Friday, August 12, 2005

JUST WAR OR NO WAR

JUST WAR OR NO WAR: SOME COMMENTS ON THE TRANSATLANTIC DIALOGUE, THE PRICE OF PEACE

Paper by Tony Kempster, Anglican Pacifist Fellowship for a fringe meeting at the Church of England General Synod held at The University of York on 8-10th July 2005

‘Why speak of Just War? You don’t speak of Just Slavery or Just Colonialism …’ Johan Galtung at the International Peace Museums’ Conference in Gernika, 2005

I’ve got my finger on the trigger but I don’t know who to trust
When I look into your eyes, there’s just devils and dust.

I dreamed of you last night in a field of blood and bone;
Your blood began to dry, the smell began to rise.

We’ve got God on our side; we’re just trying to survive;
What if what you do to survive kills the thing you love?
Fear’s a dangerous thing, it can turn your heart black, you can trust;
It’ll take your God-filled soul; fill it with devils and dust.

Bruce Springsteen song, Devils and dust on the album of the same name (2005)

(As a singer, I like to use the words of a current popular or protest song to set the tone for discussion. In this case, it was difficult to find something suitable, but I have chosen some words by the American songwriter, Bruce Springsteen. They will have been heard by hundreds of thousands of people this year and interpreted in many different ways. Here they serve to remind us that the subject of our discussion involves the brutality of killing and that this affects the perpetrator as well as the victim.)


Why this paper?

The disquiet and controversy surrounding the recent Iraq War has led the Church of England to examine the appropriateness of the different components of the just war doctrine to the 21st century. The first stage is a transatlantic dialogue, The price of peace set up with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. This is an academic review, involving US and UK theologians, ethicists and legal experts.

The Anglican Pacifist Fellowship (APF) welcomes this initiative - it is timely given the changed nature of military conflict since the end of the Cold War. But we sense that this dialogue is limited in ecumenical scope and fails to include a sufficiently broad Christian peace perspective to deal properly with the issue.

The dialogue has also created some disconcerting media comment, and informal reports from participants suggest that agreement on key issues will be difficult to achieve. The Atlantic, it seems, is quite a wide ocean when it comes to the ethics of war.

The organisers have stated that the report, when published next year, will make a major contribution to political and public debate. We would welcome the opportunity to take part in this. But we are also moved to share some views with interested members of the Synod at this early stage, in the hope that they might be useful during the dialogue itself.

But first a comment on the Christian pacifist position.


The same journey but a different interim horizon
This paper is not intended as a partisan criticism of the just war doctrine. Although pacifism is at odds with this normative Christian position, the principal concern here is that the church should not stumble on the journey towards its aim of abolishing war. This aim is implicit in a statement by the 1930 Lambeth Conference and echoed by some later conferences: ‘War as a method of settling international disputes is incompatible with the teaching and example of our Lord Jesus Christ’. The Catholic Church’s position has moved along similar lines to John Paul II’s condemnation of war as a ‘totally unacceptable’ means of settling international disputes.

Some might question why pacifists would wish to comment on the detail of a review of the just war doctrine. But one should remember that it is the ultimate horizon of personal sacrifice which actually distinguishes the pacifist and just war positions. This horizon, where the pacifist may be called to suffer (or even die) rather than kill, is not reached until all the other possibilities to witness to God’s peace have been exhausted.

The just war doctrine may be seen as a methodology which helps us to comprehend the nature of war and the violations of justice that can take place in a time of war. It cannot ever validate a war. As Oliver O’Donovan (2003) points out:

History knows of no just wars, as it knows of no just peoples. Major historical events cannot be justified or criticised in one mouthful; they are concatenations and agglomerations of many separate actions and many varied results. One may justify or criticise acts of statesman, acts of generals, acts of common soldiers or citizens, provided one does them from the point of view of those who performed them, i.e. without moralistic hindsight; but wars, like much large-scale historical phenomena present only a great question mark, a continual invitation to reflect further on what decisions were taken.

Furthermore, the course of wars and their outcomes are always uncertain and the worst atrocities tend to be committed towards the end.

Another dialogue of theologians and military experts (Anthony Harvey in association with the Council for Christian Approaches to Defence and Disarmament, 1999) did include pacifists. In the report entitled Demanding peace, I emphasised that a pressing responsibility for the pacifist is to work to prevent wars. To achieve real change, it is often necessary to compromise and assist in interim steps towards the overall aim. We must reach for the possible as is shows itself. By the same token, there is a need to jealously guard any successful steps towards the abolition of war taken by the global community.

We trust that the pacifist position will be properly considered during the transatlantic dialogue and that participants will be aware of the key points from Demanding peace. (I will be referring to some of them later in this paper,)


Something has changed for the worst
The 2003 Iraq war stands out from other modern wars for several reasons.

The media, particularly in the US, played a crucial role from the beginning in justifying and portraying the war. For the first time, journalists from participating nations were ‘embedded’ into the military machine and brought the war from the battlefields directly to our television screens, although of course under strict censorship. This was also the most widely resisted war of global reach. The UN, representing the nations of the world, and vast numbers of people around the world, including millions in the participating nations (the US, the UK, Spain, Italy and Australia) were actively against it. Then, since the Iraqi military tried to avoid conflict, the war simply degenerated into an unopposed invasion.

