Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Hey, Maybe We Just Invaded the Wrong Country

While there is no end in sight to the Iraq war, it looks as though covert operations are being undertaken in Iran.

Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who was on the money regarding Iraq, says that covert operations have already started in Iran:

President Bush has taken advantage of the sweeping powers granted to him in the aftermath of 11 September 2001, to wage a global war against terror and to initiate several covert offensive operations inside Iran.

The most visible of these is the CIA-backed actions recently undertaken by the Mujahadeen el-Khalq, or MEK, an Iranian opposition group, once run by Saddam Hussein's dreaded intelligence services, but now working exclusively for the CIA's Directorate of Operations.

It is bitter irony that the CIA is using a group still labelled as a terrorist organisation, a group trained in the art of explosive assassination by the same intelligence units of the former regime of Saddam Hussein, who are slaughtering American soldiers in Iraq today, to carry out remote bombings in Iran of the sort that the Bush administration condemns on a daily basis inside Iraq.

It is amazing that such things are happening without a peep from the "liberal" media. Another example of similar shenanigans was reported Philip Giraldi in the latest issue of The American Conservative. Giraldi claims that the Pentagon created phony jihadist websites claiming that Abu Mu'sab al-Zarqawi was injured and traveling with two supporters in a "neighboring country." These phony allegations appear designed to justify Special Forces incursions into Syria and Iran. Maybe you will read about this in about 2007 when the NY Times is apologizing for their sorry coverage leading up the next war.

More Good News From Iraq

Last week I spent about twenty minutes watching Fox News, only to be reminded that it is even more ridiculous than I thought. During one segment, viewers were duly informed by the cheery hosts that pinkocommielibs in the media were only reporting half the story from Iraq.

To correct the imbalance, a Pentagon spokesman was on to provide that mysterious missing half of the story we aren't getting in the NY Times or on CNN. Unfortunately, this gentleman had nothing to say--literally. Nary a single fact about the mess in Iraq crossed his lips. The only message he had for Fox viewers was that the growing lack of support in the country would ultimately impact the morale of fighting men in the field. In short, his message was, "Shut up and don't criticize the president. If you do, you are guilty of sedition and the blood of soldiers is on your hands."

To get any actual news from Iraq, one must come to the Web, or read European papers. Today, I stumbled across Patrick Coburn's latest analysis of the situation. Here are a few stats from that piece:

Then and now

Average daily attacks by insurgents

Pre-war March 2003: 0

Handover June 2004: 45

Now: 70


Figures should be viewed with caution because US military often does not record attacks if there are no American casualties.

Total number of coalition troops killed

Pre-war March 2003: 0

Handover June 2004: 982

Now: 1,930


Number of US troops killed increased sharply during Fallujah fighting in April and November 2004.

Iraqi civilians killed

Pre-war March 2003: n/a

Handover June 2004: 10,000

Now: 60,800 (includes 23,000 crime-related deaths)


Estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths have varied widely because the US military does not count them.

Electricity supply (megawatts generated)

Pre-war March 2003: 3,958

Handover June 2004: 4,293

Now: 4,035


Coalition is way behind its goal of providing 6,000 megawatts by July 2004. Most Iraqis do not have a reliable electricity supply.


Pre-war March 2003: n/a

Handover June 2004: 40%

Now: 40%


More than a third of young people are unemployed, a cause for social unrest. Many security men stay home, except on payday.


Pre-war March 2003: 833,000 (landlines only)

Handover June 2004: 1.2m (includes mobiles)

Now: 3.1m


Landlines are extremely unreliable and mobile phone system could be improved.

Primary school access

Pre-war March 2003: 3.6m

Handover June 2004: 4.3m

Now: n/a


83 per cent of boys and 79 per cent of girls in primary schools. But figures mask declining literacy and failure rate.

Oil production (barrels a day)

Pre-war March 2003: 2.5m

Handover June 2004: 2.29m

Now: 2.20m


Sustainability of Iraqi oilfields has been jeopardised to boost output. Oil facilities regularly targeted by insurgents.

