the rest of our brethren are being charged with carrying out. Catholics are the Salt- we must be a stinging example for the community sometimes- we are not to hide out in the woods, the Church has citizenship status now, and all that comes with it.

  • You assume we all agree with you that the Iraqi war is immoral. (we being Catholics in the military at the time of the Iraqi war)

    That’s a very big assumption, especially as it has now been over six years– the longest standard contract I know of– and there hasn’t been a huge number of Catholics leaving the military “because the Iraqi war is immoral.”

  • You are right – but I don’t get it- and I am not proud that Catholics are no different from the rest of the population when it comes to wars like Iraq, or abortions, contraception, or whatever- all it proves to me is that there is a huge disconnect between the Church’s teachings and official leadership, and the majority of lay and religious Catholics in this country. If I am wrong I hope to God that Jesus Christ will show me through the purgatorial process how I got off-track and should’ve seen that invading Iraq was the honorable thing to do, and that maybe abortion reduction policies were enough, and fighting for national legal status for the unborn was imprudent and unconstitutional- if I am wrong- I want some indication from above- I don’t want to be alienated from the packs on the Right and the Left- but at present my conscience does not feel clean if I don’t disagree publicly with many things going on in our society. I do like Joe Hargrave for the most part however!

    On some issues we can agree to disagree- but when innocent human lives are ended as a consequence to some policy decision or another- you can expect that the agreement will be one made through clenched teeth, and the fight for the truth will go on until Jesus himself will have to separate us and instruct us on who was right and who was wrong, and why, and how much culpability we each have for the decisions we made in this life. I don’t want to win arguments, I want to save lives, and address injustices past and present- to improve the world for the next generation.

  • I have yet to understand the gall of such Catholics who go to the extent of visciously characterizing the Iraq War as something so heinous and immoral when you consider the fact that it essentially overthrew an abominably ignoble regime which committed unspeakable acts of murder not only countless innocents of its citizenry but also family members too.

    Just because for certain Catholics, it didn’t satisfy the formal requirements of the Just War doctrine doesn’t necessarily mean that the toppling of such tyrannical forces inimical to Good and wont to take hundreds of innocent lives is itself an atrociously immoral act.

  • E,

    When two of those “certain Catholis” include the current and former pope, I think we have grounds for thinking such.

    “I have yet to understand the gall of such Catholics who go to the extent of visciously characterizing the Iraq War as something so heinous and immoral when you consider the fact that it essentially overthrew an abominably ignoble regime which committed unspeakable acts of murder not only countless innocents of its citizenry but also family members too.”

    By this criteria it is more immoral to not intervene in any number of places in Africa or Asia where the dictators are actually worse and the loss of life more severe.

    In any case, basic Catholic morality says that evil may not be done even if good will come of it. If the reasons for going to war are wrong, then the good side-effects can’t later be invoked as a justification.

    And if I’m wrong then the Catechism as I understand it makes no sense and I’m in the wrong religion.

  • I think you’d find, Joe, that the same Catholics who don’t have any problem with serving in the Iraq War would have little problem with following orders to liberate any of those other dictatorships as well.

    It strikes me that one of the basic disagreements among Catholics at this time is whether a war failing to meet the just war criteria necessarily means that participating in it as a soldier is immoral. Shakespeare answers the question thusly:

    KING HENRY V
    …methinks I could not die any where so
    contented as in the king’s company; his cause being
    just and his quarrel honourable.

    WILLIAMS
    That’s more than we know.

    BATES
    Ay, or more than we should seek after; for we know
    enough, if we know we are the kings subjects: if
    his cause be wrong, our obedience to the king wipes
    the crime of it out of us.

    WILLIAMS
    But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath
    a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and
    arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join
    together at the latter day and cry all ‘We died at
    such a place…

    I think there’s a great deal to this, though I’d adopt something of a middle position:

    There are, it seems to me, to different ways one might argue a war fails to meet just war criteria:

    – the war’s aims are actively immoral (e.g. exterminate the Armenians)
    – the war’s aims are essentially admirable, but there is dispute as to whether there might still be some distant hope that the issue could be resolved through other means, or whether the evil being righted is in fact greater than the likely evils of fighting a war, or whether one’s country has the “standing” to be the prosecuting power in a war.

    If the former, I think it would pretty much be one’s duty to be a consciencious objector, and accept whatever suffering came as a result of this.

    If the latter, however, I don’t see that soldiers serving in the war would be morally at fault, though it might be that God’s judgement would rest heavily upon the ruler who made the decision to go to war.

    Now, it seems to me that the US wars in the 20th century over which there is controversy among Catholics as to their justice (WW1, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War, Iraq War) fall very much into this latter category — and so I’m not sure that it’s appropriate to be shocked that there aren’t more Catholic consciencious objectors.

    I tried to cover this in some detail here:

    http://darwincatholic.blogspot.com/2008/02/is-fighting-in-unjust-war-evil.html

  • Joe,

    When two of those “certain Catholis&”; include the current and former pope, I think we have grounds for thinking such.

    With all due respect, the consensus between Two Popes don’t make a right; if such provides a remarkably compelling case, would you want me to submit herein the same between not just two but even a number of morally decadent midiaeval Popes, whose agendas which seemed to serve more worldly matters dictated papal policy and thought then?

    In other words, such things which are not strictly a matter concerning Faith and Morals are those where there can be legitimate diversity of opinion amongst Catholics.

  • I do wish you’d refrain from accusing those of us who disagree with you on the Iraqi war of being in the same level as those promoting abortion.

    It is not, as then-Cardinal Ratzinger even pointed out:
    Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

  • Tim – I think we see very clearly from the reaction to your thoughtful post that folks like Donald simply do not take Catholic just war teaching seriously.

  • Selective conscientious objection is not allowed. I think it’s nothing short of scandalous that this haven’t been an issue in the Iraq war.

    It wouldn’t necessarily render the armed forces ineffective. There’s lots of ways to get around the problem. You can have financial or promotional incentives or adjust the length of service.

    The way I see it, if you can’t get someone to fight voluntarily, it probably isn’t worth fighting for.

    ————–

    I don’t like how “support the troops” is thrown around. What does it mean? If by “support” we mean that we pray that they aren’t killed or maimed and that we should care for the wounded and the families of those killed, then I agree that it’s not controversial. But if by “support” we mean success then I proudly did not support the troops in Iraq. I say that in the past tense because I do support the rebuilding of Iraq.

  • No Catholic Anarchist, “folks like Donald” simply come to a different conclusion when applying the just war teaching. For an application of just war teaching to a conflict by me, I would refer readers to this post:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2009/07/06/a-just-war/

  • From your comments, Catholic Militarist, it is clear that you want Catholic soldiers to leave their consciences at the door when they join up, or that if they foresee themselves as having any “qualms,” they should not join.

    Having moral qualms about killing is part of what makes us human, Catholic Militarist. You want to dehumanize soldiers. Great way to “support the troops,” eh?

  • Catholic Anarchist when you have an all-volunteer military people who have qualms about fighting in wars are not compelled to do so. I think that is great. People who join up on the other hand should clearly realize that there is a very good chance that they will have to go to war. They should not be able to weasel out of their commitment by suddenly proclaiming themselves as opposed to fighting in a war when it is their turn to go. If they feel conscience bound not to do so, they should be willing to be subjected to the legal penalties that apply to such disobedience. The military Catholic Anarchist is not grad school where someone can merely ditch a course if it proves tough. The military is for adults who understand what a commitment is and who are willing to stand behind the oath they took when they joined up.

  • E,

    “In other words, such things which are not strictly a matter concerning Faith and Morals are those where there can be legitimate diversity of opinion amongst Catholics.”

    I never argued otherwise. You were the one who said you didn’t “understand” why so many Catholics were opposed to these wars.

    I’m simply saying that the opposition of the last two Popes probably has something to do with it.

    As for this “faith and morals” line, it is quite tiresome, and I mean no offense. War is a moral issue. Economics is a moral issue. What the “morals” part of “faith and morals” apparently means for some people – and this may or may not include you – is personal morality.

    I say that is an erroneous and narrow understanding of what is encompassed by “morality”. And I think Lumen Gentium, paragraph 25, removes any excuse for not taking the positions of the Papacy seriously:

    “This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.

    Does this mean you may not ever disagree with a Pope? I don’t think so.

    What I do think it means, however, is that it is not the people who agree with the Papacy whose Catholicism ought to be questioned. The burden to reconcile one’s Catholicism with a position one has taken on a political issue ought to rest with the person who is dissenting from the opinion or the teaching of the Church. I think that is reasonable.

  • Michael I. : you once bashed military chaplains and scoffed at Servant of God Fr. Capodanno because the man gave his life in Vietnam ministering to Marines on the battlefield. You would deny soldiers dying on the field Holy Communion and Last Rites. Apparently, they’re unworthy of spiritual solace during the last moments of their lives – they should just die like animals in the mud. And you accuse others of dehumanizing soldiers?

    Like foxfier, I have no idea how a military in which each soldier could pick and choose his own fights could possibly function. It’s a completely untenable idea.

  • Darwin,

    “I think you’d find, Joe, that the same Catholics who don’t have any problem with serving in the Iraq War would have little problem with following orders to liberate any of those other dictatorships as well.”

    I’m sure most of them would not.

    But I reject the notion that the long-term goal of the US government is to “liberate” various peoples from oppression. The history of the 20th century does not support that thesis. The history of US involvement in Iraq does not support that thesis.

    Our own ambassador intimated to Saddam Hussein, before the first Gulf War, that the US would not take a position on a future invasion of Kuwait. Getting Saddam out of the way and securing control of the world’s second largest oil reserves has been a goal of the US government since the Carter Doctrine.

    Before I hear the usual replies, no, securing the oil supply has little if anything to do with oil profits and oil companies, and everything to do with maintaining “full spectrum dominance” as outlined in the Project for a New American Century.

    This is not conspiracy theorizing. These folks are openly and proudly American imperialists, and they were in positions of power for 8 years. Nor is this leftism. Many on the right understand and acknowledge this, such as Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan. This is an acknowledgment of the stated imperial ambitions of the US government and a rejection of them as entirely incompatible with any theory of a just war.

    Even, I must say, an unjust war that inadvertently ends up causing a good thing (the overthrow of a dictator).

    Consider, for instance, if one group of robbers decides to murder and plunder a rich drug dealer. The act is still intrinsically evil, even though it means that the drug dealer will be put out of business, which is in itself a good thing.

  • Yeah, because we went in and took their oil….

    Um…wait, no, we spent blood and gold, and they got to keep the oil.

    Dang, we’re incompetent at this taking over countries thing!

    I suppose the rebuilding in Japan and such is part of our crafty plan? (It did result in some pretty dang cool allies, and we got anime and access to Pocky from the deal, so maybe….)

  • “Our own ambassador intimated to Saddam Hussein, before the first Gulf War, that the US would not take a position on a future invasion of Kuwait.”

    Are you contending Joe that we lured Hussein into invading Kuwait so that we could conquer Iraq? If so, why didn’t we do so at the end of the Gulf War when his army was falling apart?

    As to your argument that the policy of the US was not to liberate people in the last century I beg to differ. Germany, Italy and Japan are functioning democracies. The people of South Korea are not subject to Dear Leader. Iraq is a functioning democracy, albeit with a rocky road ahead of it. The people of Eastern Europe are free of Soviet hegemony. France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Denmark were all freed from the Nazis. China, whatever its other problems, is not a colony of Japan. The list could go on for considerable length.

  • “Yeah, because we went in and took their oil….”

    If you don’t think we have ultimate control as to which companies from which particular countries will have access to that oil, I’d say you were wrong.

    As I clearly said, it is not about oil profits. It is about controlling a vital geostrategic resource, a plan that dates back to – again – the Carter Doctrine.

    “Are you contending Joe that we lured Hussein into invading Kuwait so that we could conquer Iraq?”

    It is a possibility. There is a lot of speculation about April Glaspie’s meeting with Saddam Hussien – different versions of transcripts all suggesting more or less the same thing.

    “If so, why didn’t we do so at the end of the Gulf War when his army was falling apart?”

    Who can say? It is obvious that by the war’s end, the US government decided it wanted Saddam to stay in power, standing by while Saddam suppressed Shiite and Kurdish uprisings (I suppose that all had something to do with “liberation” as well).

    My guess is that it was decided that the destabilization of the area would prove to be more trouble than it was worth. I think the goal has always been to control who has access to the Persian Gulf oil reserves, not necessarily direct appropriation. We know that some of the same people who encouraged the invasion in 2003 also had a better idea of what would happen back in 1991 (they weren’t talking about being greeted as liberators then, but assuming what actually did happen, a decade of sectarian strife).

    Tactics change, but the strategy, I believe, has remained consistent over time.

    “As to your argument that the policy of the US was not to liberate people in the last century I beg to differ. Germany, Italy and Japan are functioning democracies.”

    That is an effect of the war – it was not the purpose, nor the aim of the policy. There is a difference, as I have tried to make clear. Italy went fascist in the early 20s. Japan militarized in the 30s. Conquering them had nothing to do with bringing them democracy. It just so happens that the conqueror imposes his system on the conquered.

    That said, I wouldn’t begrudge WWII – Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan posed serious threats to the future of humanity. Some might disagree but I would call it a just war. I wouldn’t say, however, that it was a war waged with the specific aim of bringing democracy to the conquered countries.

    “The people of South Korea are not subject to Dear Leader.”

    The US supported its own dictator in South Korea, Syngman Rhee.

    “The people of Eastern Europe are free of Soviet hegemony.”

    And the US free of its number one military rival. Effects do not equal policy aims. It’s a lovely coincidence, but there are enough examples where the effects weren’t democracy, but things far worse.

    “The list could go on for considerable length.”

    So could the list of countries and peoples that have suffered terribly as a result of US imperial ambitions, beginning with the Native Americans and ending with the couple million Iraqis that died as a result of sanctions and the invasion.

    No one asked them if they wanted to be liberated. Just like no one asks an unborn baby if it wouldn’t mind a shot at life in spite of having say, an abusive drunk for a father.

  • If you’re utterly wed to the notion that we’re every conspiracy leadership rolled into one, there’s clearly no way I’ll sway your mind.

    If you think that bringing democracy to Iraq was the only reason we went there, I clearly cannot sway your mind.

    If you’re willing to ignore the affirmations that Saddam was a danger that have come out since the end of the war, as under-trumped as they have been, how could I hope to sway your mind?

  • Here is a good on the April Glaspie-Hussein interview prior to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_Glaspie

    Here are the declassified cables that Glaspie sent back to the State Department about the meeting.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/documents/glaspie1-13.pdf?sid=ST2008040203634

  • Our own ambassador intimated to Saddam Hussein, before the first Gulf War, that the US would not take a position on a future invasion of Kuwait. Getting Saddam out of the way and securing control of the world’s second largest oil reserves has been a goal of the US government since the Carter Doctrine.

    Well, that was Hussein’s version of the interaction. I don’t know that I’d consider him a very reliable source on the topic.

    I’d agree that political instability in the Middle East is treated more seriously in other parts of the world, since the ability of some antagonistic regime to choke off the world’s oil supply is seen as a major threat to peace. However, I don’t really by the theory that what we’ve just seen is the wind-up of a twenty year long campaign to set up a puppet regime in Iraq. That fits the facts very poorly indeed.

    This is not conspiracy theorizing. These folks are openly and proudly American imperialists, and they were in positions of power for 8 years. Nor is this leftism. Many on the right understand and acknowledge this, such as Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan.

    As I’ve written in the past, I think there’s some truth to the description of the US being imperial in a certain sense — much the same one as the Roman Republic was. (Nor do I necessarily see that as a bad thing.) However, forgive me if the fact that a theory is endorsed by Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul does not necessarily remove it from the realm of conspiracy theories for me. 😉

    However, even taking it that the US, like the Roman Republic, is imperialistic in the sense of constantly moving on to secure a further horizon, I don’t necessarily see how that makes all its wars unjust.

    Also, I’m not sure that it really works to judge the justice of a war by the motives which a leader may theoretically have at some unspoken level, rather than the stated and obvious aims of the war. For instance, there’s the theory out there (as I recall, at least dallied with by Pat Buchanan) that FDR basically provoked the Japanese into attacking us so that we could get into WW2 and thus become a dominant world power. However, whether this is true or not strikes me as of little relevance to whether WW2 was a just war to participate in — though it might, if true, have something to do with how FDR himself was eventually judged.

    For those of us who are not the ones actually making the decision, the most simple war aims would seem to me to be the relevant ones. In this regard, toppling the Baathist regime in Iraq strikes me as a fairly admirable goal — even if the dark reason for it was in fact that Dick Cheney was once rejected by an Arab girl he asked on a date during college.

  • Fox,

    I’m not some sort of rigid ideologue, ok?

    But I don’t think there is a conspiracy. I think anyone with enough interest can research the development of US foreign policy and its geostrategic thinking, and come to their own conclusions. You can read what PNAC has written – its public.

    It’s sad that we come to think of certain concepts as “conspiracies” only because the majority of the people have not taken the time to simply check what is public knowledge. There is no conspiracy, just an epidemic of ignorance, and I don’t know how to say that without it sounding insulting, though I really don’t mean it to be. Ignorance is simply an absence of knowledge that has nothing to do with intellectual capacity. Very intelligent, thoughtful people support the Iraq war. I don’t think they are bad because of it. But I do think that knowledge of the aims and goals of a series of US administrations cannot be brushed off as paranoid conspiracy wankery.

    Are you open to that idea? Or are you “utterly wed” to the notion that US policy is always benevolent in both intent and consequence? If you are, I just don’t know how I’ll be able to sway your mind!

    🙂

    “If you think that bringing democracy to Iraq was the only reason we went there”

    Did I ever say that? What would give you the idea that I believed such a thing? I’m simply responding to those who see the democratization of Iraq as a justification for the war – whether it was intended, or whether it is a coincidental benefit. In either case, and for somewhat different reasons, this motive and/or effect cannot make an unjust war a just one.

    “If you’re willing to ignore the affirmations that Saddam was a danger that have come out since the end of the war,”

    We throw out evidence that is obtained illegally all the time, because we have a system of justice, not arbitrary power. There is also an international system of justice, which the Papacy has given pretty strong support to. Many have argued, and I’m inclined to agree, that the US invaded Iraq unilaterally because it could not convince the world that its cause for war was just.

    But you can ALWAYS hope to sway my mind. Always. 🙂

  • “Who can say? It is obvious that by the war’s end, the US government decided it wanted Saddam to stay in power, standing by while Saddam suppressed Shiite and Kurdish uprisings (I suppose that all had something to do with “liberation” as well).”

    No Joe, what it actually means was that, contrary to paranoids like Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan and their soulmates on the Left, there was no grand scheme. Hussein took us by surprise in invading Iraq and we liberated it, and Joe that is how the Kuwaitis viewed it, and there was no invasion of Iraq because we had not gone to war for the purpose of taking the Iraqi oil. If you are going to toss out conspiracy theories Joe, have some facts to support them.

  • Like foxfier, I have no idea how a military in which each soldier could pick and choose his own fights could possibly function. It’s a completely untenable idea.

    Yet this is precisely what the Roman Catholic Church calls for: selective conscientious objection. Take it up with the Church.

  • Darwin,

    How about I forgive you for mixing up what I said. I invoked Buchanan and Paul to show that it is not leftism.

    I invoked the public nature of the statements made in favor of empire to show that it is not a conspiracy.

    “However, I don’t really by the theory that what we’ve just seen is the wind-up of a twenty year long campaign to set up a puppet regime in Iraq. That fits the facts very poorly indeed.”

    Perhaps I will forgive this strawman as well, and remind you that even the most powerful nation in the world cannot snap its fingers and make things happen, like Mickey Mouse in Fantasia. Iraq holds the worlds second largest oil reserves – that is worth more than a few decades of waiting and planning. Oil is still the life blood of industrial societies and those that wish to industrialze further. Saddam was doing business with all of the US rivals – “Old Europe”, Russia, China, etc.

    “In this regard, toppling the Baathist regime in Iraq strikes me as a fairly admirable goal — even if the dark reason for it was in fact that Dick Cheney was once rejected by an Arab girl he asked on a date during college.”

    And so we throw what I understand to be a basic understanding of Catholic morality, to say nothing of the more specific just war theory, right out the window?

    If something as frivolous as what you suggested happened to be an additional motive, it would be one thing. If the real motive is in fact imperial ambition, however – something I do not believe is justifiable – that a good thing will also result cannot make it morally right.

    I respect you Darwin, but your trivialization of my arguments is not appreciated in the slightest.

  • “If you are going to toss out conspiracy theories Joe, have some facts to support them.”

    Again, what conspiracy theory?

    I don’t think it is crazy at all to say that the specifics of the strategy changed over time. Rumsfeld and Cheney knew in 1991 what overthrowing Saddam would entail – prolonged sectarian violence.

    As I said, the real concern was to ensure that the world’s second largest oil reserves did not fall entirely into the hands of a major rival of the US. In 1991, it didn’t seem as if that would happen. But under the sanctions, and this simply is a fact, Saddam sought to deepen his business ties with all of America’s major international rivals, including Russia and China.

    I think it was Saddam’s developing ties with US rivals that served as the catalyst for the invasion. And if someone wants to make a case that that is a reason for a just war, fine. But when even Bush was making stand-up jokes about the “missing WMD” and getting laughs from all the Washington insiders, don’t tell me that that was the reason…

  • “Conquering them had nothing to do with bringing them democracy. It just so happens that the conqueror imposes his system on the conquered.”

    Japan attacks us Joe and we utterly defeat them, as we utterly defeated Germany and Italy with the assistance of our allies. We then establish democracies in Italy, Japan and in West Germany. In just a few years each of these nations have their sovereignty restored to them and receive massive assistance from the US. Calling this a simple imposition of a system by a conqueror gravely understates the generosity of what the US did after prevailing in the most savage war in history.

  • Also, as much as I love you guys, I’m not going to argue with three at a time. So I’ll leave at that.

    I’ll also say this: I don’t think anyone’s position on this war makes them a better or worse person. So my respect level for each of you doesn’t change a wit. This will be an issue where we disagree, but hopefully that doesn’t mean we all can’t still get along.

  • Joe, we would have to disagree about far more than foreign policy for us not to get along. Now if you were to contend that Jerry Lewis is a genius for the ages—then things might get serious!

  • I’m sorry if I came off as trivializing your points. I disagree with them, but my lightheartedness was simply that — an attempt to be lighthearted.

    Perhaps I will forgive this strawman as well, and remind you that even the most powerful nation in the world cannot snap its fingers and make things happen, like Mickey Mouse in Fantasia. Iraq holds the worlds second largest oil reserves – that is worth more than a few decades of waiting and planning.

    Well, I think we pretty clearly could have rolled all the way to Baghdad in ’91 — and indeed, the main reason I support the recent Iraq War is that I very much thought that we _should have_ rolled all the way to Baghdad. While I do, indeed, accept that one cannot simply roll in all of a sudden to right the world’s wrongs, once Hussein handed us a just cause to remove him on the metaphorical silver platter, I think we should have taken the chance to get rid of him, as one of the more oppressive current dictators.

