Saturday, September 13, 2008

Who got the "Bush Doctrine" wrong?

Several conservative writers have already weighed in on the question of who made a mistake in Charlie Gibson's interview with Sarah Palin--Gibson or Palin.

One was John Podhoretz:
For the record, when a distressed friend called to say he was made nervous by her failure to identify the Bush Doctrine off the bat, I had to stop for a moment and think about it because I wasn’t instantly sure whether the Bush Doctrine was the policy of preemption or the democratization of Arab lands. And I wrote an entire book about the Bush presidency. She answered it, after a pause, by assuming it was the “you’re either with us or with the terrorists” line Bush promulgated right after 9/11.

It turns out Charlie Gibson meant the preemption doctrine — but then, he didn’t know what he was talking about either, since he told her in the weirdly patronizing voice in which he interviewed her that it was enunciated in September 2002.

The doctrine of preemption was, in fact, enunciated in June 2002 at West Point; September 2002 was when Bush declared Saddam Hussein in violation of 16 U.N. resolutions and declared that it was the responsibility of the U.N. to unseat him.

In fact, ABC News' own site has several different versions of the Bush Doctrine.
Now comes this, from the person, as the author states, who first coined the expression, Charles Krauthammer:
The Times got it wrong. And Charlie Gibson got it wrong.

There is no single meaning of the Bush doctrine. In fact, there have been four distinct meanings, each one succeeding another over the eight years of this administration — and the one Charlie Gibson cited is not the one in common usage today.

He asked Palin, “Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?”

She responded, quite sensibly to a question that is ambiguous, “In what respect, Charlie?”

Sensing his “gotcha” moment, Gibson refused to tell her. After making her fish for the answer, he grudgingly explained to the moose-hunting rube that the Bush doctrine “is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense.”

Wrong.

I know something about the subject because, as the Wikipedia entry on the Bush doctrine notes, I was the first to use the term. In the cover essay of the June 4, 2001, issue of The Weekly Standard titled, “The Bush Doctrine: ABM, Kyoto, and the New American Unilateralism,” I suggested that the Bush administration policies of unilaterally withdrawing from the ABM treaty and rejecting the Kyoto protocol, together with others, amounted to a radical change in foreign policy that should be called the Bush doctrine.

...If I were in any public foreign-policy debate today, and my adversary were to raise the Bush doctrine, both I and the audience would assume — unless my interlocutor annotated the reference otherwise — that he was speaking about Bush’s grandly proclaimed (and widely attacked) freedom agenda.

Not the Gibson doctrine of pre-emption.

...Yes, Palin didn’t know what it is. But neither does Gibson. And at least she didn’t pretend to know — while he looked down his nose and over his glasses with weary disdain, “sounding like an impatient teacher,” as the Times noted. In doing so, he captured perfectly the establishment snobbery and intellectual condescension that has characterized the chattering classes’ reaction to the phenom who presumes to play on their stage.
Part of the significance of Krauthammer's remark comes from the fact that he has not been a terribly enthusiastic supporter of McCain's choice of Palin.

22 comments:

thomas said...

Charles Krauthammer is a moron, he didn't even read into the fourth paragraph of the wikipedia article.

"The main elements of one Bush Doctrine were delineated in a National Security Council document, National Security Strategy of the United States, published on September 20, 2002.[8] This document is often cited as the definitive statement of the doctrine,[9][10][11] and was updated in 2006.[12]"

The National Security Council document is the most thorough official document stating the Bush Administration's foreign policy.

Though Krauthammer first used the term, that's not it's common usage. It usually refers to the more distinctive, radical features of the Bush foreign policy: his doctrine of preemption and the willingness to use unilateral force. There are other features, such as attacking countries that "harbor" terrorists, but the Bush doctrine, again, covers the principles that define the Bush policy as the Bush administration themselves declared on, as Gibson said "September, 2002." (It's on the wikipedia page, another thing Krauthammer missed, and Podhoretz as well)

In any case, the Bush doctrine is not simply "ridding the world of terrorism" as Palin guessed. It's the particular principles that say how this should be done, the most obvious being the idea of preemptive strikes which require no immediate threat. Everyone would have given it to her if she got a single other issue that falls under the Bush doctrine. Krauthammer even admits that Palin didn't know. Not that she didn't know it comprehensively, but didn't know what it applied to at all, she didn't get a single aspect of the Bush Doctrine.