Coburn should cease and desist with trying to inject facts into his analysis and give us some good news. We need a few stories that are a bit more upbeat. Here are a few recommendations for headlines:

1) "Baghdad McDonald's Thriving"
2) "Women's Options Expanding as Baghdad Abortuarium Opens for Business"
3) "Alcohol Sales on the Decline as Christian Liquor Stores Burned to the Ground" (My Baptist brothers will especially admire the prohibitionist zeal of Shiite Muslims)
4) "Satellite Television Explodes in Liberated Iraq, Baywatch a Huge Hit"
5) "Boy Opens Lemonade Stand in Fallujah, Goes Into Business With Formerly Oppressed Little Girl"

Monday, June 27, 2005

News...Other Than the Natalee Holloway Disappearance

Sounding vaguely Nixonian, the president says he has a plan to get us out of Iraq.

"Our military strategy is clear: We will train Iraqi security forces so they can defend their freedom and protect their people, and then our troops will return home with the honor they have earned," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

"The political track of our strategy is to continue helping Iraqis build the institutions of a stable democracy," he said.

Train a few soldiers, pass out some copies of the Federalist Papers and pretty soon we'll be on our way home. But wait a second. Didn't Rummy just say that the insurgency could last twelve years? This is all starting to read like a history of the Vietnam War.

Billy Graham is a Democrat?

States and communities can steal property, but they won't have to see the Ten Commandments in public so that they might know stealing is actually wrong.

Just in time for Gay Pride Week, the president appoints an open homosexual as assistant secretary of commerce. Israel Hernandez was the right-hand man of Bush political guru Karl Rove. Hmm, maybe those rumors about Rove are true. In any case, it shows again that despite the rhetoric of right-wing supporters, Bush has been the most pro-homosexual president in history.

Another hard-hitting column from Paul Craig Roberts. Here is the capper:

Gentle reader, are you proud that American troops are torturing Iraqis? Are you proud that tens of thousands of Iraqi women and children have been killed and maimed with their deaths and terrible wounds dismissed as "collateral damage"? Are you proud that you elected and reelected a president who lied you into an illegal war that has killed 1,755 American troops, maimed thousands more, and destroyed your country’s reputation?

If you are proud of this, what kind of person are you?

One of the most interesting things to arise from the Downing Street memos is that the Iraq war actually began in August, 2002 rather than March, 2003. Does anyone care?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Supreme Court Upholds Theft

Apologies for the dearth of writing. I was home last week visiting family. Back to it...

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court anointed The Man with the power to steal property at will. "But doesn't the state have to compensate landowners whom they displace?" you ask. Yes, but let us imagine for a moment that you are walking down the street, minding your own business, when suddenly you are approached by the local magistrate who demands the necklace that grandma Jean gave you as an heirloom. Further assume that our mythical agent of The Man has the authority to determine exactly how much he will pay for it. Going one step further, let's pretend that this doughnut-eating envoy of The Man decides to hand over said necklace to his girlfriend, because she will put it to much better use than you will.

Would you call the above scenario theft? That is exactly what the Supreme Court has endorsed in Kelo v. New London. The city of New London, Connecticut sought to swipe the homes of fifteen landowners and hand the property over to Pfizer, which had agreed to build a research facility there if the city would build upscale yuppie housing developments and a marina.

Writing for the majority, the senile John Paul Stevens wrote, "The city has carefully formulated an economic development [plan] that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including -- but not limited to -- new jobs and increased tax revenue." So "public use" now includes not only such traditional projects as building bridges and highways but also creating jobs in a depressed city can evidently satisfy the takings clause, at least in the perverse bizarro world inhabited by the likes of Stevens, Kennedy, Breyer, Souter, and Ginsburg. The Court has done more here than all the assorted flotsam and jetsam roaming the streets to endanger hard-earned American liberties. After all, it is easier to protect oneself against pickpockets than the wiles of The Man.

