Monday, September 30, 2013

Jesse Is NOT Free

Probably my last Breaking Bad based blog post. I want to get back to economics, environment, and theology. :)

I will admit to not having cable. I watched all my BrBa on Netflix. For S5B I bought it on Google and watched it via Chromecast. So for last night, in order to watch it live, I had my dad point his webcam at the TV and we Skyped for 75 minutes. It wasn't ideal, but it did the trick. I'm off to watch the HD version as soon as I post this.

I was positive Walt would rescue Jesse and Jesse would live. I didn't see Walt's belief that Jesse was "partners" with the Nazi's coming though. Maybe that was just a feint to get Jack to habeas corpus (produce the body) to make the rescue easier. Anyways, I love how he faked a fight in order to protect Jesse from his little friend (what a scene!). I also loved how Jesse got to take care of Todd. In a very corporal way as well. No guns. No knives. Just handcuff garrote.

In the end, Jesse rides into the sunset more alive than we've seen him for a long time. I've seen various TV critics and bloggers pondering what becomes of Jesse now. Does he adopt Brock? Does he become a HS chemistry teacher? To me, the answer is obvious.

Jesse goes to prison. Did we forget that Jesse's taped confession that Hank and Gomie oversaw was in the Aryan compound? Jack and the boys laughing over the crybaby? Does anyone doubt the police, DEA, and probably FBI aren't going to find the DVD amidst all the evidence? No magnets can save him this time.

I also think Jesse made the cathartic turn back when he confessed all to Hank and Gomie that he was willing to accept his fate. The confession, however, would surely diminish whatever punishment was coming. The only problem now was he has an additional crime to confess to that isn't present on the DVD -- the murder of Todd.

More important than if Jesse is PHYSICALLY free or not, though, is whether he is mentally and emotionally free. I wouldn't doubt that his howls of freedom were because he was finally done being manipulated by Walter White.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Walter White is NOT a Three Dimensional Character

I've basically been on bed rest for the past 3 weeks. I had never watched Breaking Bad until then. Netflix and Google got me caught up quickly. What a show.

Vince Gilligan is on record several times about how he wanted a show where the main character goes from Mr. Chips to Scarface. I think that's an apt description of Walter's progress. The writing on this show is fabulous. As is the acting. As is the cinematography. Hard to find one weak side.

Saying that WW isn't 3D is not a knock on anything about the show. It's just an observation. Many have tried to pinpoint the exact moment that Walt turns, but I think that moment is impossible to find because from Pilot, Walt is a narcissist. THAT is his fatal flaw and it's present in him from before his 50th birthday. What changed from Pilot to Felina wasn't Walt, it was the situations into which Walt was placed. Yikes -- that passive voice really makes it sound like Walt has no agency. The 7 writers of the show would not approve. But I digress.

In saying that Walt does everything for his family, that is true -- but only to him. His actions are selfish through and through. The old (and lame) saying that there is no selfless act because it makes the one doing it feel good afterwards does not hold true as a generalization, but it DOES hold true for Walt. Every seemingly selfless act Walt does has an ulterior motive underlying it.

For instance, Walt is neither in the meth business or the money business. At the same time, however, he is not in the empire business either. He is in the business of making the best meth anyone has ever seen. When he tries to leave the business, his motivation for re-entering is never about money OR meth -- but about the pride he gains from cooking.

Any time he finds himself in a bind, he is able to project the blame onto another character (often Jesse -- that poor sonofagun). When Walt breaks the norms of proper behavior, he feels entitled to do it. Those norms, after all, are for everyone else. He is different though.

These are all classic symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder. I believe THAT diagnosis even has primacy over his sociopathy. He is first and foremost a narcissist. And that started at the beginning and continues to the . . . well at least through the penultimate episode. We shall see.

BREAKING EDIT: The above was confirmed in the series finale "Felina." "I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. I was alive."

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Breaking Bad, Turn-of-the-century American Literature, and Catharsis

The Scene

A woman stands at the water's edge. She's married with children. At one point, marriage and motherhood provided her with joy. She now has lost whatever passion she had for life. She attempted to find that thrill of life via an affair. It didn't work. Now she doesn't feel anything. She's numb. She attempts to regain some sense of feeling by dipping a toe into the cold water. Nothing. She continues deeper and deeper into the water searching for SOME feeling. Nothing. It's not that she wants to die. She simply wishes to cease living. Eventually she's fully submerged.

Is the woman Skyler White or is it Edna Pontellier?

Edna who?

I am admittedly a Breaking Bad neophyte, but what I love about the show is the wealth of literary sources it draws on. The scene above, from the episode Fifty-One, could just as easily have been from Kate Chopin's The Awakening. From what I can tell, no one has made this connection yet. There are probably several allusions per episode. It's part of what makes the show great. In an age of so much reality television (that isn't really reality) BS, it's nice to watch a show that is intelligent and thought provoking.

Catharsis vs. Kenosis

Vince Gilligan is obviously well versed in the theory of writing. He regularly draws on techniques used from Greek tragedy, to Shakespeare, to postmodern story-telling. Catharsis is central to all of these. A cathartic experience for the audience is similar to fasting or a detox program -- it empties oneself of unneeded accretions of daily life in order to rearrange the things that truly matter. In this sense, it is similar to the concept of repentance (metanoia). We stop, look around, and reassess our priorities. Good TV can help with this.

Kenosis, on the other hand, is an emptying of oneself. While this can make room for other things (such as in the archetypical kenotic experience of Christ emptying himself in order to perform solely the will of the Father), in contemporary culture we empty ourselves and that's the end of it. No refilling. No finding other priorities. No reassessment. There is plenty of programming on television that serves a kenotic function. We "escape" into the world of the Kardashians, emptying our minds while we persist vegetatively in an unreal reality show.

Someone may watch the Karsashians and decide to look more into fashion. Great. That's just what this world needs. Someone watching Breaking Bad may decide to delve more into chemistry (hopefully not with the intent of cooking meth, but rather of understanding the dialog -- the "chirality" and "exothermic" stuff). Or read the wiki on Shakespeare to understand just why so many people compare Walt to Macbeth.

Vince Gilligan is obviously a creative guy. But what he has created in Breaking Bad is also creative. The show is itself a  creator.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Against Neil deGrasse Tyson

Someone has decided that Neil deGrasse Tyson is all the sudden in vogue. Fine. Better than the Kardashians. But what gets me is that he has been anointed the spokesperson for "Science" with a capital S. Half of my problem is that some of what he says does not stand up to Science itself. The other half is his attack on faith.