Gibson was far closer when he cited the right to "anticipatory self defense", as that is the most publicized (and illegal) aspect of the Bush doctrine. He may not have mentioned the other aspects, which he should have because they're important, but he was relying on what he considered the most significant part.

And really, the problem isn't so much that Palin didn't know what it is, but we don't know what she really thinks about it. It appears that she opposes it, as she said we have the right to attack when a threat is "immanent." But the whole point of the Bush Doctrine (or the most famous aspect of it) is that, to paraphrase Bush, if you wait for a threat to appear, you've waited too long.

Now the "Bush Doctrine" will be added to her flash cards, she'll just mimic his position on it, and we'll never know what she really thinks. It's Gibson's fault too, if he kept pushing her we could have found out what her real opinion is about such radical preemptive strikes.

Anonymous said...

George Bush doesn't even know what the Bush Doctrine is unless someone tells him.

Lee said...

Charles Krauthammer is famous for being a moron, that's why he holds degrees (honors) in poli sci and economics, as well as a degree in medicine from Harvard Medical School and is a psychiatrist on top of that.

thomas said...

...and is apparently not able to read wikipedia. You'd think his poli sci degree would have prepared him for such a challenge.

Lee said...

I use Wikipedia, but was not aware that it is authoritative. In any event, when people edit encyclopedias, Charles Krauthammer is the kind of guy they use for a source.

And, in any event, calling someone a moron is a poor substitute for an actual argument.

Question: what's the difference between a country that harbors terorists, and a country that "harbors" terrorists? Why the scare quotes? Are you suggesting that no country harbors terrorists?

So you have something against preemptive strikes? You think it's a good idea to wait until after Washington D.C. is a smoking radioactive hole?

Art said...

I think we might discuss the "McCain Doctrine" - the one that would cut off all aid to Israel.

http://thinkprogress.org/2008/04/16/mccain-aid-israel/

Now there's a foreign policy visionary.

Lee said...

Cutting off aid to Israel means, inevitably, the destruction of Israel and the extermination of its people by their neighbors, you know, the ones who believe in the "religion of peace."

Thomas said...

"I use Wikipedia, but was not aware that it is authoritative."

I dare to say you have the attention span to at least read to the third or fourth paragraph.

"And, in any event, calling someone a moron is a poor substitute for an actual argument."

It's not a substitute for an argument, which constituted about 90% of the post, it's just a supplement.

"Question: what's the difference between a country that harbors terorists, and a country that "harbors" terrorists? Why the scare quotes? Are you suggesting that no country harbors terrorists?"

Answer: countries that actually harbor and support terrorists which also have close financial ties to some very powerful people don't "harbor" terrorists in the Bush sense. Mainly it is secular governments who actively oppose Islamic fundamentalism such as Iraq who "harbor" terrorists. In the same way the US harbors terrorists (http://www.lewrockwell.com/marina/marina15.html) but does not "harbor" them.

"So you have something against preemptive strikes? You think it's a good idea to wait until after Washington D.C. is a smoking radioactive hole?"

I don't actually have to explain something as elementary as the difference between an immanent strike and a potential strike do I? Notions of Just War have always allowed for defense in the case of immanent attacks. What is distinctive about the Bush doctrine is that they do not want to wait, in the words of Bush, until a threat materializes. That sort of preemption is necessarily ruled out by traditional Christian "Just War" theory... and by common sense.

Thomas said...

Oh, and very interestingly, the "Bush Doctrine" wikipedia page was altered just after Palin's gaffe so as to appear as though the Bush doctrine had "at least seven different meanings" and all that other garbage. Fortunately, they've been caught. Google cache still has the original version (which includes no reference to Krauthammer... wonder if he put that in himself) here, though I'm not sure how long it will be up: http://209.85.175.104/search?q=cache:IRgjjIF3Kz4J:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bush_Doctrine&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1

Lee said...

>> Lee: "I use Wikipedia, but was not aware that it is authoritative."

> thomas: "I dare to say you have the attention span to at least read to the third or fourth paragraph."

You're countering my objection that Wikipedia is not authoritative with an attack on Krauthammer's attention span?

> thomas: "[Name-calling is] not a substitute for an argument, which constituted about 90% of the post, it's just a supplement."

Oh I see. You are simply entertaining yourself with it.