    Like I said — I agree that the US is far more sensitive to unstable regimes in the Middle East than elsewhere because oil is a strategic resource (and thus in effect a major weapon in the hands of any regime there.) What I disagree with, unless I’m misinterpreting what you’re saying, is the idea that the US has been gradually working towards setting up a subsidiary regime of sorts in the Middle East. I’d put it rather lower level than that: The US is highly sensitive to possible threats there (more so than elsewhere) since a regime in the Middle East can hurt us by cutting off oil without having the ability to actually strike at North America. So whenever trouble has come up on the Arabian peninsula, the US has tended to react fairly quickly. However, like Republican Rome, once the US has done whatever minimum is necessary to assure a secure horizon there, it tends to back off and let things run their course until the next problem arises.

    And so we throw what I understand to be a basic understanding of Catholic morality, to say nothing of the more specific just war theory, right out the window?

    Again, the Cheney example was intended to be humorous (the FDR one was serious) but the basic point was serious: It doesn’t seem to me that from a just war point of view we’re required to search about for what the “real reason” for the war is likely to be, but rather look at the declared and obvious aims and judge those.

  • I have to admit I’m torn between two contradictory ideas here. On the one hand, I tend to agree with the notion than in an all-volunteer military you shouldn’t be able to pick and choose when and how you will fight — you made a commitment, you stick to it. But on the other hand, Tim raises an excellent point about how we don’t want that kind of “commitment” demanded of all medical personnel with regard to abortion or euthanasia.

    I note with some interest that back in the early Clinton administration (1993-94), when a ban on abortions being performed at overseas U.S. military hospitals was lifted, the military had a VERY hard time finding doctors willing to perform them! Although they were not ordered to perform abortions, I am sure these military doctors would have had no problem refusing such an order which they found to be gravely immoral, even if it meant losing their rank or being less than honorably discharged.

  • 503. Every member of the armed forces is morally obliged to resist orders that call for perpetrating crimes against the law of nations and the universal principles of this law.[1056] Military personnel remain fully responsible for the acts they commit in violation of the rights of individuals and peoples, or of the norms of international humanitarian law. Such acts cannot be justified by claiming obedience to the orders of superiors.

    Conscientious objectors who, out of principle, refuse military service in those cases where it is obligatory because their conscience rejects any kind of recourse to the use of force or because they are opposed to the participation in a particular conflict, must be open to accepting alternative forms of service. “It seems just that laws should make humane provision for the case of conscientious objectors who refuse to carry arms, provided they accept some other form of community service”.[1057]

    Let’s not forget where this post began- with commentary attempting to apply something from the authoritative Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. I don’t see how faithful Catholics can simply duck this type of resource- how does one get to thinking as Christ and His Church does on something as important as War, and not take in something that is comprehensive and authoritative such as the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church- which states up front that it is rendering the complete body of social doctrine in conscise form.

    If you have read the chapter on promotion of peace from the Compendium, and disagree with my application and conclusions- I can respect you and your views as a fellow Catholic- I will still press ahead with my own case- but at minimum we have to be formed similarly in conscience as Catholics- or else we might as well make this blog a generic the-american.com. I don’t see how the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas can simply trump the social doctrine of the Church as presented by the current Magisterium. And who better to apply the Just War principles than this same Magisterium- I don’t believe that the previous popes of the past century have been naive about the global conditions- particularly not the last two popes- and their views were reaffirmed by the U.S. Bishops as a body, and most every other Hierarchical national sources as I read on Zenit.org in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq.

    On a side note- I am no genius, but my own reading and travel had indicated that a Muslim population in the Middle East is not going to take kindly to American or European military conquest and occupation in their homeland- you may have some unique communities like the Kurds, but the history of the “Great Game” has pretty much ruined the idea that foreigners are going to come into the Middle East and transform things for the sake of the common man in those places. An excellent clinical study on this is David Fromkin’s A Peace to End all Peace. The Middle East is not the place where Americans can set up shop and be trusted by the native populations- no matter how bad the leadership is there- especially when we have had a hand in helping most of the bad guys in the region- I recall in basic training in 1981 how we would get periodic updates on how our “friend” (seriously- that is how he was described) Saddam Hussein was doing in his war with Iran. Of course, he wasn’t a nice guy then either. The problem here is that the “Great Game” is really just a huge social sin- there isn’t a Game, there are people who have been getting it from every end as Fromkins details. And if you want even more information I recommend Steve Coll’s huge book detailing how we nurtured the Jihadists in Pakistan and Afghanistan to fight the Soviets- at first just to bloody them- kill as many Russians as we could through proxies- there was little sense that these Jihadists could actually win. How does that fit into Just War and any idealism for the poor people of Afghanistan- Ghost Wars is the title of that book.

    One should look to the Compendium’s chapter on the International Community for more guidance on how we should be behaving in a global community. The social doctrine is solid, it is consistent, it doesn’t veer off on the whims of a particular pope or two- it is the clear signal of truth amidst all the ideological noise from the Left and Right.

  • A young service member- probably with kids at home- you all expect him to just pay for his conscience by going to jail or being punished in a way that would jeopardize his ability to support his family- you are so sure that this cruel state of affairs is the only way to proceed with our military? Really? How many of you wanna-be saints (and I am one myself) would be so willing to disobey immoral orders or refuse to go off on an unjust military action- if your wife and kids were going to be the ones to pay for your conscience? What do you think the Pope would advise you on this issue? Is your solution really that no one with a potentially Catholic conscience ever sign up for the military in the U.S.? How could anyone predict whether the next war pushed for by an American president and a gutless Congress will be close to being just? Who can predict just who the president is going to be in election cycles?

  • A young service member- probably with kids at home- you all expect him to just pay for his conscience by going to jail or being punished in a way that would jeopardize his ability to support his family- you are so sure that this cruel state of affairs is the only way to proceed with our military?

    I think that people’s reaction to this has a lot to do with how important they consider order to be, and also how likely they think it is that Catholic soldiers will be given immoral orders or be ordered off to a war which they consider it immoral to participate in.

    In regard to the latter concern, I would suspect that a further area of disagreement is the issue I mentioned above as regards to whether it is immoral for a soldier to participate in any war he thinks may not or does not fully meet the Church’s just war criteria, or whether the necessity of conscientious objection only applies in those cases where the aim of the war is actively evil.

  • In regard to the latter concern, I would suspect that a further area of disagreement is the issue I mentioned above as regards to whether it is immoral for a soldier to participate in any war he thinks may not or does not fully meet the Church’s just war criteria, or whether the necessity of conscientious objection only applies in those cases where the aim of the war is actively evil.

    If a war does not “fully meet the Church’s just war criteria” then it IS “actively evil.”

  • Donna V. : agreed.
    A United States soldier is required NOT to obey an unlawful order. A Catholic is required not to obey an immoral order (as clearly taught by Holy Mother Church). Hopefully the incidence is rare, and the crossover considerable, in our military.
    The system for dealing with conscientious objection has been in place for awhile.
    If a serviceman objects to a particular assignment (say, Iraq rather than Afghanistan), the military reserves the right to deny the objection if it is judged to be spurious, and deploy the soldier as planned, in which case I think a Catholic man or woman—rather than deserting, for example, or acting in a subversive manner—could with clear conscience serve in that theater honorably, in a spirit of obedience to lawful superiors. And, upon returning home, not be excoriated for said service, especially by fellow Catholics.
    If the objection is accepted, then it would be up to the military authorities to deem whether a service member is suited for other duties or training (likely with demotion and reduction in pay), or not fit to continue wearing the uniform of his particular branch. This latter case may be where wider options for “supporting the troops,” as originally suggested by the post, come into play: funds raised for a needy family, perhaps, or loans to assist with education in another line of work. I would not favor creating a giant safety net, which might encourage objections for less than honorable reasons, but there is no cause to deny those individuals who wish to extend charity to discharged objectors a means of doing so on a case-by-case basis.
    Now, in terms of a conflict in which US Military participation is universally condemned by the Catholic Church, which I pray never materializes, then the difficulties would be extreme indeed. For all American Catholics, and most particularly those in uniform. But I’m not losing sleep worrying over future wars. (And if I was a young and able wanna-be saint, that concern would not keep me from signing up, because the future belongs to God.)
    It seems rational to assume that the many thousands of Catholics serving in our country’s forces over the last several years (or decades) do not have malformed consciences, but are fighting for what they believe is a just and honorable cause: the protection of the United States of America (specifically) and the promotion of liberty worldwide (generally—but with an eye to the future security of the USA).
    On a closely related topic, now that Treats For Troops has had to shut down, does anyone here know of a reliable source for sending care packages to soldiers? Thanks.

  • “It doesn’t seem to me that from a just war point of view we’re required to search about for what the “real reason” for the war is likely to be, but rather look at the declared and obvious aims and judge those.”

    Darwin,

    Would you say that about any other country?

    It often astonishes me that some of the same people who are nothing but skeptical of the government’s intentions when it comes to welfare or some other domestic program often dismiss the notion that anything other than the official story of the government could possibly be true.

    Governments lie. They have lied throughout history. They lie even more today because it has become more and more unacceptable to resort to war to achieve policy aims.

    I mean seriously, the Nazis claimed they were invading Poland because it posed a threat to their security. So did the Soviets when they invaded various Eastern European countries. The US never accepted those claims at face value, but by this argument, their citizens ought to have accepted them and then marched off without complaint in “defense” of their countries.

    It really, really bothers me when the US is somehow set above and apart from the general flow of history. Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about the military industrial complex – was that conspiracy theorizing too?

    No, Darwin, with due respect I totally reject the notion that we do not have some obligation to investigate the historical circumstances of a given war, of the government that wages it, and whether or not the claims it makes are either true or moral.

  • It often astonishes me that some of the same people who are nothing but skeptical of the government’s intentions when it comes to welfare or some other domestic program often dismiss the notion that anything other than the official story of the government could possibly be true.

    YES.

  • Joe, spot on! I read somewhere you supported Huckabee in the GOP primary. So did I! You’re going for some sort of agreement award, or something. I’m not sure if it’s because I agree so much or not, but I think you are so reasonable. 🙂

  • Friends,

    I have another comment that is stuck in moderation. It contains a true statement. I’d appreciate it if you would release it.

    Your friend,
    m

  • Eric, well, I think you and I come from a very similar place, having read your conversion story. We walked down a similar road, you might say.

  • “A young service member- probably with kids at home- you all expect him to just pay for his conscience by going to jail or being punished in a way that would jeopardize his ability to support his family- you are so sure that this cruel state of affairs is the only way to proceed with our military? Really?”

    I certainly do. Let him make his case at his court martial. Let him complain to his representative in Congress. In short, let him convince people of the rightness of his stance, and be ready to pay for the consequences of his disobeying orders. To do otherwise creates buffoonish situations like this:

    http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=104009

    You cannot have any sort of military if the members get to pick and choose what wars they will participate in. Each member cannot be their own Secretary of State. No one forces people today to choose to be in the military and they should only do so if they are clear on the purpose of the military which is to fight in conflicts ordered by the political leadership of this nation. If that bothers them there are multitudes of career paths in the civilian world.

  • The soldier, like everyone, is bound by their conscience, but that is of little comfort when one is struggling with an issue and there aren’t clear lines. Conscience does make room prudence, however. One can by bothered by a thing, but his conscience will/must examine and weigh the alternative. It’s not a perfect world and making the moral choice isn’t always cut and dry. God knows what you were confronted with and knows your will. It’s entirely possible to come to the conclusion that doing the thing that troubles you results in less evil than the consequence.

    Soldiering is a noble profession but it is wrought with danger, physical and spiritual. All the more reason to appreciate those who take on that burden. Now I can’t say with surety that this is the way to think of it, but it is the way do. I think when it comes to matters of jus ad bellum the soldier has a lot of leeway, that it’s not his call, nor is he culpable if the military action is objectively unjust. And I use the word objectively unjust, because people of good will and properly formed consciences can come to different conclusions often times.

    Where I think the soldier is held particularly morally liable is in his actions while serving – matters of jus in bello. This is where the stakes of conscience are raised in degree and the alternative choice, regardless of their consequences can become more necessary.

    Take Iraq for example. Let’s say a soldier was troubled by it, that he thinks it was or may have been an unjust action. He can reasonably decide that he will continue to honor his word and follow orders from his superiors, embark to Iraq, and do whatever good he can in a bad situation and serve as a good example for his comrades. He may get there and find that he is indeed doing great good for others. He may find that he is ordered to do (or asked to participate in) something immoral. This is where his conscience becomes critical. Where the moral choice is his and directly effects his soul and his relationship with God. And it is in a case like this that he has a duty not to obey AND to escalate the situation any way he can.

    I actually hate these threads because there always seems to be something important missing. It seems one side never considers it, and the other side takes it for granted and doesn’t acknowledge it. It’s all well and good that we have centuries of thought and teaching to draw upon, and that principles and considerations can be somewhat reduced to a formula. Thing is, entering values into that formula isn’t so cut and dry, there values needed are derived from, and limited by, the inputs and the human person. But it’s the human person that gets lost when we focus on the formula.

    The soldier in the field is a real live person with a soul. God loves him as much as he loves combox pontificators (perhaps more if we’re to weigh Jesus’ words and relationships with the Roman soldiers). Whatever choices and events led to that soldier standing where he is, God is there. A soldier in battle is often times scared, in a struggle, perhaps even feeling like a victim. His heart is aching and most are praying. Nothing moves you to get closer to God than desperation, and God is always there. The soldier praying to make it through combat is being heard on the terms of his and God’s relationship, that the evil W. started an unjust war is of no consequence to God and that soldier.

  • No, Darwin, with due respect I totally reject the notion that we do not have some obligation to investigate the historical circumstances of a given war, of the government that wages it, and whether or not the claims it makes are either true or moral.

    Joe,

    I’m not rejecting whether one has any obligation to evaluate the historical circumstances and the truth of the justifications made — I’m arguing that one doesn’t need to take into account secret and unstated motives of the rulers of the country.

    Thus, I’d hold that the US invasion of Iraq was justified because removing the Baathist regime was, given the historical realities of that regime, an object worth fighting a war to achieve.

    I would not hold that the German invasion of the Poland was justified, because Poland was clearly not a threat to Germany and anyone paying any attention at all to the rhetoric coming out of Berlin at the time could tell that Poland was being taken simply to provide more land and resources to the east.

    Now, if the US were to suddenly announce that it was going to invade some completely run-of-the-mill country in order to “liberate” it (Canada, Hungary, South Africa, etc.) or because it was a regional threat, I’d clearly not take the claim at it’s face value.

    However, there are a small number of incredibly brutal and oppressive regimes around the world which, if the US or UN or some other major country or coalition had cause and reasonable chances of success to liberate, I would be very strongly inclined to support the operation. And Iraq was one of these. Indeed, Iraq was fairly unique among these in that it was routinely violating the cease fire that ended the Gulf War, had previously invaded one of its neighbors and had a nearly successful nuclear program, we had incurred (and failed to fulfill) a moral obligation to the people who had risen up against Hussein in 91, we had troops in the region which the Iraqis were routinely taking pot shots at, and the attempt to use the “peaceful means” of sanctions had caused, by most accounts, more suffering on the part of the actual Iraqi people than either war did.

    Really, the only thing I can see wrong with the Iraq war is that it was eleven years late — and caused a huge amount of suffering among the Iraqi people (and much greater religious and ethnic conflict) as a result.

  • “Really, the only thing I can see wrong with the Iraq war is that it was eleven years late — and caused a huge amount of suffering among the Iraqi people (and much greater religious and ethnic conflict) as a result.”

    I concur.

  • Neither Jesus nor His predecessor, John the Baptist, ever insisted that the soldiers or other government types they met (tax collectors) give up their professions. While Levi/Matthew the tax collector did quit his job to follow Jesus, Zacchaeus didn’t — he simply promised to do his job honestly, give to the poor, and repay fourfold anyone he had cheated.

    Christ did not insist that the centurion quit the army, instead He praised him for having greater faith than any of the Jews He’d met.

    When soldiers and tax collectors came to John the Baptist asking what to do, John didn’t tell them to quit their jobs; he told them to do their jobs honestly, not cheat or harass anyone, and be content with their pay. Obviously John did not think their professions were inherently immoral or treasonous, even though many Jews would have regarded them as such (since Rome was an occupying power).

    Jesus and John knew there would be plenty of “occasions of sin” in those professions, and that there would be times that soldiers or tax collectors would be ordered or encouraged to follow or support unjust government policies or do something wrong. Yet, neither insisted that their followers quit those professions.

    So I would guess the same is true of the Catholic soldier — he or she can serve and obey all legitimate orders, and need not avoid enlisting because he or she “might” at some future date be asked to fight an unjust war. And even if the U.S. did fight a war that was unjust from a policy point of view, the soldier could still serve in it honestly and obey all legitimate orders. Perhaps such soldiers could be a force for good and discourage their comrades from engaging in clearly immoral actions like abuse of POWs, attacks on civilians, etc.

  • I would think the people whom God would hold responsible for waging an unjust war would NOT be the soldiers but the government officials who made the decision to wage that war.

  • You cannot have any sort of military if the members get to pick and choose what wars they will participate in. Each member cannot be their own Secretary of State.

    You have said this repeatedly. But again, the Catholic Church insists that selective conscientious objection is a right that soldiers have.

    I would think the people whom God would hold responsible for waging an unjust war would NOT be the soldiers but the government officials who made the decision to wage that war.

    That’s a reasonable thing to think according to the logic of nation-states, but the Catholic Church teaches that soldiers are responsible for their actions, period.

  • I take it toppling a murderous regime like Hussein’s is just the most God-awful, immoral thing in the world; especially considering his atrocious record:

    But on the ground in Iraq, tha fall of Hussein is yielding an overwhelming human story of great loss. Families have become gravediggers, sifting through dirt with their fingers to recover every bone and scrap of cloth of Saddam Hussein’s legacy.

    While these scenes may bring closure to families, they are painful nonetheless. And the families are only now starting to flock to this site.

    “Be quiet. Slowly, slowly, that’s it,” says Fadil Sadoun’s cousin Hassan Sadran Hussein, as he directs men with tattooed hands and heavy-stoned silver Shiite rings on their fingers, as they feel through the dirt three feet down in the grave.

    “Search well, don’t leave anything,” Hassan says, when more of the skeleton is revealed, and more dirt clawed away with a shovel. “Take your time.”

    Bones pile up on a graveside blanket, making the sound of dry wood clattering together when more bones are added.

    Fadil Sadoun was first taken by security police in 1991, and held at Abu Ghraib prison for two years. When the overtly religious man was arrested again in 1996, he didn’t come home. Instead, he was executed in 1997, given a number, and buried.

    The loss seems unbearable for son Mustapha, who weeps uncontrollably a few feet away, his tears staining his pale blue shirt. Other family members try to comfort him, and finally have to carry him away, to the van that brought a wood coffin to collect the patricarch’s remains.

    “Oh my father, my father!” Mustapha chants with a broken voice. “You should be happy-Saddam is gone.”

    As dawn turns into a hot, blindingly bright and windy morning, more families arrive with scraps of paper scrawled with numbers, and with rudimentary coffins in tow. They walk purposefully along the rows of graves, scanning the markers as if searching for a familiar face in a crowd.

    Beneath their feet are the morbid secrets that will define the toppled regime. Bureaucratic efficiency was masterful here. Numbers of graves are finally being matched to names of missing political prisoners by custodians of the cemeteries, who can finally speak out.

    The executioners may be gone, but the cruel pain they inflicted endures.

    “These are the victims of the crimes of Saddam Hussein,” says Mohamed Hussein, who dropped upon grave number 288-of his brother, Ali Hussein-when he found it. He clenched the dirt in his fists, broke down, and leaned for support on a coffin that had clearly been used before.

    “Tell the world,” he says. “My brother prayed, and they took him from the street.” Ali’s coffin was carried to a truck, and placed alongside another coffin. That one held the remains of a pair of brothers of a neighboring family, found in a single grave.

    While Iraq’s modern history is being written today with freshly revealed documents, the opening of Hussein’s torture chambers, and the testimonies of officially sanctioned killers, it is the buried treasure here that tells Iraq’s true story.

    “This was to keep Saddam on his throne. He would do anything,” says Jassim Mohamed, whose 70-year-old uncle, in grave number 886, was killed with his militant Islamic son at their home south of Baghdad in October 2000. “Anyone who opposed him, he would kill them.”

    Among the staunchest of those opponents was Tariq Abu al-Hewa, a 27-year-old militant who lay 20 feet away, in grave number 834. He was arrested in 1999, executed in 2000, and operated with an Islamist group–even using a nom de guerre–that tried to kill senior members of the ruling Baath Party.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0428/p25s01-woiq.html

    Some ‘moral’, ‘Pro-Life’ Catholics y’all turned out to be.

  • (…continued…)

    “Saddam was a criminal, a dictator, and fascist,” says Khalid. “I thank the Americans a lot-we praise them for ending Saddam, with God’s help.”

    “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have found the corpse,” adds cousin Riath Idramis.

    And Hussein’s henchmen may have been waiting for the 13 bodies to arrive at the bleak, windswept cemetery about a mile away, possibly to put them into the 14 unmarked, empty graves that already had been dug there, beyond the last marker for grave number 993.

    Abadi Jabbar found himself there at those empty holes Friday, as he searched for the remains of tribal cousins. Already he had found five. Still missing, according to the scrap of paper gripped in his right hand: numbers 867, 974, and 977.

    When asked what this scene told him about Saddam Hussein, he replied: “You are the great witness. You have seen it with your own eyes.”

  • E,

    If you can’t behave yourself, I’ll behave for you. Your deliberate lie about my view of the Catholics who support the Iraq war has been deleted.

    I will remind you that I said:

    “I don’t think anyone’s position on this war makes them a better or worse person. So my respect level for each of you doesn’t change a wit. This will be an issue where we disagree, but hopefully that doesn’t mean we all can’t still get along.”

    That’s all.

  • Sorry, Joe, but to see how the Gore Vidals and Norm Chomskys now rule this so hapless modern world; suffice it to say, one can easily succumb to outright resentment, if not, bitter rhetoric.

    That said, in consideration of statements in toto (not necessarily even targetted at solely your own), I truly do not see how one can take the opinion of Rome or even the Pope, for that matter, and extend it far beyond its actual intent and even to the extent of seemingly infallible decree.

  • E,

    I deleted your second post because I’m not interested in your take on my actions or motives. You don’t like it, go post at another blog.

    “Sorry, Joe, but to see how the Gore Vidals and Norm Chomskys now rule this so hapless modern world; suffice it to say, one can easily succumb to outright resentment, if not, bitter rhetoric.”

    Is that an apology?

    “I truly do not see how one can take the opinion of Rome or even the Pope, for that matter, and extend it far beyond its actual intent and even to the extent of seemingly infallible decree.”

