" /> I write: September 2005
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September 5, 2005

Just War Against Terror

Jean Bethke Elshtain ISBN - 0465019102
(Rockefeller professor of Social and Political Ethics, University of Chicago)

Martin Luther observed that,
On this earth, if the lion lies down with the lamb, the lamb must be replaced . . . . . frequently.

Elshtain observes that
“Peace should not be universally lauded even as war is universally condemned. Each must be evaluated critically.”

While herself an academic, Elshtain is devastating when exposing the academic left and its allies. There are worse things than war! Consider it demonstrated by the 20th century death camps and gulags. “For pacifists, the reigning word is peace. For realists, the reigning word is power. For just war thinkers, the reigning word is justice. Peace may be served by the just use of force, even as power is most certainly involved. (Power is also involved in peace politics in ways that many pacifists ignore.)” Just warriors consider both aims and means. The level of force must match the nature of the threat, and one must differentiate between combatants and noncombatants. Collateral damage is acceptable, but a necessary consideration.

In academia, she notes, it has become necessary to be against it, whatever it is; and “it is difficult to make a case that facts are being distorted if one’s opponent believes there is no such thing as facts.” According to many intellectuals, demonstrating that casualties in Afghanistan exceed the number who died in the atrocities of 9/11 proves the injustice of the war. There is a willful denial of the moral distinction between the intentional killing by the terrorists, and the unintended killing by the Americans. She reminds that Justice Robert Jackson noted: “the Bill of Rights is not a suicide pact.”

Hannah Arendt sagely observed that to be a “citizen of the world” is to strip citizenship of any concrete meaning, and Niebuhr noted that “Christian moralism requires discriminate judgments between conflicting claims;” that Christian idealism admits that, “pure moral suasion” cannot solve every social problem. Are not Christians obliged to respond, even if they get their hands dirty?

“To suppose that Islamic faith, or Arab culture, or poverty and the experience of oppression somehow lead young men . . . [to] fly an airliner full of passengers into a building crowded with unsuspecting civilians is deeply denigrating to Muslims, to Arabs, and to the poor and oppressed . . . I would suggest that this is a dangerous line of thought, however humanely motivated it may initially be.”

The basic aspiration for peace is the absence of open warfare, which requires other ways of settling disputes offering legitimacy in the eyes of all persons and all states. In contrast moral restraint in the Islamic world is the warrior’s honor rather than to a soldier’s sense of justice. The intentional slaughter of civilians is dishonorable, but within Islamist fundamentalism, this slaughter is a noble act.

Europeans believe they have left behind their nationalism, but it has, in fact, been displaced by often virulent anti-Americanism! “Indeed, anti-Americanism is the form that nationalism takes in many European countries.”

“Whereas classic warfare is the continuation of politics by other means, terrorism is the destruction of politics by all possible means.

Without political accountability there is neither justice nor a legitimate structure of power, authority, and law. “True international justice is defined as the equal claim of all persons, whatever their political location or condition, to having coercive force deployed in their behalf if they are victims of one of the many horrors attendant upon radical political instability.”

Liberal and neo-liberal internationalist entities are unable to deal with these ruthless and determined forces, as Amnesty International can neither say nor condemn terrorism.

The time for serious, inventive thought is here. When folks in Afghanistan return to their homes, and civic peace is in the making, it cannot be overlooked that “floppy hatted” Americans or someone else must guarantee it. St. Augustine taught that evil is a turning of one’s back on the good. It is depletion and cannot generate. It can only destroy. Like a fungus spreading, it is going all over, but it has no depth. It must be stopped. Nothing cherished by humans can flourish absent societal peace and security.

While skyscrapers reflect power, they’re also about freedom, ingenuity, beauty, and reaching for the sky. They’re about cooperation between people and about reaching the stars. Totalitarians build squat prisons and block houses. They build execution walls. Their aim is low, and considerations of cooperation and common good are absent.

Philosophy matters. The animating philosophy of the radical Islamicist movement is its contempt for human life, and its view the world as a life-and-death struggle between believers and infidels denies the equal dignity of all, betrays religion and rejects the foundation of civilized life and the possibility of peace amongst nations.

Theoretically the required endeavor should, perhaps, involve the participation and/or supervision by some international body, but it is virtually impossible for such as the U.N. to be considered the best final judge of when and under what conditions a particular resort to arms is justified. Their situational incompetence has been repeatedly demonstrated, and the membership is in total disarray over the very principles of Just War.

