To The Editor:
Leaving to the side for one moment several of George Weigel’s more questionable assertions concerning the specifics of the war in Iraq (for example the “strenuous efforts to secure Security Council approval for the use of armed force to vindicate Security Council resolutions”, which immediately call to mind the President's phrase “No matter what the whip count is, we're calling for a vote”), his account of the Just War Doctrine within a “theory of statecraft” in his rebuttal to Rowan Williams (“War and Statecraft: An Exchange,” March 2004) should occasion some comment even from those who supported the war on “self defense” grounds. First, the claim Weigel's analysis is fully “Thomistic” bears careful consideration, in particular his failure to distinguish properly between the “directive” and “executive” aspects of political prudence. Doubtless this observation will garner some derision as more of the same from “Thomists of the Strict Observance.” However, if the aim is to discover whether St. Thomas would have countenanced a preventative war such as we have just witnessed, a little strict observation of the Angelic Doctor would seem to be in order.
Weigel is quite right to question Dr. Williams's overly pacific account of the “presumption against war.” Basing such an argument in a “presumption against violence” is clearly difficult to reconcile with the Thomistic and Augustinian analysis, which emphasizes the liceity of such coercion to duly constituted authority, as Weigel observes (“even as it undermines. . .”). Nevertheless, in distinguishing a “presumption against war” (or as Weigel had previously phrased it, a “presumption for peace”) from a “presumption against violence,” one seems inevitably drawn to the conclusion that the phrase has more weight than Weigel end up assigning it (in his account of the calculus leading to the determination that war “is the only responsible option."). And not the least reason for this conclusion is Pope John Paul II’s recent remarks on war and peace. For the phrase is a useful emblem of the concept of war as a “last resort”—that war is not simply one among many options available to “statecraft,” but as the Holy Father emphasized in the run up to Iraq: “war cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option. . .” (Address to the Diplomatic Corps, Jan. 13, 2003).
As might be expected this notion of war as the last option comports very well with the characterization of the “last resort” criterion in Gaudium et Spes (GS, 79), and The Catechism of the Catholic Church (sec. 2309). What might be more surprising, however, is that the Catechism’s formulation of war as a “last resort” also fits equally well with the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia's analysis of the issue: “a clear title is limited to the condition that war is necessary as a last appeal.” The Catholic Encyclopedia's emphasis here is signal, because it militates against the argument that the “last resort” criterion, strictly understood, is a new, or developed, analysis.
The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia’s analysis is indisputably a Thomistic analysis, specifically because that analysis proceeds from St. Thomas’s injunction that just war must aim at peace, nor can peace be “sought” as a pretext for war (ST IIaIIae, q. 40, a.1, repl. 3d obj.). Indeed, in Weigel’s own 1987 book Tranquilitas Ordinis he seems to acknowledge this (p. 41, bullets D, E-1,2,3), and concur that the “last” in “last resort” must mean “last.” St. Thomas’s further delimitation that even a war fought for a just cause can be rendered unjust (ST IIaIIae, q. 40, a.1, cont.) by illicit motives (revenge, a lust for domination) only supports the arguments from the Vatican, the Catechism, and the Catholic Encyclopedia that the “primary title” to war is a defense against aggression (extant or imminent) and the redress of wrongs (ulciscuntur iniurias) which can be extended vicariously under strict conditions. The analogy St. Thomas uses to elaborate this dynamic is particularly revealing: the public authority is empowered to defend the “common weal” by armed force (“rempublicam . . . ab exterioribus hostibus.” ST IIaIIae, q. 40, a. 1, cont.) as it is empowered to use capital punishment to defend the “common weal” against internal threats. The “punitive” title to war, consequent to an actual injury, would seem to be the only positive (not immediately defensive) title to war, and thus the only one even remotely corresponding to the justification of “advancing” the good. And in this regard it is interesting to note that the only examples of “positive” action here (bonum promoveatur) are likened to the state's coercive power to “rescue the poor” (eripite pauperem).