    If you aren’t including me in that “one” then we’re ok, because that’s not what I did. It never said it was infallible decree. You wondered why so many Catholics had a problem with the war, and I offered the opposition of two Popes as a possible explanation.

    That’s all – I never said their opposition meant you had to oppose it too, but I will say that if you want to criticize those of us who share the opinion of the Papacy, the burden is on you and not us to reconcile the position with Catholicism. And I don’t say that it is impossible to do so.

  • Joe,

    Quit it with your calumnies; unless, of course, you consider Catholicism nothing more than an abstraction to be admired as ideal rather than to be practiced at all.

    Again, I find it ironic that you should lecture me on motives and actions when you yourself were the one who notoriously imputed such malicious motives.

    If there was a misinterpretation on my part, you could have simply said so; instead, you prefer to engage in mere calumny.

  • There is no calumny here.

    You said I argued something that I didn’t, something so contrary and foreign to what I actually said that it could only be a deliberate misreading.

    Is that not a calumny?

  • Joe:

    Then why did you seemed wont to demonize my comments with the rather calumnous mischarecterization “deliberate lie”?

    You could have simply (and more charitably) called to question whatever egregious misinterpretation you might yourself seem wont to address in my cited comments; I would have more gracefully applied, in kind, a more fitting responsio that would have requested, in turn, certain clarification as to the manner of quotes eminating from your earlier comments.

    Still, I find myself at awe these quotes from you:

    What I do think it means, however, is that it is not the people who agree with the Papacy whose Catholicism ought to be questioned. The burden to reconcile one’s Catholicism with a position one has taken on a political issue ought to rest with the person who is dissenting from the opinion or the teaching of the Church. I think that is reasonable.

    …and even the more recent:

    I will say that if you want to criticize those of us who share the opinion of the Papacy, the burden is on you and not us to reconcile the position with Catholicism.

    So, in other words, opposing a murderous regime such as Hussein’s, whose innocent victims number in the hundreds, if not, near a thousand; is not only immoral but, above all else, anti-Catholic?

    God help us.

  • Alright E,

    It is simply amazing to me that you can, in the same post, complain about something and then actually do it.

    “So, in other words, opposing a murderous regime such as Hussein’s, whose innocent victims number in the hundreds, if not, near a thousand; is not only immoral but, above all else, anti-Catholic?”

    The first problem here is “in other words”. Meaning, in YOUR words, not my words – in your reinterpretation of my words.

    Is this not bearing false witness? Is this not calumny? If you want to know why I said “deliberate lie”, look no further.

    Why you bother to highlight in bold, I don’t know. I never said that holding a different opinion is “anti-Catholic” – a phrase you made up and put in my mouth. I said it isn’t impossible that your position could be reconciled with Catholicism, but that it is you who needs to show how it can be – not us.

    Please tell me you understand the difference between these things.

    Furthermore,

    You think supporting the Iraq war is all about “opposing a murderous regime”. But no one who opposed the Iraq war was actually in favor of Saddam’s regime.

    Lets say for the sake of argument that this war was really about “liberation”. A ridiculous argument in my view, but lets go with it for a minute.

    No one asked the Iraqi people if the loss of several hundred thousand lives (millions if we include the Clinton era sanctions) and the near total destruction of their social infrastructure was a price they themselves were willing to pay for being rid of Saddam. No one asked them, I surmise, because it had nothing to do with the reason for America’s decades-long involvement with the Persian Gulf.

    Only a sociopath does something for someone who didn’t ask for it and then insists that they thank them for whatever positive benefits it may have wrought. Some people may end up thanking the US – some Iraqis may believe it was worth it. I’m willing to wager that there are millions of who have lost friends and family who do not see it that way.

    I don’t know how old you are, but did you oppose US policy when it was in favor of Ba’athism as a counterweight to communism and to Islamic militancy in Iran? When the US and Europe armed Saddam with biological and chemical weapons in the 1980s? Did you oppose those policies? Would you in retrospect?

  • Joe:

    Clearly, as even made evident above, you bear remarkable hostility toward my person, which is perhaps why you continue to engage my comments as well as myself with such continud prejudice.

    The fact that I had even asked in the manner of a question did not even invite charity on your part; only a continued stream of subsequent uncharitable mischarecterizations and false accusations of “bearing false witness”.

    Rather than engage the topic any further (as it seems whomsoever should run contrary to a certain seemingly ‘infallible’ opinion; apparently, their catholicism must be called into question), I shall cease any and all responses in this regard and bid you adieu, less we truly forget what exactly it means to be ‘Christian’.

  • Fine with me.

  • Donald, et al. ignore Catholic teaching on soldiering and they ignore my comments on the same. Typical.

  • Catholic Anarchist, contrary to your obvious sincere belief, you and the Magisterium are not one and the same.

  • Catholic Anarchist, contrary to your obvious sincere belief, you and the Magisterium are not one and the same.

    No, we’re not. But I at least listen to them and incorporate them into my view. You ignore them, period. This thread is clear evidence of that.

  • Well- this post is nearing the end- a bitter end. I asked a non-Catholic friend to read through the post and the comments, and his reaction was interesting. He asked if it was normal for Catholics to argue with little or no reference to the Catholic leadership or official teachings? He said that while I seemed to be putting the challenge out to draw upon some official teaching of the Church, the reaction for the most part were arguments made from secular perspectives with no backing from official Church ideas or teachings.

    I have to agree- I run into this sort of thing all the time in Catholic Democratic circles- they are fine with bringing in the papal speeches, the encyclicals, and Compendium et al, if the topic is one where they feel that these sources agree with their position- but if not, then comes the distancing, the belittling, the side-stepping of anything coming from Rome, from the USCCB, is to be expected. And in that cafeteria of Catholic political thought and activism there is a left and a right side- apparently there is a line that everyone but a few Catholic politicos’ can see, that separates the two sections of the cafeteria. When one walks in and among the two sides, you can hear the such similar language and anger- only it is directed at those at the other side of the cafeteria. When you sit down for a chat, as long as the topic stays in a safe zone- like abortion in the right side of the cafeteria, or war on the left side of the cafeteria- the tone stays friendly as long as you agree and your use of official Catholic resources will be welcomed, or even praised. But dare not to draw upon those sources if you are going to argue an opposite point-of-view in this cafeteria.

    I can see that Joe (and a few others) and I are able and willing to walk around the cafeteria because there is good, healthy food scattered around rather indiscriminately. But it is a problem if you linger and strike up discussions- because you have entered a mine field more than a Body of Christ zone. There is a worldview that supersedes the worldview that comes from the Church teachings and the proposed application of those teachings/principles by the official leadership of the Church- that world is either Left or Right- all sun or all darkness. A place where demons like “Norm” Chomsky leave behind trails of lies to try to fool people into seeing through a type of patriotism that is better off blind. And there is another place where women who have had abortions try to spread lies about how traumatic abortion really is once you understand what happened to you and your child. In the Catholic cafeteria, depending on which side of the cafeteria you want to sit, you will have to pick one of these places.

    The problem here is that I presented a pretty clear suggestion from a pretty clear Catholic principle regarding the rights and duties of soldiers and those who send soldiers off to war, drawing upon the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. I added later in the thread that it would be appropriate for any Catholic commentator to read the chapter in the Compendium on the promotion of peace, and make some conclusions drawing from the larger chapter perhaps. No takers, the whole Iraq War came into the discussion and naturally, the right side of the cafeteria immediately started distancing themselves from the popes and official Catholic leadership- and so the arguments go back into the usual self-destructive circles. I wish there was a place outside of the pope’s speeches, the encyclicals, the official social doctrine resources, where I could just go and stay and find fellowship. But our world and our country is not that place- we have a Catholic American world that is either in love with Barack Obama, or Sarah Palin- ugh-

    At least here at American Catholic we do have some range- there is not much of an amen corner- but I would like all those who seem to find themselves very, very comfortable in their political parties, with their ideological heroes, to just remember that it is only in the Church’s official teachings, and in her continuing Apostolic leadership that we are able to transcend our times- the Church is the expert on humanity- she is our prophetic voice- do not look past her when advised by me or anyone- from the left, right or center- if someone tells me to read something from the catechism, the compendium, an encyclical, or even from a papal speech or a usccb document, to put a check on one of my public or private positions on such and such a topic- then I will do it- that to me is what being a faithful Catholic is all about- the obedience of faith- not in some minimalist interpretation, but in the fullness of realization that the Way in politics is very hard to find and stay with- so many ideological and nationalistic trap doors- but if we at least stay close to the Hierachical teachings and advice then we have a fighter’s chance. If one wants to ignore all the Catholic Hierachical advice leading up to the Iraq invasion, or the Gulf War/Sanctions prior to the latest- then it really is on you to find all the worldly sources that say that you and President Bush I and II really knew better than our Church’s leaders. That is not an attack, that’s a Catholic fact- I only address myself to those who would make claim to being orthodox Catholics- most liberal Catholics would not claim that title, but many conservative Catholics seem to want to collapse the two terms- conservative/orthodox. Not that being conservative would necessarily indicate support for the Iraq Wars- note Pat Buchanan/Ron Paul.

  • Very true, Tim. Which is why so many people have found many of the bloggers here to be utterly scandalous.

  • Tim,

    For what it’s worth, I think the reason that people are mostly drawing on practical reason or natural reason in this conversation is that the question is a fairly practical one: Should the regulations in the military specifically make provision for allowing service members to opt out of a specific war they have moral objections to. And as a related item, should there be a specific expection in the punishments for disobeying orders whereby someone is excused from obeying orders his thinks are immoral.

    Now clearly, from a Catholic point of view, it’s morally incumbant upon all of us to act according to our consciences. On that point, I don’t think you’ll find any disagreement at all. The disagreement seems to be around to what extent it makes sense to create provisions for difference of judgement between superior and subordinate in a war situation as to what is a moral action.

    If called on it, I’d be basically supportive (with a few reservations) of allowing people to request movement to a non-combat role or a different theater of operations when asked to go to a war they believe to be unjust — but in regards to refusing to obey orders I’m inclined to be reliant upon courts of inquiry to determine whether the order was, in fact, immoral rather than creating a situation in which people are actively encouraged to question every order.

    I think there’s fairly good Catholic precident for this. (For example, in his Rule, St. Benedict directs that the monks must obey their superiors even when they believe their superiors to be acting unjustly.) And since it is basically a question of implementation rather than the moral directive to obey one’s conscience, I don’t think it’s necessarily surprising that people are generally referring to natural reason rather than Church documents.

    That said, and at the risk of allowing Michael to continue to be utterly scandalized by people other than him daring to talk, I hope that you’ll continue to bring these kind of conversations into the square here so that people can have the chance to discuss them and be aware of the breadth of Catholic opinion. I don’t think I’m too optimistic to say that everyone here takes the teachings of the Church seriously, though working from different assumptions and tendencies, and it’s refreshing to have a forum where Catholics who are both truly serious about their faith and truly diverse in their political viewpoints can come together and discuss things.

  • I appreciate the summing up Darwin- I like your comparison to the directives to Benedict’s monks- that is in keeping with the specifically CAtholic spirit we invoke around here- which is the only point of spending time here among Catholics- I would say on that point that the call of a Benedicten monk is on a different order than someone like me at 18 signing up for the military. As a religious monk you are walking a very narrow path where you are putting everything into that religious call- so unusual obedience is to be expected as a sign of your serving God most directly. In joining the military we are not told that we are giving our souls over to the state- we are responding to the sense of duty to country to protect her, but not to lose our sense of obedience to God first and foremost. And this is the sticking point- the messy part of living as a good Catholic and as a good citizen. There is going to be tension points- and this “Support the Troops” post is my way to introduce some tension since it is my understanding that someone who believed as a CAtholic that the call to go to Iraq was not just, then he/she did not have legal recourse to selective conscientious objection- and this is a place where I think we should be making some noise as Catholic citizens.

    I think about things as the teacher I am, what if I don’t alert my young charges to the views of the Hierarchy on something like Iraq, because you know, you don’t want to stir up problems, people/parents/administrators questioning your patriotism- now what happens if you just look the other way maybe with the added justification that this is a prudential judgment of the Hierarchy- and so some of your charges go off to war blissfully unaware that there are any serious moral qualms coming from the leaders of their Church- since their parents, teachers, and parish priests never brought the Holy Father et al’s views to their attention.

    Suppose one of these young men or women comes home permanently and badly disabled from the fighting, and during the course of rehabilitation starts reading the Church documents, and the “Pope Speaks” and such things- and he/she comes across the many and consistent opinions coming from Catholic Hierarchies around the world, all saying in essence that the Iraq Invasion was not a good candidate for a just war- what if the reaction of that soldier is- “Wait a minute, I went to Mass every sunday, I went to Catholic high school- no one ever brought this information from our Church leaders out to me!”

    I went through these thoughts during the lead up to War in Iraq- when most of the mass media and both political parties were pushing for the Invasion- I collected all the info I could from Zenit.org at the time- the Pope’s words, the various Holy See reps, the CAtholic Hierarchies in the U.S., some from across the world. I collected them and copied them and distributed them to all my classes. I opened up the discussion with my students. I have no idea how many students took in the info or even cared- but I had to do it for the sake of my good conscience. And for the sake of my own good conscience, I need to press the case for this selective conscientious objection for the average servicemember- given that it will bring some headaches to central command- I still believe it is a necessary check on the powers that be who decide our wars for us- just like the conscience-clauses are necessary for our health care professionals.

    One is of course, free to dispute or disagree with the Catholicity of my views stated here- but I appreciate that there be some basis for your disputation coming from our shared Catholic social doctrine or applications thereof- natural reason cannot totally erase our need as orthodox Catholics to base our public views on something directly in our social teaching treasury. We may be able to make an appeal outside Catholic circles on natural law and reason alone- but the Church is our way of perfecting that natural reasoning- as such I think we should try to reference these sources as often as is possible- this should help calm the discussions since we will be reacting to something officially Catholic, and not just our personal riffs or sentiments.

  • “Very true, Tim. Which is why so many people have found many of the bloggers here to be utterly scandalous.”

    Catholic Anarchist, considering the fact that you voted for the most pro-abort candidate in our nation’s history, and have frequently been at odds with the teaching of the Church on any number of topics, I will consider that comment to be a feeble attempt by you at humor.

  • Tim, if my kids had been in your class I would have demanded equal time to present an opposing view. Schools, Catholic or not, should not allow teachers to propound their political views to a captive audience.

  • Tim Shipe:

    So, like Joe, you are of the shared opinion that those who do not share the same opinion as you do concerning the Iraq War should not even dare be called Catholic?

    Perhaps one should go further and proposed excommunication even on a matter such as this, which do not even reside on the realm of infallible decree?

    Are we then to suppose that every ordinary opinion of the Church, all Catholics must bind themselves to upon pain of loss of soul?

    And they thought the Age of the Homintern was over; God help the innocent Catholics who merely differ in the application of Catholic principles in matters not even close to being strictly within the realm of infallible decree concerning the matter of Faith & Morals; unless, of course, your admiration for murderous tyrants like Hussein is so remarkably profound, you feel it such a waste to let so saintly a man as he to expire as he did!

    While I personally submit myself with all fidelity to the infallible decrees of Rome; in matters where even the Vicar of Christ himself as well as the Church Universal allows legitimate diversity of opinion, you and your rather draconian cohorts do not even allow so much as difference and opinion and, indeed, even call into question the Catholicism of those who do differ.

    Perhaps I should, for my part, list several of the instances in history where previous successors of Peter had rendered their own ordinary opinions of certain matters that were based likewise on principle; would you similarly believe that those who differed from these deserved such remarkably damning treatment too?

    If we are to speak of bloody wars and seemingly just conflicts; do you really want to open the forum to such severe scrutiny as this?

    Again, for my part, I remain a loyal son of the Church; apparently, you, Joe et al. serve an entirely different Standard; one which would make hail not the actual prescriptions of the Vicar of Christ but substitute instead that which is pursuant to your own viciously draconian will.

    God forgive you and your comrades; there were those who were identical to yourselves in the past — these were the same who not only unjustly put to death the innocent of the Church but also her saints as well, merely because of their rather pernicious puritanism.

  • E,

    You complain about slanders and calumny and then you say something like this:

    “So, like Joe, you are of the shared opinion that those who do not share the same opinion as you do concerning the Iraq War should not even dare be called Catholic?”

    Veiling your deliberate misinterpretations of another person’s position in the form of a question doesn’t fool anyone. Absolutely nothing Tim or I has ever said would ever lead a reasonable person to conclude such a thing, or to even ask it.

    “Dare even be called Catholic”? No one even implied such an extreme position. Why, for the love of heaven, would you say such a thing?

    You have slandered us, E. If you have any dignity or conscience, you will apologize to Tim and to me.

  • I take it then “e” that you haven’t spent the time reading the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church? Why not just say so, and spare me the dramatics- all I asked was that if you are Catholic you would want to try to base your views on something of a Catholic basis if there was something out there- I already stated that if one did so and disagreed with my conclusions then so be it, that is hardly the same thing as trying to execute you like a “saint”. If ignorance of the Social Doctrine somehow makes you a better Catholic, I am lost in the logic. If you have a better approach that includes other Catholic teachings I’d love to read it for my own edification- but your current line of thinking is way over-the-top.

  • “If ignorance of the Social Doctrine somehow makes you a better Catholic, I am lost in the logic.”

    The “Comp-comp-comp-endi-um of Soc-soc-social Doc-d-Doctrine”? Apologies, but apparently only the gifted elites of Catholic soceity and, most especially, the cognoscienti of this blog read and, indeed, is capable of understanding such material.

    And, for your information, just because I differ on a rather ordinary matter as this (i.e., Iraq War) does not mean that I am ignorant of such teaching.

    First, in much of what Joe had written, he implies within the sections of his earlier comments that those who happen to differ in opinion as regarding the Iraq War; their Catholicism should rightly be questioned.

    Second, you come in with a subsequent comment with such remarkably perjorative tone that you condescendingly virtually call those who differ as Cafeteria Catholics.

    Now, allow me to elucidate on something that seems to escape the both of you:

    Just because I happen to differ on such a matter as the Iraq War does not mean that I am unaware of the Church’s social teaching; even further, it does not even mean that anything contrary to such opinion is, without question, erroneous.

    You and he would make it seem that (just as an example to illustrate a point) those who did not adhere to then Senator McCarthy’s Witch Hunt does not mean that I, myself, was not anti-Communism; indeed, it means, more precisely — or, at the very least, with those more endowed with cognitive ability, that while I agree with the principle of anti-communism so espoused, I do not myself agree with its application in the immediate matter.

    However, rather than waste my time, only to subject myself to the pettiness (“Norm”) and utter unrelenting persecution (questionable catholic by Joe, cafeteria catholic by Tim) simply for a difference in opinion as concerning something the lay outside the jurisdiction of infallible decree as the Iraq War; I shall take leave of this thread, as I had originally intended (my return was only due to Tim’s screed concerning we in the Cafeteria), less we show to the entire world in cyberspace just how ‘Catholic’ we all actually are.

  • Catholic Anarchist, considering the fact that you voted for the most pro-abort candidate in our nation’s history, and have frequently been at odds with the teaching of the Church on any number of topics, I will consider that comment to be a feeble attempt by you at humor.

    Catholic Militarist, the Church did not forbid me from voting for Barack Obama. You have no ground to stand on regarding that prudential judgment.

    I am not “at odds” with Church teaching on “any number” of topics. Once again you seek to misrepresent me.

    You would think that a self-proclaimed “pro-life” Catholic would take the Church’s teaching on soldiering seriously, as it potentially involves matters of life and death, particularly the deliberate killing of human beings. I’d suggest that you try applying JPII’s The Gospel of Life to military service, but it’s clear that for you military life in the u.s. is something unable to be criticized. Shut up, soldier, and kill. Do not ask questions, do not use your God-given moral agency — that which makes us human — in matters of war. Do not question your government (unless it’s a democratic administration, eh?). On this LIFE ISSUE, you are the one profoundly at odds with your Church and the Gospel of Life.

    If you truly respect soldiers, you would respect them as human persons, as moral agents. You clearly do not. You idolize soldiers so long as they do not act humanly. That is a profound dehumanization and shows them utter disrespect. We can now quite clearly see through your “love” of soldiers.

  • Catholic Anarchist you disagree with the Church on ordaining women, homosexuality, the just war teaching of the Church, just to name a few. Your allegiance has always been to your far left political agenda, as anyone who has any familiarity with your comments and posts would quickly realize.

    As to soldiers Catholic Anarchist, since I was one of them, a distinction I am sure you will never share, I have a great deal of sympathy for them. Anyone who wants to go to war is in need of a psych exam. However, some of us realize that in this imperfect world we will not remain free long unless we have those willing to serve in the military. Once you join the military you take this oath: “I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” The oath does not say if I agree with the war being fought, or if I feel like it. Those who cannot take this oath in good conscience should not take it. Those who do and violate it, must stand ready to defend their action and to take the consequences. That is what adults do Catholic Anarchist. They do not take oaths that they will not carry out when the going gets tough. Of course in regard to you this will make as much sense as a lecture on chastity to a cat. You think the US is evil and anyone who serves in the US military is serving evil. Thank God so few people join you in your totally wrong-headed world view .

  • I’m not clear if Michael has decided to abandon blogging for very subtle absurdist performance art or if he just has very poor reading comprehension.

  • Catholic Anarchist you disagree with the Church on ordaining women, homosexuality, the just war teaching of the Church, just to name a few. Your allegiance has always been to your far left political agenda, as anyone who has any familiarity with your comments and posts would quickly realize.

    Rather than simply saying I “disagree” with the Church on women’s ordination and/or homosexuality, it might do you some good to consider that on each of those issues there are aspects in which I both agree and disagree with the Church. On the just war tradition, you are simply 100% inaccurate. And again, on just war teaching, you have some nerve accusing me of disagreeing with it considering your comments on this thread in which you clearly reject the Church’s teaching on war.

    For example:

    Once you join the military you take this oath… The oath does not say if I agree with the war being fought, or if I feel like it. Those who cannot take this oath in good conscience should not take it. Those who do and violate it, must stand ready to defend their action and to take the consequences. That is what adults do Catholic Anarchist. They do not take oaths that they will not carry out when the going gets tough.

    This comment simply does not reflect the mind of the Church. You have not dealt sufficiently with the fact that the Church demands that nations respect selective conscientious objection. This is part of the just war teaching that you claim to believe in. It’s yet another example of how you CLAIM to believe in Catholic just war teaching but do not take it seriously in the least.

    Your allegiance has always been to your far left political agenda, as anyone who has any familiarity with your comments and posts would quickly realize.

    Yes, being anti-abortion and attending the pro-life march is clearly a “far left” position. Again, all you can do is misrepresent people that you disagree with.

    You think the US is evil and anyone who serves in the US military is serving evil. Thank God so few people join you in your totally wrong-headed world view .