Eminent domain represents the claim of sovereignty by the state over all property within its jurisdiction. It is a claim to authority that the state does not possess. Deuteronomy 10:14 says, "To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it" (see also Ps. 24:1 and I Cor. 10:26, etc.). In short, all things belong to God, and He has given the family institutional authority over the disposition of property.

The eminent domain of the state was not recognized in ancient Israel (see the incident of Naboth's vineyard in I Kings 20) and was prophesied as one of the consequences of apostasy. In describing the nature of statism that ought to look very familiar, Samuel says that the king "will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants" (I Sam. 8:14). Eminent domain is also explicitly forbidden in Ezekiel 46:18, "The prince must not take any of the inheritance of the people, driving them off their property. He is to give his sons their inheritance out of his own property, so that none of my people will be separated from his property.'"

Tom Fleming writes that the court has attacked the "hard-won civil rights that are part of the Anglo-American tradition," which Locke summed up as the rights to life, liberty, and property. While true, I think it should also be noted that eminent domain is in part a product of a natural law tradition which locates ultimate law within nature rather than revelation, with the result that ultimate sovereignty is ascribed to a temporal authority, in this case the state.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Iraq and Just War

Last December, I predicted, "that the mess in Iraq will depart from American consciousness, overtaken by the media's fixation on Michael Jackson."

In the past week as we blissfully speed along toward civil war, Kurdish and Shiite leaders have publicly supported armed sectarian militias, which Sunnis rightly believe will be used against them. Making a political solution even less likely, the various factions are at an impasse over how many Sunni Arabs to include in the writing of a permanent constitution.

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., the media spoon feeds the masses prime portions of pabulum from the grand spectacle otherwise known as the State of California vs. Michael Jackson.

Let Freedom Ring!!

One of the disturbing elements of public discourse leading up to the war in Iraq was the dearth of serious writing by religious intellectuals seeking to apply Just War Theory to the pending conflict. Most discussion in First Things and other religious journals remained abstract, devoid of the necessary details explaining exactly how and why the looming intervention conformed to a traditional understanding of Just War Theory.

In an earlier essay, I discussed an open letter written by Richard Land and signed by numerous influential evangelical leaders that attempted to make the case that Iraq met the criteria of a just war. I would like to take a very quick look at two other essays I stumbled across that at least attempted to connect theory with the facts on the ground.

George Weigel, biographer of John Paul II and a renowned Catholic intellectual, wrote an essay called The Just War Case for War. Weigel describes Iraq in quite predictable terms:

When a regime driven by an aggressive fascist ideology has flouted international law for decades, invaded two of its neighbors and used weapons of mass destruction against its foreign and domestic enemies; when that regime routinely uses grotesque forms of torture to maintain its power, diverts money from feeding children to enlarging its military and rigorously controls all political activity so that effective internal resistance to the dictator is impossible; when that kind of a regime expands its stores of chemical and biological weapons and works feverishly to obtain nuclear weapons (defying international legal requirements for its disarmament), tries to gain advanced ballistic missile capability (again in defiance of U.N. demands) and has longstanding links to terrorist organizations (to whom it could transfer weapons of mass destruction)—when all of that has gone on, is going on and shows no signs of abating, then it seems plausible to me to assert that aggression is underway, from a just war point of view.

A historical analogy may help. Given the character of the Nazi regime and its extra-legal rearmament, would it not have been plausible to assert that aggression was underway when Germany militarily reoccupied the Rhineland in 1936, in defiance of the Versailles Treaty and the League of Nations? The withdrawal of Unscom weapon inspectors from Iraq in 1998 was this generation’s 1936. Another 1938, a new Munich, is morally intolerable: the world cannot be faced with a nuclear-armed Saddam Hussein and an Iraqi regime that had successfully defied all international legal and political attempts to disarm it.

The first paragraph consists of a series of assertions. It's the kind of paragraph that could be written about most countries if you are creative enough. In fact, I would argue that most of the assertions are half-truths at best, and outright fabrications at worst.

