Wednesday, March 26, 2003
false moral equivalencies: there is a big
difference between being paid low wages for
hard work; being denied the franchise; and
being tortured or gassed because one’s politics
is incorrect or because one is a member of an
ethnic minority that cannot defend itself
against a dominant and violent majority.
But the injustices of Saddam’s reign in and of
themselves did not constitute grounds for
forceful intervention, not within the just war
framework. Had Saddam been engaged in
gassing Kurds, a case for intervention in the
internal affairs of Iraq could have been
mounted. But the day-to-day, routine
inequities of a polity, short of such egregious
violations as systematic torture of political
opponents, targeting and destruction of categories
of persons within one’s own boundaries,
do not of themselves warrant the
upheavals and destruction of intervention
-Jean Bethke-Elshtain, Just War and Humanitarian Intervention
Friday, March 21, 2003
My father and I just returned from a delightful vacation in New Mexico. Stops in Taos, Chimayo, and Santa Fe. I viewed the definitely mysterious Mystery Painting called Shadow of the Cross in Taos's San Francisco de Asís Church, a painting far better in quality than any of those I saw hanging in various galleries around the town--an artist's haven, itself. Granted, I am a fan of the realist school--realism always reminds me of the Incarnation--and this was one of the few realistic paintings I encountered on my trip: it depicts a haloed Christ standing by the sea of Galilee, his eyes painted in just such a way that they follow one around the room.
Simple enough, it seems, even quotidian. But you see, the "mystery" in the Shadow of the Cross is only revealed in darkness. After the room darkens, the sea and sky of the painting radiate an astounding blue-white glow. The figure of Christ appears in silhouette, bearing a cross upon His left shoulder. The pulsating shadow appears to move outward, towards the viewer, as though Christ is slowly moving towards one on his way to Golgotha. It provokes one to wonder what exactly is the meaning of such a work?
This question, of course, runs into difficulties, because the painter denies having ever intended to create such an intriguing piece. But it seems a few bits can be discovered, like mystery being an integral part of reality.
Onward from Taos, dad and I stopped at the Sanctuario in Chimayo, a small 19th-century adobe church featuring wooden kneelers, a barely-fluent priest, and holy dirt. According to the locals, this earth has curative properties. There are two methods of application: a light sprinkling on the affected area of the body, or direct geophagy: that is, dirt-eating. Being in a rather desparate state on account of my alleged schizophrenia, I did both. It seems to have worked so far.
Finally, a brief stay in Santa Fe. We stopped in a beautiful small church and a hideously modernist cathedral, each within blocks of the other. Why did Catholics ever have to indulge in such terrible bad taste?
Bush went to war during our trip, and Arvada received 3 1/2 feet of snow while we were gone, so we returned to a different world. Still, it was some trip.
Monday, March 17, 2003
Friday, March 14, 2003
"For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body."
Of course, there seem to be an objection to this: certain terminally ill people definitely come to see their body as a cage, and hate it. So have I really developed a natural law argument? Well, it seems my reasons are no more objectionable than Aquinas', and that's a pretty good standard.
Even if we decide to govern not by proxy but via the US military, we'll end up putting down various rebellions ad infinitum--until and unless we loose a Sherman-like campaign of annihilation on rebel areas. And that's just Iraq. The hawkish are clamoring for war on Iran, North Korea, plus Saudi Arabia and even China(!).
So how long will the US be able to keep annihilating, before a coalition rises against us?
Thursday, March 13, 2003
Monday, March 10, 2003
Andrew Sullivan's Just War article simply doesn't convince me.
He says First off, we are not initiating a war. We are not the aggressor. We are still in a long process of defense. It's hard to remember now but this war is not a new one. It's merely the continuation of one begun in 1990 by Saddam whe he invaded Kuwait.
I've made this argument myself, but I'm no longer convinced it's a good one. For one thing, I've never heard a Bush Administration official use it. What's more, it doesn't make for consistent foreign policy: we have not signed a peace treaty with North Korea, only an armistice.
The issue is therefore not whether to start a war. It is whether to end one by rewarding the aggressor and simply ignoring his infractions of the truce. Such a policy, in as much as it clearly rewards unprovoked aggression, is immoral and imprudent.
Not always. We can certainly tolerate an evil, should eradicating it cause a greater evil.
...finally a last attempt under U.N. Resolution 1441 to give Saddam a last, last chance to disarm. He was told three months ago by unanimous U.N. agreement that he had to disarm immediately and completely. He still hasn't.
It's a tad self-serving to argue that Saddam's non-compliance with the UN is somehow a casus belli when you yourself are completely indifferent, if not hostile to the UN. Oh, I know it makes for fine rhetoric to appeal to that superlatively august international body, but it's dishonest rhetoric.
A coalition of the willing - a majority of the states in Europe, the U.S., Britain and other countries - easily qualifies as a legitimate source of authority for launching war.
But, as authority is intimately tied up with its purpose, I must ask: war for what purpose? If we are wearing a certain hawkish hat, that which reads "Liberators of Iraq," we are effectively arrogating to ourselves jurisdiction over Iraq, which properly speaking belongs only to God and the Iraqi people.
Well, there is one obvious alternative to war: continuation of economic sanctions on Iraq. But these sanctions have long been abused by Saddam to allow him to finance his weapons programs, while leaving thousands of Iraqis, including children, to starve or die for lack of good medical care.
Another argument I once thought about using, but I knew I would only use it to score debating points against peaceniks, and not to reach the truth. Frankly, I often doubt the justice of economic sanctions on rogue nations. Such sanctions destroy the livelihood of people who have no say in how their government is run, while only increasing the looting of the tyrants who oppress them. And if sanctions are in themselves immoral, we only have ourselves to blame for imposing them.
No one doubts he would get and use weapons of mass destruction if he could.
I doubt he would use them. I would hope that I'm not nobody.
No one can guarantee he would not help Islamist terrorists get exactly those weapons to use against the West or his own regional enemies.
Well, this assumes Saddam has a death-wish, which "no one can guarantee." Sullivan demands certainty only from his opponents, and not from himself. He cannot guarantee that an occupied Iraq will be a safer Iraq, nor that our threats of invasion will not in fact push Saddam into the hands of terrorists. He can't even guarantee that Saddam is in fact collaborating with terrorists, unless the administration's case has improved since the Powell speech(which was once convincing for me, but has ceased to be so).
Unfortunately, recent US action is taking away all of Saddam's options. We are turning him into a man who has nothing to lose, and driving him to hardline Islamicists to shore up his weakened regime. But I doubt Saddam would have done this on his own; it is the fruit of our folly.
Saturday, March 08, 2003
I'm not sure I believe it, but at least I think I understand it.