Tuesday, August 30, 2005

What Did He Say?

Heaven help me, I once referred to Thomas Fleming as "the most intelligent man in America." My wife always says that I'm a lousy judge of character.

Fleming is the editor of my favorite magazine--the acerbic monthly Chronicles, which is usually filled to the brim with punchy and powerful polemics. I've been a faithful reader of Fleming and company for fifteen years and highly recommend Chronicles as well as "The Morality of Everyday Life" and his survey of post-WWII conservatism, written with paleocon fellow traveller, Paul Gottfried.

Having said that, check out this quote (link requires registration) from Fleming in the London Spectator. Trying to assure Europeans that American Christianity is a mile wide and an inch deep, Fleming tossed in a shot at proponents of Intelligent Design. "Intelligent design," Fleming says, "is a boneheaded piece of pseudo-science, almost as simplistic as the naive materialism that Darwinists teach."

What exactly is "Intelligent Design," anyway? ID simply advances the patently absurd, ridiculous, ludicrous notion that the complexity and organization of life are evidence that living things having been designed, and point to the existence of an intelligent creator or designer that is responsible for their complexity. Perish the thought that there might someone who assumes that life is the product of purposeful creation rather than natural selection and random mutation.

I'm unclear what point Fleming is attempting to make. Though Fleming, like Steve Sailer, is much too enthralled with the "pseudo science" known as sociobiology, he is certainly not a hard-core Darwinist and describes himself, correctly, as "an increasingly reactionary Christian." Hopefully he will explain himself at some point. I would also hope that he would cease with the occasional misrepresentations and distortions of Calvinism

As to the assertion that ID proponents are "boneheaded," well, I will grant that some of the scholars associated with the ID movement might not be conversant in Scottish poetry or experts on the culture of Montenegro, but more than a few are pretty sharp cookies, Tom.

William Dembski, to take one example, has done postdoctoral work in mathematics at MIT, in physics at the University of Chicago, and in computer science at Princeton University. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago where he earned a B.A. in psychology, an M.S. in statistics, and a Ph.D. in philosophy. To top it off, he received a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Chicago in 1988 and a master of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1996. Well, he certainly sounds like an imbecile to me.

Links for further review:
William Dembski's website.
Micheal Behe
Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center
International Society for Complexity
Discovery Institute
Phillip Johnson Weblinks
ID the Future

Friday, August 26, 2005

Fool Me Once, Shame on You. Fool Me Twice...

On Iran:
"As I say, all options are on the table. The use of force is the last option for any president."

George W. Bush
Aug. 12, 2005

On Iraq:
"I will keep all options on the table...We want to resolve all issues peacefully."

George W. Bush
Feb. 18, 2002

Quotes courtesy of The American Conservative

Beating Up on Pat

On Monday's '700 Club,' Pat Robertson said of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, "We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Whatever one thinks of Robertson, and he has done some good, let's admit from the get-go that the above remark was unwise, imprudent, and indecent coming from a purveyor of the Gospel.

However, who really cares what Pat Robertson says about foreign policy anyway? Is he dining on a regular basis with Condi Rice? And really, isn't Robertson simply making a "lesser of two evils" defense--the standard Christian conservative argument for putting on the elephant suit and heading to the ballot box every four years to pull a lever for the GOP?

In a blog on the subject, Al Mohler said, "Pat Robertson bears responsibility to retract, rethink, repent, and restate his position on this issue. Otherwise, what could have been a temporary lapse of judgment can become an enduring obstacle to the Gospel. Mr. Robertson, it's back in your court. Your Christian brothers and sisters must love you enough to tell you the truth -- and encourage you to set the record straight."

Mohler is an avid proponent of meddlesome American foreign policy in the Middle East and recently penned an essay defending the use of nukes in WWII. Defending the use of nukes, Mohler retreated to the lesser-of-two-evils argument and resorted to an essentially utilitarian line of reasoning when he said, "In the final analysis, there is good reason to believe that the deployment of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki may well have saved more Japanese lives in the end, as well as the lives of unnumbered American soldiers and sailors."

All Robertson was saying is that it is more prudent to simply kill one man rather than spending several hundred billion dollars to gin up a war. What's wrong with that? If Mohler, Dobson, Colson, Kennedy, Bright, Neuhaus, Weigel, and all the rest can support an obviously unjust conflict, why can't Robertson support short-circuiting the war machine with a few well-place bullets?

