An interesting view of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who apparently would become Catholic if he were not PM, according to this London Telegraph columnist. Blair met with the Pope over the weekend and while what they talked about was not released to the media we can be sure Iraq was a major topic of conversation.
This op-ed piece, in addition to examining Blair’s thoughts and actions concerning the crisis, also gives a survey of what British Christian leaders are saying about Iraq.
What is so depressing about this debate is its intellectual poverty. Those churchmen attacking Mr Blair over Iraq seem to do so primarily on procedural grounds. Echoing the archbishops’ joint statement, Richard Harries, the Bishop of Oxford, said on the BBC’s Today programme on Thursday that the Prime Minister had not made a “morally persuasive case”. The bishop went on to say, however, that if the UN passed a second resolution,“people like myself and the churches and the archbishops have to think seriously again”.
Why should it be that a UN resolution makes what was immoral, moral? What moral standing does the UN have? If a simple decision by the Security Council makes something okay, then it must have been okay before.
Interestingly, a much more vibrant debate on what constitutes a “just war” in the wake of September 11 is now under way in America. Michael Novak, the Catholic theologian, recently travelled to the Vatican to tell a sceptical audience that “a limited and carefully conducted war to bring about regime change in Iraq is, as a last resort, morally obligatory”.
George Weigel, an acknowledged authority on the theology of the “just war” as well as the Pope’s biographer, has argued that the development of weapons of mass destruction by rogues states linked to terrorist groups “requires us to develop and extend the just war tradition to meet the political exigencies of a new century” - namely, to encompass pre-emptive strikes.
I think that’s key. The existence of weapons of mass destruction means that waiting for the aggressor to attack first can mean the death of millions of innocents. How is that more moral than pre-empting his attack by striking his ability to use those weapons before he can? Yet, we continue to hear some at the Vatican say that there is no basis for pre-emptive war.
By the way, for all you who think that disagreeing with Vatican officials on this is just another type of dissidence, you have to realize that this is just-war theory, not doctrine. These principles have never been definitively set down and can’t be because of the nature of war. A just war involving armies of men on horseback is different from a war of armies in tanks, which again is different from a war against an army of terrorists. And adding WMD to the mix changes it up even more. And recall that the Catechism does not leave the decision of whether a particular war is just to the Pope or the bishops. It “belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.” And since we live in a constitutional republic, that means that the voters have to make informed decisions and let their elected represenatives know and then those elected representatives must take that into account along with what other privy information they have to make a final analysis.
I recommend reading the rest of the op-ed to gain more insight into Blair.