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:

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

Featured Resources:

Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (U.S. House of Representatives Joint Resolution 114)
Official text as drawn up on Capitol Hill.

Unnecessary Wars
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 War
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 Power
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.

Conflicts Foreign and Domestic
James Nuechterlein

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 at heart.

Books In Review: America Unbounded
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, and irresponsibility."

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 9-11.

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
Erwin Lutzer

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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