>> Lee: "Question: what's the difference between a country that harbors terorists, and a country that "harbors" terrorists? Why the scare quotes? Are you suggesting that no country harbors terrorists?"

> thomas: "Answer: countries that actually harbor and support terrorists which also have close financial ties to some very powerful people don't "harbor" terrorists in the Bush sense."

So, if you're "harboring" terrorists, you're not harboring terrorists? This gets very confusing, to say the least.

Let's see if we can find some common ground: Forget the scare quotes. Is it right to attack a country that *harbors* terrorists?

And for the sake of argument granting that perhaps the Bush doctrine so far only applies to countries that "harbor" terrorists, do you think that doctrine also applies (in Bush's mind) to countries that *harbor* terrorists? Assuming such countries exist, of course.

> thomas: "Mainly it is secular governments who actively oppose Islamic fundamentalism such as Iraq who "harbor" terrorists."

So Saddam was a misunderstood good guy?

And regarding the citation from Lew Rockwell's site, would you say that Bush is harboring terrorists? Or just "harboring" them? Can we trust Lew Rockwell's information and various insights?

>> lee: "So you have something against preemptive strikes? You think it's a good idea to wait until after Washington D.C. is a smoking radioactive hole?"

> thomas: "I don't actually have to explain something as elementary as the difference between an immanent strike and a potential strike do I?"

I'm not sure it's as clear-cut as you think. If you had perfect intelligence at all times, the difference between potential and imminent may be problematic. But how about this: if a regime a) has announced a desire to nuke the U.S. or its allies, and b) is working toward acquiring nuclear weapons, is the coming attack imminent or merely potential?

> thomas: "That sort of preemption is necessarily ruled out by traditional Christian "Just War" theory... and by common sense."

Do you believe foreign policy should be run on Christian principles?

I don't recall anywhere in the gospels where Jesus spells out his theory on "just war", though in the Old Testament it pretty means fighting against heathen peoples at God's order. But is it possible that the stakes of war have gone up since, say, Klausewitz, to the point that if you wait for the attack to become imminent, it may be too late? Liberals like to say, well, times change and we need a "living" interpretation. But then they turn right around and argue for traditional Christian values as if they and Pat Robertson are on the same page.

Let's talk about common sense, shall we? Are you willing to risk, say, the city you are living in so that your sensitive proprieties are maintained? Or just the city I live in?

Lee said...

> thomas: "Oh, and very interestingly, the "Bush Doctrine" wikipedia page was altered just after Palin's gaffe so as to appear as though the Bush doctrine had "at least seven different meanings" and all that other garbage."

You mean... Wikipedia is not authoritative?

Lee said...

> Lee: "If you had perfect intelligence at all times, the difference between potential and imminent may be problematic."

Please amend to "...may not be so problematic."

Thomas said...

"You're countering my objection that Wikipedia is not authoritative with an attack on Krauthammer's attention span?"

I was observing that Krauthammer was using only the first few lines of the wiki and ignoring the rest. Not sure why I quoted you there, it was misleading. Wikipedia of course is not in any shape or form authoritative unless you're looking at linux distros.

"You are simply entertaining yourself with it."

Yes, actually.

"So, if you're "harboring" terrorists, you're not harboring terrorists? This gets very confusing, to say the least."

It's sarcasm. The United States has not only harbored but armed terrorists in the past and we continue to give foreign aid to countries that actively harbor terrorists. The country we attacked was, for the Middle East, actually quite westernized.

"So Saddam was a misunderstood good guy?"

Secular =/= good. He was a tyrant, but one who shut down, as far as he could, Muslim fundamentalism (for selfish reasons of course).

"Is it right to attack a country that *harbors* terrorists?"

Depends on if the criterion for a just war are met. This is an introductory treatment of the issue: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15546c.htm

It is more complicated than that, however. One should remember that even in the case of a just war, nothing extra becomes licit, and therefore attacks which will likely cause "collateral damage" cannot be endorsed by a Christian conscience. This means that we should seriously consider whether a just war is possible with the equipment of modern warfare. (The Vatican recently observed this, among others)

"If you had perfect intelligence at all times, the difference between potential and imminent may be problematic."

Immanent means the attack itself is underway. The "threat" has clearly materialized.

"But how about this: if a regime a) has announced a desire to nuke the U.S. or its allies, and b) is working toward acquiring nuclear weapons, is the coming attack imminent or merely potential?"

