Monday, February 6, 2012

Post #177 - Marching as to War

War is again an option that is "on the table," according to administration officials. We must ask about the rightness, under any circumstances, of an endeavor so fraught with hazard and so befogged with unknown quantities. This applies equally if we do it ourselves, or effectively acquiesce in Israel's taking such a step. Chuck Gutenson, a professor at Asbury Theological Seminary has written (in a blog on March 7, 2007 about George W. Bush et al):

"...for Christians, there are really only two broad frameworks in which to assess the use of military force. Either one embraces Christian pacifism, or one embraces the Just War Theory...we can see that neocons do not embrace Christian pacifism. So, for neoconservatism to be acceptable to Christian faith, its vision must conform to the Just War criteria. But does it? First, there simply is no basis in the Just War criteria for going to war in an attempt to establish a 'pax Americana,' nor for 'regime change.' Neither of these constitutes a 'just cause.'"

In the lead-up to the war in Iraq, the British government -- in the now-famous "Downing Street memos," written just weeks before the start of the war -- recognized that "regime change cannot be the objective of military action." (It would have been more accurate to say "cannot be the overt, public objective.") This public relations bind led to the launching of some 22,000 pre-invasion sorties over Iraq, to soften-up and attempt to provoke Saddam's Iraq. Gutenson goes on:

" ...neoconservatism simply does not take the concept of human sin and evil seriously enough. It is surprising because it is often the neocons who point out that there is genuine evil in the world that must be confronted. At the end of the day, however, neoconservatives are simply too optimistic about our own goodness. In other words, too much of the neoconservative agenda rests on the belief that while 'they' are 'bad,' 'we' are good. Note that the issue here is not 'moral equivalence,' i.e., no one need think of 'us' as [being as] bad as 'them.' Rather, we only need recognize that no one should be entrusted with the sort of unilateral power implied by the neoconservative dream.
"We, as followers of Jesus, should reflect on the differences between our calling to be imitators of Jesus and that to which the neocons would call us. And, most of all, we need to recognize the incommensurability of the two ways of being in the world."

Military action that is preemptive or preventive, is completely unwarranted under any “just war” doctrine. Gerald Powers, director of the Office of International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said, in December 2002:

"[The] Bush administration has taken the concept of preemption as an option in exceptional cases and turned it into a new doctrine about the legitimacy of the unilateral use of preventive war to deal not just with imminent threats, but with merely potential or gathering dangers. Justifying preventive war in this way would represent a sharp departure from just war norms." [See Appendix 1, Just War Doctrine] Recent statements from the Clinton State Department indicate that this norm is no longer in force.

December 7, 1941
This is not our first experience, as a nation, with preemption. We all remember the preemptive strike on the naval base at Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu. Jim Douglass, again, reminds us of the hazardous period in the early '60s, including the incident when a U.S. general, on orders from the White House, provoked a confrontation with the Soviets at the Berlin Wall. At Checkpoint Charlie, “For 20 hours, U.S. and Soviet tanks stood facing each other with their motors running, each line of tanks threatening to open fire and spark a nuclear war.” A year later, there would be the doomsday scenario of the Cuban Missile Crisis. “Certainly," Douglass writes, "John F. Kennedy knew his military advisers took seriously the idea of a preemptive strike. They were pushing him to do the same, as revealed in a top-secret document declassified in 1993.” In a description which echo in today's plans on Iran, Douglass paints for us the picture within the White House:

"At a July 20, 1961 meeting of the National Security Council, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and CIA Director Allen Dulles presented a plan for a nuclear surprise attack on the Soviet Union 'in late 1963, preceded by a period of heightened tensions.' Kennedy resisted them. After raising a series of questions to the plan, the President got up and walked out of the meeting in disgust. He found intolerable the idea of launching a nuclear Pearl Harbor attack on the Soviet Union."
"Besides walking out, Kennedy said afterwards what he thought of the proceeding to Secretary of State Dean Rusk. With what Rusk described as 'a strange look on his face,' Kennedy said, 'And we call ourselves the human race.'”

Thomas Merton was prescient in noting, “...step by step we come closer to it because the country commits itself more and more to policies which, but for a miracle, will make it inevitable.” And so we find ourselves once again in that same spot in this new century in regard to Iran.

President Bush might have described his agenda using words like those attributed to Polish musical pioneer Anton Dvorak about his music; Dvorak said he harbored the “perhaps too audacious but noble wish and intention to create for myself a new world.” But the Obama administration has worked its way around to a not-very-different set of tactical choices, even though its members may perceive their approach to foreign affairs to be a departure from that of the previous occupant of the White House.

Even from a perspective like that of Francis Fukuyama, who hypothesized “the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government” (in End of History, 1989), the tilt toward contemplating regime change by President Bush (who rejected the idea during his first run for the White House) was ill-advised. Fukuyama, addressing a Washington audience in February of 2007 said:

"I think there is a real problem when you instrumentalize democracy promotion in the fashion that the administration has done to make it a tool of the strategic objectives of the United States of America...really two problems...First, it's based on a wrong theory about what's wrong with the Middle East. And secondly it, by instrumentalizing democracy actually I think makes the actual pursuit of democracy more difficult in practice because it taints what is otherwise a perfectly good and just activity with association with an extremely unpopular Americans administration, particularly in the Middle East...
"...we had this doctrine of benevolent hegemony grow up that the United States would simply have to act on its own to take care of these kinds of of the things that we simply didn't count on back six, seven years ago when we were hypothesizing about how the world might react to this was this large current of anti-Americanism that I think is absolutely structural in world politics today."
"The United States, by being so powerful, can reach out and touch and change regimes 8,000 miles on the other side of the world from it and they can't do a damn thing to us in return and I think that that lack of reciprocity in those relationships – economic, cultural, political – is what's driving a great deal of the opposition and pushback to American dominance and hegemony and ideas and all sorts of things today."

Or, as Prof. Nasr says, “ be free means also to be free to understand what one means by freedom...[rather than] imposed on them as an ideology by a more powerful West that knows better than they do what is good for them.” (From Heart of Islam). Though the current ramp-up is not focused as much on spreading democracy, as it is on the "existential threat" to Israel, we could reap just as large a whirlwind as we did in Iraq.

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