    I do not think “the US” is “evil.” Even if I did, one would not have to share that belief in order to take the CATHOLIC CHURCH’s view of selective conscientious objection seriously.

    Have you, Catholic Militarist, ever personally judged a war waged by the united states of america as unjust and unsupportable by Catholics?

  • The oath does not say if I agree with the war being fought, or if I feel like it. Those who cannot take this oath in good conscience should not take it. Those who do and violate it, must stand ready to defend their action and to take the consequences. That is what adults do…They do not take oaths that they will not carry out when the going gets tough.

    A couple points for consideration:

    1) It seems to me that the quote above overstates things a bit. For instance, a person may join the military, and then twenty years later find that they believe a given conflict is immoral. For a Catholic in that situation, I think it’s perfectly ‘adult’ and, in fact, virtuous to conscientiously object.

    2) I think the Catechism is helpful here, as it suggests both that the public authorities have the right and duty to impose on citizens the obligations necessary for national defense,” and that “Public authorities should make equitable provision for those who for reasons of conscience refuse to bear arms

    This suggests to me that some level of deference is due to those entrusted to the common good, but that the deference due to civil authorities is far from absolute. It seems to me that a pacifist like Michael would tend to minimize the level of deference owed to public officials, whereas Don, who has served in the armed forces, is more sensitive to the importance of deference. As long as neither denies 1) the right of public authorities to impose duties of self-defense on their citizens, or 2) the right of citizens to conscientious objection in some form, then neither is outside the guidelines in the Catechism.

    That, of course, is just my reading of the Catechism; perhaps interjecting with yet another point of view will prove unhelpful. Here is the relevant section of the Catechism:

    2309 The evaluation of [just war] conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.

    2310 Public authorities, in this case, have the right and duty to impose on citizens the obligations necessary for national defense.

    Those who are sworn to serve their country in the armed forces are servants of the security and freedom of nations. If they carry out their duty honorably, they truly contribute to the common good of the nation and the maintenance of peace.107

    2311 Public authorities should make equitable provision for those who for reasons of conscience refuse to bear arms; these are nonetheless obliged to serve the human community in some other way.

  • “On the just war tradition, you are simply 100% inaccurate.”

    Catholic Anarchist I recall reading in a thread on Vox Nova you stating that all wars were unjust and that the Church should abandon the Just War doctrine.

    “This comment simply does not reflect the mind of the Church.”

    Rubbish, my comment does not reflect your mind. The military makes allowance for conscientious objectors. It does not make allowance for people who suddenly decide that they oppose a war just as they are called up to fight in it. Those individuals have to stand up for their beliefs at a court martial and in the arena of public opinion. To do otherwise would be to allow people to spit on their military oath whenever they found it convenient to do so for their own well-being. Those who believe that a war is truly unjust should welcome the opportunity to make their case.

    “Yes, being anti-abortion and attending the pro-life march is clearly a “far left” position.”
    While voting for the most pro-abort President in our nation’s history and constantly hectoring the pro-life movement. With “pro-lifers” like you Catholic Anarchist, who needs pro-aborts?

    “I do not think “the US” is “evil.” Even if I did, one would not have to share that belief in order to take the CATHOLIC CHURCH’s view of selective conscientious objection seriously.”

    Bravo Catholic Anarchist! That is the first time I can recall seeing you capitalize any reference to your native country. Your hatriotism towards America is legendary in Saint Blogs.

    “Have you, Catholic Militarist, ever personally judged a war waged by the united states of america as unjust and unsupportable by Catholics?”

    Asked and answered as we say in the Law Catholic Anarchist. “10. Has he EVER come to the conclusion that a war waged by the United States of America is unjust? Or have all of them, in his opinion, been just?”

    The Mexican War. In that I agree with Ulysses Grant.

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2009/05/29/miguel-diaz-claims-to-be-pro-life-is-he/

  • Catholic Anarchist I recall reading in a thread on Vox Nova you stating that all wars were unjust and that the Church should abandon the Just War doctrine.

    Your recollection seems to be flawed. The just war doctrine is a helpful tool, if taken seriously. And if taken seriously, the result is that virtually all wars (especially those initiated by the u.s.a.) are necessarily unjust. The Church’s teaching on war has moved to a place analogous to its teaching on the death penalty: that wars can theoretically be “justified” in the abstract, but very rarely, if ever, in real life. If just war tradition is not going to be taken seriously, and if it is only going to be misused by Catholic Militarists such as yourself, THEN it should be abandoned because it is not doing what it is meant to do. THAT is my position. You no longer have an excuse for misrepresenting me on this point.

    The military makes allowance for conscientous objectors. It does not make allowance for people who suddenly decide that they oppose a war just as they are called up to fight in it.

    It in fact DOES make the allowance for selective conscientious objection and insists upon it. It’s the only way to take the sacredness of the human conscience seriously, and the Church knows this. You are simply wrong. (Perhaps you not only misrepresent your opponents, you intentionally misrepresent the Church?) Your thinking here is driven by u.s. military “ethics,” not Catholic social thought.

    While voting for the most pro-abort President in our nation’s history and constantly hectoring the pro-life movement. With “pro-lifers” like you Catholic Anarchist, who needs pro-aborts?

    My hope is that the u.s. “pro-life” movement would become more pro-life by listening to what the Church teaches on the interconnectedness of life issues.

    Your hatriotism towards America is legendary in Saint Blogs.

    “Legendary” is a good choice of words, as legends involve both truth and exaggeration. My views on “america” are easily reviewable, and it would be difficult to make a strong case that I “hate” america. Much of the “legendary” position I hold on “america” is sheer fantasy, dreamed up by folks like you who need blog enemies.

    The Mexican War. In that I agree with Ulysses Grant.

    One war. Nice. You are a serious disciple of the Church’s teaching on war, I see. If only you ever agreed with the Popes on war.

  • From the Compendium of the Church’s Social Doctrine:

    Chapter Eight
    The Political Community

    III. Political Authority
    c. The right to conscientious objection

    399. Citizens are not obligated in conscience to follow the prescriptions of civil authorities if their precepts are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or to the teachings of the Gospel. [820] Unjust laws pose dramatic problems of conscience for morally upright people: when they are called to cooperate in morally evil acts they must refuse.[821] Besides being a moral duty, such a refusal is also a basic human right which, precisely as such, civil law itself is obliged to recognize and protect. “Those who have recourse to conscientious objection must be protected not only from legal penalties but also from any negative effects on the legal, disciplinary, financial and professional plane”.[822]

    It is a grave duty of conscience not to cooperate, not even formally, in practices which, although permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to the Law of God. Such cooperation in fact can never be justified, not by invoking respect for the freedom of others nor by appealing to the fact that it is foreseen and required by civil law. No one can escape the moral responsibility for actions taken, and all will be judged by God himself based on this responsibility (cf. Rom 2:6; 14:12).

    From the U.S. Catholic Bishops, The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace: 10th Anniversary of The Challenge of Peace, 1993:

    We repeat our support both for legal protection for those who conscientiously refuse to participate in any war (conscientious objectors) and for those who cannot, in good conscience, serve in specific conflicts they consider unjust or in branches of the service (e.g., the strategic nuclear forces) which would require them to perform actions contrary to deeply held moral convictions about indiscriminate killing (selective conscientious objection).

    As we hold individuals in high esteem who conscientiously serve in the armed forces, so also we should regard conscientious objection and selective conscientious objection as positive indicators within the Church of a sound moral awareness and respect for human life.

    There is a need to improve the legal and practical protection which this country rightly affords
    conscientious objectors and, in accord with the just-war tradition, to provide similar legal protection for selective conscientious objectors.

  • One war. Nice. You are a serious disciple of the Church’s teaching on war, I see. If only you ever agreed with the Popes on war.

    Michael,

    It’s a mark of your usual disingenuousness that you ask specifically ask Donald to name one war, and then turn around and mock him for naming one war. Seriously, do you think you stand any chance of convincing people to accept your beliefs in regards to the requirements which Christianity places on people when you can never find it in your heart to react to people in a remotely Christian fashion? Read of your comment and Donald’s again and ask yourself: if someone who doesn’t know all the history between you two reads both comments, which of you two will they think has a truly Christian and human understanding of war and the demands placed upon soldiers?

    Also, I’m not necessarily sure you want to “go there” with your last sentence that I quoted. Donald doubtless agrees with a number of papal pronouncements on war — such as the calling of the crusades, the defense of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the defense of the papal states against the nationalist forces of Victor Emmanuel. You, of course, probably disagree with the popes on all of those.

  • Of course Catholic Anarchist what the bishops proposed in 1993 flies in the face of Pius XII’s Christmas message of 1956 in which he condemned selective conscientious objection, at least in democratic states.

    In regard to the teaching of the Just War doctrine Catholic Anarchist, I thank you for the clarification. You support it as long as it condemns wars you oppose, and you abandon it when it does not.

    Catholic Anarchist my statement in regard to the military and conscientious objection is absolutely correct. Conscientious objection is recognized, selection conscientious objection is not. As the statement of Pius XII indicates, selective conscientious objection is a doctrinal innovation in the Church. Actually support for any conscientious objection, except for clerics, is a doctrinal innovation of the last century. In that regard American law actually recognized the rights of absolute conscientious objectors before the Church did.

    Your dedication to the pro-life cause is underwhelming.

    As for your hatred of this country it permeates most of your writing. A good sample is set forth in the many jabs you make at America in your explanation as to why you were going to vote for pro-abort Obama.

    http://vox-nova.com/2008/11/03/why-i-decided-to-vote/

  • Darwin – Please, let’s not be silly. The Church of today has repented the sin of the Crusades.

    Of course Catholic Anarchist what the bishops proposed in 1993 flies in the face of Pius XII’s Christmas message of 1956 in which he condemned selective conscientious objection, at least in democratic states.

    Yes, it does. News flash, Militarist: Church teaching changes!

    In regard to the teaching of the Just War doctrine Catholic Anarchist, I thank you for the clarification. You support it as long as it condemns wars you oppose, and you abandon it when it does not.

    The fact is, I am with the Popes when it comes to their judgments of modern wars and you are not. That’s the bottom line.

    Catholic Anarchist my statement in regard to the military and conscientious objection is absolutely correct. Conscientious objection is recognized, selection conscientious objection is not.

    Only a fool or a liar could continue to parrot the mistaken idea that the Church does not recognize selective conscientious objection. You are deliberately choosing to ignore it, but it’s Church teaching.

    As the statement of Pius XII indicates, selective conscientious objection is a doctrinal innovation in the Church. Actually support for any conscientious objection, except for clerics, is a doctrinal innovation of the last century. In that regard American law actually recognized the rights of absolute conscientious objectors before the Church did.

    Sure, it’s an “innovation.” But it’s Church teaching nonetheless. And you continue to ignore it.

    Your dedication to the pro-life cause is underwhelming.

    As is yours. Not to mention your dedication to authentic Catholic social doctrine.

    As for your hatred of this country it permeates most of your writing. A good sample is set forth in the many jabs you make at America in your explanation as to why you were going to vote for pro-abort Obama.

    Jabs = hate?

  • I just reviewed my post on why I voted for Obama. Interesting that you did not quote anything from the post that would indicate that I “hate” america. But thank you for doing your part to contribute to the myth that I “hate america” and to draw attention to my writing.

  • 1.The Church of today has repented the Crusades Catholic Anarchist. You wouldn’t care to link to this precise apology would you?

    2.Church teaching Catholic Anarchist has to be considered as a whole. I believe a papal statement would require another papal statement to invalidate it. Would you care to point to such a papal statement, not a statement of a council, but a papal statement?

    3.Catholic Anarchist the opinion of a Pope on a war has never been binding on Catholics. If you understand anything about the Just War doctrine you would understand that. As it happens I do agree with most papal positions regarding conflicts over the past 1700 years.

    In regard to modern conflicts would you include the Spanish Civil War in that category? How do you view the position of Pius XI in regard to that conflict?

    4. Catholic Anarchist your reading comprehension really cannot be so low as to fail to discern that I was writing about the US military’s position in regard to conscientious objection? Please try to at least read what I have written and not what you imagine I have written.

    5. Catholic Anarchist, in addition to my political work for the pro-life cause I have also been a Birthright volunteer and a member of the board of the crisis pregnancy center in my country for the past decade. For the past five years I have been president of the board of the crisis pregnancy center. I will let our readers judge if that is underwhelming. I am sure I could have done more.

    6. Catholic social doctrine Catholic Anarchist is not far left political stances, no matter how much you wish it was.

    7. You want another example of your hatriotism? Here is your Fourth of July salute:

    http://vox-nova.com/2008/07/03/happy-4th-of-july/

  • I’ll only comment on #5. The rest I consider worthless to debate further. You are at the front of the Cafeteria line on the issue of war. american policy is your moral guide.

    On #5 – You obviously have a record of anti-abortion activity. But what i said was that your dedication to the pro-life cause (and I understand the term “pro-life” in the Catholic, not american societal, sense) is underwhelming. Your readers are able to judge that, I’m sure.

    Again, you see what you want to see in my posts. There is nothing in my 4th of July post that would indicate “hatred” of america, only an insistence that we reject american civil religion in our Catholic churches. But again, thanks for helping to make me “legendary”!

  • This is the oddly maddening thing about trying to talk to you, Michael. On the one hand, you say such incredibly and obviously badly argued things that one itches to respond — yet on the other you display fairly little interest in understanding what other people have to say and giving it a fair hearing, so at the same rational level there’s seemingly little point in responding.

    You say that you agree with the Church’s just war teaching, yet you reject nearly the entire history of it and say that what you agree with is one modern interpretation of it which suggest that war is almost never justified. When the fact that this is a minority viewpoint in Church history is pointed out to you, you exclaim, “Church teaching changes!”

    Yet if Church teaching changes drastically, then clearly at some times the Church is teaching what is true, and at other times what is false. And if that’s so, why should we be convinced (especially by your brief and acerbic comments) that your interpretation of the current teaching (based not on something like the Catechism of the Catholic Church but on a speculation Cardinal Ratzinger made a number of years ago in an interview) is correct?

    You say that we should agree with the popes in regards to what wars are just, yet when specific several wars endorsed by popes over the course of 800 years you brushed that off with “the Church has apologized for the crusades”. (Technically, that’s not true. Pope John Paul II expressed sorrow for a number of clearly wrong acts that were committed by the crusaders, but he did not actually say that the Church was wrong to call the crusades, nor that the various promises of plenary indulgences attached to crusading — in a proper state of contrition and sacrifice, obviously, as with any indulgence — were invalid.) Instead you follow up by saying you agree with popes about modern wars.

    Except as Donald pointed out you probably don’t agree with Pius XI in regards to the Spanish Civil War. Or with Pius XII in regards to the allied cause in WW2. Or with John Paul II in regards to the NATO campaign in Bosnia. Even with the US war in Afghanistan there were decidedly mixed messages from Vatican spokesmen and no statement either way from the pope, as I recall.

    So basically, you agree with some modern popes about some modern wars so long as they agree with you — and by golly someone is a terrible Catholic if they don’t share your convictions in that regard.

    You consider this a convincing argument? I have a lot of respect for people who think that the Iraq War did not meet just war standards (which as I recall includes roughly half the active contributors this blog) but your kind of foolishness draws neither respect nor belief.

  • You and Donald will not be convinced even if the Pope himself phones you. I’m not concerned about convincing you.

  • “Pope John Paul II expressed sorrow for a number of clearly wrong acts that were committed by the crusaders, but he did not actually say that the Church was wrong to call the crusades”

    A good distinction to make, as well. It isn’t very popular today to acknowledge that the First Crusade was a defensive war launched at the behest of an ally calling to the West for help.

    It’s off topic, kinda, but my ancestors, the Maronite Lebanese, benefited greatly from the protection of the crusaders. The Turks really were engaged in persecution of Christians, they had conquered many territories that were a part of the Christian Middle East and North Africa.

    The crusaders also did not try to impose Christianity on the local Muslim population, at least not on a large scale. So it was never a war waged to convert by the sword. I believe it was a legitimate defense of Christendom from an enemy that had been aggressive for a good 400 years or so prior to that point.

    I’m sure Michael and others will not only vehemently disagree, but accuse me of apologizing for religious imperialism or some other terrible thing. Well, I put up with it from the right when I criticize America’s wars, so I suppose I can deal with it from the left when I defend those called by the Church.

  • “I’m not concerned about convincing you.”

    You’re not concerned about convincing anybody. Posturing, tossing “treats” at your opponent like an alpha baboon and making sure everyone knows you aren’t like that conservative/”militarist” tax collector over there are your modus operandi.

    Enjoy the ego trip, kid.

  • Joe said:

    “A good distinction to make, as well. It isn’t very popular today to acknowledge that the First Crusade was a defensive war launched at the behest of an ally calling to the West for help.

    It’s off topic, kinda, but my ancestors, the Maronite Lebanese, benefited greatly from the protection of the crusaders. The Turks really were engaged in persecution of Christians, they had conquered many territories that were a part of the Christian Middle East and North Africa.

    The crusaders also did not try to impose Christianity on the local Muslim population, at least not on a large scale. So it was never a war waged to convert by the sword. I believe it was a legitimate defense of Christendom from an enemy that had been aggressive for a good 400 years or so prior to that point.”

    Too bad this little bit submitted by Joe above and other such points in fact is lost on the bigoted nitwits on the History Channel; if anything, their Two-Part indictment.. err.. special, “The Crusades: The Crescent and the Cross“, maliciously produced an utterly insidiously dark, villainous portrayal of the Pope, the Church and all of Christendom then, attempting to make the Muslims nothing more but saintly innocent, peaceful people into whose hands the Holy Lands rightfully belonged and, even more, were perfectly governed thereby with only justice and remarkable virtue, unlike the vile Crusaders who didst anything except plunder, rape and heinously murder.

    The American Catholic should’ve sicced Joe on these wretched anti-Catholic bigots.

  • Ok- since this was my post -originally anyway- I feel some responsibility to wrap things up and attempt a little peacemaking- especially given the nature of the post in the first place.

    There are two main areas covered in this thread- with a third being the Crusades as a late entry- which I am going with Joe H.’s historical accounting of the basic facts.

    I quoted the Compendium’s teaching on the principle of conscience-protection for our troops- which I thought was a necessary reform for our U.S. military services- both for orders that would be immoral and for a selective conscientious objection option for situations where one has signed up in good faith to serve but gets thrown into a unjust war- I used the 9-11/Iraq Invasion as a controversial real-life example.

    The basic question over just how exactly we should or could enact some basic conscience protections for the troops got deep-sixed by the debate on the Iraq War’s justification- which brought out a mini-war among churchmen and their “pens”. I chose that time to bring out my Catholic Cafeteria parable of sorts- which was seen as being specifically targeting those who supported the justness of the Iraq invasion. It was meant to be a much broader statement on the American political situation of very clearly drawn lines in the sand between those who proudly proclaim their “liberal” or “conservative” bonafides. But the connection to the Iraq situation was unavoidable, and I should clear the air a bit.

    I do think that the Iraq invasion was immoral, but it isn’t something that is going to found in a permanent Catechism under “Iraq Wars”. It is an application of Just War theory, and the prudential judgment guidance offered by the Church Hierarchs, and by the facts on the ground. For me, Iraq was an easy call because what I understood of the situation from the facts on the ground to the guidance offered by the Hierarchy was a straight-line. And so, I took an early and strident opposition on moral and practical terms.

    This obviously isn’t how everyone Catholic took in this War- and while there is wiggle room on a prudential judgment of social doctrinal principle- when you are dealing with the life and death nature of warfare or not, you are going to have some life and death struggles in spirited debate. The tone is going to be war-like because we are talking about war- war which kills or saves depending on your perspective. Now I don’t think one is necessarily a bad or incomplete Catholic in rejecting a prudential judgment of the Magisterium or the various Hierarchical bodies of Bishops- but it is one where I believe we have to tread very lightly when taking a public position that runs contrary to the popes et al- even on prudential matters. One had better have an overwhelming amount of evidence from the ‘facts on the ground’ to overturn the assessment by our Church leadership. Am I wrong to make these kind of assertions of how good well-meaning Catholics should proceed as a matter of process in their decision-making and public statements? I open this point up to the forum.

    I am not a pacifist, I do believe that the Church has developed an appreciation for the idea that to err on the side of non-violence is a better option when in doubt. The Iraq situation was something clear to me, but the Afghanistan War is another thing- the facts on the ground seemed to support a war against the Taliban for harboring Bin Laden, and the Church leadership did not offer any clear guidance yea or neigh, so for me it has come down to a murky search through some of the recent history of Afghanistan and the whole building up of the Jihadist movement by Western and Saudi/Pakistani interests originally to bloody the Soviets and further internal Islamic competitions. Like I said, this war in Afghanistan is really murky for me in ways that Iraq was not.

    I do believe that when one supports a war, even though you are not fighting it, you are to some degree on the hook morally for it. So, I am a bit on the hook for what is happening in Afghanistan- the deaths of civilians keep me from maintaining a comfortable distance- and the growing risk to our troops as well. I look at these things as an elder, a middle-aged father who is past his days as a brash inexperienced youth without a strong stake in the global community. My kids are in the mix now- so all of this is very personal- how I (we) leave this world is of paramount importance- I don’t want to face Jesus Christ with a weak conscience either!

    So – yes- I will continue to challenge the judgment of Catholics who supported going into Iraq- I will not say they are bad Catholics, but it is in the nature of the debate of warfare to engage in polemics and heated rhetoric. We all need to check our consciences- all the time- me included of course. I tend to give extra-heavy weight to the Magisterium and other Hierarchical documents and commentaries/letters/speeches- this is in no small part due to the fact that these type of communications played a huge role in my personal conversion to Catholicism- so I am extra-sensitive when Catholics seem uninterested or not as impressed with Church sources of guidance and doctrinal formation.

    I apologize for using sarcasm at times in responding to others here- I hope this post will heal some rifts, and we can maybe find some common ground on my original posting to help our troops- particularly our Catholic troops to be able to serve our country militarily, but also to serve their Catholic-consciences, which may put them at odds with the political class at times of war, or with superior officiers during the heat of war. If there could be a listing of potential situations where conscience-clauses could be invoked by individual soldiers- so that we could minimize the abuse of conscience-clauses which could lead to a break-down of authority or encourage cowardice and sloth- this would be the way to proceed- if we agree in principle that soldiers, just like health care professionals, have a right to conscience protections so they can do the work they are suited for, but also be protected from punitive hardships should they need to invoke their well-developed consciences. Our Catholic soldiers, like our Catholic health care professionals, can help our nation by serving the front lines of our public conscience development. God Bless everyone, Christ’s Peace everywhere. Shall we close this thread on a positive?

  • Predictable as always, kid.

  • Shall we close this thread on a positive?

    Looks like Dale ain’t into that idea.

A Just War

Monday, July 6, AD 2009

 

 

 

Based on the just war doctrine first enunciated by Saint Augustine, the American Revolution was a just war.