They would first have to have them in order for there to even be a threat (in terms of just war theory). And they must be about to use them.

"I don't recall anywhere in the gospels where Jesus spells out his theory on 'just war'"

Jesus' (as well as the Bible itself) says almost nothing about just war theory. That was developed as a practical consideration later in Christian history, and has a quite venerable tradition. Just War theory basically sets out the conditions under which, as a nation, we can supercede Jesus' command to turn the other cheek. Christians can have two legitimate positions on war: pacifism (which seems to follow from Jesus' teachings and was overwhelmingly the position of the early church) and just war theory. Neither regard preventative war as a legitimate option.

"Let's talk about common sense, shall we? Are you willing to risk, say, the city you are living in so that your sensitive proprieties are maintained? Or just the city I live in?"

To say it another way: to forfeit an essential aspect of Christianity which would compromise its moral whole or sacrifice a city? You're merely asking me if I am a utilitarian. I'll leave it to you to figure out if that's consistent with Christianity.

Lee said...

There was one question you didn't answer, thomas:

Do you believe foreign policy ought to be run on Christian principles?

Thomas said...

Foreign policy should not violate Christian principles.

Lee said...

It was a 'yes or no' type of question.

So then the answer to my question is, yes, foreign policy ought to be run on Christian principles.

Is that correct?

Lee said...

So given that, thomas, the next step would be to figure out what you mean by 'Christian principles'.

In other threads, you have argued that Christian principles, a la Kierhegaard, are existentially based, which renders them as something not absolute. How then does this apply to any Christian principles governing justification of war? Wouldn't an existentialist have problems nailing down any absolutes rules governing the justification of war?

And what does "turning the other cheek" have to do with anything? That wasn't Jesus' advice to a head of state; it was his advice to individuals for the sake of their own souls. In Jesus's words, I don't see anything that can be construed as, "If evil men are doing despicable things to innocent people, you should stand by and let it happen."

Some people have to be restrained. Sometimes, you have to kill someone to restrain him. You shouldn't hate that person, but it still needs to be done.

And it's time to specify what you are talking about when you say our own government harbors terrorists. Who? When? And are these terrorists who target and kill innocent civilians as the end and not an unfortunate byproduct of policy?

And *if* the government is indeed harboring terrorists, how does that change their responsibility to protect Americans? It's one of the few things I think government ought to be doing, but I darn well expect them to do it.

> thomas: "To say it another way: to forfeit an essential aspect of Christianity which would compromise its moral whole or sacrifice a city? You're merely asking me if I am a utilitarian. I'll leave it to you to figure out if that's consistent with Christianity."

So then, I gather that you do not think the United States is worth defending if it means collaterally killing innocent bystanders, and I gather also that maintaining your concept of the principles of just war is worth losing a city or two over.

Do you expect other Americans to be as enthusiastic about such moral sacrifice?

Thomas said...

"In other threads, you have argued that Christian principles, a la Kierhegaard, are existentially based, which renders them as something not absolute."

Kierkegaard's model of faith actually is something absolute in terms of its structure; faith, basically, arises from an "ultimate concern" which places one into an absolute relation to the absolute. Kierkegaard (or actually Johannes de Silencio) has to work hard to justify faith and distinguish it from lower immediacy (in the Hegelian sense). In other words, K. has to show that there is another possibility than just the universal and lower immediacy. If we view the only possibilities as what is in accord with the universal and what is not, then we must view Abraham's attempted sacrifice as temptation (in the specifically Hegelian sense). Thus faith is not the universal, but it is not simply the violation of the universal either: de Silincio's task is to show a third way. One way of simplifying the question is: what distinguishes Abraham from Agememnon on the one side and someone like William Tecumsah Sherman or Hitler (or Stalin, or Charles Manson, and so on...) on the other. The answer (you have to read Fear and Trembling in order to fully understand, this is just a brief overview) is that in the first case one is the "tragic hero" who remains in the universal while in the second one has fallen to lower immediacy (or never left immediacy). Agememnon sacrifices his daughter for the good of the state, and thus remains within the "ethical" (i.e., the universal), but Abraham would not save a country by sacrificing Isaac, he would in fact destroy a future nation before its birth. Likewise, Abraham cannot simply be in lower immediacy, since, if this is faith, it would have always existed. The way out is formulated in the beginning of sickness unto death:

The self is a relation which relates itself to its own self, or it is that in the relation [which accounts for it] that the relation relates itself to its own self; the self is not the relation but [consists in the fact] that the relation relates itself to its own self... In the relation between two, the relation is the third term as a negative unity, and the two relate themselves to the relation, and in the relation to the relation... Such a relation which relates itself to its own self (that is to say, a self) must either have constituted itself or have been constituted by another. If this relation which relates itself to its own self is constituted by another, the relation doubtless is the third term, but this relation (the third term) is in turn a relation relating itself to that which constituted the whole relation.