Before I go further, it is very important to point out that I am not anti-atheist. I don't do any proselytizing of my own. On some "god" concepts, I agree more with atheists than with people of faith. For me, it isn't as important the end you get to but rather how you get there. Blind faith belief in God isn't my thing. But neither is blind faith belief in science. So while I will criticize NDT for some of his thoughts on religion, please don't confuse me with the type of Christian that is militant to his views because of evolution or the big bang.

The easiest way to illustrate my point is by using his quotes. Granted, quotes are taken out of context, but they're also more concise. Let's start with places I agree with him.
People cited violation of the First Amendment when a New Jersey schoolteacher asserted that evolution and the Big Bang are not scientific and that Noah's ark carried dinosaurs. This case is not about the need to separate church and state; it's about the need to separate ignorant, scientifically illiterate people from the ranks of teachers.
Heck yea. We shouldn't allow teachers to teach stuff that isn't true. Period. Can't argue there.

I know that the molecules in my body are traceable to phenomena in the cosmos.

For sure. This is central to Sallie McFague's theology. As he says eloquently, we are made of stardust.

 Now for where I have serious problems with him. Granted, when you're asked to speak as much as he is, some of what you say may not be too well thought out. But this next one shows how his philosophy of science is seriously lacking.

The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.

Wow. Has he never read Thomas Kuhn? Science changes its facts all the time! We believe something as a rock solid fact until something else comes along to replace it. There's nothing wrong with that. That's how it's supposed to work, but he is blind to this fluid nature of scientific knowledge.  It is almost like he clings to science the way the Middle Ages clung to religion. It's true because God/Pope/Bible/Science says so no matter what proves it wrong! Well . . . science has been proven wrong. Ergo it is no more infallible than the trio mentioned above. NDT's view of science is religious.

Which makes his attack on religion a bit bizarre. But first, some of it is just funny.

Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes.... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms.

Ha. Humans are always looking for an out and force majeur is a good one! While this one is funny, it points to a concept that comes up in some of his other quotes. God was only invented as a means to explain the unexplainable. As we explain more stuff, we need less God. That works, but only if you agree with the original presumption. I don't think too many people nowadays believe in God as a means of explaining the unexplainable. We abandoned that God long ago (for good reason). So if NGT is arguing for the Death of God movement, I'm all for it. Our idea of what God is should certainly NOT rest on explaining unexplainable phenomena.

It is this nuance that he seems to always ignore. For instance, he goes on to connect the two (unknown/God) erroneously. He says, to paraphrase, there is no God because I have a wrong definition of God.

The more I learn about the universe, the less convinced I am that there's any sort of benevolent force that has anything to do with it, at all.

Again, if making God out to be the prime mover, then science has done a lot to shoot that theory down. But who says that has to be what people of faith view God as? Perhaps God is something other than the benevolent force that moves the universe?

He goes further to imply that people of faith are not only wrong on a scientific basis, but less intelligent than atheists.

I want to put on the table, not why 85% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences reject God, I want to know why 15% of the National Academy don’t.

Now there are several fallacies loaded into this quote. First, why should we view the NAS as the experts on whether God exists or not? The end of science is not to prove or disprove the existence of God, so why should he expect 100% of its members to be atheists? Second, why should all scientists be atheists? Is there empirical evidence to disprove the existence of God? Absence of evidence of God's existence does not equal evidence of God's absence. This is a central tenet of science (since Popper) with which I would imagine NGT is familiar. So why ignore it now? Third, if I attended a different conference, say the American Academy of Religion, would it be surprising to find that 85% of its members believed in God? Or that 15% didn't? I wouldn't think so. Studying religion does not require one to believe in God. Studying science should not require someone NOT to believe in God. To assert otherwise sounds like demagoguery.

If we boil science down to a set of beliefs based on the scientific method and empirical data, why should religion not fit the bill? Why should empirical data not include faith? I'll be honest -- I've seen a ghost. That's empirical data. Two other people saw it as well. I'm sure a skeptic could disprove it and I'm not interested in defending my experience. The point is that it was experienced (the definition of empirical). Faith can be experienced as well. With all our senses. Not only seen and felt and tasted, but also intuited in ways that go beyond our traditional five senses. For NGT to argue otherwise does a disservice to his truly awesome scientific contributions.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Evolving Just War Tradition (Part 3): Three Public Keys to Just War

A well trained military. A free and high quality press. Civil discourse.

Part one with bibliography can be found here.

The Need for Military Training

Military training is multifaceted. There are technical aspects that need to be mastered such as accurately delivering munitions to a target or flying a plane. Another side of military training is the ethics of combat. This includes rules of engagement briefings on the lowest level and philosophical debates on the highest level.1 For the Just War tradition, technical training is most important with regards to noncombatant immunity. When training is denied or under-emphasized, Walzer feels that “the inevitable consequence of putting deadly weapons into the hands of undisciplined soldiers, and armed men into the hands of stupid or fanatical generals” is civilian death (130).

At the heart of this issue are two separate concepts of accuracy, which Himes labels “indiscriminate weapons and the indiscriminate use of discriminate weapons” (152). On the one hand, soldiers are expected to deliver their discriminate munitions accurately. On the other, military brass are held accountable for not using indiscriminate munitions in situations where noncombatant immunity can be impaired. Indiscriminate munitions (cluster bombs, land mines, etc.) are inherently unjust when used in situations where combatants and noncombatants share close quarters. For reasons of aim, a well trained standing military can in many ways be considered necessary for a just war. A polar opposite of this would be the child soldier who is handed an AK-47 with no more training than a viewing of a “Rambo” movie (McCormick 121). When it comes to technical training and the discriminate use of indiscriminate munitions, the United States' operations in Iraq have received relatively little criticism. The instances of civilian deaths by American fire have usually proven to be accurately delivered discriminate munitions. At fault was the target selection process, the only obvious remedy for which is better military intelligence.

Concerning the ethical training of a military, Paul Robinson, Nigel De Lee, and Don Carrick have edited a collection of essays entitled Ethics Education in the Military. These essays shed light on both the importance of ethics training in the military as well as the patchwork nature of teaching the subject in the United States.2 Among the important questions raised in these essays are “why is ethics training in the military important?” and “what type of ethics should be taught?”