The remaining nonsense is typical of the neoconservative apologetic for warmongering, in fact, it's a specimen from central casting. If you have no argument to make, first accuse a regime of practicing fascism. In the current lexicon, neocons will frequently use the term "Islamo-Fascism." No need to define terms, simply inject the invective into the body politic as a means of thwarting debated.

Secondly, the neocons always resort to what I call the argumentum ad Hitlerum. WWII is about the only historical reference these jokers will yank out of the quiver. Once you've accused the "fascist" regime of being governed by a Hitlerian figure, you next call forth the specter of a new Munich and toss around words like appeasement. The simple fact that Iraq had virtually no functioning military and Germany had the most powerful military machine of the era is only one difference ignored in the "analysis" that Weigel provides here.

Weigel next addresses the question of competent authority. Here Weigel argues persuasively against the strange liberal notion that the UN has competent authority to authorize the use of arms. Weigel is correct as far as he goes, but then he writes:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is quite explicit: “the evaluation of these [just war] conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good” [No. 2309]. Responsible public authorities make the call. Religious leaders and religious intellectuals must teach the relevant moral principles, insist that they inform public and governmental debate and bring their best prudential judgments to bear in those debates. But the call is made by others.

OK, swell, but who are the "responsible public authorities" within American constitutionalism? It is, of course, the Congress. Unfortunately, Congress never passed a formal declaration of war, or authorized any military action whatsoever. Even the sweeping Use of Force resolution approved by Congress three days after the attack on the World Trade Center falls short of authorizing military action against Iraq. The resolution, in part, reads:

That the president is authorized to use all necessary force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

The obvious problem is that we know that Iraq was NOT involved in orchestrating and planning the attacks on New York and Washington and that the Iraqis did NOT harbor al-Qaeda members. But my question is why are Christians so willing to centralize authority in the executive branch, in contravention of the vision laid out by the founders, and quite frankly standing in opposition to a Christian understanding of original sin? Weigel doesn't provide an answer.

When discussing proportionality, Weigel concedes that, "The most intellectually respectable arguments against military intervention in Iraq have involved weighing desirable outcomes." He also says that here "reasonable people" may differ. Weigel writes:

As for the future of relations between the West and the Arab Islamic world, the brilliant Fouad Ajami, a Lebanese Shiite, has argued that for all its dangers, the disarming of Iraq, ridding the Iraqi people of a vicious dictatorship and helping to build a new, democratic Iraq could have a galvanizing effect throughout the Middle East by breaking the patterns of corruption and repression we now mistakenly call “stability” and by challenging what Ajami calls the culture of “bellicose self-pity” in the Arab Islamic world.

Again, this really isn't an argument at all. Yes, it would be nice to run the dictator out of town and establish a grand and glorious democracy. But once more, Weigel doesn't provide a historical framework that makes success appear likely. It simply won't do to say that this is desirable end and thus must be pursued, one must also demonstrate that it is plausible, and that other, less positive scenarios (civil war and a Shiite-dominated "democracy" come immediately to mind) are unlikely.

There is more that could be said about Weigel here, but I want to consider a Touchstone editorial from November of 2003. Writing for the editors, Leon Podles discusses the "fog of war" and says that intelligence is a treacherous and dirty business. He asks:

What, therefore, is an ordinary Christian to do? He does not have information that his government has, and even if he had it, how could he evaluate it? Does he have any choice but to believe what his government tells him?

In a democracy, Christians must form political opinions on moral matters and act on them. They can decide their government is in error and that a given war is unjust, but they must provide reasons for doing so. The presumption is that a democratically elected government is well-intentioned; it may certainly make mistakes, but it is not a tyranny.

The editorial goes on to say, quite outrageously that "the proper criticism must be that the government has misunderstood the situation, not that it has no right to defend its citizens (the Vatican's position), or that it is a tool of the Jews or of oil interests (the European and Arab argument), or that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by the CIA to justify
an American takeover of the world (as 30 percent of Germans believe)."

