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Thursday, September 26, 2002

Liberals, Just War and Human Nature-The Washington Times had a piece on a group of a hundred center-left theologians coming out against a war with Iraq, thinking that it fall short of just war principals. Here's the core piece from the Chronicle of Higher Ed. Looking at the names shows a center-left bias, with few evangelical names on the list. The last name on the list is from Anderson University, Warner Southern's sister school in the Church of God sphere (and more than a bit more liberal, according to some of my colleagues). The affiliation of the list is interesting, but the text is interesting as well.
He cited a letter by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, delivered to Condoleezza Rice, the president's national-security adviser, last week. The letter contains several references to the principles of just-war doctrine. The bishops state that no evidence of "an imminent attack of a grave nature" by Iraq (just cause) has been offered, and that Iraq's long-term threat to the international community should be dealt with by the United Nations rather than a single superpower (legitimate authority). They also cite the traditional requirement that military action "must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated."
With WMD, there is no easy imminent attack to see. If delivered by an ICBM, you would have a few minutes warning, and zero warning if delivered by infiltration. Also, they have now handed to the UN the "legitimate authority" mantle, depriving individual nations the right to self-defense. The key difference between my stance and this bunch is that last sentence-the evil that we would be eliminating is greater than the damage we would be doing to extricate it. We might not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law that Iraq would use those weapons in the future, but given Saddam's track record, it is a fair assumption. Liberals tend to downplay personal evil and assume that people can be reasoned with. Some people don't want to be reasoned with, and Saddam seems to be one of them. At least this bunch put this counterpoint at the end
But at least one theologian -- the Rev. Richard Land, president of the ethics and religious-liberty commission of the Southern Baptist Convention -- has endorsed pre-emptive military action on just-war grounds. "I believe we are defending ourselves against several acts of war by a man who does not keep treaties and who has already used weapons of mass destruction," said Mr. Land in a debate with Mr. Casey and others on the PBS program Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, broadcast in mid-September. Citing St. Paul's endorsement of secular authority's power to punish wrongdoing, he said, "There is recognized use of lethal force by the civil magistrate. And while I would be happy to have U.N. Security Council support for this, for the United States of America, the appropriate authority is the government of the United States."
Human nature has no history, as Jonah likes to say. Conservatives recognize that people are sinful, some more so than others, and that diplomacy has its limits.

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