One answer to the “why” question is the functional approach that believes an ethical soldier is a “better” soldier where “better” meaning “a more efficient killer.” A second argument for ethics training is aspirational – soldiers are expected to leave the ethics training as “better” people who will thus make better ethical decisions (Robinson 161). As for the “what type” question, the answer in the United States is almost exclusively virtue ethics. This method aims to inculcate several virtues into the soldier such as loyalty, respect, honor, and courage. At both West Point and the United States Air Force Academy, virtue ethics is the predominant form of ethics training.

I believe the argument for virtue ethics training is less than ideal. As West points, “West Point and other service academy graduates commit war crimes and other offences at rates similar to less well 'bred' soldiers” (Robinson 39). If this is true, it is all the proof needed to put the nail in virtue ethics's coffin. The presumption that a soldier who embodies the virtues listed above will automatically be able to make ethical decisions on the battlefield, often with very little time to contemplate, is fallacious. Walzer spends over 300 pages attempting to lay out the complexities of the Just War tradition and provides specific historical case studies showing how these theories need real life revisions when on the battlefield. This sort of casuist case study is, in my opinion, what is most needed in military ethics training. Luckily, it is not completely lacking. West mentions how cadets are exposed to case studies throughout their four years at West Point. This facet of their training, however, must be nominal as he only devotes one sentence to it. In his essay on ethics training at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Martin Cook states that supplemental training includes day-long retreats which include “small group discussions in which experienced officers and civilians discuss with cadets their own real-world moral conflicts and hard cases they have encountered in their professional lives” (Robinson 60). Cook goes on to say that the cadets consistently rate this supplemental training as the most valuable and enjoyable (Robinson 60). This leads one to wonder why this small group case study format is “supplemental” and not “core.”

An additional oversight in the ethical training of the United States military lies in the focus on officer training at the expense of non-commissioned officer and enlisted training. When comparing ethics training across countries, Jessica Wolfendale points out that “the ethics programmes offered to non-commissioned officers . . . and enlisted personnel, when they do occur, are usually of short duration or non-existent” (Robinson 167). This is a problem considering the sorts of moral dilemmas in which so many NCOs and enlisted soldiers find themselves. In his foreword to this collection, Patrick Cordingly noted that in the first Iraq war, the chain of command became so stretched that “[s]oldiers, unsupervised by default, performed tasks that they were not prepared for” (Robinson xiii).

One would think that this lack of supervision may have been the principal cause for atrocities like the Abu Ghraib scandal, but I believe differently. The acts committed at Abu Ghraib were so despicable that one need not have a training in military ethics to know that they were grossly immoral. I believe there was another principal cause and that it is related to the inculcation of virtue ethics. Many of the virtues that the United States military embraces serve to create a strong sense of camaraderie. This is especially true in institutions such as West Point and the USAFA, but can also be found within units that remain together for extended amounts of time – especially when combat is involved. The desired result of this virtuous camaraderie is a esprit de corps on the battlefield which not only makes the soldier more efficient, but also contributes to the “leave no man behind” spirit. A corollary to this camaraderie, however, is the “no snitching” spirit found at Abu Ghraib. Those who knew that what was occurring was wrong failed to speak out immediately or were coerced into remaining silent. Camaraderie is a two-edged sword to which continuously close attention must be paid.

The Need for a High Quality Press

While the need for a high quality press is important for many topics of national interest, this idea plays an important role specifically in the justification of violence. Several thinkers have pointed to the importance of the press in establishing a justifiable use of force. Yoder believes that “[t]he person claiming to respect just-war rationality must [study the facts of politics] . . . and therefore must have a reliable independent source of information” (78). Yoder's observation on the importance of the press is accurate. While some critics oversimplify the Just War tradition to a “calculus” which spits out a decision based on the evidence entered, the importance of accurate data is not denied by any of its adherents.

In complex issues such as the justification of war, the press plays a three-fold role: (1) it provides the data mentioned above, (2) it provides analysis of this data, (3) and it provides one of the forums used in the public conversation I will address below. Concerning the first role, the data the press shared concerning WMD in Iraq and the linking of Hussein to terrorist organizations proved the most damaging. One must wonder how these two assertions were able to “pass muster” in a critical press that supposedly relies on multiple sourcing. While Piers Robinson, et al, focus on the media in the United Kingdom, they offer some salient points concerning the U.S. media as well. For instance, they point out that journalists tend to favor the “spin” of the political elite and therefore tend “to be supportive of political elites . . . through the dependence of journalists upon elite political sources” (Robinson 537). The fact that these sources often remain anonymous further allows government officials to “feed the news” their own version of stories – in effect, their own data. These authors go on to point out that one would expect the press to also rely on “other involved parties including civilians, humanitarian organizations, antiwar movements, and international actors such as the U.N.” but that “the relative absence of such alternative perspectives is important in rendering media 'vulnerable to manipulation' by officials” (Robinson 540).

Citing a Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting study, Andrew Calabrese provides empirical evidence that what Robinson asserted is also present in the U.S. media. This study, which examined the principal news shows of ABC, CBS, NBC, FNC, PBS, and CNN, found that 63% of on-air sources were current or former government employees (Calabrese 166). Calabrese also points to the government's use of foreign media to knowingly disseminate inaccurate information. While they considered this part of a “psy ops” campaign, there arose fear that “the U.S. media would pick up disinformation from the foreign media and publish and broadcast it to U.S. audiences” (Calabrese 163). This shows that the government was aware of the press' penchant for running stories without properly sourcing them and viewed the risk of poisoning the well of U.S. news to be too great. These authors place a great deal of importance on the inclusion of non-governmental sources and multiple sources for an accurate press.

Concerning the second role of the press, that of data analysis, several studies have examined the manner in which the press has “framed” the war. Ian Taylor uses frame analysis to examine the different ways in which the data mentioned above is mediated through news sources. Taylor identifies three frames each for pro-war and anti-war opinion and notes that these frames are important “because as the main protagonists in the debate they were the ones who drove the arguments onwards vigorously promoting their packages as they attempted to persuade public opinion” (85). With this in mind, one has to wonder whether any of these three anti-war frames were present in American media. As noted above, the main news sources in the U.S. were, if not pro-war, decidedly not anti-war. Taylor goes on to stress the importance of a polyvocal press because “one of the main tests of pluralism for the mainstream national media must be whether or not the full range of perspectives on the conflict were articulated through the national press when taken as a whole” (86). If one function of the press is to help “persuade public opinion,” then this power must be held accountable when that opinion approaches monolithic status.