 

Over the centuries the precise content of the just war doctrine has varied.  The classic definition of it by Saint Thomas Aquinas is set forth in Part II, Question 40 of his Summa Theologica:

“I answer that, In order for a war to be just, three things are necessary. First, the authority of the sovereign by whose command the war is to be waged. For it is not the business of a private individual to declare war, because he can seek for redress of his rights from the tribunal of his superior. Moreover it is not the business of a private individual to summon together the people, which has to be done in wartime. And as the care of the common weal is committed to those who are in authority, it is their business to watch over the common weal of the city, kingdom or province subject to them. And just as it is lawful for them to have recourse to the sword in defending that common weal against internal disturbances, when they punish evil-doers, according to the words of the Apostle (Rm. 13:4): “He beareth not the sword in vain: for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil”; so too, it is their business to have recourse to the sword of war in defending the common weal against external enemies. Hence it is said to those who are in authority (Ps. 81:4): “Rescue the poor: and deliver the needy out of the hand of the sinner”; and for this reason Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 75): “The natural order conducive to peace among mortals demands that the power to declare and counsel war should be in the hands of those who hold the supreme authority.”

Secondly, a just cause is required, namely that those who are attacked, should be attacked because they deserve it on account of some fault. Wherefore Augustine says (Questions. in Hept., qu. x, super Jos.): “A just war is wont to be described as one that avenges wrongs, when a nation or state has to be punished, for refusing to make amends for the wrongs inflicted by its subjects, or to restore what it has seized unjustly.”

Thirdly, it is necessary that the belligerents should have a rightful intention, so that they intend the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil. Hence Augustine says (De Verb. Dom. [*The words quoted are to be found not in St. Augustine’s works, but Can. Apud. Caus. xxiii, qu. 1]): “True religion looks upon as peaceful those wars that are waged not for motives of aggrandizement, or cruelty, but with the object of securing peace, of punishing evil-doers, and of uplifting the good.” For it may happen that the war is declared by the legitimate authority, and for a just cause, and yet be rendered unlawful through a wicked intention. Hence Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 74): “The passion for inflicting harm, the cruel thirst for vengeance, an unpacific and relentless spirit, the fever of revolt, the lust of power, and such like things, all these are rightly condemned in war.”

The most recent formulation of the Just War doctrine for the Church is set forth in the Catechism at 2309:

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25 Responses to A Just War

  • Good post, Don. My concerns about the actual justness of the war have always been found in two areas. Given that some of the leading patriots (mostly in MA) like Samuel Adams could rightfully be called rabbel-rousers. Sam Adams was nowhere nearly as thoughtful and principled as his cousin John, but did have a gift of zealous leadership. On the whole I think his contribution is problematic from a Catholic standpoint.

    The other issue ties into the above. Were things really becoming that bad for the colonists? Were they overreacting to legitimate governing decisions? Objectively, it’s hard to say for sure. I always tend to soothe my doubts by considering April 19, 1775. The justice/injustice of all prior affairs become somewhat suspended at that point. General Gage’s actions were an act of war – at the very least a deliberate provocation to war – and the results could have been easily foreseen by any reasonable man.

    Now after a week of discussions and arguments on this blog I’m doubting my doubts. I think you and others have done a good job arguing that the escalations by the crown over the previous decade were not only unjust, but knowingly intended to harm and/or provoke the colonists, and were only to increase in number and severity. But I guess in the end it’s the words of Edmund Burke’s that tend to exonerate the colonists and condemn the king and parliament.

    Good series of posts, sir.

  • I think I agree with all Burke’s arguments. My doubts as to the justice of the war center, I guess, around whether it was really appropriate for the colonists to get all that worked up about the state of taxation in the first place. Historically, I can see why they did. And once they objected, the British crown seemingly did everything in their power to push the colonists further and further in the path towards war.

    But while I can agree that the taxes were without precedent in the colonies and were imposed in a fashion which the colonists had decent reasons for considering unjust, there’s a part of me that wants to say that the level of taxation was simply not worth getting that upset about.

    That may be a case of overly imposing a modern set of experiences and expectations, however.

    That’s a quibble, though. Very well written and researched post. Thank you.

  • I think the biggest problem you’re going to have in justifying the Revolution is in #4. While the imposed taxes were unjust, they were hardly that damaging save in principle. Do taxes justify killing? This is exactly what the Church would demand under #4, so that the good obtained outweighs the evil done. I hardly think so. Moreover, Aquinas is very clear that rebellions themselves are very dangerous, as the loss of order and the resulting chaos is very bad for a society (particularly its unity), thus meaning that rebellions have to meet the very highest standards in order to be considered just. The intrinsic ills of rebellion have to be added to the evils that would have to be outweighed by the good accomplished by independence.

    It’s also worth noting that just b/c the English were provoking us to war doesn’t mean we’re justifying in fighting it. All that means is that England is fighting an unjust war (which I think is VERY clear), not that we’re fighting a just one. Two opposing sides can be engaged in an unjust war against each other at the same time.

    Finally, the reason they have the “chance of success” is that as you can see in Aquinas, there is a sense that the war has to benefit the overall common good. Fighting a losing war b/c of a principle is only going to do further damage to the society. Of course, this is one of the most difficult standards to discern but I think it’s a very necessary one.

  • Very good points Michael.

  • Thank you for your kind comments Rick and for your kind comments Darwin.

    In reference to your comments Michael, I think the Americans were fighting to retain the right to rule themselves and I agree with them that this is a right worth fighting for. As to the Angelic Doctor and rebellions, what has to be taken into account in the American Revolution is that the colonialists were very much fighting to preserve the status quo initially. If King George and Parliament had simply passed an Act in 1775 confirming the status quo prior to the Stamp Act, the Americans will be only taxed by their legislatures and the legislatures have the sole power to legislate in regard to the internal affairs of the colonists, all but a few of the Patriots would have been willing to accept it. No such offer was made, and Independence came about because it became clear to most Americans that the status quo they yearned for would never be granted to them by George III.

  • Two opposing sides can be engaged in an unjust war against each other at the same time.

    I can see how this could be true in certain kinds of situations (say you have two tribal/ethnic groups both trying to ethnic cleanse the others) but in general it would seem to me that if someone wages a unjust aggression against you, wouldn’t it fairly obviously be just to resist that unjust aggression?

    Is there something I’m missing there?

  • I think the Americans were fighting to retain the right to rule themselves and I agree with them that this is a right worth fighting for.

    Yes, it is worth fighting for but is it worth killing over? This is not an issue of a foreign country attempting to take over; this is an example of a jurisdictional battle between the colonial assemblies and Parliament. It’s notable that the Burke quote you give suggests that Parliament would have to grant those rights to the colonists, not that those rights existed before the French & Indian war.

    Furthermore, Aquinas specifically discusses that the presence of a tyrant is not sufficient to justify war & rebellion, as it is possible that God has allowed the tyrant as a punishment for the sins of the people. Thus, in Aquinas’s mind, the tyrant has to be exceptionally bad (at war with his own people, essentially) to justify revolt.

    To put this in perspective, would any state or group of states be conducting a just rebellion due to the federal government’s usurpation of states rights and excessive taxes?

    People are going to die, including innocent people. While that number is not large, that doesn’t matter. Just war doctrine is not a consequentialist theory. To engage is war, to take a life, always requires dire circumstances and no other resorts. That is a very high standard, one which a tax and jurisdictional dispute is hard pressed to meet.

    As to the Angelic Doctor and rebellions, what has to be taken into account in the American Revolution is that the colonialists were very much fighting to preserve the status quo initially. If King George and Parliament had simply passed an Act in 1775 confirming the status quo prior to the Stamp Act, the Americans will be only taxed by their legislatures and the legislatures have the sole power to legislate in regard to the internal affairs of the colonists, all but a few of the Patriots would have been willing to accept it. No such offer was made, and Independence came about because it became clear to most Americans that the status quo they yearned for would never be granted to them by George III.

    I don’t think that quite gets to what Aquinas is saying. He argues that a rejection of the ruling order necessarily leads one to chaos as well undermines the unity of a society. The brother against brother idea is something that horrifies Aquinas, as the division of a society at such root undermines the community as a whole. This makes it difficult for such critical institutions as the community, family, and Church to function properly, thus endangering their ability to provide the necessary framework for man to function, thrive and ultimate receive salvation. Thus Aquinas takes care to argue that rebellion is only permissible in the worst of situations.

    While the colonists were being harmed and treated unjustly, I don’t think they were so mistreated as to justify war.

  • Thus, in Aquinas’s mind, the tyrant has to be exceptionally bad (at war with his own people, essentially) to justify revolt.

    This is precisely why the events of April 19, 1775 is so important. Whether the acts of the king and parliament previously were intended to be oppressive or provocative it became hard to consider them any but at that point. Great Britain began to wage war against the colonial population that night. They hoped to chop the colonial head off in one fast swipe and declare an easy victory. That didn’t happen and they got a very surprising ass-kicking. The war was on from that point forward.

  • Darwin

    I can see how this could be true in certain kinds of situations (say you have two tribal/ethnic groups both trying to ethnic cleanse the others) but in general it would seem to me that if someone wages a unjust aggression against you, wouldn’t it fairly obviously be just to resist that unjust aggression?

    Is there something I’m missing there?

    Well, the just war theory is designed around making sure the war is serving the interests of peace and the common good. So if one fights a war with no chance of winning, even against an unjust aggressor, you’re not serving the interests of peace and the common good; you’re just fighting to fight.

    If you fight a war, particularly in the modern age, that’s going to be exceptionally bloody, it may not be just. Nuclear war is a good example of this. If for example fighting a war required fighting a nuclear war, along with Armageddon that comes with as a result, it wouldn’t be just to fight back.

    Finally, the intention of securing peace has to be there. For example, the Soviets in WWII were repelling an unjust German invasion, however the intention was not to restore peace but to extend the Soviet landholdings.

    Using those criteria, you can see how it’s possible for two sides to be engaging in just war against each other. You could probably plug many other wars into the equation as well.

    It might also be helpful to think about the difference between Lockean justification of revolution/war and Thomistic ones. Locke believed that any violation of the social contract (i.e. rights violation) moved us back into the state of nature, a place where any attack justified killing. We have to be careful to avoid that thinking, as it’s prevalent especially in the narrative justifying the Revolution in American textbooks. Thomas on the other hand takes a much more cautious approach, seeking always to encourage people to peace whereas Locke would lead many people more to war.

    I think your question is good and it shows the difficulty of the just war theory. It very much leads to many scenarios where one has to turn the other cheek.

  • Rick

    This is precisely why the events of April 19, 1775 is so important. Whether the acts of the king and parliament previously were intended to be oppressive or provocative it became hard to consider them any but at that point. Great Britain began to wage war against the colonial population that night. They hoped to chop the colonial head off in one fast swipe and declare an easy victory. That didn’t happen and they got a very surprising ass-kicking. The war was on from that point forward.
    This is good. Y’all are making good points. By the way, I lean towards the American Revolution being unjust but I may be wrong. I do think the American narrative of the war is unjust, but you’re getting to why it might actually be just. Allow me to challenge you a little bit here.

    The problem you’ll have is that Britain was responding to an act of rebellion. That is, the rebellion/war was already happening to some extent. I don’t know that I can say attacking a rebellious group that’s stockpiling weapons is necessarily a oppressive action; most governments should act when that’s going on.

    So I don’t you can say “England attacked, therefore rebellion was justified” b/c England attacked b/c of the rebellion that was already present unless you separate them someone (i.e. Before England attacked Concord, the rebellion was unjust but the methods England used showed that in fact England had created a war against its own people, justifying martial defense). I suppose it’s possible, but it seems rather difficult. But I’m open to your response.

  • After the first paragraph, there should be no italics. Mea culpa.

  • “Yes, it is worth fighting for but is it worth killing over?”

    Without a doubt in my mind. In the case of the Americans they were being told that although they had thought they ruled themselves, Parliament, at any time, could alter their government and impose any laws they chose. This was far more than a jurisdictional dispute. It went to the heart of whether the colonialists were free men, or mere subjects who had no voice in their government.

    “as it is possible that God has allowed the tyrant as a punishment for the sins of the people.”

    With all due respect to the Angelic Doctor one could just as easily suppose that God brings a tyrant forth to provoke a rebellion in order to serve His purposes. The motives that can be ascribed to God for human events are endless and I think resting public policy on an assertion that something is “God’s Will” is normally a mistake since the will of God is often exceptionally inscrutable in my experience.

    “To put this in perspective, would any state or group of states be conducting a just rebellion due to the federal government’s usurpation of states rights and excessive taxes?”

    Sure under these conditions. The Federal government imposes new taxes on only the Midwestern States. These states are stripped of representation in Congress. When legislatures and citizens protest the unfairness of this, federal legislation is enacted ensuring that all state officials in these states will be appointed by the President and that the legislatures will meet in session only when these new officials say that they will. A Declaratory Act is passed by Congress stating that the Midwestern States are subject to the laws passed by Congress in all things, any acts of the legislatures or the state constitutions notwithstanding. In the meantime Chicago, the hotbed of resistance, is garrisoned by federal troops. Under these conditions I would be willing to place my 52 year old carcass at the disposal of the state forces of Illinois organizing to fight this.

  • “He argues that a rejection of the ruling order necessarily leads one to chaos as well undermines the unity of a society.”

    Yes, but in the case of the colonies they had been ruling themselves since the inception of the colonies. It was George III and Parliament who were disturbing the ruling order.

  • On Burke, Peter Stanlis and the sadly departed Francis Canavan SJ have written much worth reading about him and North America.

    What a genius he was…..

  • Thanks, Michael. First:

    I don’t know that I can say attacking a rebellious group that’s stockpiling weapons is necessarily a oppressive action; most governments should act when that’s going on.

    I think it’s important to consider time and place. Just because our modern society has been so blessed by material prosperity, relative peace, etc. AND due to those things has become a little whacked about how it views firearms and weapons, that we need to be careful how we consider an act of disarming a population – and how to view “stockpiling weapons”.

    To our modern ears “stockpiling weapons” sounds like something a doomsday cult does in preparation for Armageddon. However, colonial America was still basically frontier living. Firearms were absolutely necessary for harvesting wildlife as well as defending oneself. Remember, the army of the colonies was a citizen militia that was raised and supported in part by Great Britain (who used these very militias to fight her battles with the Indians). Stockpiling weapons was an ongoing business, it was necessary and a constant thing all along.

    You don’t have to be a member of the Sons of Liberty – or even be terribly sympathetic to them – to be very distraught about the idea of the imperial government sending out regulars to confiscate your weapons store. The mounting tensions regardless of who was at fault for what and when leave one with little choice but to assign nefarious motives to that act.

    After all, just because General Gage had the authority to do it, doesn’t make it just. There are limits to what a government can do its citizens, right? Personally I think they crossed the line and I think it’s pretty obvious the citizens (not just the SoL) of the day thought so too.

  • Thanks for fixing my last post.

    Rick:

    My history may be fuzzy, but it was clear that they weren’t stockpiling just for hunting or Indians, but for resistance to the Brits, right? I’m all for the 2nd amendment and all that, but I think stockpiling against the government is a serious act of rebellion.

    Donald:

    Without a doubt in my mind. In the case of the Americans they were being told that although they had thought they ruled themselves, Parliament, at any time, could alter their government and impose any laws they chose. This was far more than a jurisdictional dispute. It went to the heart of whether the colonialists were free men, or mere subjects who had no voice in their government.

    This is Aquinas’s thoughts.Summa II Q42 A II.

    Reply to Objection 3. A tyrannical government is not just, because it is directed, not to the common good, but to the private good of the ruler, as the Philosopher states (Polit. iii, 5; Ethic. viii, 10). Consequently there is no sedition in disturbing a government of this kind, unless indeed the tyrant’s rule be disturbed so inordinately, that his subjects suffer greater harm from the consequent disturbance than from the tyrant’s government. Ondeed it is the tyrant rather that is guilty of sedition, since he encourages discord and sedition among his subjects, that he may lord over them more securely; for this is tyranny, being conducive to the private good of the ruler, and to the injury of the multitude.

    What I’m challenging you on is this. That while England may have been tyrannical, that the disturbance that came from the colonist’s resistance was greater than the harm done from England, thus meaning that the overall common good was harmed and the war was unjust. We may get to an impasse here, but I think you’ll need to show not only that England was being tyrannical, but that it was of such devastating tyranny as to justify war.

    With all due respect to the Angelic Doctor one could just as easily suppose that God brings a tyrant forth to provoke a rebellion in order to serve His purposes. The motives that can be ascribed to God for human events are endless and I think resting public policy on an assertion that something is “God’s Will” is normally a mistake since the will of God is often exceptionally inscrutable in my experience.

    I think Aquinas’s point is to give one pause before assuming that jettisoning the tyrant is the will of God b/c he is a tyrant and is in sin, which is the way Locke looks at it. Of course God may will that the tyran be defeated, but he may not, which is why it is very important to look at the other tenets of the just war theory; namely the amount of damage being done by the tyrant compared to the amount of damage done by a violent rebellion.

    As to the federal v. states example, it may also be important to remember that the colonists were not innocent in all this. There were quite a few of them, especially anti-Catholic Sam Adams, who were actively seeking to provoke war. The Boston Tea Party is such an action. While the Brits overreacted, it’s not like most of their moves were out of the blue and solely after a desire to grab power, but to try to retain order.

    Of course, how much each action was for order and how much for power of Parliament is a difficult trick, which is why these decisions are very complicated and require much prayer.

    P.S. Thanks to the both of you for arguing in a charitable manner. It’s rare to see it on blogs, and so I like to compliment it when I see it.

  • Michael, I guess I’m disputing the the term “stockpiling” and then using it as a means to show ill intent on behalf of the colonists. The arsenal at Concord was already in existence prior to this lead up and was not something anyone would have considered threatening or an ominous sign. That the militia may have felt threatened by the actions of the British and were solicitous about keeping the munition stores full and safe is not an act of aggression or an imminent threat. I guess what I’m trying to say is the arsenal at Concord was the default and prior to the escalations was actually something the British looked favorably upon.

    I’m trying to be careful to not utilize biased rhetoric in support of my position, though I know I basically just did. However, I did try to use it in support of genuine argument. I can only explain feeling the need to use that is that I think your characterization is laden with it the other way.

  • Rick:

    I’m trying to be careful to not utilize biased rhetoric in support of my position, though I know I basically just did. However, I did try to use it in support of genuine argument.

    Absolutely. I hope I didn’t give the impression I thought otherwise. I thought your observation was a good one and one I need to keep in mind.

    Michael, I guess I’m disputing the the term “stockpiling” and then using it as a means to show ill intent on behalf of the colonists. The arsenal at Concord was already in existence prior to this lead up and was not something anyone would have considered threatening or an ominous sign. That the militia may have felt threatened by the actions of the British and were solicitous about keeping the munition stores full and safe is not an act of aggression or an imminent threat. I guess what I’m trying to say is the arsenal at Concord was the default and prior to the escalations was actually something the British looked favorably upon.

    That’s what I was asking. Namely, was the purpose or level of the munitions such to be an obvious threat to the Brits. Now I will need to go do some research on my own to look more into what the situation was in Concord. Do you have any links or sources that may be helpful in this regard?

  • Michael, I breezed through a couple wiki entries and am satisfied enough with the content to stand here feeling both confirmed and corrected.

    The Minutemen entry is adequate enough to get a feel of the militia system and it’s history and how it was effected by the building crisis with the Crown (see the section about the revolutionary period). I think this is relevant to understand that the militias weren’t merely an organized revolutionary outlaws and that they were by nature armed by themselves and that was the status quo.

    Read about the Powder Alarm to see how things were and how they changed during the British escalations. Here is where I was wrong. I stated that the Concord arsenal predated these events. It did not. I thought Concord contained one of the magazines that were emptied and munitions hidden. Apparently the munitions came from another town to be hidden there.

    See the Lexington and Concord entry for details on the British intentions to confiscate the colonist’s arms and the hunt for the cannon and munitions. Oh, and the fires set too.

    IDK, it’s hard for me to not consider those events as an act of war.

  • When we consider the justice of the colonists cause, we should do well not to forget their opposition to the Quebec act and to limits on their ability to encroach on territory that the British crown had yielded, in treaties, to Indian tribes. I’m not sure how these causes, the justice of which is, at the least, suspect, would affect the overall jus ad bellum of the Revolution, but the do seem like they need to be considered.

  • I believe that by “there must be a serious prospect of success” can be interpreted to mean whether the intended consequences will be met without any unintended adverse consequences which are just as bad if not worse then the evils being fought. For example, World War II may have eliminated the Nazis but resulted in a great part of Europe falling under the yoke of Communism for over 60 years.

    As Howard Zinn once wrote:

    We’ve got to rethink this question of war and come to the conclusion that war cannot be accepted, no matter what the reasons given, or the excuse: liberty, democracy; this, that. War is by definition the indiscriminate killing of huge numbers of people for ends that are uncertain. Think about means and ends, and apply it to war. The means are horrible, certainly. The ends, uncertain. That alone should make you hesitate.

  • Awakaman, while your point is not lost on me, and I have great sympathy regarding the fate of Eastern Europe post-war, I think WWII is poor support for your point. I think FDR selling out Eastern Europe to Stalin was basically immoral, imprudent, unnecessary and unwise. However, the fate of those people would have been no better had the Axis Powers not been defeated, plus much of Western Europe and a good chunk of Asia and other parts of the world would have suffered the same fate. And since Western Europe and the US prevailed and were able to stand as a successful contrasting example – and as a stumbling block to Communist expansion – those 60 years may have been a drop in the bucket in comparison to what might have been. I don’t like playing “what-if” all that much, but I think these are reasonable observations and conclusions.

  • Rick:

    You state that the “fate of these people would have been no better had the Axis Powers not been defeated” but the point of my previous post was maybe they would not have been in a better position under the Axis then the Communists but a lot fewer of them would have been dead as a result of a four year war of attrition.

    “[T]hose 60 years may have been a drop in the bucket compared to what might have been?” I think the most probable result of non-British/French/US intervention would have been a prolonged war of attrition between Germany and the USSR which woud have resulted in the collapse of both regiemes.

    Finally, what do you mean by the US prevailed

  • No, awakaman, without a doubt one of them would have prevailed, probably the Nazis without lendlease to the USSR and the western bombing campaign that tied down so much of the Luftwaffe in the West, not to mention a third of the Wehrmacht that, without western opposition, could have been deployed against the USSR. Then the West would probably have faced a Nazi regime armed with nuclear ICBMs circa 1952.

  • Hand hit the submit button prior to finishing:

    Finallhy what do you mean by “the US prevailed and were able to stand as a successful contrasting example.” How so? By showing that we were willing to kill alot of our own troops, others troops and a lot of innocent civilians in the name of “liberty and freedom/” By showing that we were willing to enter into an alliance with one evil in order to defeat another? Sure the Axis were defeated but excuse me if I view the post WWII world as much worse than the ante bellum world – and that applies to the effect the prolonged and expanded war had on areas of the world which were not ceaded to Stalin and Mao after the war.

