Friday, December 31, 2004

Iraq -- Bringing in the New Year with a Prayer

We still dream of a democratic Iraq ruled by the law
And this is something we deserve…this is the land of the first law in history
I still find my home in Iraq… it's still the best place in the world in my eyes
I will not waste a minute listening to the pessimists
Instead, I will add a brick to the house we're building
And I will write a word….and pray

I will pray for the ones who fought for the Iraqi freedom
I will pray for the hundreds of thousands who won't spend the night with their families, staying awake on the front
line to keep me safe
I will pray for the ones who gave their lives for the sake of others' wellbeing
I will pray for those who went through all the pains
And never lost hope
I will pray for a free and democratic Iraq
I will pray for the world's peace

Happy New Year.

Mohammed, Iraq The Model

Monday, December 20, 2004

Neuhaus on 'Internationalisms' and 'Americanism'

In December's issue of First Things, Fr. Neuhaus has an excellent piece on Internationalisms, on "conflicting internationalisms" in public debate today -- from the old-fashioned isolationism perpetuated by Pat Buchanan and, to some degree, George Will; to the "Bush Doctrine"'s advancement of human freedom and end to totalitarian ideologies, as endorsed by the Weekly Standard and more importantly Norman Podhoretz's exemplary article "World War IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win"; to the "liberal internationalism of diminished sovereignty" popularized by Senator Kerry and those who percieve "the war on terror . . . as a defensive police action against criminal activities." Neuhaus concludes:

With few exceptions, we are all internationalists now. We have little choice in the matter. Jefferson worried whether our form of government could survive expansion on a continental scale. Now, by force of both intention and happenstance, our sphere of power and responsibility has expanded far beyond that. The liberal internationalism of diminished sovereignty is an abdication of responsibility and would be neither in our interest nor in the interest of world peace. The internationalism of global crusading for democracy is a delusion fraught with temptations to the hubris that has been the tragic undoing of men and nations throughout history. We should, rather, think of ours as an internationalism of circumstance, whose obligations we will not shirk. Our first obligation is to repair and keep in good repair our constitutional order and the cultural and moral order on which it depends. That we cannot do unless we are prepared to defend ourselves, not going abroad to seek monsters to destroy but also not fearing to resist and counter those who would destroy us.

An internationalism of circumstance, with its attendant duties, does not provide the thrilling drum rolls of the crusade or the glories of empire. Nor does it indulge dangerous dreams of escape into a new world order on the far side of national sovereignty. The world continues to be a world of politics among nations with, for better and worse, the United States as the preeminent nation for the foreseeable future. We cannot build nations, although we can at times provide encouragement and incentives for those determined to build their own. We cannot bestow democracy, but we can befriend those who aspire to democracy. We can build coalitions or act on our own for the relief of misery and the advancement of human rights, always having done the morally requisite calculation of our capacities and interests, and knowing that it is in our interest to be perceived as doing our duty. We can try to elicit, engage, and nurture constructive voices within Islam, recognizing that the Muslim future will be determined in largest part by those who seek to do what they believe to be God's will in relation to the infidel, which will always mean us. Above all, we can strive to be a people more worthy of moral emulation, which includes, by no means incidentally, our dependability in rewarding our friends and punishing those who insist upon being our enemies. Finally, given our circumstance of preeminence and the perduring force of envy and resentment in a sinful world, we need not flaunt our power. Whenever possible, we should act in concert with other sovereign nations, and especially other democracies. Often America will have to lead, and sometimes have to act alone. When we do, we should not expect to be thanked, never mind loved. We frequently will be, as in fact we frequently are, but that is to be deemed no more than a bonus for being and doing what we should.

See also "The Vatican vs. 'Americanism'", Neuhaus' review of John Allen's book All the Pope's Men: The Inside Story of How the Vatican Really Thinks, by John Allen, Jr., and further reflections on the subject.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Did the Pope condemn the war on Iraq?

Did Pope John Paul II condemn the war on Iraq? -- It depends on who you ask. If you happen to be "liberal Catholic" blogger Jcecil3, then the answer is decidedly affirmative, according to his interpretation of the Holy Father's statement "NO TO WAR!" and his plea that "international law, honest dialogue, solidarity between States, the noble exercise of diplomacy" prevail in resolving differences with Iraq (Address to the Diplomatic Corps January 13, 2003).

Jcecil marshalls as well the criticism of Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, that unilateral war against Iraq, without the approval of the U.N. Security Council, would be a "crime against peace" ( Feb. 24, 2003), a charge reiterated by Archbishop Renato Martino, then President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who denounced the war as "a crime against peace that cries out vengeance before God." ( March 17, 2003).

Sean Gleeson begs to differ, however, and has recently joined Peter Robinson at The Corner in his challenge to anybody to email him an actual quote from the actual pope confirming his "outspoken opposition to the war in Iraq.":

The first one to send me any qualifying quote will win the coveted Gleeson Researcher of the Century Award, an honor so exclusive no one's ever earned it. Not only will I mention the winner on my site, I will spend an entire day doing nothing but mention the winner on my site. . . . Just one ground rule: the winning entry must be a quote from Pope John Paul II condemning the U.S. liberation of Iraq. That means,
  • Paraphrases don't coun't.
  • Quotes from persons other than John Paul II don't count.
  • Quotes by John Paul II that do not condemn the U.S. invasion of Iraq don't count.
  • Quotes expressing only a general regret of the existence of violence don't count.
  • Quotes expressing only a general hope, prayer, or wish for peace don't count.
  • Quotes simply urging "everyone" to please "outlaw war forever" don't count.

Mr. Geeson has recieved a few submissions, but none apparently have met his (perfectly reasonable criteria).

As Archbishop John Meyers has said in an op-ed to the Wall Street Journal ("Pro-choice candidates and church teaching" Sept. 17, 2004):

Consider, for example, the war in Iraq. Although Pope John Paul II pleaded for an alternative to the use of military force to meet the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, he did not bind the conscience of Catholics to agree with his judgment on the matter, nor did he say that it would be morally wrong for Catholic soldiers to participate in the war. In line with the teaching of the catechism on "just war," he recognized that a final judgment of prudence as to the necessity of military force rests with statesmen, not with ecclesiastical leaders. Catholics may, in good conscience, support the use of force in Iraq or oppose it.

If those who propose that the Pope's "outspoken opposition to the war" was tantamount to an authoritative coondemnation, we're still waiting on the Vatican to correct the misleading remarks of the Archbishop.

Related links:

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.