Iraq On Notice
The world looked on as the American legislative branch debated a resolution
empowering President Bush to face down Saddam Hussein militarily. During various
speeches, the fundamental worldviews of the members showed through as if backlit.
Through the democratic process of pounding out a bargain between the two chambers
(and not a little bit of political manuevering within and with the White House),
what to conservative Americans represented a clear case of just war was acknowledged
as a debate about more complex issues, such as:
- Should the world's sole superpower "go it alone" in
terms of world opinion and regardless of UN mandate if deemed necessary?
- Does singling out Iraq constitute a distraction from
or an extension of the "war on terrorism"?
- Were the powers requested by Bush a new and dangerous
brand of warmaking discretion for the Presidency?
- Had the "case been made" that Iraq poses a "clear and
- What kind of precedent does the so-called "preemptive"
doctrine set for future conflict - American or not?
On the latter point, little or no attention was paid to the notion of preemption
itself: is America already at war in some (undeclared) sense? If not, into
what category would one place the Korean "Conflict," the Vietnam War, the
"war on drugs," and others? Nonetheless, this parliamentary Ping-Pong revealed
worldviews in stark relief. In crisis, it seems that convictions clearly stand
out against the drab gray of more mundane times.
For example, during debate in the House of Representatives, the editor
lost count of the number of comparisons drawn between the 1930s and
today. Then-British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's doctrine of
appeasement seemed to a large number of lawmakers last week a manifestly
obvious example to avoid. Several asked what could have been different
about the world's greatest war had the nascent Adolf Hitler been faced
down early enough. Hungarian immigrant turned California House member
Tom Lantos' speech, which laid out principles of America's greatness
and moral duty to stand against Hussein, was said to add commendably
to the literature of public discourse in this nation's history. Lantos'
and others' view of history represents the theistic view, which characterizes
history as moving linearly toward a purposeful end.
On the other hand, Ohio Democrat Dennis J. Kucinich, appealed to the
biblical Golden Rule while invoking Lincoln's and Washington's view
that America has been conditionally and Providentially blessed. He wondered
aloud what might become of America's divinely favored status if we turn
instead to what he dubbed the Rule of Liquid Gold - "Do unto others
before they do unto you." In the end, his humanistic worldview - albeit
laced with plenty of theistic accoutrements - became clear when he passionately
appealed for "faith" and "hope" in our ability to avoid war by making
use of "the science of human relations." By this view, diplomacy will
eventually win out because people are seen as inherently and basically
good, while also being, at bottom, a product of their environment.
In opposition to the resolution, decrying what to her represents a gross
imbalance of power in favor of the Bush Presidency, District of Columbia Representative
Eleanor Holmes Norton vehemently appealed to a postmodernist / multiculturalist
stance. Regarding fairness in the military, she painted a picture of oppression,
claiming that since about one-third of the U.S. Military ranks are made up
of people of color, that it is easier for them to be placed in harm's way.
It seems interesting that even an issue of grave national security policy
can become a matter of race and so-called identity-politics, but it does seem
consistent with a postmodern worldview.
Some surprising rhetoric occurred during Senate debate, as well. One Senator
from California, who took pains to note his public opposition to the Vietnam
War during that era, said that the best way to "give peace a chance" - given
Hussein's much-discussed proclivity to war even against his own people with
the "weapons of mass destruction" and to flout UN mandates - is to use force.
Intriguing how an antiwar activist sees a different situation in this case,
but only a personal interview with the speaker could reveal his motivations.
Such widely divergent statements from the House and Senate floors show
the rift between presuppositions owned by individual legislators. Key
questions like the ones above may never be dealt with in the online pages
of Leadership University. Some will. For now, we concern ourselves with
America's recent foreign policy positions, the idea of war (just and otherwise)
and what little has so far been reflectively written about our current
policy conundrums (war with Iraq, "war" on terrorism, and such). Such
questions cannot be addressed adequately from an entirely political angle,
but should be analyzed at the level of beliefs and worldview.
Perhaps the largest issue of worldview is the West's relationship to Islam.
Influential cultural apologist Francis Schaeffer foresaw some 30 years ago
that the West would face two formidable challenges to its way of life: Communism
and Islam. We concentrate on American power in our selections, a relevant
topic not only because the U.S. is the only Superpower left, but also due
to the morphing attitude toward our nation held by non-Americans. The Middle
East is not the only place where anti-Americanism has replaced post-911 sympathy,
reportedly. Regardless of the outcome of the United States' policy regarding
Iraq- new and improved weapons inspections or all-out war - most Christian
thinkers agree that the world is, and always has been, locked in a battle
of ideas. We look at some of these ideas in our Special Focus.
—Leadership University Editor/Webmaster, Byron Barlowe
Authorization for Use of Military
Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (U.S. House of Representatives Joint
Official text as drawn up on Capitol Hill.
Midge Decter in Imprimis
Venerable writer and commentator Decter declares, "We are at war. Faced
with those terrible Churchillian alternatives, shame or war, the President
chose national honor." She goes on to postulate that war in Iraq, resulting
in the toppling of the Hussein regime and a subsequent rebuilding might
well cause a chain reaction of freedom from oppression throughout the
Middle East. She goes on to say that the Iraq situation and "war against
terrorist powers" was, in Churchill's way of thinking, unnecessary. But,
she concludes, we Americans have the unusual luxury of perhaps fostering
good in a warring world.