Based on some of his writings one wonders the degree of latitude Mr. Weigel would be comfortable affording to the coercive power of the public authority in wielding the sword to “rescue” the poor. And this is the paradoxical element to Weigel’s remarks on the subject of war, because while he very strictly circumscribes the public authority’s role in “coercing” economic activity toward the end of “promoting” the common good, he seems to envision more latitude for that authority with regard to “advancing” the international common good. Dr. Williams’s discussion of coercion by the public authority, while I believe inadequate in certain areas, points to some very real difficulties in Weigel’s analysis in this area. Dr. Williams cites Thomistic doctrine to support his point “that coercion is simply not to be justified unless it is answerable to a clear account of common human good.” Here I would say Dr. Williams’s emphasis belongs on the word “common” because that is the real difficulty with Weigel’s analysis of political prudence. To pursue the “punitive” title to war requires in particular a view to advancing the “common good” of humanity, because it regards a distributive rather than simply commutative judgment, and requires that the “prudence” of the authority entrusted with that task look to the interest of not only one nation, but all nations. Thus the prudence required would be more directive than executive in function (ST, IIaIIae, q. 50, a.1). And from the preceding discussion of the “last” resort criterion, we can see that this title is primarily an operation of executive prudence, since it is for the most part the necessary execution of the rulers obligation to defend his people.
Thus, in assessing the “prudential judgment” (prudens iudicium) required to determine whether we have arrived at the “last resort” with regard to the strict defense of an individual nation and its private good, we must distinguish from the “prudential judgment” and correlative “common good” involved in “advancing” the “common good” of the community of nations. Certainly the leader of a nation’s subjective consideration of the security exigencies for his own nation suffices to satisfy for the strict “last resort” criterion, provided the judgment meets the Thomistic stipulation of “right reason.” But whether the “prudential judgment” of the leader of one nation in “advancing” the cause of the common good in respect to the community of nations comprehends the employment of war to that end seem irreconcilable with the understanding of directive prudence as we understand it from St. Thomas. I would say that this is why the Holy Father chose the moment of the war to emphasize that “war is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations.” Now it is precisely the role of political prudence (or in Thomas's formulation, regnative and political prudence) to choose between “many options” for promoting or “advancing” the “common good”—what is meant by the distinction between directive and executive prudence (ST, IIaIIae, q. 50, a. 1, repl 1st obj.). This is where Dr. Williams’ citation of the passages on “violence” are so illustrative, because they clearly demonstrate that coercion belongs solely to the authority charged with the particular common good in question (domestic, national, international) and the virtue of prudence obtains or is exercised in virtue of that authority being constituted in regard to the requisite end.
More could be said here regarding the claim that “war” forms a part of statecraft. Thomas takes as his starting point for the analysis of “statecraft” Aristotle's division of prudence in Ethics VI.8. Thomas thus divides public prudence (by which he means prudence directed to the “Common Good”) into “regnative, political, and domestic” (ST IIaIIae, q. 47, a. 1; ST IIaIIae, q. 50, a.1-4). Military prudence is reckoned a species of prudence alongside “regnative, political, and domestic” prudence in Thomas’s discussion of the “subjective” specification of prudence (prudence as specified by its application). The specific difference is that military business is “contained under” (sub politico) political affairs, as regards specifically the repulsion of external attacks (IIaIIae, q. 50, a. 4), and thus falls more under the aspect of the executive rather than the directive (regnative) operation of prudence. But to go into this more would require an even more extensive analysis of prudence and justice.