If it were up to me, the Iraqi imbroglio would have been resolved inside a steel cage with no-holds barred tag-team Texas Death match with Bush and Cheney vs. Hussein and Aziz. Heck, we could have even had a global pay-per-view event. Wouldn't that have been better than what we have now?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Latest Rationales For "Staying the Course"

With his approval rating hovering around 40% and support for the Iraq war imploding, the president has emerged from his Crawford exile with a new and compelling rationale for the Iraqi excursion. Speaking of those who have given lives or limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. Bush said, "We owe them something. We will finish the task that they gave their lives for. We will honor their sacrifice by staying on the offensive against the terrorists, and building strong allies in Afghanistan and Iraq that will help us … fight and win the war on terror."

Methinks this is a curious argument. Since 2,000 plus Americans have died in the messianic crusades ludicrously called 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' and 'Operation Enduring Freedom,' Mr. Bush says, why not send more young men into the fray? Does that make sense to anyone?

"So long as I'm the president, we will stay, we will fight, and we will win the war on terror," Mr. Bush told National Guardsmen in Idaho. But what does it mean to "win the war on terror?" As Secretary Rumsfeld has said, "We lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?" Iraq has turned into a strategic and moral disaster of cosmic proportions, and despite neocon protestations to the contrary, Afghanistan is an ungovernable mess.

Meanwhile, on the left side of the political spectrum, the NY Times says that "the only rational argument for continuing the American presence in Iraq" is to ensure that Title IX is exported to Basra U and guarantee that men can get their beards shaved down at the local barbershop. Always nice to see the libs throw around warm-fuzzy "human rights" arguments as a rationalization for militarism. As Raimondo says, the Dems are just as bad as the GOP.

What other compelling post hoc justifications are emanating from deep within the bowels of the administration? "The stakes in Iraq could not be higher," Bush added. "We will not allow the terrorists to establish new places of refuge in failed states from which they can recruit and train and plan new attacks on our citizens." Blah, blah, blah. If we aren't killing them in Basra, pretty soon they'll be in Boston. I'm reminded of a scene in Peter Weir's great movie 'Gallipoli' where Mark Lee explains to some codger in the Australian outback that if the Turks aren't stopped at Gallipoli pretty soon they would be swarming all over Australia. The old men, looking around at the desolation of the Aussie backcountry responds, "They can have it."

As I've written previously, this argument made by Bush and his neocon Svengali's begins with the presumption that there are a finite number of potential terrorists that can be penned up in Iraq and dealt with accordingly. In fact, the pool of anti-American fighters has likely grown as a response to the invasion of Iraq.

The CIA admitted that the war in Iraq was a major recruiting device for Bin-Laden and his minions. A report published earlier this year states that, "Iraq...could provide recruitment, training grounds, technical skills and language proficiency for a new class of terrorists who are 'professionalized' and for whom political violence becomes an end in itself."

In short, we have no definition of "winning," and hence no strategy to secure "victory," which has become little more than a vaporous abstraction employed by war supporters.

Sharon a Statesman?

Editorialists over at the Times praise Ariel Sharon for overseeing the withdrawal of Israelis from settlements in Gaza. But as Pat Buchanan reminds us, "Both the tragedy and the debacle of this past week are Sharon’s doing." Pat continues:

Gaza was never part of Israel. Its 1.3 million impoverished people are Palestinian refugees from the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, or their children and grandchildren. The Gaza Strip was overrun by Israel in the Six-Day War of June 1967, but never returned to Egypt.

In recent years, Israelis have trickled into Gaza and, though never numbering even 1 percent of the population, came to occupy a third of the land. They are colonizers in every sense of the word.

Israel’s colonization of Gaza, using squatters subsidized by the state, was a violation of international law. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits military occupiers from moving civilians onto their occupied land. And the Gaza land-grab was carried out in brazen defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions and over the protests of Israel’s great patron, the United States, which once candidly called these Israeli enclaves what they are: “illegal settlements.”

But because the U.S. government lacked the moral courage to tell the Israelis to stop building settlements and start tearing them down—even as we showered Israel with $3 billion in annual aid—the Labor and Likud parties ignored the pathetic peeps of protest from our presidents to please desist.

The rampant animosity against America in the Arab world is but one of the fruits of our outsourcing Middle East policy to Tel Aviv.

While watching coverage of the eviction of Gaza settlers, Charley Reese wondered why there was no similar sympathy for Palestinians:

No interviews with weeping mothers or fathers. No discussions of whether the evictions were right or wrong. This is obviously a deliberate policy on the part of America's television networks, for after all, they had 4,170 opportunities to report on Palestinian evictions since September 2000. That's how many homes were destroyed, and, of course, doesn't count the orchards and olive trees bulldozed by the Israeli army or Israeli settlers.

Of course, Palestinians were not evicted by sympathetic soldiers or promised huge amounts of money to relocate. No, they were brutally told to get out of their houses, which were then blown up or bulldozed into rubble by decidedly unsympathetic Israeli soldiers. What little they had was destroyed, and they were offered nothing except verbal abuse by the Israelis and invisibility by the American media.