“Just War Principles” include: It is debatable whether an international body such as the U.N. is in a position to be the best final judge of when, and under what conditions, a particular resort to arms is justified; or whether the attempt by that body to make and enforce such judgments would inevitably compromise its primary mission of humanitarian work.
 Violence that is free-lance . . . is never morally acceptable: In just war theory, the main goal of the legitimate authority requirement is to prevent the anarchy of private warfare and warlords—an anarchy that exists today I some parts of the world (notably those from which the attackers of 9/11 launched their attacks)
 Just war principles insist that legitimate warfare must be motivated by the intention of enhancing the likelihood of peace and reducing the likelihood of violence and destruction.
 In addition to murders of 9/11, those radical Islamicist organizations are responsible for numerous other attacks, using murder to advance their objectives.
 Pre-modern jihad and just war traditions could legitimate wars aimed at advancing religion, but in the modern world only jihad has retained its confessional component: protect and propagate Islam as a religion.
 As we confront the new millennium, the emerging crisis of “non-state terrorism,” made possible by the “privatization of the means of destruction,” . . . independent of public authorities . . . and demonstrating an increasing willingness to wreak “violence and wreckage anywhere on the globe,” puts the problem outside of any governmental agency, and any responsible authority with whom to deal.

The book is referenced, with a huge appendix and varietal sources for further suggested reading, and is a must read for anyone interested in a scholarly but approachable discussion of the subject.

Posted by respeto at 12:17 PM

The Death of Common Sense

(How law is suffocating America)
Philip K. Howard

This is an appropriately detailed and informative book written by an attorney who makes sense out of what has become necessary: legal change to reestablish what used to be the American way.

Early on he discusses some of the insane rules which have recently prevailed. Mother Theresa, for example, attempted to renovate an abandoned building to open a homeless shelter. New York’s rules required that improvement include an elevator. Cost prohibitive, the plans were abandoned and no homeless shelter exists. Thus does legal rigidity preclude the exercise of judgment.

He enumerates the myriad mandates for special-ed and calculates that gifted students languishing in the classroom are given about one cent for every eleven dollars dedicated to special-ed. We have built an educational system “obsessed with its potential failures to the detriment of its potential successes. . . . It’s just dumb!” (Anna Quindlen)

By attempting to establish a “perfectly certain and self-regulating authority,” which admits to no judgment or discretion, we have created our own Tower of Babel. No one, at anytime, in any situation, should be permitted to exercise judgment. God forbid! The law must provide firm answers. Over-emphasis on certainty has led us to intolerable inflexibility.

I noted in an earlier review of a Tammy Bruce book that modern law has become a game. By parsing words and stimulating intrigue it is bent to extremes by clever lawyers looking for loop-holes. The role of counsel is no longer the search for truth, but the advance of a client’s cause by ethical--or unethical--means.

The law, like science, requires judgment. Mistakes will be made. Endless scrutiny doesn’t make for better judgment. Indeed, the loss of perspective may make things worse.

Plato commented that good people do not require law to act responsibly, while bad people will always find a way around it. What we have created is a process which succeeds in humiliating honest people while providing cover for the bad ones. This was not the intent, but it is the result. It hasn’t become so because of venality, but become so it has. Process is now a religion of sorts, which fails to recognize that responsibility is not a group concept. Friedrich Hayek observed that sharing responsibility widely, like sharing property widely, is like having no responsibility at all. Law must not attempt to purge men’s souls. It cannot.

Legally prescribed rights are not an instant method of reform, but the perfect method for tearing society apart; especially so for rights discovered by lifting rocks to discover “penumbras.” The right to life is unassailable, as is the right to freedom of choice. Philosophy, logic and debate can, over time, create change and resolution, but when law attempts to accelerate this natural pace it drives wedges and prohibits discussion and progress, and Roe v. Wade has left us with a civil war.

Having forgotten “to consult our operating manuals” he recalls Madison: “in forming a gov’t of men over men, the greatest difficulty lies in this: . . . You must enable gov’t to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

“Law is hailed as the instrument of freedom because without law . . . we would eventually come under the thumb of whoever gets the power. Too much law [we discover, has] a comparable effect.”

By exiling judgment modern law has evolved from a useful tool to a brainless tyrant, little better than Soviet apparatus. Creating rules without flexibility is a version of central planning. We must once more offer an intelligent choice between open alternatives. Principles must again be put in control. What is right and reasonable ought to dominate the conversation. Law must again become law. It has not protected us from stupidity and caprice, but made them dominant features of our society. Decision making must be transferred back from words on a page back to people on the spot. And the law mustn’t involve itself in our daily affairs.

In our age of precision machinery, sophisticated computers, incredible medical techniques, and space exploration, it is not easy to accept the imperfections and asymmetries of human nature. Still, conquering human nature was not the idea of our founding fathers, and ought not now to be our goal. “Avoiding coercion by making law into a detailed manual only assures another form of coercion.”
Law cannot save us from ourselves. Energy and resourcefulness are what’s great about America . . . not acres of legal cubicles. Let us again use common sense.

Posted by respeto at 12:14 PM