In his critical essay on both the media and the Bush administration, Calabrese early on points out how “the major media of the United States played a key role in uncritically projecting American imperialism, both domestically and abroad” (155). While Calabrese's passion at times proves overly subjective, he provides an important argument against the commercialization of American news media. The fact that many news outlets are now owned by large corporations combined with the profits generated by high ratings, “the networks went to great lengths to seamlessly blend their patriotism, technological prowess, and professionalism, which in the long run has the potential to yield market advantages” (Calabrese 168). Cristian Parker Gumucio notes the same danger for newspapers: “[t]he ownership of the written press by audio-visual corporations encourages unthinking consumption and prevents critical analysis” (27). The chance for increased revenue through war-time ratings as well as the risk of losing ratings by portraying anti-war opinion surely entered into the framing debate for national news outlets. The risk involved in questioning the justification for war, especially after war has already begun, is great for those in the media. In his review of combat films, Patrick McCormick notes that “[e]arly massive demonstrations against the war were met by rallies and ribbons directing Americans to 'support the troops'” and that “honor demands that Americans 'support the troops' by continuing to wage war” (110). This equation of “anti-war” with “anti-troops” allowed the pro-war faction to dictate the conversation and implicitly threaten news outlets. As Calabrese states, “[c]ommercial advertisers generally do not wish to be associated with a program that presents, much less advocates, a minority political viewpoint” and because of this “the mainstream U.S. media neglected to give American citizens an adequate picture of the scale of the antiwar movement at home or abroad” (171).

The issue of a quality press has two substantial deficits to overcome: one being the reliance upon single anonymous sources for stories and the other being the extent to which profit-making dictates the conversation for national news outlets. These two are undoubtedly related. The risk of “getting scooped” makes the time needed to corroborate stories with multiple sources less of a priority. Yet on issues as important as WMD, terrorist links to Iraq, and war itself, it is the responsibility of the press to perform its due diligence in reporting data as well as in analyzing and framing that data responsibly.

The Need for Quality Public Conversation

An aspect of American democracy that has shown itself to be deficient not only in the debate leading up to the Iraq War, but in multiple matters is the lack of quality public conversation. While this has been apparent in subjects as diverse as presidential elections, Wall Street bailouts, and health insurance reform, it was specifically a problem in the debate on the justification of an invasion of Iraq. While “discourse” and “dialog” do not etymologically denote an either/or limitation, it is exactly this dimorphic character that I believe is at fault for American's inability to enter into quality conversation.

This binary nature of conversation is present even in authors who were in the minority anti-war camp. George Weigel ends his essay with “[w]e may be sure that the war against terror will suffer commensurately if the Iraqi phase of the quest for freedom and a new politics in the Arab Islamic world is frustrated. No one – in the Congress, in the churches, in the academy, or on the street – can wish for that and still claim the mantle of moral seriousness” (20). This bifurcation, either you are for the continued Iraqi phase of the War on Terror or you lack moral seriousness, is a fallacy of false dilemma. There are other options than just these two and part of a quality conversation is to recognize them. Whether it is due to a two-party system or simply the dualistic nature of mankind, the conversation on Iraq quickly became one in which all comers were fit into the “hawk” or “dove” camp or similarly binary pigeonholes. As Yoder points out, there is an effective, if disingenuous, rhetorical device used where “politicians may exploit nationalistic and xenophobic, even racist, enthusiasms of common folk, thereby putting themselves under pressure to perform in a way as 'patriotic' as their campaign language” (26). This sort of rhetoric further strengthens the binary characteristic of national conversation.

One question, therefore, is “how can the church help in creating and supporting quality conversation on a national level?”3 Luckily, there has already been work done by theologians and ethicists on this question as it relates to other debates and much of this can be equally applicable to the Iraq War. One of these is the pastoral realization that the church has the responsibility to be a voice for its sheep. As Shaun Casey states in his critique of the Iraq War, “[t]he American people, whose sons and daughters will be put in harm's way, deserve better [than the case made for war by the Bush administration] from their public leaders” (94). I would add that those same sons and daughters are not only owed justification for going to war, but also a voice in the conversation.

The need for national conversation is most important for our “sons and daughters” and their families that will end up making the ultimate sacrifice. It is in this vein that Walzer shows his adept casuistry:

The stakes are high when we debate whether to send soldiers into battle, especially when we send them to intervene in someone else's country. Leaders and ordinary citizens need to worry about, argue about, even fight (nonviolently) about what to do. And when they worry, argue, and fight, they will cite examples just as I have done in this book and they will use the terms of just war theory – more justly than tyrants do, because they will respect the disagreements of their fellow citizens. (xvi)

Walzer may be idealistic in assuming the mutual respect of disagreeing opinions, but his accent on the importance of conversation is significant. He later goes on to stress the important role that this national conversation has in making the case for war. While American troops are, as of now, unable to practice selective conscientious objection, they still have the right to exercise their displeasure of selective wars in other ways – some of these include voicing their opinions in the national conversation.

Since this country is founded on the “consent of the governed,” it is also likewise necessary that troops should (nominally) approve of any military conflict. Walzer thinks “[t]he need to seek [the troops'] consent (whatever the form in which it was sought and given or not given) would surely limit the occasions of war . . .” (29). Yoder follows this same line of thinking when referring to the “morally responsible citizen draftee” (47). He believes that this concept finally came to the fore during the Vietnam war when “[t]housands of young men refused to serve for reasons derived not from absolutist pacifism but from their own conscientious, although not always articulate, application of the just-war criteria” (Yoder 48). These troops revoked their consent and were willing to pay the price for it.

This also raises questions of legitimate authority in the United States. If the “consent of the governed” and “government by the people” are assumed, then any decision to go to war without some “broad consensus” could realistically be considered illegitimate. Add to this the 20th century concept of going to war without a congressional declaration of war and the case could truly be made that the U.S. practices unilateral war declaration through the power of the Oval Office. Returning a war declaration to its proper place in Congress would necessitate a conversation and hold Congresspeople accountable for their votes, thus raising the need for national conversation and “broad consensus.”