A Suggestion for Israel

Wednesday, January 7, AD 2009

Over at Human Events, Ben Shapiro has an article about how Israel will lose the conflict in Gaza again.  His initial premise states that we keep seeing an essentially endless cycle repeated: Hamas strikes Israel, Israel retaliates, the world comes down hard on Israel, Israel retreats and gives Hamas another chance to strike Israel. Elsewhere, the debate about how justified Israel is in its current cycle of retaliations continues heatedly and almost unanimously denounces Israel’s actions.

As a personal opinion, I believe that Hamas, despite claims to the contrary, is directly responsible for its strikes into Israel.  I believe that Hamas deliberately hides behind civilian shields in order to protect themselves from retaliation and to milk the public for sympathy when Israeli attacks kill those civilian shields.  I believe that Hamas is single-mindedly dedicated to the destruction of Israel, and that Israel is justified in trying to defend herself against Hamas’ attacks.

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11 Responses to A Suggestion for Israel

  • Interesting take

  • It isn’t about money or economic development Ryan. It is all about the fact that the vast majority of arabs in Gaza and the West Bank are ashamed that they were beaten militarily by Jews and that Jews rule in arab lands. The Israelis and the rest of the world could provide a terrestrial paradise for the Arabs, and it would not diminish one iota the desire of almost all Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank to drive the Israelis into the sea. The US and the West have sent tens of billions of dollars to the arabs in Gaza and the West Bank in the form of humanitarian aid, monetary grants, development funds, etc. It has made no difference at all.

  • A very well-written and thought out point, and it makes a lot of sense.
    However, I just don’t know that it would appeal to a country that has to “sit still and take it,” so to speak, while at the same time providing aid to the perceived enemy. No doubt while Israel would attempt to pour money and resources and good will into Gaza, Hamas would still be attacking.

    I know this is an imperfect analogy, but if Mexico were firing into Texas, do you think the American public would accept a similar course of action?

  • Ryan,

    One must understand hatred and recognize the fallen nature of man. Many Palestinians hate Jews, not because of any wrong the Jews have committed against them, but because they are taught that by their religion, by their parents and by LIBERALS.

    Bribing them with goodies will do nothing but allow them to use all of their other means to build up and attack Israel again. Besides, Iran already pours massive amounts of money into the Gaza and we know what they spend it on.

    The only reasonable course of action in the interest of Israel, the innocent Palestinians and peace in the Middle East is for Israel to complete the destruction of Hamas and deny Iran it’s satellite regime.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • This past Friday, the Hamas television show Pioneers of Tomorrow (a child-indoctrination version of “Sesame Street”) depicted the bunny Assoud dying in a Gaza hospital after an Israeli attack. Assaud the Jew-eating Bunny was introduced to Gazan children in February 2008:

    The Pioneers of Tomorrow children’s series produced by Palestinian group Hamas and made famous by a Mickey Mouse-looking character declaring jihad on Israel and the US, introduced Assud the Bunny.Assud – who said in his first episode that he would “get rid of the Jews, Allah willing, and… will eat them up” – replaced his brother, Nahoul the Bee, according to the translation from the Middle East Media Research Institute.

    […]

    In an interview with the program’s host, a young girl purportedly named Saraa Barhoum, Assud talked about becoming martyrdom.

    “We are all martyrdom-seekers, are we not, Saraa?” Assud said on the show.

    Saraa said: “Of course we are. We are all ready to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of our homeland. We will sacrifice our souls and everything we own for the homeland.”

    Assoud will join Farfour, Hamas’ copycat version of Mickey Mouse, in Paradise. (
    Farfour was “martyred” by an Israeli on May 11, 2007).

    Yes, I wish I was joking.

    I’d bet you can plumb the channels of Israeli television and wouldn’t be able to find an equivalent of Hamas’ television show — not even in the town of Sderot, subject to over 3,000 rocket attacks this year alone.

    Ravishing Gazans with economic luxuries won’t change their minds — not while infants are raised from birth in this kind of hatred.

  • Even if one did this, how would one get the truth to the Palestinian people. Many, (most), Palestinians are illiterate. Who’s to say the aide comes in and Hamas tells the people that it was their work?

    As you point out, in this conflict propaganda is important and perhaps decisive. It could also be so in the scenario you propose.

  • Just to clear the record, I am well aware of the militant hatred that a vast swath of Muslims, not just in the Gaza, have for Israel. I am well aware that that hatred is difficult, bordering on impossible, to sway. I also understand the vast propaganda campaign going on (thanks Chris for the heads-up on the despicable TV show) to keep the regular populace both ignorant and seething. I also don’t believe you can ask a nation to sit quietly and accept thousands of rockets being fired across the border, especially when the self-appointed authorities not only will not do anything to help that nation, but also blatantly cheers the aggressors on.

    I would cheer on military aggression against Hamas (and now Hezbollah) except for one thing: Israel isn’t going to wage a campaign for victory. And if there is no reasonable expectation of success (and I suppose we could argue that there could be, I would disagree from recent trend lines), then the war cannot be just.

    But I disagree with Donald and others who claim that making the Gaza an economic paradise won’t change anything. Citing the billions that have been poured into Gaza won’t sway my opinion on this, either, because those billions obviously have been redirected to, oh, rockets and whatnot, not to fixing Gaza. Frankly, I think if Israelis are willing (and this either cold of me to say, or just insane, take your pick) to risk their lives to come into Gaza and build schools and power plants and waste management systems and power lines and so on, and hire on many Gazans to aid the construction, then at least Israelis will be visibly helping the Gazan communities. That has a chance of swaying your average Muslim. So I guess talking about spending money on Gaza isn’t the key, but spending money wisely and effectively is the key.

    How to actually make sure that Israeli contractors can flood Gaza and start a massive reconstruction campaign, I have no idea. Which is probably why no one has ever tried to implement it. Indeed, the death toll could be just as high on both sides with my idea.

    But I’m willing to believe that even years of indoctrinated hatred can be swayed with a consistent display of charity.

    I know this is an imperfect analogy, but if Mexico were firing into Texas, do you think the American public would accept a similar course of action?

    Let me answer your question with a question. Who did we just elect president this past Nov 4?

  • Ryan,

    I think a deeper analysis would find that the Israeli counter-offensive into Gaza is clearly just, perhaps material for a new thread.

    What you’re suggesting is akin to the US activity in Iraq and Afghanistan… the problem is that such nation-building requires security to be effective. Kind of a chicken-egg situation. Military defeat of Gaza is a necessary precursor to rebuilding it, regardless of who sponsors the rebuilding.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Are you still defending the state terrorism of Israel?!!
    Israel kills Palestinians in their homes, in the fields and in mosques. It kills whole families as well as children with their mothers. Arab countries can – if they want – withdraw the Arab Peace Initiative. But they lost the will; therefore, the Israeli war machine keeps on killing Palestinians.
    The Israeli government, gathering the remaining Nazis around the world, is trying to squeeze the last useful drop from the Bush Administration before it departs. Once again, if Arab countries want, they can pressure the US Administration in many available ways. However, they do not. The reason is that they have lost that same will.
    The Palestinians are responsible, before Arabs, for this tragic situation in Gaza Strip. The division weakened them further; the policy of Hamas killed more than 500 Palestinians in nine ominous days.
    Yet I started with our responsibility, so people would not say I am denying it. In the ongoing crime, Israel appears as a Nazi, military, expansionist nation that has no right to exist in the Middle East.
    Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak are terrorists. She is a terrorist born to two terrorist members of the Argon gang, which imported terrorism to Palestine and the Middle East. She worked in the Mossad to complete her family’s terrorism heritage. Now she is saying that all Israel wants is for Hamas to stop firing rockets. This is also the excuse of Barak, who practiced terrorism as a soldier and is still practicing it as a minister. Both of them say that war on Gaza has nothing to do with next month’s elections. This means that it definitely has something to do with it.
    Then you have the biggest liar in Israel or any other place: “President” Shimon Peres; I heard him say that Israel had the most powerful weapon in the world…Justice.
    Israel is a Nazi state that has no right to exist. The Christian West sought to establish it as a means to repent of its crime at our expense. There was never a Smaller or Greater Israel. The history of the Torah is fiction and not history. The same goes for Peres justice.
    George Bush, who promised a Palestinian State by the end of 2008 and lied or failed, is a full accessory in Israel’s murder. His administration killed a million Muslims in eight years; therefore, it is not hard for him to support the killing of 500 – or even 1000 – Palestinians. He accuses Hamas of terrorism. Yet, with his help, Israel is the terrorist nation. He also said that Hamas did not want the interest of Palestinians. Who wants it then? He or his VP Dick Cheney?
    On a rare occasion, I heard Cheney say the truth. He proclaimed that Israel did not ask for permission from the US Administration to attack Gaza. Why would it ask for permission when the whole administration is under its control and shares its war on Arabs and Muslims? But Cheney, leader of the war gang, cannot stay honest for long: he went on to say that Israel, a UN member state, was attacked by a terrorist organization. The opposite is true. Israel is a terrorist nation that has no right to join any international organization, while Hamas is a national liberation movement. What is also true is that Cheney is a wanted war criminal.
    I would like to add Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy. They both support a cease-fire, but the British PM eventually supports the US administration. As to the French President, he says one thing and does another. On the eve of the attack on Gaza, Israel was offered EU membership, one which is better than that of the original six countries that started the EEC in Rome. Israel was given all privileges without any financial or any other responsibility towards the EU. Even though the Czech Republic was deliberately held responsible, France was the country that spearheaded the campaign. Sarkozy hands it the EU Presidency then comes to us for mediation.
    After this tour of Israeli terrorism, with US-EU connivance, I go back to the Palestinian and Arab responsibility. We are so weak that we cannot win a military confrontation, not even a media confrontation. Israel has been killing, occupying and destroying for four decades, yet it managed to focus on Hamas rockets, blacking out the Nazi occupation, Hamas’ raison d’être. What does Israel expect after a long occupation? To be welcomed by Palestinians with roses and wedding rice?
    Many Israelis, including Livni, evoke the Transfer (Palestinian displacement). In return, we demand a transfer that would send the Israelis back to the countries they came from. Only original Arab Jews, who were in the lands before the establishment of Israel, would remain.
    What I am trying to say is that extremism breeds extremism. If we see a Palestinian extremism and refusal, it is because the other party’s extremism has undermined the moderates among Palestinians, Arabs and others. It made a peace seeker like me call for the withdrawal of the Arab initiative.

Thoughts on Israel's war with Hamas

Tuesday, December 30, AD 2008

On December 27th, 2008, Israel launched a series of air strikes on Hamas training camps, headquarters, weapons storehouses, underground missile silos and command-and-control centers in Gaza — the start of an open-ended offensive to stem the increasing barrage of rocket-attacks that have plagued Southern Israel in the past months.

Israeli ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shaleb defended the operation:

“Israel is taking the necessary military action in order to protect its citizens from ongoing terrorist attacks originating from the Gaza Strip and carried out by Hamas and other terrorist organizations,” Shalev said, adding that Hamas “holds the sole responsibility for the latest events.”

Israel, she continued, “has exhausted all means and efforts to reach and maintain quiet and to respect the state of calm… Israel’s response is aimed solely against the terrorists and their infrastructures in the Gaza Strip. It is not intended against the civilian population. Israel is committed to prevent a humanitarian crisis.”

Shalev asserted that “No country would allow continuous rocketing of its civilian population without taking the necessary actions to stop it.”

Commenting on the three-day air assault by Israel on Hamas, Deal Hudson states “Bombing Gaza Won’t Make Israel Safer”. It’s a good post and, if anything, certainly jeopardizes Hudson’s standing as a member of the cabal of “Catholic neocons” beholden to Israel and the Republican Party (see Robert Sungenis and other tirades from the fringe-right). That said, I wish to register some thoughts in reaction, both to Hudson and our fellow critics at Vox Nova:

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39 Responses to Thoughts on Israel's war with Hamas

  • The only peace Hamas will ever make with Israel is the peace of the grave. The sad truth is that they are supported in this position by the overwhelming majority of the population of Gaza. Diplomacy is of little use when one side has as its ultimate aim the destruction of the other side.

    From the Charter of Hamas:

    “Article Thirteen: Peaceful Solutions, [Peace] Initiatives and International Conferences
    [Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion; the nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its faith, the movement educates its members to adhere to its principles and to raise the banner of Allah over their homeland as they fight their Jihad: “Allah is the all-powerful, but most people are not aware.” From time to time a clamoring is voiced, to hold an International Conference in search for a solution to the problem. Some accept the idea, others reject it, for one reason or another, demanding the implementation of this or that condition, as a prerequisite for agreeing to convene the Conference or for participating in it. But the Islamic Resistance Movement, which is aware of the [prospective] parties to this conference, and of their past and present positions towards the problems of the Muslims, does not believe that those conferences are capable of responding to demands, or of restoring rights or doing justice to the oppressed. Those conferences are no more than a means to appoint the nonbelievers as arbitrators in the lands of Islam. Since when did the Unbelievers do justice to the Believers? “And the Jews will not be pleased with thee, nor will the Christians, till thou follow their creed. Say: Lo! the guidance of Allah [himself] is the Guidance. And if you should follow their desires after the knowledge which has come unto thee, then you would have from Allah no protecting friend nor helper.” Sura 2 (the Cow), verse 120 There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. The initiatives, proposals and International Conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility. The Palestinian people are too noble to have their future, their right and their destiny submitted to a vain game. As the hadith has it: “The people of Syria are Allah’s whip on this land; He takes revenge by their intermediary from whoever he wished among his worshipers. The Hypocrites among them are forbidden from vanquishing the true believers, and they will die in anxiety and sorrow.” (Told by Tabarani, who is traceable in ascending order of traditionaries to Muhammad, and by Ahmed whose chain of transmission is incomplete. But it is bound to be a true hadith, for both story tellers are reliable. Allah knows best.)”

    http://www.palestinecenter.org/cpap/documents/charter.html

  • This is my own brief take on the conflict:

    Iran fuels Gaza conflict to increase oil prices – http://vivificat1.blogspot.com/2008/12/iran-fuels-gaza-conflict-to-increase.html.

    -Theo

  • Key quote in the Catechism: “The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason . . . ” This teaching is not about the holiness of killing. It is about the holiness of defending life.

  • Q: Is there any such thing as a “just war”?

    Cardinal Ratzinger: This is a major issue of concern. In the preparation of the Catechism, there were two problems: the death penalty and just war theory were the most debated. The debate has taken on new urgency given the response of the Americans. Or, another example: Poland, which defended itself against Hitler.

    I’d say that we cannot ignore, in the great Christian tradition and in a world marked by sin, any evil aggression that threatens to destroy not only many values, many people, but the image of humanity itself.

    In this case, defending oneself and others is a duty. Let’s say for example that a father who sees his family attacked is duty-bound to defend them in every way possible — even if that means using proportional violence.

    Thus, the just war problem is defined according to these parameters:

    1) Everything must be conscientiously considered, and every alternative explored if there is even just one possibility to save human life and values;

    2) Only the most necessary means of defense should be used and human rights must always be respected; in such a war the enemy must be respected as a human being and all fundamental rights must be respected.

    I think that the Christian tradition on this point has provided answers that must be updated on the basis of new methods of destruction and of new dangers. For example, there may be no way for a population to defend itself from an atomic bomb. So, these must be updated.

    But I’d say that we cannot totally exclude the need, the moral need, to suitably defend people and values against unjust aggressors.

    — Cardinal Ratzinger, Interview with Vatican Radio. November 2001.

    Citing the above is not to defend this or that action taken by the U.S. or Israel as automatically justified or “holy”; but I think there is the clear recognition — even by our current Pope, co-editor of the Catechism — that, in the defense of life against unjust aggressors, “proportional violence” may be an obligation.

    I would also suggest that those charged with the obligation to defend and protect the lives of its charges, in Ratzinger/B16’s example “for example that a father who sees his family attacked is duty-bound to defend them in every way possible”, or to speak of a nation obligated to defend its citizens, that the refusal to employ ‘proportional violence’ [Ratzinger’s words] in the defense of life would constitute a sin.

    Nate Wildermuth, circa April 2008:How could the Pope repeat United States propaganda, and express admiration for US bloodshed? I racked my mind for ways to interpret his words in another way, but I couldn’t. …

    I have so much to learn.

    After a great deal of reflection and prayer, my heart has moved, my neck has bent. I have seen something startling: we live in a society where “defense of life” and “nonviolence” are mostly mutually exclusive, and because the defense of life must take priority over a commitment to nonviolence, most Christians are duty-bound to defend life with the least amount of violence possible.

    Did I just write that? I did. But only after three days of gut-wrenching prayer!

    I am not suggesting that violence is good, or even Christian. I am suggesting, however, that the circumstances of our society require us to choose defense of life over nonviolence. In other words – if the only way I can defend life is to use a gun, then I must use a gun.

    Strikes will not stop robbers from breaking into our homes. Nonviolent communication will not stop those who do not wish to communicate. We have no nonviolent alternatives to police forces or militaries. We have no nonviolent alternatives to courts and prisons. Nonviolent means of defending life are mostly confined to idealistic exhortations to “love your enemy and trust in God’s grace to work miracles.”

    Nonviolent means of defending life must be reasonable, passing the common sense rule, being as readily available as the gun in Target, or a call to 911. To criticize those who use violence to defend life when there are no other ways to defend life is . . . well . . . possibly scandalous.

    I believe we’ve had this conversation before?

  • At the risk of beating a dead horse 😉 I’ll reiterate what I said then as well, responding to your post:

    Just as Catholic tradition makes a distinction between ‘killing’ and ‘homicide’, it seems to me that rather than condemning any and all use of armed force as “violence” [= evil], the Catholic tradition rather evaluates the use of force, judging its worth according to moral criteria.

    The former has often been dubbed the “‘dirty hands’ tradition” (whereby to pick up a gun, even defensively, is to unavoidably involve one’s self in sin), the latter the “just war tradition” of moral-reasoning and a moral evaluation of armed force. (My father examined this in an essay “War and the Eclipse of Moral Reasoning” back in 2002).

    None of this discounts the witness of pacifists — who by their actions and adherence to nonviolence anticipate and manifest in this reality a time where the lion will truly “lay down with the lamb”, where all swords will be “beaten into plowshares.”

    Probably no movie illustrates this ongoing debate between the two traditions than one of my favorite movies, Robert Bolt and Roland Joffé’s 1986 film The Mission.

  • I confess I’ve never understood Pacifism other than non-resistance to martyrdom. How does anyone familiar with a history book object to the idea, for example, that governments have an obligation to defend their citizens or parents a responsibility to protect their children? Granted, this principle can be (and often is!) easily misapplied, which means it is similar to….every other moral principal.

    I think that pacifists perform a valuable service in reminding people of the horrors of conflict, and in balancing out the the tendencies of some people to view military action as the hammer for which every problem is a nail. But I do not understand the position that violence in all situations is immoral.

  • As Warren Carrol says in his wonderful history of Christendom when Jesus drives the money-changers from the temple the first time,

    “Nor did He (Jesus) hesitate to use physical force, thereby establishing once and for all, contrary to modern pacifists, that the use of physical force is not always evil in itself. The teaching of love would come when men were prepared to listen. But first they must know that One had come among them with a power which was God’s.”

  • “The teaching of love would come when men were prepared to listen. But first they must know that One had come among them with a power which was God’s.””

    And how different from worldly power was that “power which was God’s”…

  • I think pacifism at bottom rests on the modernist moral error of thinking (probably subconsciously) that the physical body is the most important (or perhaps the only important) fact about human beings. Hence the one moral absolute is that you can’t do something that hurts someone’s physical body, even by accident, not even for the most pressing of reasons. Pacifism, in this respect, is similar to the modernist tendency to think that spanking your children is morally worse than instilling in them a desire for material success (one that is ultimately devastating to the soul).

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  • I sense a Catch-22.

    Hamas needs Israeli attacks to keep its people riled up, but Israel can’t simply let assaults continue unchecked.

    Are the Hamas attackers launching rockets from their own neighborhoods? A true Machiavel would launch attacks from areas where enemy retaliation is likely to kill off his local opposition, and not his friends and family.

  • Proportionality includes not only the methods used but also the consequences of those methods. While I acknowledge the right to self-defense and the use of force in that defense, I question whether it is really possible to ensure that the force used doesn’t produce evils graver than the evil to be eliminated. The structure of the world today, marked by its interconnectedness and interdependency, opens the whole world to the consequences of a local act of violence, and therefore renders the knowledge that one is using proportional violence difficult if not impossible to acquire. Deal Hudson rightly points to likely unintended consequences of Israel’s strikes, but how many other unintended consequences remain beyond our foresight? Too many to speculate accurately, I’d say.

  • “I question whether it is really possible to ensure that the force used doesn’t produce evils graver than the evil to be eliminated.”

    Then proportionality merely becomes an argument for pacificism, something that no nation which wishes to continue to exist in this world will ever embrace. The Jews in Europe in World War 2 were slaughtered like flies because they had no military to fight for them. I cannot blame the Israelis for not wishing to follow their example. Catholics are not quakers and I cannot think of a Catholic nation that ever existed that chose to embrace pacifism rather than to fight for national survival.

  • Kyle,

    Well said. I am in absolute 100% agreement of all that you’ve said. I personally think that a sense of reluctance in this matter has been too easily dismissed as pacifism, when I think that is an oversimplification of the position being presented.

    I, as any good Catholic, believe in the “just war” doctrine of the Church. However, I do think that doctrine, even in the last ten years, has been glossed over casually and the tenets not really examined by those not necessarily opposed to any of the armed conflicts occuring in the Middle East.

    Even if there is such a thing as “Catholic pacifism,” I think it is profoundly different than that of secular pacifism. Dorothy Day comes to mind and her thinking in regard to nonviolence does not necessarily echo the immediate or familiar arguments of modernist secular humanists who really base their convictions on an agnostic metaphysical view of reality.

    I think a Catholic can on good grounds be a pacifist. It does not require others to follow in suit by obligation. I believe, just as Dorothy Day did, that war is the perfect breeding ground for imperialism, militarism, and nationalism. These sociological errors of modern society live off human vices and perpetuate division and in many ways presents barrier to any sort of peace or meaningful dialogue. All these “-isms” symbolize the false gods of modernity that I believe we should be resisting, not appeasing.

    Pope Benedict XVI once said in an interview that “…given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war’.”

    I think the Holy Father here makes a profound insight into the nature of war. War is sometimes a necessary evil, but it is one that evolves and this evolution has created a horror that was hardly imaginable even over a century ago. War is no longer a matter confined to a battlefield where those in immediate danger are those within confinement of the space in which combat is being engaged in. Modern warfare and military weapons are indiscriminate in whom gets killed.