Other Resources on American Foreign Policy:
In a Time of
Editors, First Things
The editors of well-respected journal First Things pulled no punches
in their December, 2001 edition; we do well to review their words. It
begins emphatically and never takes a breath:
This is war. Call it a sustained battle or campaign, if you will, but
the relevant moral term is war. It is not, as some claim, a metaphorical
war. Metaphorical airplanes flown by metaphorical hijackers did not
crash into metaphorical buildings leaving thousands of metaphorical
corpses. This is not virtual reality; this is reality. This is, for
America and those who are on our side, a defensive war. The aggressor
leaves no doubt that this is war. Osama bin Laden and his like do not
head a sovereign state but they speak for many of our declared enemies.
"We are steadfast on the path of jihad," bin Laden declares. Of the
terrorists he says, "We hope that they are the first martyrs in Islam’s
battle in this era against the new crusade and Jewish campaign led by
the big crusader Bush under the flag of the cross." Bin Laden and his
counterparts lead a shadow state or, more precisely, a parasite state
that lives off the states that provide them refuge and aid. As we have
now learned to our remorse, the terrorist parasite state also lives
off the freedom and hospitality of the nations it attacks, including
the United States of America...."
What Can We Reasonably
Hope For? A Millennium Symposium
Andrew J. Bacevich
Strangely prescient or just an easy call? Bacevich seems to have foreseen
the undercurrent beneath today's debate on going to war with Iraq in his contribution
to First Things' symposium on the then-fast-approaching new Millennium.
The Irony of American
Andrew J. Bacevich
When it comes to military affairs, neoliberals strike appropriately progressive
attitudes, professing to look forward to the day when economic forces
will render military power obsolete. In the meantime, the imperative of
maintaining the order required of a highly interdependent world economy
prods them to use force with notable frequency. The emphasis is on using
military forces not to win wars but as an international constabulary.
Yet a fully effective implementation of this approach would anticipate
and forestall rather than merely react. Thus, for neoliberals, the lure
of using American military power not simply to quell disorder but to prevent
it in the first place can become irresistible.
Books in Review:
The Responsibilities of Power
Sven F. Kraemer
In this 1995 review of George Weigel's Idealism Without Illusions:
U.S. Foreign Policy in the 1990s, Sven F. Kraemer who served under
the National Security Councils of four presidents, wrote:
...We need to worry about the fact that Islam is still "waiting for
an Augustine" to distinguish the realm of God and the realm of man and
to desacralize politics.... [In the post-Cold War setting,] we need
to lead the democratic nations in acting to end mass murders, enforce
cease fires, preempt proliferation, bring international criminals to
trial, and establish the grounds for negotiating peace and political
settlements-even in situations where we cannot guarantee a painless
effort or "assured victory." We should heed George Weigel's words: "If
we do not take the prudent risks of leadership now, while we have the
power to bend at least some events to our will, we are certain to get
into even deeper trouble later.
Reflecting on his own debates with his father regarding World Wars I and
II, First Things editor and columnist Nuechterlein moves quickly through
colonial American history to address a topic of currency: strategic foreign
policy concerns, like, "Should America take an activist role in the world"
or an isolationist one? Nuechterlein foresaw the internal divide in the
Bush administration regarding foreign policy. He concludes that, contrary
to the opinions of many non-Americans, that Americans are still not internationalists
Books In Review:
Reviewed by Andrew J. Bacevich
Review of Present Dangers: Crisis and Opportunity in American Foreign
and Defense Policy, edited by Robert Kagan and William Kristol. Bacevich
writes, "This impressive collection of essays is an outgrowth of that
article. Its premise is stark: following the 'squandered decade' of the
1990s, America, its interests, and its values are today very much at risk.
But the 'present dangers' of the book’s title do not reduce to a particular
competitor such as China or to specific threats such as rogue states or
international terrorism. The immediate danger lies here at home, in America’s
own 'flagging will' and confusion about its proper role in the world.
The chief threat, in short, lies with the nation’s own parsimony, indifference,
In Response to Terror
James Turner Johnson
Johnson, professor of Religion at Rutgers University, outlines a possible
political response to the threat of terrorism that draws on the tradition
of just war theory. He writes, "It is not necessary when thinking morally
(or legally) about the use of force in counter terrorism to restrict such
force to after-the-fact response to particular violent acts; nor is it
necessary to deal with terrorist activities on a tit-for-tat basis, though
the use of force would be justified in such cases. Let me be clear: a
strategy that involves the use of military force to prevent terrorist
acts is just and moral." Note: written previous to the events of
Articles on Worldview:
How Does Your Worldview Fit?
John H. Stoll, Ph.D.
With all the rapidly changing events that are happening in today's world,
is your worldview able to assimilate them, without disrupting your life? Written
to help Christians in their faith, this brief newsletter copy from a well-rounded
senior member of our human race challenges people of all worldviews to the
basic test of livability--does your view of life and reality get you where
you want to be or help you deal with where you already are?
Terrorism and Islam
Professor Otto Helweg
Dr. Helweg, who studied Islam, classical Arabic, and the Middle Eastern culture
while living in the Middle East for more than a decade, writes a straightforward
article regarding the mindset of Muslims, particularly the terrorists among
them. First, he describes the sharp differences in the worldview and culture
of the West and Middle East, then briefly explains the effect that the Qur'an
and other sacred writings have on radical Muslims. He disputes the characterization
of Islam as a peaceful religion and concludes that attempts to stamp out the
evil of terrorism are naive.
Measuring Morality: A Comparison
of Ethical Systems
What makes an action right or wrong? Such a question is acutely relevant
when discussing waging war, averting evil and righting wrongs, as in the
case of a post-9-11 conflict with Iraq. The answer to this question, when
asked of various ethical systems, helps sort through the maze of beliefs
that muddy the ethical waters. A condensation of Erwin Lutzer's book Measuring
Morality: A Comparison of Ethical Systems.
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