So how should Christians respond? While a number of prominent Christian Zionists are unhappy with current happenings in the "Holy Land" and continue to quote Genesis 12:3, an interesting statement was released several years ago by Reformed theologians connected to Knox Theological Seminary. Here are just a few excerpts from the entire statement:

The inheritance promises that God gave to Abraham were made effective through Christ, Abraham's True Seed. These promises were not and cannot be made effective through sinful man's keeping of God's law. Rather, the promise of an inheritance is made to those only who have faith in Jesus, the True Heir of Abraham. All spiritual benefits are derived from Jesus, and apart from him there is no participation in the promises. Since Jesus Christ is the Mediator of the Abrahamic Covenant, all who bless him and his people will be blessed of God, and all who curse him and his people will be cursed of God. These promises do not apply to any particular ethnic group, but to the church of Jesus Christ, the true Israel. The people of God, whether the church of Israel in the wilderness in the Old Testament or the Israel of God among the Gentile Galatians in the New Testament, are one body who through Jesus will receive the promise of the heavenly city, the everlasting Zion. This heavenly inheritance has been the expectation of the people of God in all ages.

Jesus taught that his resurrection was the raising of the True Temple of Israel. He has replaced the priesthood, sacrifices, and sanctuary of Israel by fulfilling them in his own glorious priestly ministry and by offering, once and for all, his sacrifice for the world, that is, for both Jew and Gentile. Believers from all nations are now being built up through him into this Third Temple, the church that Jesus promised to build.

Simon Peter spoke of the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus in conjunction with the final judgment and the punishment of sinners. Instructively, this same Simon Peter, the Apostle to the Circumcision, says nothing about the restoration of the kingdom to Israel in the land of Palestine. Instead, as his readers contemplate the promise of Jesus' Second Coming, he fixes their hope upon the new heavens and the new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

The entitlement of any one ethnic or religious group to territory in the Middle East called the "Holy Land" cannot be supported by Scripture. In fact, the land promises specific to Israel in the Old Testament were fulfilled under Joshua. The New Testament speaks clearly and prophetically about the destruction of the second temple in A.D. 70. No New Testament writer foresees a regathering of ethnic Israel in the land, as did the prophets of the Old Testament after the destruction of the first temple in 586 B.C. Moreover, the land promises of the Old Covenant are consistently and deliberately expanded in the New Testament to show the universal dominion of Jesus, who reigns from heaven upon the throne of David, inviting all the nations through the Gospel of Grace to partake of his universal and everlasting dominion.

Bad Christian theology regarding the "Holy Land" contributed to the tragic cruelty of the Crusades in the Middle Ages. Lamentably, bad Christian theology is today attributing to secular Israel a divine mandate to conquer and hold Palestine, with the consequence that the Palestinian people are marginalized and regarded as virtual "Canaanites." This doctrine is both contrary to the teaching of the New Testament and a violation of the Gospel mandate. In addition, this theology puts those Christians who are urging the violent seizure and occupation of Palestinian land in moral jeopardy of their own bloodguiltiness. Are we as Christians not called to pray for and work for peace, warning both parties to this conflict that those who live by the sword will die by the sword? Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can bring both temporal reconciliation and the hope of an eternal and heavenly inheritance to the Israeli and the Palestinian. Only through Jesus Christ can anyone know peace on earth.


I'm Back

I'm back after vacationing, without the kids no less, in the capitol of Redneck Christianity--Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I hope to do so blogging about the trip, but it was nice to have a few days of quiet, able to read and think without constant interruption.

I'm still unsure what direction to take Dow Blog, but I like writing enough to continue for the time being, whether anyone is reading or not. So enjoy!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

On Hiatus

I haven't been doing much blogging lately. Things are busy here, but more importantly, I just don't have any particular motivation. After a little more than a year of occasionally jotting down thoughts, I'm not sure whether this enterprise is a judicious use of my time any longer. We'll see. I'm going on vacation this week, so maybe I'll feel better after that.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Al Mohler on the Morality of Nukes

Dr. Albert Mohler is one of my favorite public figures. A theologically literate Southern Baptist--no, that isn't a contradiction--Mohler is the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also manages to find a few moments to write on worldview issues for hoi polli such as myself through his commentaries and weblog.

In his latest commentary and an August 5th blog entry, Dr. Mohler considers the moral issues at stake in the debate over the use of nuclear weapons during WWII.