The trick that Abraham pulls off is that he brings all the factors of his existence into a single whole which is not yet his self, because this bringing together constitutes the relation which relates itself to itself. This relation to relation, in faith, is constituted by another; and when Abraham defines himself by an external commitment, he brings all the aspects of his existence together in such a way that his nature resists dissipation. This also means that he becomes a unique, unrepeatable individual through this kind of relation and defines himself by it. But this itself is only possible in relation to the ethical, Abraham must live in the anxiety of violating the universal to attain individuality, and this anxiety is what distinguishes Abraham from a murderer. However, because Abraham is not in the universal anymore and is in a "higher immediate" he cannot communicate his faith to others, or even understand it conceptually himself. Thus, there are no external criteria to determine who is in higher or lower immediacy because criteria only belong to what can be conceptualized.

Therefore, obviously civic law (and public policy) cannot take into the higher immediacy which can suspend the ethical as law deals with not only what can be conceptualized and brought under categories, but what is generally the case. This is the reason social doctrines, which obviously differ from the most personal acts of faith. Law must be based in the universal, it must be based in the ethical and judged by it (though not everything unethical need be illegal obviously) if it is in fact law. You can't teleologically suspend the ethical in the realm of public policy because the kind of radical individualization through the Kierkegaardian type of relation simply can't happen on that level.

"And it's time to specify what you are talking about when you say our own government harbors terrorists. Who? When? And are these terrorists who target and kill innocent civilians as the end and not an unfortunate byproduct of policy?"

Luis Posada Carriles, to cite a famous example.

"So then, I gather that you do not think the United States is worth defending if it means collaterally killing innocent bystanders, and I gather also that maintaining your concept of the principles of just war is worth losing a city or two over."

I could point out that intervention in the middle east actually puts us in far greater danger of terrorism, but that would be beside the point. You are just repeating your question which amounts to: are you a utilitarian? Or: do you believe the end justifies the means? A Christian must answer that of course is not the case, that some actions are inherently wrong regardless of their end. One of these would be the mass reckless homicide of civilians. I suppose you could keep asking me if there is something so terrible I would do something intrinsically wrong, but it amounts to the same question. Here's my answer: I am not a utilitarian, the ends do not justify the means, actions such as the murder of innocents are intrinsically disorded and are not justified by any end. If you want, I can go into detail about why utilitarian ethics nihilate themselves.

Lee said...

thomas, we certainly have found a subject that captures your imagination. Personally, I think way too much is being made of the whole Abraham thing. It can be explained much more simply: Abraham and Sarah were promised a son who would father a great nation; they were well up in years by the time they had Isaac, unnaturally so in terms of conceiving; God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son; Abraham proceeded to do as God asked, having faith in His promises; God saw his faith and relented. God could have as easily let Isaac die and resurrected him, but perhaps He wanted to distinguish this "new" faith from the wicked faith of the Canaanites in this regard (who believed in child sacrifice).

> thomas: "I could point out that intervention in the middle east actually puts us in far greater danger of terrorism, but that would be beside the point. You are just repeating your question which amounts to: are you a utilitarian?"

You are utilitarian enough that you won't answer the question. Do you think we should, in order not to kill collaterally and because of the U.S.'s own guilty past, simply stand aside and allow terrorists to acquire and then to proceed to whack our cities into the stone age?

> I could point out that intervention in the middle east actually puts us in far greater danger of terrorism, but that
would be beside the point.

Before we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, we were attacked. Since we invaded, we have not been attacked. Your case might be harder to prove than you think.

You come from a different place than most liberals, who are secularly oriented, but the results of your thinking seems pretty close -- I cannot imagine that someone with your mindset would vigorously defend American interests or take the steps necessary to protect American lives. Do you understand why Americans have tended to vote Republican at least for the presidency for the past fifty years?