The last portion is pure calumny that has absolutely no place in a serious publication. Also laughable is the bald assertion that "democratically" elected leaders are more moral than, for example, monarchs. Evidently, if Podles is to be believed, democracy is a holy system of government, which would explain why God instituted it among the Hebrews.

Podles goes on to argue that, "The presumption is that a democratically elected government is well-intentioned." Why must we assume good intentions? Is Mr. Podles familiar with original sin? On the eve of war, Pat Buchanan wrote a piece trying to glean the motives of various factions supporting the war. By Podles' standard, Buchanan's case would be rejected out of hand. But why is it out of bounds to assume that powerful actors and groups might have an agenda, and attempt to reasonably unmask what that agenda might be?

I guess Podles has forgotten, among MANY other things, the Maine, the Lusitania, the Gulf of Tonkin, Wilson's promise to stay out of European wars, or Roosevelt's solemn pledge to stay out of Europe even as he was trying to figure out how the US could intervene there, etc.

If this is the best that our Christian friends can come up with to defend White House warmongering, they better get back to the drawing board.

Saturday, June 11, 2005


I am in the process of trying to clean up links on my website. Hopefully I will be able to update my essays page to serve as a "Best of Dow Blog" page (that should be pretty empty). In any case, if you are interested in theology, politics, culture and the interplay of the three, you may want to check out my site for interesting links.

Also, I am posting some of my older posts at the Contemporary Calvintist.

On Women in Combat

According to the NY Times, the Army failed to meet recruiting goals for the fourth consecutive month. The figures for May put the service nearly 8,300 soldiers behind its projected year-to-date number of enlistees. Meanwhile, the Marine Corps, which had not missed recruiting targets for the better part of a decade, has also come up short for four consecutive months.

The dim statistics from the Pentagon, largely the result of the continuing war in Iraq, have not diminished the zeal of the administration. Speaking at the Air Force Academy, Vice President Cheney ominously promised more "great victories to come."

Where will the soldiers come from to claim these “great victories?” There is still resistance to a draft on Capitol Hill and even within the Pentagon itself.

One potential stopgap measure advocated by an unholy alliance of egalitarian liberals, individualist libertarians, and imperious neoconservatives is to end the ban on open homosexuals serving in the armed forces. Neocon hawk Max Boot makes the pragmatic argument against the ban: “Sooner or later, the U.S. military will follow the example of Australia, Britain and Israel and lift its ban on openly gay service members. In the struggle against Islamic fanatics, we can't afford to turn volunteers away.”

Boot’s solution would bring limited benefits. Between 1994 and 2003 the Government Accountability Office says the military discharged 9,488 homosexuals. I doubt seriously that those additional 900 gay soldiers per annum would secure victory in the “War on Terror.”

However, a larger potential pool of fodder for the imperial project could be found by systematically tapping into the fairer sex. And what could be more “fair” than sending our nation’s wives, daughters, and sisters off to wage war? Libertarian feminist Cathy Young says that the “notion that women deserve special protection from violence…is ultimately infantilizing [and] no society dedicated to the principle of fair play can demand that men treat women as equals in all other walks of life, and then tell men their lives are more expendable.”

Today women comprise 15% of the active-duty military and 24% of the reservists. There are 9,000 women stationed in Iraq and 35 have perished in the fighting there so far.

What shall we make of the suggestion that women should serve alongside men? The question takes on greater importance as we consider the looming possibility of a draft that almost certainly would, in this day of gender confusion, include women.

Christians who aren’t embarrassed by their Bibles should forcefully put forth the truth that there is a comprehensive pattern of differentiation between men and women outlined in Scripture. It is men who protect and lay down their lives for women, even as Christ died for the Church, and it is women who bear a responsibility as nurturers. In Joshua 1:14, we read that the “wives, young children, and livestock” of Israel remained on the other side of the Jordan River while the “fighting men” crossed the river to wage war against the Canaanites.