While this country is also built on the idea that “all men are created equal,” this concept can be dangerous when transposed to the realm of opinion. This can result in an “egalitarianism of opinion” where experts have no added weight in the conversation. In responding to this concept, Walzer points out that “morality is unimportant if all opinions are equal, because then no particular opinion has any force . . .. No one can argue about justice and war . . . without striving for an authoritative voice and laying claim to a certain 'weightiness'” (288). In effect what Walzer is calling for here is a better national education program in Just War tradition. While Walzer's work is strictly secular, an obvious choice for enactment of this program is the church. The pulpit may not be the place for a sermon on Just War theory, but there are undoubtedly other opportunities for education within the church.

While the church should not only provide education and a forum for conversation, it should also maintain its own prophetic voice and speak out in opposition to the official government position when needed. A group of Catholic bishops as well as a group of one hundred Christian ethicists responded thusly when talk of an Iraq invasion first came up (Colson 72). The statement of the Bishops stressed the importance that “decisions concerning possible war in Iraq require . . . broad consensus within our nation” (Burghardt 18). Himes follows this prophetic clerical voice to an even broader conclusion when he states that “[w]hat is needed today is not a pastoral letter but the searching public discussion of the early eighties that was partly stimulated by the process of writing the 1983 letter [The Challenge of Peace]” (157). The prophetic voice of the church should be a catalyst towards a broader conversation in individual churches, between laity, in the academy, and in the press.

As Patrick McCormick notes, the church has often lost this prophetic voice and adopted a voice of acquiescence instead: “American citizens (who are overwhelmingly Christian) have consistently surrendered their duty to critically examine their government's call for war . . ., preferring instead to allow the president and Pentagon to make such judgments and seeing themselves as obliged merely to support the war” (118). Even Reinhold Niebuhr, famous for renouncing his pacifism in exchange for a justified defense of Europe against Nazism, believes that there should be a conversation not over going to war, but over weapons systems. When referring to the hydrogen bomb he said “[t]he fact that this [the development of the hydrogen bomb] was done without public debate represents a real threat to the democratic substance of our life” (235). One could assume he would feel the same whether referring to the H-bomb or the Iraq War.

On the subject of theoretical moral discernment in the church, David Fredrickson offers helpful advice in his analysis of Pauline ethics. Fredrickson uses three of Paul's epistles to lay out a framework for discernment within the early church. For Paul, “free speech” was an essential aspect of discernment. This translation is nowadays layered with many different images (civil liberties, first amendment, Founding Fathers), but Fredrickson points out none of these were Paul's meaning. For Paul, “free speech” meant being able to speak freely in a social setting without fear of recrimination or judgment. Free speech is necessary for “politics” and “democracy” to function properly (Fredrickson uses these words in an Ancient Greek sense). For Paul, the early congregations he founded were analogous to the Greek city-states. Every wealthy male should have a voice in the city-state. Paul, however, took this a step farther, including not just wealthy men. Fredrickson lists this as another key function of free speech — the silent voices on the periphery must be given a chance to be heard.

Free speech is the first essential ingredient for Fredrickson's image of moral discernment. The second is a church-wide conversation. Allowing all voices to be heard in the setting of a church-wide conversation can be a powerful tool towards maintaining unity in the church even amidst disagreement. This church-wide conversation can be carried over in the national sphere where Paul's concept of “free speech” could be honored and nurtured (as there is nothing overtly religious about mutual respect in conversation). This practice could easily negate the current level of binary dialog where each individual is allowed to belong to one of two groups. Fredrickson's advice would transform this into a plethora of voices in America's pluralistic conversation where the “silent voices on the periphery” are also included.


Examining the Just War tradition and its relation to the Iraq War brings some important, if disconcerting, truths to light. Just war criteria, no matter how strictly enforced, are useless in the face of inaccurate data. While these criteria are not simply a computational model that spits out a solution, basing deliberation on inaccuracies will usually not yield an accurate result. Attempting to have a national conversation on the justification for the Iraq war when rhetoric makes it difficult for citizens to subscribe to a position other than “for the troops” or “against the troops” is difficult. At the same time, the opinions of these very troops are hard to hear over the din of the million dollar industry of the press. While there is no easy fix for these issues, I have attempted to highlight some of the greatest of the problems as they relate to Just War tradition in the 21st century. From these problems come some possible solutions, or steps toward solutions, that can be enacted – some in the secular sphere and some in the religious sphere.

First, ethics education in the military should not be limited to are accented towards officers. Considering the extent to which non-commissioned officers and enlisted are expected to make difficult moral decisions in the heat of combat, ethics education is necessary across the board. The program for this education, while possibly maintaining its emphasis on virtue ethics, must at the least provide a solid curriculum in case-study based ethical deliberation similar to Walzer's approach.

The press could also help the situation by turning away from single anonymously sourced reports and returning to multiple-sourced corroboration. At the heart of this may well be the profit-driven nature of the press in contemporary society, yet the fear of getting scooped is no excuse for poor journalism. How this profit-driven model of journalism can be used towards providing the public with a better product (as opposed to a more entertaining one) is important on every issue, not just war, and deserves more attention.

From an ecclesiological perspective, the church must remember its responsibility to speak boldly when need be and reclaim its prophetic voice as shown by Amos. This is true especially with regards to the White House and news sources. The church should also embrace its ability to serve as a nurturing environment for “free speech” with a goal of moral discernment. These two suggestions, combined with a catechesis of Just War tradition in the church, would go a long way towards eliminating the fallacies of false dilemma rampant in national conversation.

Lastly, war should not be a unilateral issue. The ability of the president to initiate a seven year (or longer) war without appealing to Congress for a war declaration is not only appalling, but unconstitutional. While the president can rightly use the military for a police action, returning the responsibility of going to war to the Congress would force a national conversation and make those voting accountable to their constituents.

The goal of the Just War tradition should be to make each subsequent war more just than the last. Interestingly, to do this requires well-trained standing armies. Standing armies are anathema to a lasting global peace. As Walzer puts it, “[o]ne does not abolish war by fighting it well; nor does fighting it well make it tolerable” (45). Yet until the time comes that “the wolf shall live with the lamb,” this tradition serves to reduce the amount of suffering resulting from war by restricting both when it is fought and how it is fought.

1This does not imply that these are the only two types of military training.

2The editors included essays concerning the militaries of many different countries, although the two on the U.S. are most salient for this discussion.