What all this argues against is the idea, again admirably summarized above by the Holy Father, of including war among the discretionary “tools” of statecraft. Clearly the means of war are at the disposal of public authorities to defend the security of a nation (clearly part of a proper common good to a nation). But it is hoped that what is also clear from the above is that in pursuit of the international common good, war is not numbered among the tools available to particular public authorities, particularly not without a rigorous clarification of the international common good, again as Dr. Williams observes: “The point is that coercion is simply not to be justified unless it is answerable to a clear account of common . . . good.” (emphasis changed). So while Weigel is right to resist Dr. Williams’s pacificism, and Dr. Williams right to emphasize in this context, “the need for a ruler or government to be exposed to assessment by larger standards of the human good than national interest”, both seem to share the error that (as Dr. Williams puts it) “war as a moral option [is] a tool for the promotion of specific social goods.” War is the last option for the defense of the specific good of (individual) national security. However without a shared vision of the “human” good which regards man’s ultimate end, by a duly constituted authority regarding that end, war will always be restricted to the service of specific goods of individual (and vicarious) national security. It is also hoped that what has been adduced above is sufficient to suggest a clarification to the notion of “statecraft,” not as a techne aimed at an object (even if that object is tranquilitas ordinis), but as a natural virtue of thought (Ethics, VI.4-8), which is specified in operation in virtue of those objects proper to it. For that tranquility of order cannot be produced by the antagonism of opposing forces, nor even ultimately by the expertise of a politician, but rather by the prudential (regnative and political, i.e. executive) realization of that order by properly established authority, an establishment that accounts for (and indeed comprises) the “legitimacy” of that authority in the use of coercion, (rather than any “justification” based in a techne).
So back to Iraq: if Iraq is like Afghanistan, and has “refus[ed] to make amends for the wrongs inflicted by its subjects” (ST IIaIIae, q. 40, a.1) including wrongs to security, then we may indeed at the point where war is the “last” option. However, if Iraq is deemed to be an opportunity for “war as a moral option [as] a tool for the promotion of specific social goods”, I believe to place ourselves with St. Thomas we have to defer to the Holy Father’s distinguishing of war as not an option, but a failure of statecraft.
Frank Rich helpfully provides a litany (Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, William Bennett) of conservative scandals by way of arguing "moral values" voters are hypocrites. Of course Mel Gibson's Passion comes in for its usual excoriation. Interestingly, so does Tom Coburn for objecting to the network broadcast of Schindler's List unedited.
An objection redolent of the Pawnbroker controversy, I'd say.
The New York Times expresses dismay about the dominant issue in the Election:
Mr. Bush appealed overwhelmingly to voters on terrorism and to many others on his ability to handle the economy. But what gave him the edge in the election, which he won 51 percent to 48 percent, was a perceived sense of morality and traditional values.
Asked what one issue mattered most to them in choosing a president, "moral values" ranked at the top with the economy/jobs, terrorism and the war in Iraq. Trailing significantly were health care, taxes and education.
Of the people who chose "moral values" as their top issue, 80 percent voted for Mr. Bush. (For people who chose the economy/jobs, 80 percent voted for Mr. Kerry.) Nearly one-quarter of the electorate was made up of white evangelical and born-again Christians, and they voted four to one for Mr. Bush.
Mr. Bush beat his Democratic opponent in almost all religious categories except among Jews, three-fourths of whom favored Mr. Kerry. But they made up only 3 percent of the electorate. Mr. Bush did particularly well among white Catholics, winning 56 percent of them compared with Mr. Kerry's 43 percent, despite Mr. Kerry's being the first Roman Catholic nominated for president since John F. Kennedy in 1960.
The statistics and details are apparently shocking enough to their readership that not much further description is required.
No doubt this will occasion much concern and feigned surprise at the Old Gray Lady--she'll make quite a display of "getting the vapors" about this.