Christians can also point to numerous other texts, including Deut. 22:5: “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.”

The passage obviously refers to clothes, but the meaning is far broader. The intention is to maintain distinctions between the sexes. As R. J. Rushdoony said in commenting on the text, it “forbids imposing a man’s duties and tools on a woman, and a woman’s on a man. Its purpose is thus to maintain God’s fundamental order.” That fundamental order is hierarchical and, for lack of a better word, patriarchal.

Warfare is an inherently revolutionary business. Christians and conservatives used to understand that truism. Today, the pragmatic needs of the warfare state are being used to systematically undermine, eliminate, and obliterate distinctions between the sexes.

Having swallowed the egalitarian presuppositions of the Enlightenment, Christians routinely deny that there are in fact God-ordained sexual roles, and have functionally become egalitarians. But egalitarianism is heresy, for it denies the very principle of order itself and attempts to arrange creation on its own terms. Equality thus becomes a philosophical and religious faith that demands the fidelity of every individual and institution. “Conservative” evangelicals have been loath to do battle with the egalitarian ethos in our homes and churches, so we ought not be surprised that when this virus attacks other institutions we stand by impotently in the face of social revolution.

The progressive desexualization of our culture is running amok, and the distinctions between male and female are increasingly blurred. To quote Rushdoony again, “modern culture has a strongly transvestite character. Here as elsewhere it prefers the character of perversion to the law of God.”

Where are the pastors with the courage to preach on what God says about sending women into combat, and where are the Christian publications and leaders who will stand up and call the problem of women in combat what the Bible does: an “abomination”? Where are the teachers who will call the doctrine of equality what it is: “heresy”?

Sunday, June 05, 2005

On Suffering, Part V--Concluding Observations

This is the last in a series of brief posts on the Christian and suffering. To read earlier entries, see below:

On Suffering, Part 1
The Cause of Suffering
On Suffering, Part 3
On Suffering, Part 4

The Bible says that Christians will suffer, and God has a purpose in it for His children. So what attitude should we exhibit toward suffering? Because God promises that all things work to good for those that love Him, we can be joyful even in our sufferings. That doesn’t mean we should put on a happy face and merely act as though nothing is wrong or that we are not struggling. Rather, we should be assured that God is in control and has a purpose for us that will be glorifying to Him. We can also take assurance that suffering will not be permanent for I Peter 1:6 says that suffering is for a season. Its duration is short.

The Bible also says that temptation and trial will not be so great that it cannot be overcome. In I Cor. 10:13, Paul writes, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

We aren’t left defenseless on the battlefield. God’s Holy Spirit resides in us, and we have the very Word of the Lord given in Scripture. We also have the strength and support of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are called to help us bear our burdens (Gal. 6:2).

Most importantly, we have a Savior who understands our suffering. Christ came to earth and emptied Himself for us, dying as a man to be our sacrifice and our mediator, reconciling sinners to the Father. But in His humanity, Christ also serves as an example to us. Scripture says that we are “being changed into his likeness” and being “conformed to the image of the Son.” Likewise, Peter tells us that with regard to suffering, Christ is our example—“Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (I Peter 2:21). We know that “He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:18) and that “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

As I wrap this up, let me conclude with a few observations and hopefully practical suggestions for facing times of trouble.

1. Renew confidence in God, for though our afflictions may be great, He will deliver us from them.

Romans 8
28And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Psalm 34
19Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the LORD delivers him out of them all.

2. Pray

Psalm 50
15Call upon Me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me."

Psalm 34
4I sought the LORD, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.

In prayer we show our dependence on God, and our trust in Him. When we go through times of struggle and hurt, we should go to Him.

3. Count your blessings
When we see the goodness of God and recognize it, our trials become easier because we know that will ultimately produce good.

Romans 5
3And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

4. Get into the word.
God’s Word is a comfort to the believer. Even if we don’t know the cause of our trials, we know that the Word says that God “will never leave of forsake” us (Heb. 13:6) and that the Lord is our helper. He suffers with us, but He knows the end result.