3Here I use “church” to broadly refer to the Christian church in America. It could easily apply to a specific denomination, organization, or individual congregation as well.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Evolving Just War Tradition (Part 2): Just War and Iraq

Part 1 (with bibliography) can be found here.

The Just War Tradition After 9/11

The above serves as an overview of Just War criteria, but with the advent of the War on Terror there arose a need to focus on and revise some of the ten criteria that Reimer lays out. For instance, how can we prosecute a war against anonymous terrorists while maintaining discrimination between combatants and noncombatants? Who would the legitimate authority be for prosecuting the War on Terror? While the Just War tradition lays out criteria for a preventative war, does it justify a preemptive war?

The answers to these questions are not only important for Christians involved in moral discernment, but for all who are interested in a justifiable use of force and the upholding of international law (often largely based on this tradition). The question of discrimination in the War on Terror is perhaps the most difficult to answer. In a situation where the line between a terrorist enemy and a civilian bystander is amorphous, differentiating between who is a justifiable target and who is not becomes extremely difficult. Often the resulting solution becomes an attack on infrastructure as a means of compelling the noncombatant public to take steps to either turn over the enemy or to restrict its ability to use civilians as camouflage. This, however, leads to its own perilous effects. Citing George Lopez's findings, Kenneth Himes points to the targeting of infrastructure as a large cause of civilian death. In the first Gulf War, the casualties suffered among Iraqis due to disrupted water, sewer, and electrical services was greater than 100,000 (Himes 153). The criteria used by the United States in target discrimination is based on the “war sustaining” nature of the target (Himes 154). This proves grossly vague and results in the targeting of infrastructure that is nominally war sustaining but predominantly life sustaining. Europeans, on the other hand, “[restrict] targets to those that 'have an immediate effect on the enemy with whom one is engaged'” (Himes 154). This second criteria proves much more just than the United States' overly broad criteria yet still allows troops to prosecute a war effectively.

The case of legitimate authority in the War on Terror is obvious on the one hand – Al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. therefore the U.S. is the legitimate authority – and complex on the other – Iraq had not attacked a nation therefore the legitimate authority for an attack on Iraq is more difficult to discern. The details involved in this discussion are discussed below.

The question of prevention vis a vis preemption is possibly the central issue of Iraq War justifications. The Just War tradition has long held that a nation has the right to defend itself against a known attack before it happens. This falls under prevention and comes from the age when invasions required the amassment of large numbers of troops and materiel on borders days or even weeks before an actual invasion. As the technology of war allowed for more rapid deployment of troops as well as the ability to inflict death from afar, the rules of prevention have grown more complex.

Being scared of an enemy is not enough to justify a preventive strike. As Himes puts it, “suspicion or fear about another's intentions is not adequate” for justifying war (145). But at what point does that fear become justified? Walzer addresses this at length and uses various historical illustrations to further his concept for preventive attacks in the landscape of modern war. He boils the decision to attack before being attacked down to the idea of a “supreme emergency” (Walzer 251-268). For Walzer, the risk of attack needs to be time sensitive. A risk that could develop over the course of years does not justify a preventive attack. This constitutes the “emergency” half. The risk must also be of an overwhelming magnitude in order to justify the preventive use of force. This makes up the “supreme” half. Walzer uses the concept of supreme emergency to examine the civilian bombing campaign of England in WWII as well as the Israeli Six Days War. In both cases, Walzer believes that the initial decision to attack was justified by a supreme emergency.1 The threat of Nazism to overrun European civilization as they knew it was both “in the now” as well as of a grand magnitude (Walzer 255-263). For Israel, the writing was on the wall of an imminent attack which threatened its mere existence (Walzer 82-85). If we accept the theory of supreme emergency then the United States would be justified in a first strike against Iraq if that nation posed a risk of supreme emergency. This theory, as we shall see, will also play a part in the Bush administration's argument for going to war.

Having covered many of the theoretical bases necessary for examining the Iraq War, it is now possible to turn to the practical side of its justification. How was the war in Iraq “pitched” to the American people? What attempts were made beforehand to justify the invasion? Were the ends consistent before, during, and after the war or did the arguments change midstream? Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, were the arguments for going to war accurate or misinformed?

Just War Critiques of the Iraq War

Both leading up to the Iraq War and in its aftermath, many politicians, ethicists, theologians, and citizens have offered justifications for and against the United States' actions. Here I will focus mainly on those from the Christian tradition of Just War. Many of them contain common arguments that will help to identify mistakes made and lessons learned. Some offer unique highlights that witness to the creative side of the Just War tradition. All of them, however, make note of the change in circumstances between the lead up to the invasion and the years following the invasion.

Arguments of American imperialism aside, no one can deny that on September 11th, 2001 the United States was attacked without provocation. And outside of false flag conspiracy theories, the attackers were acknowledged to be terrorists mainly of Middle Eastern background – predominantly from Saudi Arabia. The situation gets a bit more complex when into this description is added their years presumably spent training in Al-Qaeda camps located in Afghanistan. America was, therefore, placed in a defensive position, but identifying the aggressor was a bit more problematic. Faced with the realization that Al-Qaeda was operating out of Afghanistan without hindrance and possibly with the support of the Taliban government, the aggressor was nominally Afghanistan. The first criteria of the Just War tradition, that of a legitimate authority, was answered in the affirmative for the war in Afghanistan – the United States was the aggressed and Al-Qaeda and the Taliban by proxy were the aggressors. Due to the amorphous nature of terrorism, and the deft use of rhetoric by the Bush administration, the War on Terror, however, was more than just a battle against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

For a conflict against Iraq as opposed to Afghanistan, there would be additional dots that would need to be connected in order to establish the United States as a legitimate authority to prosecute an invasion. Before examining the two main arguments for an invasion of Iraq, it is important to address two other arguments that were sometimes used for the same purpose. These two were often used as secondary excuses for the war in cases where the primary two, which will be addressed shortly, were contested. It is important to note that Just War tradition requires only one justifiable cause for going to war, not four almost-good-enough causes. These two secondary arguments were: (1) Saddam Hussein's government was corrupt and oppresive to its own citizens to the point where a humanitarian intervention was necessary; (2) Hussein's violation of U.N. sanctions was egregious enough to merit punishment.

