Saturday, December 04, 2004

Commonweal vs. First Things - Round One(?)

The War in Iraq: How Catholic conservatives got it wrong, by Peter Dula. Commmonweal December 3, 2004 / Volume CXXXI, Number 21.

A Mennonite Central Commmittee worker in Amman and Baghdad challenges what he allegest to be the post-war "virtual silence" of First Things on Iraq between Summer 2003 and October 2004:

. . . . I remain an admirer of their work. Yet it is precisely as a theologian and a reader-and more broadly as a citizen-that I want answers to questions raised by the arguments Weigel and Neuhaus made in support of the preemptive war in Iraq. Those arguments were made in the public square that First Things, especially in light of last month’s presidential election, has done so much to open up to religious language. What I am most concerned with can be reduced to four points. First, Neuhaus and Weigel, like the administration they support, failed in the summer of 2003 to see that the war was far from over. Second, their faith in the competency of the Bush administration, and their contempt for religious leaders who disagreed with them, can now more easily be recognized for what it was: an attachment to a particular brand of neoconservatism overwhelming their attachment to the just-war tradition. Third, their scant attention to how the war was actually conducted (jus in bello), and their disdain for those who pushed questions about noncombatant deaths and proportionality, suggest the need for a reappraisal of the value they placed on the just causes (ad bellum) of the war. Finally, I would argue that their silence since the fall of Baghdad is more disturbing than their mistakes before and during "major combat operations." The issue is not only, or not simply, that they were wrong. Perhaps they think they were right. The issue, especially in light of President George W. Bush’s re-election, is their current "moral muteness in a time of war."

I'm expect that a response George Weigel and Fr. Neuhaus will be forthcoming and that Mr. Dula won't be waiting long. Meanwhile, the "commentariat" at Amy Welborn's blog Open Book is abuzz with responses from the left and right.