    But this is not the bulk of my point. Pope John Paul II warned that “humanity should question itself, once more, about the absurd and always unfair phenomenon of war, on whose stage of death and pain only remain standing the negotiating table that could and should have prevented it.” War by its very nature destroys precisely what it intends to create — that is freedom, peace, and reconciliation. War strikes at the very heart of civilization: the family. Regardless of perspective of who is right and wrong in such matters, men die, women die, and children die. Hurt, anger, bitterness, and division is written on a new page of history. I have never read of any war or act of violence that paved the way toward justice and peace, but rather eliminated perhaps one challenge only to give birth to a host of others.

    Gandhi asked mankind, “What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?” It is not merely the fact that innocent people who’s livelihoods, little do they know, might be altered permanently in a matter of moments; it is rather that this violence only more deeply entrenches the hatred and division that the war is trying to, in some ways, heal.

    This is what Kyle was getting at when he talked about the connection of the international community in our modern circumstances — there is much interdependentness. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his day saw this: “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” We cannot be what we ought through the means of violence. I don’t and can’t believe that even remote material cooperation in evil — for war itself is not of the nature of God — will bring humanity where it needs to be.

    I don’t think you must be a “pacifist” to be a Christian. But, I do think (rightly or wrongly) that many Christians quickly gloss over Jesus’ “hard sayings” to love your enemies — they are impratical and senseless — even though the Lord, for some reason, decided to hold us to this standard. Pope Paul VI declared “No more war!” Pope Benedict XVI so beautifully described the vengeance of the God of Israel. “True vengeance” is the healing goodness of God. The definitive explanation is found in the one who died on the cross: in Jesus, the Son of God incarnate. His ‘vengeance’ is the cross: a ‘no’ to violence and a ‘love to the end.’

    Perhaps, this is silly idealism. I’m certainly not arguing that a State does not have the God-given duty to defend the lives of its citizens; however, the manner and strategy of exercising that duty in given circumstances is a matter of prudence. There is an old saying that “in times of war, the laws are silent.” I think for some reason this includes moral laws. Man has found himself capable of terrible things in times of war and I cannot see how war brings no more war. Yes, this is a fallen world, but the Christian call is to transform not get behind the status quo of sin.

    Yes, there is a right to self-defense and yes, there is such a thing in theory as a “just” war; however, I think we oversimplify what it takes to make that call. In all truth, the matters of war do not immediately impact us. We continue our daily lives and in many ways take our countless blessings for granted. It is hardly clear to us what it is we may or may not be saying is morally licit. I’m personally of no position on the matter of this armed conflict, except that my prayers are with all involved and I hope this conflict ends as soon as possible and an all out war is not waged.

    Again, I think Kyle nailed it on the head. I don’t think it is fair to say a reluctance in this matter and/or asking the question of whether this is something that should be engaged in with its potential consequences on many levels is necessarily pacifism; I think it’s taking the “just war” doctrine very seriously. As Catholics, we are called to be in opposition of unjust war and I think the modern reactionary tendency leads more to the latter than the former.

    That’s my two cents.

  • Eric,

    Beautifully said and excellently argued.

    Just an afterthought: even if a potential military action does meet all of the just war criteria in Catholic social thought, this does not mean that the issue is over. The exhausting of all alternative means to dispell conflict are still strongly, strongly advised.

    I hate to say it, but some of your cohorts here seem to have a minor devotion to military violence, and it is rather sad.

    I

  • While I would to an extent share the fear that Israel’s current offensive will do little to make Israeli citizens safer from Hamas’ daily rocket attacks (in that I fear they would have to reduce Gaza to the 1943 condition of Stalingrad or the 1945 condition of Berlin to thoroughly remove Gaza’s ability to operate — and neither they nor the international community have the willingness to allow such a thing to happen) I’m hesitant to condemn Israel loudly as some are going either.

    Eric says:
    Yes, there is a right to self-defense and yes, there is such a thing in theory as a “just” war; however, I think we oversimplify what it takes to make that call. In all truth, the matters of war do not immediately impact us. We continue our daily lives and in many ways take our countless blessings for granted. It is hardly clear to us what it is we may or may not be saying is morally licit. I’m personally of no position on the matter of this armed conflict, except that my prayers are with all involved and I hope this conflict ends as soon as possible and an all out war is not waged.

    I think in some sense I agree, but with the difference that while I fear the unleashing war on Gaza will do little to help Israel, I do not feel that we in the US have the standing to tell Israel: Sure, you’re suffering daily rocket attacks with ever increasing frequency, going farther and farther into your country, targeting civilians. But we’re really not sure if attacking Hamas would resolve that, so you better just grin and bear it.

    I really can’t say what decision I would make if I were the prime minister of Israel (since that is thankfully not my duty) but seeing as Israel has decided to attack Hamas (which is, after all, the duly elected government of Gaza right now) I don’t see it as my place to blame them for the decision at this time.

    Certainly, one does not want to use the just war criteria too casually — yet at the same time, one must recall that the just war criteria are generally used in determining if one may start a war, not whether one may defend oneself against an already ongoing attack. Given that Hamas had already decided to attack Israel via indiscriminate bombardment of civilian areas, it strikes me that Israel’s right to strike back is pretty clear — though its duty to behave proportionally obviously remains.

  • Mark, I would object to your addendum on one minor technicality (so you can brain me if you feel I’m being too nit-picky), but exhausting the alternatives is a criterion for just war. I’d offer instead that even in the cases when all criteria are met, there argument is not over because we can still choose not to go to war.

    The problem, I feel, is indeed in judging the consequences of taking military action. Because we cannot know the future, working with the purest utilitarian ideal of whether or not to engage in war is impossible. We cannot know that taking action will indeed make things better or worse, and we cannot know–not with any certainty–that not taking action will make matters better or worse. I think judging the lasting harm of a war is like predicting the weather, only slightly more complicated because now we’re trying to predict over a body of thinking, reasoning beings (I almost said rational, but I think that might draw objections) instead of a highly chaotic, but largely deterministic system. We can predict immediate consequences fairly easily and with a moderate degree of accuracy, but long term is much harder.

    Where does that leave us? The gravity of going to war should always, always, always make us think thrice. There’s no question there. And we certainly shouldn’t be chafing at the bit to go and fight. In that regard, Mark, I would not say that people here have a devotion to military violence. Instead, we may be a little too blase about using military force. But unless you’re truly prepared to state that military force is never justified in any circumstance, i.e. a complete blanket prohibition, then all we’re arguing about is when to go to war.

    Eric, I certainly would not call what you said “silly idealism”. What you’ve said is really where we all need to be starting from when we contemplate the notion of war. However, I think there’s an aspect of war–what justifies us in taking action if we choose to do so–that you’ve glossed over. Perhaps I’m just making this up, and I’m certain that not many will agree with me, but I believe that war can be waged in full love of the enemy, and can be a corrective measure for the enemy as much as a defensive measure for the assailed.

    In the treatment of war, just as with the treatment of law, we have to keep in mind the fallen, sinful nature of man. Just as some are tempted to steal, murder, commit adultery, and commit other crimes, so too are leaders tempted to wage war for one purpose or another. When there is no threat of retaliation, no threat of punishment, then sooner or later someone caves and commits a crime. That’s why we have our laws and our penal system, and that’s why we endeavor to ensure that the criminal is always caught. In the same way, a standing army acts to deter war, but it only works as a deterrent as long as there’s the very real possibility that the army will be called to action. And when someone does choose to unjustly engage in war, calling the army forth to combat the aggressor is not partake in bloodshed, but instead enforce on the aggressor that his actions are wrong and need to be changed. Keep in mind, of course, that this stands as the final safeguard against unwarranted aggression, and that there are other means that can be employed first to prevent war or even de-escalate it once it has started.

    The corrective part of war, blunt as it may be, is showing the aggressor that cost of his aggression far outweighs the benefits. Of course, the biggest problem with this view of war is actually best exemplified in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. The blunt weapon of war may be simply too much, just as a SWAT team is too much for a shoplifter, and a lifetime imprisonment too much a first-time, single count drug offense. But this is exactly what Hamas is counting on, so that they can continue their aggression with impunity.

    So what is Israel to do? I waffle. Some days, I want to say, every citizen in Gaza that condones the actions of Hamas by allowing them to fire rockets from civilian neighborhoods and so on is complicit with evil and has made himself a combatant. Fortunately, I know that such thoughts are a thinly disguised “Kill-em-all-and-let-God-sort-em-out” mentality, which is very, very, very wrong, so I tend to keep that on a tight leash.

    Other days, I think, “only a few dozen have been killed, a fun hundred injured, so that’s not a huge deal. Israel should just stand firm and teach those terrorists that a few thousands rockets each year isn’t going to faze the Israeli people.” But then, I feel strongly that the Hamas terrorists are of the mentality that if they can get away with sending more rockets or worse into Israel, they will do so. And this is where the unforeseen consequences come into play. Who can honestly say what will, indeed, happen? I could speculate that the terrorists will eventually get bored with having little effect and will either a) go home or b) escalate. I could speculate that the Israeli people, seeing their government doing nothing to protect them will a) face martyrdom bravely b) overthrow the current government and install one that will wage war with Hamas or c) take matters into their own hands and start firing rockets into Gaza. So what will it be?

    As a final point, where I think you’re wrong, Eric, is in talking about the negotiating table. Wars are ended at the negotiating table, true, but waging war sometimes is the only thing that forces one side or the other to the negotiating table. Certainly it would be better if nations talked out their differences instead of declaring war, and if you look at the diplomatic measures we engage in today, it should be heartening. We have embassies to and from most of the nations in the world, or at least the ones we deal with regularly. We spend vast amounts of time in diplomacy so that we never come to combat. But when one power is bent and determined to wage war and refuses to sit down to negotiate, then the negotiating table has no power.

  • Ryan,

    I don’t disagree with you. I believe that the State has a right to defend itself and in doing so is delivering justice by means of a remote as possible material cooperation in evil — an evil that the State wishes to end not perpetuate and did not intend in using as a means of bringing justice until compelled to do so.

    As Darwin said, proportionality and the extent to which one can exercise the right of just defense or fighting justly to stop a growing evil before getting carried away is a very fine line. Not to mention, as Pope John Paul II repeatedly reiterated, that war undermines itself; the end one may try to achieve is contrary to the means that are being used and I, rather, emphatically think that reality gets very little attention. I don’t believe much good will come from this, quite the contrary.

    On a tangent, I was watching the FOX news today and there was a black and white video recorded by an Israel aerial target-tracking camera showing men inside of a building loading long tubes or cylinders on a flatbed truck. These were supposedly “terror operatives” loading crude rockets. Nevertheless, the air pilot fired and destroyed the building.

    It turns out that the rockets, in fact, were salvaged oxygen tanks from a welding shop being moved by civilians — in a building next to a building that a previous Israeli airstrike destroyed.

    The group had loaded several oxygen tanks before the missile hit. Eight people were killed and little did many of their families know that their livelihoods were going to change forever. They showed photos of the truck and the charred oxygen tanks. They weren’t rockets — they certainly would have gone off upon impact. This case highlights the complexity of targeting in urban areas.

    On a separate note, Israel has hit more than 400 targets since the airstrikes began. Some 400 Palestinians have been killed and 2,000 wounded and its been estimiated that a quarter are civilians. I’m not sure of the accuracy of these figures, of course, but if they are somewhat accurate I think it’s horrible enough in itself.

    Not to mention, Israeli strikes have targeted mosques because they believed they were storing rockets there. I’m not certain of whether they are or not. But blowing up places of religious worship, especially that of Muslims, in this region, with these circumstances…God help us.

    It is an unfortunate situation and I pray they stop fighting.

  • Israel never seems to learn and time is running short.After a brutal 18 year occupation of South Lebanon in the 1980’s,it was forced to withdraw leaving a more radical Hizbollah foe that did not exist prior to invasion. Israeli forces in lebanon slaughtered over 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians(most non combattants,Christians and Moslems).Israel’s overwhelming use of US supplied cluster bombs against civillians(a violation of the US Arms export act)resulted in the birth of suicide bombing.It is yet to be seen how long the unwitting US taxpayer will supply Israel with unlimited arms with no strings. Israel’s 2006 war against lebanon saw Israel request millions of dollars in emergency munitions and aviation fuel from the US to enable it to maintain it’s bombing campaign on civilian infrastructure.

  • Hezbollah is sitting this one out. I wonder if they would have done so without the 2006 war?

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5g8NBzCeqjOYluefJPYG3U9AliW3w

    Israel isn’t the problem. The problem is the jihadist movement throughout the Islamic world that views us as enemy number one and Israel as a minor threat.

  • Israel is still occupying Gaza and the West Bank, contrary to what some people think or want us to think.
    I am an Iraqi Jew and I know what occupation, siege, starvation and suffering mean.
    So pls. stop blaming the victim and trying to find excuses for the bullying murderers. This is totally immoral and inhuman. If you are not able to say the truth, just keep silent and do not add salt to the wounds of the helpless Palestinians.
    Try to watch TV images from Gaza. Stare in the faces of the Gazan children and women, for you may come out with a clear and just conscience.
    I wish I ll see the day when Palestine is freed from its occupiers and the Palestinian people live in peace and security in their own land.
    May this be achieved either with Hamas or any other Palestinian freedom fighters.
    Thanks.

  • “I wish I ll see the day when Palestine is freed from its occupiers and the Palestinian people live in peace and security in their own land.”

    Hey Rami, I’ll perhaps believe you are actually Jewish when you give a real e-mail address. Until that time I think you are as Jewish as the members of Hamas.

  • “40 years after 1967 and 58 years after 1948, why is the occupation not yet over?
    Because Israel does not want it to end. Because Israel wants the land and the resources without the people. Because you have to eviscerate a culture in order to maintain total control over it. Because the United States says that’s just fine with us, you serve our purpose well. You help make the war on terror convenient. You help fit Iraq into the scheme. You’ll help us with Iran as well. Who the hell cares about a million and a half poverty-stricken Gazans and their dust, their sand, their stinking, crumbling heap of a disaster area homeland?
    What a terrible shame it is that Gazans have not yet attained the status of human in the eyes of the Western powers, for the resistance there will continue to be an enigma until this changes. For now, however, the slaughter will continue unabated.”>>

    The above is just an excerpt from an article on one of the many massacres perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians.
    Try to read the article in full. The writer is professor Jennifer Loewenstein. She is also a Jew, but with a human compassion and clear conscience plus a thoughtful insight into the history of the warfare in the region.
    Read what Jennifer Loewenstein wrote carefully and thoroughly if you want to know the true character of the state you are defending its genocide war.

    How Gaza Offends Us All:
    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article17050.htm

  • Hi Donald,
    Believe me I am a JEW. And I am proud to be so.
    But, unlike you, I hate injustice, murder and prejudice.
    Being a Jew does not mean that I should ignore or tolerate the suffering of other people just because my coreligionists are the bad guys who have been inflicting misery and suffering on helpless people.
    Our humanity should prevail over our narrow affiliations and inherent prejudice.
    Thanks my dear.

  • Believe me I am a JEW. And I am proud to be so.

    A rude question to ask, I am sure, but out of curious, when’s the last time you attended Sabbath services?

  • Rami,

    the highest reported totals from Israel’s defensive action in Gaza is about 700. 3/4 are military by all accounts. Do you have the foggiest clue how many civilians would be killed if a single F15 where to deliberately attack an occupied civilian target? If Israel wanted to destroy the UN school that Hamas was using to shield it’s rocket attacks, there would have been nothing but a pile of rubble, just on 1000 lb bomb would have killed everyone inside. Clearly that IS not the objective.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Still haven’t given me a real e-mail address Rami. Until you do so I think you are a supporter of Hamas flying a false flag.

    “But, unlike you, I hate injustice, murder and prejudice.”

    Coming from the supporter of an organization that specializes in cowardly attacks on civilians, I assume you are attempting to be humorous with that statement.

  • Rami,

    check this video out, and then get back to us:
    Hamas in their own voices

  • Dear Crankycon,
    How are u doing?
    Do u mean I can not be a true Jew without attending Sabath?
    Who say that, my dear?
    It seems this is a new theory on the identity issue. So, if u do not pray you are not a true Jew or Christian!
    Being a Jew goes deeper than ritual things. It is about culture, psyche, self fulfillment and how you look at yourself.
    If I do not attend prayer, that does not necessarily mean I am not a real Jew.
    Thanks my dear.

    Dear Matt,
    There could be no more cowardly than the Israeli soldiers who kill innocent children and women in cold blood. There is no honor or heroism in killing children, I guess. It is pure cowardice. There is no other name befitting their evil and inhumane deeds. The Israeli military establishment has rubbed the honor of their soldiers in the blood of Gaza’s children. But who knows, we may see their leaders at the Hague very soon for the war crimes they are committing in our name.

    Dear Donald,
    Believe me I am not fond of Hamas. I know they are violent sometimes. But they are not more violent than the Israeli soldiers. Whether we like Hamas or not, we can not deny the fact that they are resistance group wanting to liberate their land. Resistance is a legitimate right for all peoples under occupation. Now remember what I am saying: it won’t be long till we see the Israelis and their benefactors, the Americans, indulged in some sort of dialogue or negotiations. Hamas will remain there, believe me. Israel could fight for ten years from now and it will reap the wind. Hamas remains the difficult figure in the equation.
    Thanks.

  • “Believe me I am not fond of Hamas. I know they are violent sometimes. But they are not more violent than the Israeli soldiers. Whether we like Hamas or not, we can not deny the fact that they are resistance group wanting to liberate their land.”

    No rami, the Israeli military attempts to minimize civilian casualties, while the terrorists of Hamas attempt to maximize civilian casualties. Hamas wants to destroy Israel and to make all of Palestine Judenfrei.

  • There could be no more cowardly than the Israeli soldiers who kill innocent children and women in cold blood. There is no honor or heroism in killing children, I guess. It is pure cowardice. There is no other name befitting their evil and inhumane deeds.

    This is all of course true, but it’s a red herring. If this were even marginally frequent then there would be 100’s of thousands of dead Palestinians every year. Instead, the whole history of the conflict (50 years) about 70,000 have died. By contrast more mohammedans than that are killed by their co-religionists every year.

    I notice you failed to answer my question? How many Gazan’s could Israel kill with a single bomb if they wished to annihilate them? You know the answer, it is in the 1000’s, far more than in the number that have been killed in 2 weeks of air attacks against military targets.

    I know they are violent sometimes. But they are not more violent than the Israeli soldiers. Whether we like Hamas or not, we can not deny the fact that they are resistance group wanting to liberate their land.

    Violence is neither good nor evil under Jewish, Christian or Islamic law (which I believe is your actual religion). Violence is only evil when it is directed at the INNOCENT. When Hamas “resists” it is not usually against the IDF, but against innocent men, women and children.

    Did you check the video? They do not deny their approach, why would you?

  • ps. Rami, you should be aware that Hamas seeks to maximize civilian casualties ON BOTH SIDES in order to garner sympathy. In doing so they are responsible for the bloodshed on both sides.

  • Do u mean I can not be a true Jew without attending Sabath ?

    Yes, that is what I am saying. Just as you cannot be a true Catholic without attending Mass. I understand that there is a cultural aspect to Judaism, but to me that is precisely why Judaism is dying. Especially in the US, too many Jews treat the spiritual aspect of their faith as merely a secondary (if at all) aspect to their religion. I’ve even encountered several Jewish friends who think it is not at all a contradiction to be considered an atheist. Ummm, excuse me?

    And unless you’re my wife, please do not call me dear. Thanks.

  • Then again, maybe I’m off and that whole “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy thing” was optional.

  • rami,

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7816417.stm

    more evidence of Hamas terrorism, violating the ceasefire that Israel permitted to allow humanitarian aid.

  • Absolutely not true. Even the CNN itself said today that Israel, not Hamas, is to blame for braking the ceasefire.

    Anyway, here is another link that will take you to another free Jewish thinker,

    Dr. Norman Finkelstein, who also provides a great insight into what is really happening in Gaza.

    Remember! Dr. Finkelstein is a Jew not a Palestinian or an Arab “a smiling face here!”.
    http://www.normanfinkelstein.com

  • rami,

    CNN? They are the shoddiest news organization in the world (next to the reuters perhaps). Just because a self-hating jew like Finklestein and you want to spew lies doesn’t make them true. Are you going to respond to my earlier posts? Or do you accept that Hamas is responsible of all civilian casualties as I have demonstrated?

  • CNN is almost ludicrously bad in regard to the Gaza story. They had to pull a fake Hamas video about an alleged atrocity by the Israelis.

    http://hotair.com/archives/2009/01/08/cnn-stung-by-fake-atrocity-video/

    Ted Turner’s vanity news network is the last news source I would ever turn to, and that includes the New York Times!

22 Responses to Which "unjust war"?

  • Bush signed a timetable.

    I’ve never been more proud of him. I’ll probably never be again.

    A timetable means we’re out and no excuse in voting for Obama.

  • On the issue of Islam and radical religious extremists, the point that Muslims are not terrorists cannot be said enough.

  • This is something that we can disagree on, using prudential judgement. But here’s my two cents worth. The reigning Pope, John-Paul expressed the opinion that the invasion of Iraq was an unjust act.

    To have a just war, you need to fufill four requirments:

    It must be declared because of a substantive attack, that makes a declaration of war proportional to the attack. Iraq didn’t attack us.

    It must be declared by an authority that destest war–President bush was looking for an excuse to attack Iraq–and didn’t prove any sort of provocation.

    It must be waged in such a way as too prevent or preclude evils greater than the war itself from surfacing, and to minimize civilian suffering. Gee–with the civilian casualty rate in Iraq being what it is, and the country being plunged into a situation resembling civil war at times, we didn’t even come close to this. I know that the vast majority of casualties have been inflicted on the Iraqi people by other Iraqis or by Al Queda. But the moral standard is that such things must not occure. And we set up the situation that allowed that to occure. Evils, greater than the ones the war was meant to remedy, is the phrase.

    And finally, Their must be a reasonable expectation of success. We did OK with this in phase one, the war against Saddam. And we felt we could, and we have, defeated the Islamicists in Iraq, so we’re OK on that count.

    One out of Four? When all Four are supposed to be met?

    Finally,

  • Excellent post.

  • Ignorant Redneck,

    Just my two cents worth as well.

    Pope JP2 offered a statement that is not binding on Catholics. This is where there is ‘wiggle’ room for debate.

    As for me. I am still struggling with the Iraq War on whether it was a necessary war or not so I can’t offer much but my two cents worth for now.

  • On the issue of Islam and radical religious extremists, the point that Muslims are not terrorists cannot be said enough.

    Eric — I agree. It’s a topic that I’ve addressed repeatedly on my own blog (Against The Grain) and will likely touch on here in future posts.

    As far as evaluating the decision-making that led up to the war in Iraq, I recommend Doug Feith’s War and Decision for an inside look at how the issues were debated at the time — many will find it “revisionist history”, insofar as it manages to counter the dominant “Bush lied, people died” meme of the left.

