Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Personal Aside: Put God First Before Country: A Lesson for All.

God First.

Stephen Decatur raised his glass as a toast in 1816 and said: “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be right; but our country, right or wrong.”

Later Carl Schurz, the first German-born leader of either party, amended it in an address to the U. S. Senate, saying, “Our country right or wrong. When right to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right.”

I agree with Schurz—and like a popular priest orator of a few days ago, I believe a role for Catholics is to follow the dictates of God before those of popular Americanism. In the case of abortion, for instance, there is no doubt in my mind that the Supreme Court made a woeful mistake on January 22, 1973 when it announced “Roe v. Wade”. From that time on, I have been a strong dissenter to that policy.

On the issue of Iraq, however, I don’t accept what comes across in some philosophical treatises—that the doctrine of preemptive war is wrong. Not always. If you look at it closely, almost all wars engaged in by the United States were preemptive…starting with the Revolution at Lexington and Concord with “the shot heard `round the world.” Certainly the War of 1812 was initiated by us to further solidify our liberty and to react against the impressments of U. S. seamen. The Mexican War was directly initiated by us—no doubt about it. Then Congressman Lincoln believed the war was immoral. Should we return California and Texas to Mexico as a result? I think not.

The Civil War or the War Between the States? It is an even go as to whether it was launched by the north as preemptive or the south as preemptive. The Spanish-American war definitely was preemptive on our part and unjustified. World War I was a great disaster in which we had no business participating. Our entry was preemptive; no doubt about it. The American people did not want to be involved in World War II. Roosevelt maneuvered so as to cause us to enter the war—thus it was preemptive on our part. Had we stayed out, however, probably the West would have been destroyed by the battle between two giant tyrannies: Nazism and Communism. Whichever won would have been stronger than heretofore and probably the future of the West would have been destroyed. Ergo I come to the terrible conclusion that (a) we entered the war preemptively and in doing so, Roosevelt committed a grievous sin but (b) probably in the long run it was fortuitous that we entered it.

This is hideously ambiguous but probably the right answer.

As far as Iraq is concerned, I think the preemptive nature of it is very important because as Bernard Lewis has said: it is the first time that the forces of terrorism have been rocked back on their heels…with the result that thus far—and it may end tomorrow—we have not been attacked again on our soil.

Therefore I believe that the time will come…and I will live to see it…when George W. Bush will be regarded as one of the greatest presidents by the very nature of his being unwilling to bend to popular winds. I am more sure of that than I have been of many things in my long life.


  1. You've written an amazing indictment of nearly every American War. Consideration of Vietnam and Korea would yield the same result. Frankly, all American Wars, save the Revolution of 1775 and the War Between the States have serious moral problems.

    But I disagree with your conclusion, that "preemptive" war is not always wrong. War, the most destructive and murderous policy in which states engage, should be severely limited in any way possible. And the rationale for war should be subject to strict scrutiny.

    I am alright with a defensive war. But the policy of "preemptive" war, as defined by our political leaders, is a means to justify attacking opponents *before* they constitute a threat. By definition, this means attacking before a threat is imminent, which means that "preemptive" war is not defensive. And if it's not defensive, it's offensive.

    Jus ad Bellum theory and international laws and treaties are but two roadblocks established to impede offensive war.

    Further, the "preemption" has been the preferred excuse of every tyrant who ever launched an aggressive war. Are we to close our eyes to history?

    Also, "preemption" means the entire world is fair game for US attack, for who can argue that a future threat will not develop in the future? It is a perfect justification to attack anyone, anywhere, anytime.

    Last, "preemption", if even possible to accurately predict formation of future threats, requires exceptional intelligence. Frankly, Tom, after the Iraqi WMD debacle the current crowd in Washington has very little (and that's being generous) credibility when it comes to use and interpretation of intelligence. Remember, they were wrong, which leads to two explanations: they were either intentionally deceptive or they were naively misled, or some combination of both. Not very reassuring. Are we supposed to forget the recent past and suddenly think these guys are up to the job, morally or intellectually?

    Oh, yes, I just remembered. President Bush is pro-life.

    Never mind about all the above.

  2. Iraq is, I think, sui generis insofar as while Hussein was not a threat to the USA directly, he was so INdirectly. Even though he is gone, along with his regime, we now fight "stateless" terrorism (in Iraq and elsewhere), which was simply not contemplated in Aquinas' "Just War" theory.

  3. I won't get into the pre-emptive war discussion, but I heartily agree that sometimes we have to choose between God and country. In such a situation, I hope that Daniel chapter 6 will be my guide on the correct course of action.

  4. I agree with you on Bush and just as strongly. Only dif is I voted for Democrats from McGovern through Gore!

    Talk about a conversion...

    Re God, I have a harder time than you fathoming God's will.

    I fall back on JFK's words (when Dems could invoke God on things other than the enviornment)...

    "With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own."

  5. The Iraq war should be called a politically correct nation building police action. Just look at the Rules of Engagement that the troops have to work under! Make one misjudgement and you are charged with MURDER! By the time the soldier thinks about doing the PC think under the "rules" he could become a victim. The first days of the Iraq war were a WAR the rest has been a PC Police Action pitting Americans between battling Shiite and Sunni factions. And this is where the neo-con pre-emptive war idea FAILS!

    It all may look good from the safety of the neo-con think tank bunkers in Washington but the reality quickly devolves due to a fundamental difference in Religious values that resides in this eye for an eye part of the world. The problem is that our soldiers have to deal with it and if they slip, they are charged with MURDER. Tom you are just a neo-con parrot these days and YOU KNOW IT!