5. Forget yourself, love others

Galatians 6
2Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Romans 12
15Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

2 Corinthians 1
4who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Wolfowitz and the Gospel of American Hegemony

In a previous post, I discussed an essay published in First Things that attempted to describe the alliance between evangelicals and neoconservatives. Joseph Bottum argued, in effect, that these two seemingly disparate factions of American life were drawn together by a mutual desire to remoralize public life.

In the June 6th edition of The American Conservative, the always insightful Andrew Bacevich writes about the messianic statecraft of Paul Wolfowitz and his bid to "remoralize" American foreign policy.

Wolfie is one of those shady pen pushers slithering from one administration to to the next, skilled in the arcane arts of bureaucratic infighting. Wolfowitz has been an insider of sorts since the late 1960's and has served six different presidents.

According to Bacevich, Wolfie was one of the first defense intellectuals to recognize the potential of information technology to change the nature of warfare itself. Computers and new weapons systems would allegedly provide new opportunities for offensive military action by virtue of their precision. For policymakers, precision would also ease moral inhibitions against unsheathing the sword because collateral damage could be limited. "Simply put," Bacevich writes, "precision could undo Hiroshima and unshackle military power. Best of all was the fact that the United States led the way in every aspect of the information revolution. In an information age, military supremacy was America’s for the taking."

The collapse of the Soviet empire provided Wolfowitz and his cohorts the opportunity to push for implemetation of their ideas. During the early 1990's, a period of exile for many neocons, Wolfowitz berated the Clintonians for their unwillingness to engage in military force. From the safety of offices at the American Enterprise Institute and as a mover-and-shaker at the Project for a New American Century, Wolfie brayed for unleashing the dogs of war in the Balkans, expanding NATO to the borders of Russia, and generally providing a framework for America's benevolent global hegemony.

While Wolfie was concerned about American security in a dangerous world, Bacevich argues persuasively that he is also driven by a missionary zeal, and a dangerous moralism. Describing Wolfie's underlying ideology, Bacevich writes, "In the bold and skillful use of military power, he believed, lay the prospect of resolving the contradictions that had long made statecraft the realm of moral ambiguity and compromise." In short, not only could America become the New Rome, she could also become the New Jerusalem. Hence, contra Reinhold Niebuhr's suggestion that “power cannot be wielded without guilt,” Wolfowitz sought to baptize American power and provide its use with a moral dimension.

The tragedy of 9/11 provided Wolfie and his neocon cronies an opportunity to seize the agenda, which they seized with great relish. In recasting the war against Bin-Laden into a battle against "evil" on behalf of "freedom" the neocons have sought to add a moral dimension to their warmongering grounded in the alleged univeralism of American "values."

"A war to liberate Iraq promised to change the face of American grand strategy," says Bacevich. "By irrevocably committing the United States to a broader and heavily militarized campaign aimed at liberating the entire Islamic world, it would signify the triumph of principles that Wolfowitz had long espoused."

Just this week, Wolfowitz began his new post as head of The World Bank. When questioned about the Gulf War, Wolfowitz responded, "Would you really prefer to have Saddam Hussein in power?"

Wolfowitz should cease with the propaganda technique and address the facts. After spending $300 billion, sacrificing 1,700 American soldiers, not to mention countless thousands who have left blood and limbs on the battlefield, are Iraqis better off?

The Iraqi government said this week that the insurgency, a direct consequence of the war, has claimed 12,000 civilian lives in the last 18 months. According to the conservative estimates compiled by Iraq body count, somewhere between 21-25,000 civilians have been killed since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Some estimates put the number of civilian deaths over 100,000. The Post also neglected earlier findings by Knight Ridder that "Operations by U.S. and multinational forces and Iraqi police are killing twice as many Iraqis - most of them civilians - as attacks by insurgents." Hmm, maybe this business about precision in warfare was a bit utopian after all.