  • The war in Iraq is yet another blatant example of an incompetent presidency. The only good that can come of this war now is for the Republican Party to be denounced for the rubes that they are. Even the most ardent Republican must shudder at the thought of continuing this madness for 4 more years.

  • AC must be hitting the big-time – we now have a troll.

  • Ignorant Redneck,
    Your criteria don’t quite seem to match the Catechism. I quote:

    CCC 2309 The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. the gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
    – the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations 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. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

    These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the “just war” doctrine.

    The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.

    It says that those in the government have to make the decision, not that they have to “detest war” as you put it. We can still debate as to whether the initial invasion was just. I don’t know the answer to that.

  • Thank you, Sue (and all, for commenting).

    I guess my chief point is that it’s not 2002 — it’s 2008.

    We can continue kicking the dead horse of “was the Iraq war just or not”, but I’d argue that what’s important is to evaluate morally the role of our armed forces in Iraq in the here and now.

    Even if one were to rule that the invasion of Iraq was unjust, does it necessarily follow that joint actions between U.S.-Iraqi forces against insurgents/Al-Qaeda since the fall of Saddam Hussein are unjust as well?

    From the way some discussions go, one gets the impression that any and every U.S. action at this moment in time in Iraq (even those undertaken in the defense of Iraqi citizens), the answer would be affirmative.

  • Christopher,

    First, I agree tht it’s useless to debate the “justness” of the Iraq war. What is always absent from such discussions, though, it seems,is any mention of the original reasons given for going to war, and any mention of the multiple opportunities given to Saddam to avoid war. Nothing that was demanded of him **by the United Nations** was unreasonable (unless you think the wounding of his pride unreasonable); there would have been no war had Saddam submitted to the inspection regime mandated by the UN. So, findings post-invasion aside, Saddam could have avoided having unwelcome guests by simply doing what he was asked to do by the international community.

    I also find the selective ommission of that last little part of the Catechism’s treatment of just war illuminating. It says:

    “The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.”. (Thanks, Sue, for posting it above). Which part of, “it’s the President’s job, and ultimate responsibility to determine if a military action is just” is it so hard for folks to understand? Those who have all the info get to make all the decisions.

    Think of it like this: you’re standing in a dark alleyway. A police officer shines a light on you, points a weapon at you, and says “Freeze! Police!”. You’re holding something in your hand that, in the dark and from a distance, could be mistaken for a hand gun. You raise your hand in a manner similar to someone lifting a weapon to point it, the officer fires three times, striking you cenþer-of-mass, and you fall down mortally wounded.

    That officer’s prudential judgment was that you posed an immediate threat to his life. Your actions did nthing to dissuade him; he placed three. Rounds through your torso. Who wqas wrong, given the circumstances? You. You didn’t do as you were asked, by a man with a bigger stick and the authority to use it, and now you’re shot.

    I deplore war. I lost two classmates and countless fellow alumni in Iraq and Afghanistan. I would rther we not have gone to fight anywhere. But we did. So what now?

  • Pope JP2 offered a statement that is not binding on Catholics. This is where there is ‘wiggle’ room for debate.

    As for me. I am still struggling with the Iraq War on whether it was a necessary war or not so I can’t offer much but my two cents worth for now.

    Ignorant Redneck,

    Y’see, Tito is one of those “wigglin’ Catholics.”

    “The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.”. (Thanks, Sue, for posting it above). Which part of, “it’s the President’s job, and ultimate responsibility to determine if a military action is just” is it so hard for folks to understand? Those who have all the info get to make all the decisions.

    Deacon Chip,

    All that line from the Catechism means is that those in authority (the president, in shorthand) are the ones who ultimately make the call whether or not to go to war. The Church doesn’t make the call, because the Church does not go to war – states do. But the responsibility for reflecting on and making judgments according to just war teaching do NOT belong to “the president” alone. The Church reserves the right to make a judgment on the president’s decisions. Otherwise, there is no authority above the state. Likewise, each Christian, and especially each Christian soldier, must make a judgment regarding each war which may not coincide with the prudential judgment of the state. The individual’s conscience is above that of the president. Your view, that “what the president says goes” is dangerous and ties the hands of the Church and of individual Christians.

  • Even if one were to rule that the invasion of Iraq was unjust, does it necessarily follow that joint actions between U.S.-Iraqi forces against insurgents/Al-Qaeda since the fall of Saddam Hussein are unjust as well?

    Great question, although I’m not sure that some of your interlocutors will even acknowledge it.

  • Isn’t it slimy how Weigel wiggles his way out of the indirect, but arguably well foreseeable consequences of the initial, unjust invasion, in his division of the wholeaffair into separate ones?

  • Uh, no, not at all Mark. They are two entirely separate questions. I think Weigel was wrong to support the initial invasion, but I don’t deny that a case could sincerely be made based on the available information. What to do once the U.S. was in Iraq is an entirely separate question, and, by the way, the one that has been relevant for about five years now.

  • I think this is one of the areas where tribalism becomes an all too negative force in our politics. The argument from the religious left is, “The Iraq was unjust, therefore we must vote the Republicans out of office.”

    This is, of course, very convenient if you were against the Republicans taking power back in 2000 in the first place.

    However, while one can certainly take the punitive approach of “They were wrong, so they should suffer” I don’t think there’s much of a moral imperative either way in this election as regards the future conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is virtually no difference between the two candidates positions on those issues.

    Which is why I don’t exactly understand why the war is sometimes presented as a “proportionate reason” one must vote pro-choice this time around.

  • However, while one can certainly take the punitive approach of “They were wrong, so they should suffer”…

    Y’see, you just don’t get it. It’s not that we anti-war types wants republicans to suffer. We want the suffering that republicans cause to stop.

  • And yet the candidate you endorsed today does not have a position on the war that is one jot different from that of McCain. (Which is, after all, how he neutralized the issue on which McCain hoped to run.)

    Your great hope is that he’s lying, and will act differently than he’s said he will.

  • We want the suffering that republicans cause to stop.

    Yeah, there weren’t any Democrats who supported the initial decision to go to war. Only Republicans can cause suffering, I guess. Democrats get absolved somehow if they vacillate when the going gets tough…. And then when the surge works, their Presidential candidate can vacillate again and take an essentially identical position to the Republican candidate.

  • If Obama wins tomorrow, the Democrats will have the presidency and a majority in Congress. Since they are the majority, anything that goes wrong on the national level, they’ll take the blame for, regardless of who did it or if the Republicans cooperated in the so-called “evil.” The GOP will be at a natural advantage in the next election.

    I pray that this isn’t reality come tomorrow.

  • Eric,

    I feel the same way. But what amount of damage can the democrats do in two years in complete and total power?

    I hope not much, but they WILL do a lot of damage.

  • -Since they are the majority, anything that goes wrong on the national level, they’ll take the blame for-

    Yep. They might try and shift blame, but the majority of americans won’t buy it. The majority may vote them in, but that same majority is just voting against the Republicans. They aren’t doctrinaire Democrats, just pissed off Americans. They’ll keep the Dems on a short leash. In two years, here we go again!

Did the U.S. Commit "Terrorism" in Syria?

Tuesday, October 28, AD 2008

Michael Iafrate of Vox Nova condemns the United States for a brutal act of “terrorism” in conducting a strike into Syria against an al Qaeda facilitator.

In typical fashion, Michael likewise insinuates that Sarah Palin approves abortion bombings and alleges that, by virtue of the fact that nobody at American Catholic has yet commented on the story, we are quite obviously racist:

Of course the “pro-life” Cathollic barfosphere, so vocal in the “defense of human life,” remains utterly silent in the face of the Bush administration’s ongoing acts of terrorism. Of course, these weren’t cute white babies who were slaughtered, were they? That explains it.

Michael’s penchant for profanity, libel and general elementary school antics does nothing to enamor readers of his position or the Catholic blog he represents. Yet I think he deserves a response (however meager) …

Continue reading...

37 Responses to Did the U.S. Commit "Terrorism" in Syria?

  • More background on the Abu Ghadiyah network in Syria

    http://counterterrorismblog.org/2008/02/aqi_facilitation_networks_stil.php

  • The idea that countries may give sanctuary to terrorists and be immune from the consequences of their actions defies history and common sense. Syria has now been put on notice that the US will no longer tolerate their collusion with Al Qaeda, and my only regret is that we didn’t do this years ago.

  • The always indispensable Michael Yon has an informative piece on the strike.

    http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/syria-iraq-bloody-border-messy-politics/

  • I hope Michael or anyone else who disagrees with Chris will engage the substance of this post… great post, Chris.

  • Donald,
    I would disagree. I think, rather than primarily signifying that you can’t harbor terrorists, it signifies that powerful states can ignore international law.

    International relations depend on the norms accepted by the participants, and here the US is suggesting that the norms are those of Thrasymachus.

    A grand strategy that would better serve us (and which would arguably be more Christian) is for us to argue that powerful states must abide by the same rules as all others, and to have our actions match our words.

  • Aside from Blosser’s typical cut-up job in which he suggests that comments I made about the Catholic blogosphere in general were made in direct reference to your blog (which is misrepresentation and nothing more), Blosser’s main point seems to be: this certainly could have been an act of terrorism, if we knew that civilians were directly targeted. But since we don’t have all the facts, we don’t know. Blosser assumes that, even though their goal was to kill one human being, these eight human beings were somehow not directly targeted. (Reminds me of that old show Sledge Hammer in which the main character often would blow up a building in order to kill a criminal who had run inside to hide. The show made a mockery of the notion of double effect that Blosser carelessly applies.) The assumption that these deaths were “collateral damage” is an assumption just as much as mu view that they were intentional. The thing is, my assumption is based on the actual history of united states military actions, while Chris’ is based on the illusion that the united states only kills when necessary, or by accident.

  • And for someone who claims in his writings to take just war tradition seriously, that Blosser would actually defend such an action shows that he does not take it seriously at all. Just war teaching allows for no such actions.

  • shows that he does not take it seriously at all

    Or that he might be mistaken in his application of it, but that wouldn’t fit with your preconceived notions of Chris, Michael. Better and easier just to impugn him.

  • Chris, I could charitably say that he was “misapplying” just war teaching if there was any evidence of him actually attempting to apply it at all in this case.

  • For the sake of argument, Michael, I’ll grant that there is no such evidence. My point is simply that it seems (as I’ve proposed elsewhere) better to give Chris the benefit of the doubt and *inquire* and dialogue with him about that. Instead of saying that he doesn’t take just war teaching seriously at all, given that he does even attempt to apply it in this case, why not *ask* him if he’s applied said teaching, and how he arrived at the position he did having done so?

  • [Michael]: Blosser’s typical cut-up job in which he suggests that comments I made about the Catholic blogosphere in general were made in direct reference to your blog

    After Chris Burgwald protested charges of racism, classicism and nationalism, you responded:

    I’ve noticed your blog, Chris, has not condemned this action of the united states against innocent people. And of course it won’t. You guys are too busy belly aching over how badly Joe the Plumber is being “persecuted.”

    I think it a fair assumption that your prior remarks would apply to “his”/our blog as well, insofar as American Catholic is presumably part of “the Catholic blogosphere in general.”

    However, if you’re willing to retract your charges and amend your post, I’m perfectly willing to accept your apology.

    [Michael:] Blosser’s main point seems to be: this certainly could have been an act of terrorism, if we knew that civilians were directly targeted. But since we don’t have all the facts, we don’t know. Blosser assumes that, even though their goal was to kill one human being, these eight human beings were somehow not directly targeted.

    All you had rely on in your post, Michael, is a rather flimsy story culled from the headlines — your impulse was to play judge, jury and executioner on the basis of sparse details and rival claims as to the intent of those involved and the identities of those slain.

    My point: I think charity demands we refrain from doing so.

    You bemoan my hesitancy to apply just war teaching in evaluating this particular incident — I would go further in saying that there are likely those who are far more qualified than you or I to make an accurate assessment of what happened based on the facts, and that we do a disservice to the just war tradition when we indulge in speculations and condemnations based on insufficient evidence.

    (The history of a similar “rush to judgement” further compels me to wait until “all the facts are in”).

  • Mr. Blosser,

    What has been your stance about the US invasion and occupation of Iraq?

  • The irony is that to garden-variety leftists like Michael I., it’s America’s fault both for 1) allowing Arab terrorists to enter Iraq and kill people there (i.e., for allowing people to die in Iraq), AND for 2) trying to stop Arab terrorists who have killed people in Iraq. Catch-22.

  • Michael I.,

    Why are your posts on Vox Nova so full of hate and vitriol, but in the American Catholic comments box you are very civil and polite. I hope your commenting skills will spill over into your posts.

  • S.B. – The united states does not have the right to invade other countries whenever it feels like it, even if Syria is “harboring terrorists.” It goes against international law as well as the just war tradition of the Catholic Church.

  • Blosser – Is that your advice for the families of the victims? “Just wait until the ‘facts’ are in. Charity, charity.” Give me a break.

  • Michael, since when is this about what *advice* to give the families? I thought the point was regarding the *justice* of the actions… even if it *had* been a just action, there’s no “advice” that would have solaced the families of innocent victims… would you tell them, “Oh, it’s okay, this strike was justified under the auspices of just war teaching of the Catholic Church.” Of course not.

    Tangentially, Michael, why do you capitalize “Syria” but not “United States”?

  • Because he’s a classic troll . . . he writes not for the purpose of rational debate, but just to ignite other people into reacting.

  • Blosser – Is that your advice for the families of the victims? “Just wait until the ‘facts’ are in.

    As far as “advice” to families of those killed, I agree with Chris Burgwald.

    Given the deaths of civilians I would hope there to be a full investigation into the matter by the proper authorities to determine culpability.

    On the other hand, we very well could form a mob, hold a public lynching of the soldiers involved and get it over with, facts be damned — just as Senator Murtha did in the case of Haditha.

    It would certainly save us a lot of time and thought.

  • On the matter of international boundaries, Zach says “rather than primarily signifying that you can’t harbor terrorists, it signifies that powerful states can ignore international law.” True, but there are limits to the case. Weigel makes a good point that “the principle of state sovereignty must not be considered exceptionless.”

    Suppose an Indian government, controlled by militant Hindu nationalists and capable of deploying nuclear weapons, decided to settle the “Pakistan problem” and redress what it considered to be the fundamental injustice of the 1947 partition of the subcontinent, using its claims to sovereignty in Kashmir as the opening wedge for military action. Or at a somewhat less apocolyptic level, suppose the government of Turkey decided to rid itself of the Kurds in the manner in which it had once decided to rid itself of the Armenians. Does the principle of state sovereignty mean these affairs would be no one else’s business? Would it constitute a fundamental breach of the principle of sovereignty of an international force — or an individual state, for that matter — intervened to stop the genocide of Christian tribesmen in the south of Sudan?

    Put that way, the question seems to answer itself: whatever else it might mean, the principle of state sovereignty cannot mean that states are free to engage in the indiscriminate slaughter of religious, racial, or ethnic minorities within their borders. When that is taking place, othes have a right — perhaps even a duty — to intervene to stop the killing.

    (Idealism Without Illusions/U.S. Foreign Policy in the 1990s pp. 99-100).

    Syria continues to be a state-sponsor to terrorism — but quite apart from Syria’s hosting of terrorists within its borders, the problem remains of its porous borders. According to the December “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq” report to Congress, nearly 90 percent of all foreign terrorists known to be in Iraq had used Syria as an entry point.

    The target in question — Abu Ghadiyah — was not only complicit in funneling terrorists across the border, but himself a leader in terrorist acts:

    Last spring U.S. intelligence picked up similar reports that Abu Ghadiyah was planning an attack in Iraq. The information — not detailed enough to act on — was followed by the murder of 11 Iraqi policemen. Abu Ghadiyah personally led the attack, a senior U.S. official told The Associated Press.”The trip wire was knowing an attack was imminent, and also being able to pinpoint his location,” the official said Monday.

    So there is no question that the target was legitimate.

    According to the same AP report, the U.S. had requested Syria “hand over Abu Ghadiyah months prior to the raid, the intelligence official said. Syria rebuffed the U.S. request, saying it was monitoring Abu Ghadiyah’s activities.”

    Should they have gone across the border? — I don’t know.

    How much actionable intelligence did we have?

    How close were we to taking out Abu Ghadiyah?

    Was it a reasonable presumption that those men in Ghadiyah’s company were complicit in his activities?

    Was there any off-the-record notification of Syrian authorities? — One account alleges that “The Syrians were unwilling to be seen publicly bowing to US pressure to tackle the group, he says, but in the end gave the Americans the green light to do so themselves.”

    Did the authorities give consideration to the minimization of civilian casualties? — According to the AP, “A ground attack was chosen over a missile strike to reduce the chance of civilian casualties.”

    Meanwhile, the Syrian government appears at odds with local authorities as to how many people were killed:

    The government statement said eight people were killed, including a man and his four children and a woman. However, local officials said seven men were killed and two other people were injured, including a woman.

    A journalist at the funerals in the village’s cemetery saw the bodies of seven men — none of them minors. The discrepancy could not immediately be explained.

    Lastly,was the United States prepared to deal with the aftermath that would follow when the incident went public?

    There is a lot we don’t know and sorry, I’m not going to imply that I’m competent and knowledgable enough to register a judgement on the culpability of those involved.

    Tangential note: I predict we will be revisiting this argument under the next presidential administration, given suspicions that Osama Bin Laden is hiding in Pakistan and/or being assisted by Pakistani elements, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that President Obama may embark on a similar ‘across the border’ excursion to apprehend another terrorist.

  • Apologies — for some odd reason, when you insert something in “blockquotes” WordPress renders the first paragraph in bold. Never figured why it does that or how to circumvent.

  • Chris – Who are “the proper authorities”?

  • Michael,

    Q: What usually happens in the context of a military operation when civilians are killed in the line of fire?

  • What usually happens is that the event is ignored and/or justified under the vague blanket term “collateral damage.”

  • Okay… At first cut my thoughts would be:

    1) I very much doubt you would believe a claim of first person knowledge that disagreed with your preconcieved notion, so I’m not sure why we should find your reception of one that agrees with it to be so compelling.

    2) It’s entirely possible that he’s dead right, and that the site attacked was of no military value whatsoever. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it was a terrorist attack intentionally aimed against civilians. It could well simply mean that it was a mistake. For instance, I wouldn’t claim that Clinton was performing a terrorist attack against the Chinese when he ordered (through a mistake in building address) the bombing of the Chinese embasy in Kosovo.

  • Darwin you are unbelievable. “Must have been a mistake. My country, right or wrong.” You have no desire to know the truth. You’d rather assume everything is a “mistake,” and that the u.s. military does no wrong.

    (And, yes, Clinton was a terrorist too.)

  • Look, I think Clinton was a lot of things, but a terrorist? Is your theory, then, that the US _did_ intentionally bomb the Chinese embassy in Kosovo?

    I certainly don’t think that the US military can do no wrong — but to claim this was a terror attack doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The whole point of a terror attack is to kill lots of people in an indiscriminate and spectacular fashion so as to strike terror into the populace. Napalming several whole Syrian villages would be an obvious way to achieve that goal. Sending in a couple helicopters to attack one house, and one house only, in a remote area seems a curious approach.

    It’s entirely possible that the military was criminally negligent and struck a target based on intelligence that was flimsy and entirely wrong (though that certainly seems odd given that it probably took very high level approval to strike across and international boarder) but terrorism really doesn’t seem like a probably motivation.

    It’s not “my country right or wrong” it’s using one’s basic powers of reason. (I invite you to try it some time.)

  • So Michael links to (and thanks) an anonymous commenter who purports to be Syrian (how that Syrian guy ended up on Vox Nova, who knows) who says that the United States is lying about this attack, just like the United States lied about the fact that it arranged 9/11 to happen so that it would have an excuse to kill Muslims.

    It’s very telling what Michael I. does — and does not — disagree with. In fact, I’d guess that Michael is a 9/11 “truther,” given that he’s a sucker for whatever crap he reads on any random leftist website.

  • I don’t know the particulars about the bombing of the Chinese embassy. But in between the Gulf Wars Clinton oversaw regular bombing raids in Iraq as well as the sanctions there in which children were knowingly left to die. Madeline Albright said publicly that these children’s deaths were “worth it.” This is terrorism.

    Look, I know these actions won’t fit your definition of terrorism. But that’s part of my point. Who gets to decide what “terrorism” is? If the military was criminally negligent, I would still call that terrorism. Being careless about the power you wield over life and death is terror.

    (I invite you to try it some time.)

    And I invite you to include a little self-criticism in your reasoning, and to purge your capacity for reason of the utter denial of your country’s history.

  • Michael, if you can indulge me… why “Syria” but “united states” and “u.s.”?

  • Well, I have my suspicions, but I want to see if I’m correct.

  • He’s just being trollish, i.e., trying to poke a finger in people’s eyes, just to get a reaction.

  • Michael, so who does get to define terrorism? Or more precisely, why don’t you simply lay out your terms for what constitutes terrorism so we can all at least know what the other is talking about? Frankly I have to believe that there is a fundamental difference between targeting a single house with several helicopters and targeting a whole market square with a single bomb. One speaks loudly of restraint, while the other speaks of indiscriminate violence. I’m not saying that therefore you can’t claim terrorism on the part of the US, but then, I like to see exactly, point for point, what your criteria for terrorism are.

    Also, let me ask one further question: is there a difference between intentional and unintentional killing: for example, between murder and manslaughter?

  • Chris, feel free to email me for an answer to your question. I don’t feel like “discussing” it with S.B. again. 🙂

    Michael, so who does get to define terrorism?

    For starters, I’d say the victims of should be given special consideration as to what constitutes terrorism.

    Frankly I have to believe that there is a fundamental difference between targeting a single house with several helicopters and targeting a whole market square with a single bomb. One speaks loudly of restraint, while the other speaks of indiscriminate violence.

    If the u.s. military was going after one person, which the reports claim, then killing EIGHT other people IS a matter of indiscriminate violence. Perhaps if it was your family that was killed, you would not be calling the action “restrained.”

    …is there a difference between intentional and unintentional killing: for example, between murder and manslaughter?

    Yes, of course. But bear in mind that we often hold people accountable for unintentional killing. That’s the whole point of the concept of manslaughter. I also think that there are different types of unintentional killing. If my car hits a patch of ice and I slam into someone and kill her, that’s unintentional. But soldiers being reckless when attempting to capture ONE PERSON such that EIGHT OTHER people are killed, when this is happening on the ground and not from a helicopter, etc., this is not an accident. It is recklessness that comes from not giving a shit who gets in the way. And being willing to sacrifice whoever is “in the way” is indeed terrorism. The Syrian gov’t is absolutely right to call it terrorism.

  • Somewhat tangential here…

    Why do so many liberals place so little faith in one aspect of the US government (the military), but so much confidence in other aspects of the same government? And why do so many conservatives do likewise?

    If it’s patriotic to serve your country in the armed forces, why isn’t it similarly patriotic to be a civil servant? And likewise the opposite?

    Am I missing something obvious?