Re: [Fwd: Theological reflection on Just War]

From: george murphy (
Date: Thu Oct 25 2001 - 10:56:26 EDT

  • Next message: Joel Z Bandstra: "RE: Theological reflection on Just War"

    Jonathan Clarke wrote:

    > george murphy wrote:
    > >
    > >
    > > This is just name-calling with no substance.
    > Obviously I disagree. The US constant appeal to the international community on one hand
    > and yet ignoring or flouting it on the other is hypocritical. So is its criticism of
    > countries which violate international agreements and yet the US administration seems to
    > think it can unilaterally break agreements. This is "might is right" logic, the
    > justification of the bully at all scales. Seeing ourselves as other see us is rarely
    > flattering, but often humbling and therefore helpful.

            As I noted, the US has certainly made mistakes. The question now is whether or not
    those mistakes are the reason for terrorist attacks on the US. They aren't, as I argue

    > > Of concern now isn't an abstract "people" but Islamic radicals who hate the
    > > United States. & while there are certainly things about US foreign policy & military
    > > action that can be criticized, the reasons for the hatred of Islamic radicals has
    > > much more to do with the Islamic tradition than it does with those failures. In
    > > particular:
    > > a) The type of static & closed theocracy that those radicals want is
    > > impossible in a world in which a free society like the US is the major power.
    > Radicals and extremists don't grow in a vacuum. As I said before, the US needs to
    > consider why it is so hated. Even if friendly countries there is widespread mistrust of
    > motives and suspicion of methods. The US must think why this is so. Only by addressing
    > these concerns will the climate of opinion change - and it will take decades.

            You are conflating two quite different concerns here. It's one thing for European
    countries, e.g., to criticize the present administration's policy with regard to global
    warming or development of a missile defence. The hatred of the US by Islamic radicals has
    little if anything to do with such questions. A lot of US policies need critical attention,
    but it's a red herring to focus on US failings without giving serious attention to aspects of
    Islam which are incompatible with the type of society for which the US, together with other
    modern nations, has tried - albeit fallibly - to achieve.

    > > b) The existence of a state of Israel - NB, not any details of Israeli
    > > policy but the reality of any such state in what is supposed to be the territory of
    > > Islam - is anathema to them. US defence of the right of Israel to exist is then a
    > > primary reason for hatred.
    > Again, the extreme one-sidedness of the US's support of Israel does not help the
    > situation

            In the first place, US support for the policies of Isreal has not been extremely
    one-sided. In particular, the US pushed Israel for years along the road of the "peace
    process", culminating in the offer made to Arafat in 2000. But the US has supported the
    existence of Israel, & it's that to which the Arabs have been opposed - even before Israel
    occupied the Temple Mount, even before theie were any settlements on the West Bank.

    > > The most recent military action of the US that might be characterized as
    > > "bully-boy" is the attack on Serbia. The fact that this was in support of a largely
    > > Muslim population should give some pause to anyone who claims that such actions
    > > provide a reason for Islamic radicals to hate the US.
    > Yes they were a great success weren't they?

            Did I say that this action was a "success"? Did I say that it was a good idea? No.
    I brought it up only to point out how selective Muslims have been in criticizing US policy -
    a point which you finally concede below.

    > They destroyed only a small amount of
    > military equipment, killed almost as many civilians as the Serbs, and the Serbs left
    > Kosovo only because of the threat of ground forces, which were spear-headed by the
    > Russians and British. The Kosvars (or at least the KLA) then showed their true colours
    > doing to the Serbs as had been done to them, and then proceeded to destabilize
    > Macedonia. However, I will concede that the whole disgraceful affair does show that the
    > west will intervene on behalf of Muslims, as was the attempted intervention in Somalia.

            Don't forget attacks on baby milk factories and pharmaceutical plants, the immoral

    > poorly thought out sanctions on Iraq.

            & of course do forget all the actions of the Iraqi government against Kuwait and its
    own people - as well as the fact that sanctions would be unnecessary if Saddam Hussein were
    not so intent on developing ABC weapons, & that they wouldn't have the effect they do if he &
    his cronies weren't spending the money they have on building palaces.
            In retrospect it's clear that the US made a mistake in not pursuing the Gulf War to
    the destruction of the Iraqi army & Saddam Hussein's government. But that would have
    required more, not less, military action.

    > Do not get me wrong. Past and present US failures do not justify such an atrocity as
    > September 11. Justice requires that the perpetrators of such evil acts must be brought
    > to account, or eliminated. However this does not give the US a carte blanche.

            I.e., in terms of the just war doctrine, the conditions for going to war (jus ad
    bellum) have been satisfied. The remaining question is whether the conditions for conduct of
    the war (jus in bello) are satisfied.

    > Terrorism is an international problem. Many countries have fought terrorism, and the
    > lessons are clear. It must be both contained by immediate action and the conditions that
    > promote eliminate it. Those countries that have followed this approach - essentially
    > seeing it as a social and police issue rather than a simple military one are those that
    > have had a measure of success against terrorism. One would have hoped that the US would
    > have seen from Russian and Israeli examples that the brute force approach fails.

            For the Islamic radicals, the only way the causes of their rage could be eliminated
    would be for western societies to convert to Islam or cease to exist. There may have been a
    point at which police action could have dealt with the present terrorist threat, but that
    time is past. The point of the just war doctrine is that sometimes force is the best of bad
    choices, & its conditions are intended to make the use of force as un-brutal as possible.


    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

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