The first of these arguments proved unjustifiable because of the lack of recent evidence of Hussein's treachery. Even if a bad government were assumed, the historical precedent of humanitarian intervention set the bar much higher than the situation in Iraq merited. When considering how many corrupt and oppressive governments were not the target of humanitarian interventions, a decision to invade Iraq based on humanitarian reasons would therefore belie a self-interested cause which is anathema to the Just War tradition. The argument regarding U.N. sanctions holds no water because the legitimate authority to enforce the violation of U.N. sanctions would be the U.N., not a U.S. led coalition. The authority for the use of force by the U.N. is contained in Chapter VII of its charter where it states [s]hould the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

The two primary arguments used for a war in Iraq needed to address the fact that Iraq had not attacked the United States. As has been shown, there need not be an attack in order to justify a response. Walzer's supreme emergency establishes the criteria for preventive war. So in order for the United States to be considered a legitimate authority for invading Iraq, it would have to be shown that Iraq presented a risk to the United States that was both in the “now” temporally and in the “catastrophic” in magnitude. In order to meet this criteria, there were two main arguments that were used to justify an invasion of Iraq: (1) the presence of considerable stores of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) along with the ability to continue producing and using them, (2) there were ties linking the government of Saddam Hussein to Al-Qaeda.

The ad bellum justification, then, for the Iraq War rests on these two arguments. Brian Stiltner addresses both arguments in a piece entitled “Just War: Second Thoughts on Iraq.” Stiltner highlights the change in circumstances mentioned above with his choice of “second thoughts” in his title. When addressing arguments before the invasion, he states that “war seemed justifiable because of the intelligence reports concerning Iraq's weapons programs and because Saddam Hussein . . . was likely to be highly dangerous if he acquired weapons of mass destruction” (Stiltner 34). Stiltner echoes the thoughts of many of the other authors surveyed – the WMD argument and the Al-Qaeda argument together met the criteria for a just war. He goes on to hint at an argument for supreme emergency when he states that these arguments “persuaded many people that Iraq posed an imminent threat” (Stiltner 34). The emergency criteria is covered by the threat's being imminent and the supreme criteria is met by the magnitude of damage a biological or chemical attack could do. Yet these arguments faded slowly al niente as Stiltner addresses when he states that “the just cause of addressing weapons of mass destruction collapsed after investigations by the press and by governmental and independent commissions revealed deep flaws in the intelligence” (34).

Knowing then what we know now about claims of WMD, that argument would not have been justifiable in the use of force against Iraq. A connection between Al-Qaeda and Iraq could still be used, however. While diminishing the “supreme” nature of supreme emergency, Al-Qaeda could still inflict mass casualties against the United States even without WMD if they could count Saddam Hussein as an ally. In his critique, Andrew Calabrese notes that in early 2003, “Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared before the U.N. Security Council and presented what he characterized as compelling evidence of the existence of WMDs in Iraq and of links between Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's government” (155). Through the provenance of this statement, it was later discovered that this assertion was attributed to an MI6 report, but that MI6 had not made this statement. MI6 went so far as to “[leak] its own report on the same date as Powell's speech, denying that there had been any evidence linking Iraq and Al-Qaeda” (Calabrese 156). Calabrese also goes on to point out that the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace also “discredits claims made by the Bush administration that there was valid evidence of an Iraq-Al-Qaeda connection” (157). It is important to note that Calabrese believes that the evidence for both the WMD and the terror connection claims were shoddy from the beginning. He attempts to prove that this is not a case of hindsight being 20/20: “during this period [the lead up to the war], such claims were disputed, and the evidence used to support them was discredited before, during, and since the U.S. invasion of Iraq” (Calabrese 156). If the two arguments used to justify the invasion of Iraq proved to be false, then it can only be stated that the Iraq War does not meet the criteria for a just war.2

The arguments I have made so far concerning the war in Iraq have all been of the ad bellum variety. An obvious example of an in bello atrocity would be the Abu Ghraib scandal. There is simply no argument to be made for what occurred there. I will address a possible cause for similar atrocities below. Other in bello arguments concern the ability of the U.S. Armed Forces to inflict damage from afar with weapons such as cruise missiles, “smart bombs,” and drone aircraft. Many of these arguments will have to be developed further based on case studies from Iraq and Afghanistan. I believe that at the heart of these new techniques is the importance of aim. Accurate aim means a combatant is more likely to be hit and a noncombatant less likely to be hit. Aim also has target assignment as a prerequisite. Assigning proper targets also address the issue of noncombatant immunity. I will address these topics later when dealing with military training.

It is not the goal of this paper to assign blame for the evidence used to justify an invasion that ended up being proved false. The arguments have been made that the Bush administration knowingly and willfully misled the public. It has also been argued that the intelligence given to the administration was simply flawed and no malintent was present. Regardless of which argument proves true, there can still be lessons learned from the Iraq War and its relation to the Just War tradition.

It is my belief that it was not the criteria of the Just War tradition that caused us to enter into an unjust conflict in Iraq, but rather institutional and systemic issues that prevented the country and its government from arriving at the proper decision. I will focus on three sine quibus non which contribute to the decision making process as well as the prosecution of a just war. First among these is the importance of training in the military – both technical and ethical. This first prerequisite is not Iraq specific; military ethics training is important for the Just War tradition in general, but has gotten short shrift in many military training programs As mentioned previously, aim is of the utmost importance and should not be overlooked, but neither should the training of all troops in military and combat ethics. Second among these prerequisites is the need for a high quality press whose product is accurate. Since the press is the main non-governmental source of data that goes into the decision making process, a low-quality press could result in a poor decision. Garbage in, garbage out. And lastly, the need for honest public conversation about war must take place before the decision is made to initiate one. This is especially true for a democracy such as the U.S.

1Walzer believes the contiued bombing of civilian populations, however, ceased to be just at some point.

2The majority of Christian critiques of the Iraq War are remarkably consistent on this point. See Burghardt, Casey, Colson, Gorringe, Himes, Lull, Revering, and Stiltner for similar non-justified arguments. Strehle is the sole author arguing for a justified intervention in Iraq.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Evolving Just War Tradition (Part 1)

This is a paper I wrote several years ago that examined the Iraq War through the lens of the Just War tradition. I think many of the comparisons, as well as the basic JW framework, can apply to Syria as well. For instance, before the invasion of Iraq we were told that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and that it was affiliated with Al Qaeda. Now, we are being told that Syria has used chemical weapons on civilians. Whether Just War endorses violence or not depends on this information being CORRECT. Anything short of a UN report saying Assad used chemical weapons, in my opinion, is not enough.