But none of that will change the answer the NYT comes up with:
“This error [Manicheism] had many forms; but especially like nearly every error, it had two forms, a fiercer one which was outside the Church and a subtler one, which was inside the Church and corrupting the Church. There has never been a time when the Church was not torn between that invasion and that treason. It was so, for instance, in the Victorian time. Darwinian “competition,” in commerce or race conflict was every bit as brazen an athiest assault, in the nineteenth century , as the Bolshevist No-God movement in the twentieth century. To brag of brute prosperity is to admire the most muddy millionaires who had cornered wheat by a trick, to talk about the ‘unfit’ (in imitation of the scientific thinker who would finish them off because he cannot even finish his own sentence—unfit for what?)—all that is as simply and openly Anti-Chrstian as the Black Mass. Yet some weak and wordly Catholics did use this cant in defence of Capitalism, in their first rather feeble resistance to Socialism. At least they did until the great Encyclical of the Pope on the Rights of Labour put a stop to all their nonsense.”
The Abu Ghraib prison scandal has all the earmarks of a world class military SNAFU-incompetence, cover up, sadism, and yes, possibly conspiracy. The conspiracy concerns the possible involvement of non US citizens, without security clearances, though with interrogation training, in the command structure of the prison. The involvement of these individuals points potentially to a number of figures in the Pentagon closely identified with the War on Terror strategy itself, in particular the Deputy Secretaries in charge of Policy (responsible for ensuring the compliance with prisoner treatment standards throughout the chain of command) and Intelligence.
Those civilians have been directly implicated in the abuse, as have been the Military Intelligence officers who had tactical command of the prison, and ordered MP's to "set the conditions" for "exploitation" of intelligence. These euphemisms have all the unsavory redolence of countless other abuses and atrocities, precisely in virtue of the degree of complicity they elicit from unwitting subordinates.
The situation resembles nothing so much as the scene from Brideshead Revisited in which the subordinate officer is induced to complicity in his superior officer's abusive treatment of another junior officer with the injunction "it is your commanding officer's wish, and that's the very best kind of order I know."
Waugh's acid insights into military fecklessness and incompetence are so trenchant precisely because he marries them to his relentless indictment of modernity. The CO's incompetence and bluster are directly related to his allegorical significance as another herald of a horrible age of neo-barbarism and inanity. But the clandestine evil of this structure of elicited complicity is fleshed out in one of the more memorable passages of C.S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength.
Deputy Director Wither never commands, he merely suggests that certain courses of action may be more advantageous to someone desirous of advancing his standing in the esteem of significant person:
"But what do you want me to do, Sir?"
"My dear young friend, the golden rule is very simple. There are only two errors which would be fatal to one placed in the peculiar situation which certain parts of your previous conduct have unfortunately created for you. On the one hand, anything like a lack of initiative or enterprise would be disasterous. On the other, the slightest approach to unauthorized action--anything which suggested that you were assuming a liberty of decision which, in all the circumstances, is not really yours--might have consequences from which even I could not protect you. But as long as you keep quite clear of these two extremes, there is no reason (speaking unoficially) why you should not be perfectly safe."
As we head into this new age of Global Wars on Terror, and Benevolent Global Hegemonies, one might well reflect on the likenesses of these events to themes which those on the cusp of the horrors of the 20th century as augurs of evil.
In his Philadelphia Society address, Professor Claes Ryn spells out the implications of the "universal values" we've been hearing so much about:
"An effort has been long underway to transfer American patriotism to a redefined, Jacobin-style America, seen as representing a radical break with the Western tradition. According to Harry Jaffa, "The American Revolution represented the most radical break with tradition . . . that the world had seen." "To celebrate the American Founding is . . . to celebrate revolution." In Jaffa’s view, the American revolution was milder perhaps than the "subsequent revolutions in France, Russia, China, Cuba, or elsewhere," but it is, "the most radical attempt to establish a regime of liberty that the world has yet seen." America thus reinvented is founded on ahistorical, allegedly universal principles summed up in such words as "freedom," "equality," and "democracy." These principles, the new Jacobins assert, are not just for Americans; they are, as Allan Bloom insisted, "everywhere applicable" – a theme echoed today by George W Bush."
In a vitriolic piece, unusual for its direction rather than necessarily his characteristically dyspeptic prose, George Will is uncharacteristically candid about the rhetorical techniques of his usual neoconservative fellow travelers--they smear.