Well, here's the short version of what's coming: The difference between the terrorists and the bad old Soviets is the Soviets had the abililty to destroy America, but not the inclination, while the terrorists have the inclination but not the ability. Yet. Someday, unless something is done soon, now, they will acquire the ability to hit us at will. When they acquire this ability, they will proceed. It's that simple. There won't be anything we can do to deter them, or to placate them. And because we're talking terrorist factions instead of heads of state, there won't even be anyone to whom we can surrender. They will just keep whacking us until we're gone... or, until we decide to start whacking back. And whacking back means holding someone accountable. It means making mistakes. It means killing some of the wrong people.

If you don't fight back, you are consigning 300 million Americans to death. Why is it wrong to kill other innocents and yet make the decision to let our own innocents be killed?

In any event, once we're gone, the logic of terrorism requires they start bombing others, and I assure you Russia, China, India, France, etc. will not be so squeamish. End game: radical Islam will have succeeded in destroying the Islamic world. And us with it, perhaps, but they're goners nonetheless.

Aren't we better off confronting it now? Won't fewer people suffer this way than that way?

Thomas said...

"thomas, we certainly have found a subject that captures your imagination. Personally, I think way too much is being made of the whole Abraham thing. It can be explained much more simply..."

Hopefully it captures the imagination of all Christians: it is, after all, the story of the father of faith. And your explanation misses a crucial difference: God's request to Abraham is not the same as Christ's request to the rich young ruler -- Abraham has an ethical obligation to his son that he violates. Ethically, Abraham's attempt is murderous. That is a very serious problem for any kind of universal ethics. One has to show that there is a possibility other than just a moral law and its violation. You should read Fear and Trembling, even aside from this particular debate. Some of the terminology can be difficult at first (though not as striking as a short summary such as the one I gave). I'd suggest getting the book and listening along to Hubert Dreyfus' podcast (the UC Berkley professor, google turns it right up). As with most important theological issues the most important and difficult step is seeing the problem in the first place

"Do you think we should, in order not to kill collaterally and because of the U.S.'s own guilty past, simply stand aside and allow terrorists to acquire and then to proceed to whack our cities into the stone age?"

The choices are not nearly so distinct as absolute pacifism on the one hand and full scale modern warfare on the other. A prudent course of action which does not needlessly endanger human lives and which fully satisfies the criteria set out by the traditional just war theory would be acceptable. But this means we can't abide modern warfare as defined by Sherman (which Hitler perfected).

"Before we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, we were attacked. Since we invaded, we have not been attacked. Your case might be harder to prove than you think."

I cannot think of a more simplistic analysis than that. And actually we have been attacked, repeatedly, just not in this country. Over four thousand young American men and women have died, many in terrorist attacks. Additionally, the internal reports from the Pentagon have concluded that the war in Iraq has actually made us less secure. And worldwide, since we invaded, terrorist attacks are up from before the invasion.

"I cannot imagine that someone with your mindset would vigorously defend American interests or take the steps necessary to protect American lives."

There's a difference between vigorously defending the American people and defending them in such a way that one disregards the sanctity of human life. Any such policy has not fully taken into account the prohibition against murder (and consequently Christian anthropology). If you can explain how a policy which bears a high likelihood of killing innocent civilians fully takes into account the infinite value each human life possesses I'd be interested to hear it.

And your whole portrait of the radical Islamic "end game" simply does not take into account the reality of the situation. Much work has been done to explain the origins of "radical Islam", and the kind we face is primarily motivated because we have troops on "holy land"--which calls for war. It's not because we have raunchy hollywood music or teenagers who wear midriff bearing t-shirts, or any such nonsense. It's because we have troops stationed in Muslim territory, because we undermine governments in the Middle East for our own purposes, and because we support Israel. The more we get entangled in the middle east, the more moderate Muslims will be motivated to turn radical, either because we accidentally killed their relatives, or simply because of our military presence.

If you want to familiarize yourself with the actual motivations and historical causes of modern Islamic terror, this is the best book (bin Ladin even said it was an accurate picture of his motivations: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_Hubris It's written by the guy who was the foremost CIA analyst following bin Ladin in the 90's. The book was originally published anonymously because he was still in the CIA, but now he's a foreign policy expert in the private sector. Interestingly, he would disagree with my contention that it is morally wrong to kill civilians, but his book is useful for its factual details, it's not a philosophical or theological work, and shouldn't be used as such.