Unfortunately, this concern is not merely an historic curiosity. Numerous "Christian conservatives" seem to believe the American military is God's instrument, and can do no wrong. A few seem to celebrate the shedding of blood and advocate slaughter on a massive scale. Former Moral Majority poohbah Cal Thomas, to take one egregious example, wrote a particularly repellant column defending the use of "tactical" nuclear weapons:

President Bush should consider emulating his predecessor, Harry Truman, and employ the use of at least tactical nuclear weapons against the Taliban should it be concluded that such a weapon might produce better results than the current bombing campaign. If this is war, why pull any punches?

Perhaps nothing short of nuclear weapons will deter for another generation the enemies of freedom. Like the fanatical Japanese of Truman’s day, the fanatical Taliban will not be dissuaded from murdering as many Americans as they can. This is not a time for diplomatic or political niceties. It is a time to wipe them out before they wipe any more of us out.

That’s the kind of fanaticism the United States faces in Afghanistan and in countries like Iraq. If we show them that our sword is bigger than theirs and, more importantly, that we will not shrink from using it to defend our people and our values, the likelihood we will have to do so again in the near future will be diminished.

Meanwhile, down at the ranch, word has it that Dick Cheney has cooked up a scheme to hit the Iranians with nukes in the event of another terror strike--even if Iran isn't implicated! Writing in The American Conservative, Phil Giraldi writes:

The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney's office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing--that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack--but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections.

One would expect a man of Biblical discernment and wisdom to clarify matters. But instead of citing Scripture or Aquinas, Mohler cites a Weekly Standard article by Richard Frank as "a compelling argument" that the Japanese were not ready to surrender. Mohler concludes with this little dose of Benthamite utilitarian nonsense:

In the final analysis, there is good reason to believe that the deployment of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki may well have saved more Japanese lives in the end, as well as the lives of unnumbered American soldiers and sailors.

Mohler leaves several questions unanswered. First, is it then OK to kill 200,000 civilians? Mohler says, "When military assets are deeply embedded within civilian populations, the issue becomes even more troubling," and besides, "catastrophic bombing of populations had already taken place in both the Pacific and European theaters of the war." The problem is that Hiroshima was a CITY containing few military elements. It was such an insignificant military target that it had remained unmolested throughout the war.

Mohler is forever raging about moral relativism, but here he is engaging in the most grisly sort of cost-benefit analysis. Is there not an over-arching moral principle within traditional Just War Theory that says innocent civilians should not be targeted and that every attempt should be made to minimize noncombatant casualties?

Second, was it necessary to drop the atom bombs to compel Japan's surrender? In fact, it seems quite likely that the Japanese were prepared to surrender, but were unwilling to see their emperor--whom they regarded as divine--dethroned, put on trial, and hanged.

Mohler says this is all pish posh, after all, "the majority of Americans living at the time saw the use of the weapon as beyond question, believing it to have been necessary in order to force a Japanese surrender and to save an even greater death toll in Japanese and American lives."

Vox populi, vox dei?

Instead of public opinion polls, Wall Street Journal editorials, and Bill Kristol's publication--which isn't worthy of the bottom of the bird cage--let's consult the opinions of military and political leaders of the time. In Mandate for Change, Dwight Eisenhower wrote:

"In [July] 1945... Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. ...the Secretary, upon giving me the news of the successful bomb test in New Mexico, and of the plan for using it, asked for my reaction, apparently expecting a vigorous assent.

"During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of 'face'. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude..."

And in an interview in 1963, Ike said, "...the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing."

Truman's own Chief of Staff, William Leahy, wrote:

It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons.

"The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children."

Writing on August 8th, 1945, former president Hoover wrote, "The use of the atomic bomb, with its indiscriminate killing of women and children, revolts my soul."

Douglas MacArthur, who led the war in the Pacific, was not even consulted about dropping the bombs. MacArthur's biographer, William Manchester, described MacArthur's reaction to the issuance of the Potsdam Proclamation to Japan:

"The Potsdam declaration in July, demand[ed] that Japan surrender unconditionally or face 'prompt and utter destruction.' MacArthur was appalled. He knew that the Japanese would never renounce their emperor, and that without him an orderly transition to peace would be impossible anyhow, because his people would never submit to Allied occupation unless he ordered it. Ironically, when the surrender did come, it was conditional, and the condition was a continuation of the imperial reign. Had the General's advice been followed, the resort to atomic weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki might have been unnecessary."

The 60th anniversary of the end of WWII should spur Christians to consider the morality of warfare and the reality of sin. In an era of seemingly perpetual war, Christians have a special obligation to provide answers to life's big questions. Unfortunately, most Christians have either adopted a reflexive pacifism or are hiding behind Romans 13 and have yielded unceasing fealty to the state--confusing the two kingdoms.