"Some persons -- perhaps many persons; no names being named, the smear remained tantalizingly vague -- doubt his nation-building project because they are racists.
That is one way to respond to questions about the wisdom of thinking America can transform the entire Middle East by constructing a liberal democracy in Iraq. But if any Americans want to be governed by politicians who short-circuit complex discussions by recklessly imputing racism to those who differ with them, such Americans do not usually turn to the Republican choice in our two-party system. . . . .
Speaking of culture, as neoconservative nation-builders would be well-advised to avoid doing, Pat Moynihan said: "The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.""
Hmmm. "Neoconservatives" (of which Will proudly used to claim to be one) smear the opponents of their "policies" as racist. Sounds pretty much like Buchanan.
In an excellent synopsis of the neocons cultivation of Chalabi, Salon's John Dizard's lends support to Fukuyama's confession, oops, I mean defection, by pointing out the preconceptions which made the neocons "blind" to Chalabi prevarications. Of course, every good neocon knows that being willfully credulous is just as good an excuse as being unwittingly duped, but that's something Chalabi new as well from his tenure with the neocons at the University of Chicago:
"Why did the neocons put such enormous faith in Ahmed Chalabi, an exile with a shady past and no standing with Iraqis? One word: Israel. They saw the invasion of Iraq as the precondition for a reorganization of the Middle East that would solve Israel's strategic problems, without the need for an accommodation with either the Palestinians or the existing Arab states. Chalabi assured them that the Iraqi democracy he would build would develop diplomatic and trade ties with Israel, and eschew Arab nationalism. . . .
The neocons were deeply disturbed by the Israeli government's "land for peace" negotiations with the Palestinians. The usefulness of the West Bank for "defense in depth" was less important than it would have been from the '40s to the '70s, given the increase in Israel's relative technological and military advantage over the Arabs. However, the idea of giving up what Israel's right-wing Likud leaders and some of the neocons themselves believed to be Israel's God-given lands on the West Bank of the Jordan River was anathema to them. The solution to Israel's strategic dilemma, in their view, was to somehow change the Arab governments.
The neoconservative strategy for Israel was laid out in a 1996 paper called "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," issued by the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies in Jerusalem (but written by Americans). The principal authors for the paper were Douglas Feith, then a lawyer with the Washington and Jerusalem firm of Feith and Zell, and Richard Perle, who until last year was the chairman of the Defense Policy Board, an advisory committee for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld
In the section on Iraq, and the necessity of removing Saddam Hussein, there was telltale "intelligence" from Chalabi and his old Jordanian Hashemite patron, Prince Hassan: "The predominantly Shi'a population of southern Lebanon has been tied for centuries to the Shi'a leadership in Najaf, Iraq, rather than Iran. Were the Hashemites to control Iraq, they could use their influence over Najaf to help Israel wean the south Lebanese Shi'a away from Hizbollah, Iran, and Syria. Shi'a retain strong ties to the Hashemites." Of course the Shia with "strong ties to the Hashemites" was the family of Ahmed Chalabi. Perle, Feith and other contributors to the "Clean Break" seemed not to recall the 15-year fatwa the clerics of Najaf proclaimed against the Iraqi Hashemites."
The duplicity here is staggering. First of all, the attempt to provide plausible distance between himself and his neocon cronies is pathetically transparent. As if those differences weren't readily apparent (and pointed out constantly) when they were debating and drafting the PNAC. Plus having 1) noticed neoconservatism 2) having disagreed with it, and especially 3) having disagreed with it over Israel, clearly Fukuyama is an antisemite. The speed with which his purgation from the ranks of polite and rational society is enjoined will be ample testimony to the authenticity of his "defection."
But the more astonishing thing is the ideological slink away from the Jacobin war premise, under the guise of parsing out his "dialectical" contributions. Semper Audax indeed!