Here is part one of the paper. Bibliography will appear at the end of each part for reference.

The Evolving Just War Tradition: Lessons Learned From Iraq

The relationship of Christianity to violence has had a long and bountiful history – both through the fruits of academic discourse and through the spoils and suffering of “holy war.” The tradition of arguments for the justified use of deadly force has come to be known as Just War Theory – although many modern theorists prefer to replace “theory” with “tradition” to more accurately reflect the genealogy and ongoing revision of its arguments. Since Augustine, this tradition has passed through Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, and the Anabaptists all the way to contemporary Christian ethicists such as Reinhold Niebuhr and John Howard Yoder.

While it is not the goal of this paper to provide a historical or theoretical review of the Just War tradition, it will be necessary to establish the most common criteria used in arguing for the justified use of force. I will then examine the Just War critiques for the 2003 invasion of Iraq (hereafter referred to as the “Iraq War”) and see if there are any commonalities among these critiques – the vast majority of which find the Iraq War to be unjustified. Using these commonalities, I will attempt to offer reasons for the failure of the tradition to prevent this war. These reasons can be used in an attempt to better critique any future conflicts that may arise. While the Just War tradition may not ever result in a lasting global peace, I believe the goal of making each successive war more just than the last would go a long way towards reducing the amount of suffering inherent in war.

Criteria Justifying the Use of Force

The criteria that the Just War tradition addresses most commonly fall into two separate categories: jus ad bellum which establishes what just causes for war might be (pre-war criteria) and jus in bello which provide criteria for justly prosecuting a war (in-war criteria). Yoder has assembled a 13 page list of all the various criteria historically mentioned as necessary for a just war. The goal of this list is to show the magnitude and evolution of the tradition (Yoder 147-161). While this appendix is insightful, a more concise framework for justifiable violence is outlined by A. James Reimer in Christians and War. This framework is also found in the vast majority of Just War thinkers in some way or another. Reimer boils down jus ad bellum criteria to:

(1) legitimate authority declaring and waging war; (2) just cause; (3) peace as the ultimate intention or goal; (4) love of neighbor. not hatred or vengefulness, as the motivation; (5) war as last resort – all other avenues must have been exhausted before going to war; and (6) probability of success. (73)

To these six criteria are added four more that cover jus in bello:

(7) means as commensurate with the intended end; (8) proportionality of means to end – the harm caused must not exceed the harm prevented; (9) immunity of innocent people – the distinction between combatants and noncombatants; and (10) respect for international law. (Reimer 73-4)

Reimer's ten criteria provide a broad yet manageable foundation for understanding the framework within which the Christian tradition views the justification of violence. To this religious framework, Michael Walzer adds a secular utilitarian view. While Walzer agrees with all of the criteria outlined above, he also relies on the “domestic analogy” and number crunching as the basis for many of his criteria. For Walzer, “every comparison of home and country or of personal property and political independence” relies on this analogy (58). In this view, just war is like killing an intruder and aggressive invasion is like breaking and entering. Where he admits this analogy fails, however, is that there are no police to call on when one country is charged with breaking and entering. Because of this, Walzer argues that “police powers are distributed among all the members [of international society]” (59). From this, Walzer lays out criteria for determining the aggressor in a conflict (similar to Reimer's six pre-war criteria) and calls for a response. A unilateral response is only just when the sole reacting party is the one being attacked. In many modern cases, the attacked is for all practical reasons defenseless. In these cases, Walzer argues that a multilateral response is the only just response. Third parties acting unilaterally will most often betray some level of self-interest (here, Walzer's secular philosophy matches very nicely with Reinhold Niebuhr's Christian realism). While this self-interest may also be the case in multilateral actions, its dilution is a lesser of two evils (Walzer xiv).

Before advancing to the intricacies of the justification for the Iraq War, it should be pointed out that pacifism is also a strong Christian tradition regarding violence. Some Christian pacifists take their inspiration from the Decalog, but most focus on the Sermon on the Mount. The Society of Friends (the Quakers) are probably the most well known pacifists while other Anabaptists, such as the Mennonites, also represent the peace movement. Both Yoder and Reimer are Mennonite pacifists. Interestingly enough, both have written books on Just War. Yoder's When War Is Unjust is an excellent accompaniment to Walzer. While often agreeing with Walzer, Yoder raises two important points that deserve mention. First, the Just War ethic must at times serve the negative function of denouncing a war or possible war as unjust. Yoder seems to be aiming mainly at government officials and Christian spokespeople who run in those powerful circles. The calls for jus in bello during World War II from Christian ethicists as well as the denouncement of the Vietnam War by similar voices point to an overgeneralization by Yoder. There have been Christian denouncements of unjust wars and unjust means, but they are often unsuccessful. Yet Yoder is correct in accenting the negative quality of the tradition – some wars are simply not just.

The second point that Yoder makes is the necessity for selective conscientious objection. Pacifism teaches that all wars are immoral. This makes it easy for a pacifist to claim conscientious objection. An individual who subscribes to the Just War tradition, however, will refuse to fight only in unjust wars. Yet this action could land that individual in jail. As Yoder states:

The fact that a Quaker or Amish young man, rejecting all wars as his church teaches, could be recognized as a conscientious objector and given alternative service, whereas a Catholic or Lutheran draftee, evaluating wars case by case as his church teaches, could not, represents a kind of backhanded establishment of religion. (49)

Yoder is right, I believe, in hinting at the unconstitutionality of the lack of selective conscientious objection. If one's religion teaches them to practice moral discernment as outlined in the Just War tradition, prohibiting that person from practicing this aspect of their faith could not only be seen as a “backhanded establishment of religion” but also as a violation of one's freedom of religion.1

While the pacifist tradition is strong in this country, I believe that both Yoder's and Reimer's decision to address Just War tradition acknowledges the pragmatic necessity of accepting that we will not see “peace in our time” but must rather work on restraining war. It is here that I believe the majority of American Christians would agree with Reinhold Niebuhr who, when writing in April 1941 about the precarious state of Europe, says “the only peace that Hitler would accept now would be one that left an unredeemed continent under the heel of his dictatorship and that would give him the possibility of a more complete triumph later” (172). For Niebuhr and many Christians, an unjust peace is not preferable to a just war.


1The case for selective conscientious objection is most valid regarding conscription, but possibly could also be applicable to enlistment.


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