Lee said...

> thomas: "God's request to Abraham is not the same as Christ's request to the rich young ruler -- Abraham has an ethical obligation to his son that he violates. Ethically, Abraham's attempt is murderous."

But God told him to do it, so it isn't being murderous at all, it's only being obedient to God. His ethical obligation is to the Lord.

> thomas: "One has to show that there is a possibility other than just a moral law and its violation."

Abraham already had God's promise that Isaac was the one through whom His promises would be realized. Abraham did the only thing a faithful man could do: trust in the Lord's promises. Does the fact that God had already made promises concerning Isaac ever make it into the deep ruminations of these theologians you cite? That Abraham already therefore had good reason to believe he wouldn't really have to lose Isaac?

> thomas: "The choices are not nearly so distinct as absolute pacifism on the one hand and full scale modern warfare on the other. A prudent course of action which does not needlessly endanger human lives and which fully satisfies the criteria set out by the traditional just war theory would be acceptable. But this means we can't abide modern warfare as defined by Sherman (which Hitler perfected)."

Let's talk a little bit about just war theory for just a minute. Would it, say, encompass the following war?

> I Samuel 15:1-3 Samuel said to Saul, "I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'

How does that fit into your theories?

> thomas: "I cannot think of a more simplistic analysis than that."

Gotta watch those labels, thomas. a = a is the Identity property; it's simple, and true. x = 1/3a(-b +/- (b**2 - 4ac)**1/2) as an expression of the quadratic equation is less simple, and false. Simple is not necessarily simplistic, and complex does not imply correct. I'm not ignoring complicating factors. I'm only pointing out that we haven't had a major attack in the U.S. since 9/11 and I cannot rule out the possibility that it's because Bush & crew are doing something right. al-Qaida in fact is fighting us now in Iraq. That's better than them attacking us here, no?

> thomas: "Additionally, the internal reports from the Pentagon have concluded that the war in Iraq has actually made us less secure."

What internal reports? Someone in the Pentagon makes a report, and that's that? No countervailing analyses exist? You'll pardon me for pointing out that explanation isn't much less "simplistic" than my own. "Because he said so," is not the best argument in the world.

> thomas: "There's a difference between vigorously defending the American people and defending them in such a way that one disregards the sanctity of human life."

I don't think we have defined the sanctity of human life yet, nor how far we're willing to push the concept. Certainly, people are going to die either way. I don't see anything un-Biblical about doing our best to ensure the ones dying are the ones perpetrating the violence.

> thomas: "If you can explain how a policy which bears a high likelihood of killing innocent civilians fully takes into account the infinite value each human life possesses I'd be interested to hear it."

Why don't you ask Samuel, viz. the example I gave above, the same question when you see him in Heaven?

A little Calvinism might do your world view a little good. The Lord is sovereign. Nothing happens anywhere that is not in accord with His will. People live and people die; some are chosen, others are not. Work out your salvation in fear and trembling.

Islam is a false religion, and its adherents worship a false god. The Lord judges nations, and woe to the nations He judges against. And, lest we feel smug about it, we could be the ones being judged. The Lord has used heathen nations to humble His people before, and may certainly choose to do so again.

I think the best outcome would be for America and especially Europe to turn back to its Christian faith, pray, quit sacrificing children, and convert the Islamic nations.

But that would be a better world than the one we're living in. As for whether our war against Islam will prevail, it will need His blessing, and we have good reason to fear that due to our own unfaithfulness that we may not receive it. But I see nothing inherently unjust about fighting it. There is certainly nothing un-Biblical about defending one's nation from the wickedness of adherents to a false religion.

Lee said...

Rats. Just when I thought we might be getting somewhere, thomas takes a powder. I was especially interested in seeing how the venerable tradition of just war theory, ostensibly based on Christian principles, dealt with the bloodier narratives in the Old Testament.

I figures somehow those narratives will have to be shoved aside for the theories to maintain a semblace of authority.

Did Samuel lie? Is the entire account of Samuel's words to King Saul bogus? If so, then why isn't the account of Abraham and Isaac likewise bogus? Does the Old Testament even matter anymore? Sometime between Saul and Jesus, did God change his mind about whether killing "innocent women and children" was right or wrong? There must be an explanation. Just wondering what it could possibly be.