But more than this it is now becoming clear that the war was devised and promoted by a group of politicians who may well have grossly abused their power. Details are still emerging and their full ramifications are still not clear. But, for example, on the day that I write (26th June 2005), The Sunday Times reports a leaked memo from a Minister’s meeting in London which indicates that the air war began some months before the US Congress gave President Bush the authority to take his country to war, and before UN Resolution 1448 which the Blair administration claims gave it a mandate for involvement.

Whatever the legal interpretations, it is clear that the politicians did not decide to go to war on the basis of a logical evaluation of the intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s intentions and an ethical assessment of the options available to them. The intelligence and ‘facts’ were fixed around their chosen policy which was to attack Iraq. This meant that any public consideration of whether the jus ad bellum criteria were met was at best distorted and, at the worst, a useful device for war propaganda.

Nevertheless, the just war criteria were invoked, often by the media and non-Church agents, and many churches in the US and UK made public statements against the decision to attack Iraq. But at the same time, much of the national leadership and a considerable section of Christians in the US saw no contradiction between their faith and the actions undertaken to disarm Iraq and remove its leadership. Here in the UK, there was more concern generally, but Parliament did sanction the invasion and, despite the millions who marched against the war, there was a slide towards acquiescence in the body politic as the events unfurled. The churches made few statements about jus in bello beyond some calls for discrimination and proportionality.

Such developments have been all too common in human history and we should by now recognise the signs of militarism. It seems that any country with a large military capability, needs only a group of ideological and self-possessed leaders in power, and a compliant or uncritical national media to whip up the national tendency to patriotism and wage an unjust war.

An assessment of the value the just war doctrine is bound to depend critically on its capability to resist such a danger, although other criteria remain significant. The value of the transatlantic dialogue should be judged in similar terms.


The aim of the transatlantic dialogue, The price of peace: just war in the twenty first century
The aim of the dialogue and the themes for consideration are set out in a statement by the organisers, Charles Reed (Church of England) and David Ryall (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales) and a list of the participants. The aim is to investigate and renew the just war discourse in the light of the moral tensions that are involved in the recourse to and conduct of war, which it is said have been crystallised by the war against Iraq.

On the face of it, this is fine, although one might suggest that it would be sensible to investigate the just war doctrine first and then, if appropriate, consider renewing it. But this is a quibble since the just war doctrine is simply a framework and able to accommodate new aspects, except pacifism of course!

The serious question, though, is why the immorality of the 2003 Iraq war should be thought to have crystallised the moral tensions. Should we not say that the war was wicked because of the political deceit and obfuscation involved and draw a line under it? After all, the doctrine assumes that the politicians involved will not set out to mislead.

But then why only a US-UK dialogue rather than a European dialogue? Perhaps there is value in the chosen structure in that it may reveal some of the ideological differences here (as opposed to the ethical and moral ones).


A more telling insight into the dialogue?
Although held behind closed doors, the dialogue has slipped into the public domain surprisingly quickly.

Christian peace organisations were perturbed by Ruth Gledhill’s article in The Times of 31st May where she reported that one insider said: ‘We were trying to seek a way that we can use them [the just war criteria] against weapons of mass destruction, rogue regimes and terrorism. It is one of the most important ecumenical initiatives that has taken place in a long time. All the peaceniks will have heart attacks’. This suggests that the intention is to loosen the restraint provided by the just war tradition, and well as extend its remit.

She began the article by saying that: ‘The plans had grown out of a concern among bishops that they have lost the initiative to the Government and that the churches’ opposition to the war in Iraq weakened a traditional role of providing advice at a time of crisis’. Although it is wrong to read too much into these words, they suggest that politicians are not much interested in the views of the churches except to support their policies: advice which cautions against war is not too welcome.

We have also been told informally by some participants in the dialogue that the discussion between US and UK participants was very difficult at times, a point which Bishop Richard Harries (also a participant in the dialogue) confirms in his Guardian article of 25th June 2005. He writes:

‘There were strong differences of opinion between the dominant US perspective and the dominant European one nowhere more marked than in attitudes towards the United Nations.

The dominant American attitude at the meeting was that the UN was corrupt, ineffective and liable to be manipulated by states hostile to US interests. There were predictions about its total collapse in the review later this year. It was only with difficulty that I extracted from one critic the admission that, on basic Christian just-war principles, even if the present UN is inadequate, there is a moral imperative to create something better and stronger.’

(Richard Harries went on to defend the role of the UN, emphasizing that the first criterion for a war to be regarded as morally justifiable is that it must be declared by a legitimate authority which since 1945 has, in principle been offered by the UN. Article 51 reserves to states the right of self-defense, but wars of intervention must be authorised by the Security Council.)

What Richard Harries encountered is consistent with statements made in the US national security strategy document of September 2002 which suggests that, in future, the overriding consideration should be the US national interest - a view in contrast to the US desire in the immediate postwar world to collaborate with other nations and build stable international institutions.

US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, referred to the policy change when he gave the International Rescue Committee 2005 annual lecture, ‘The UN, the US and the world’. In an uncompromising way, he said that the Bush administration had broken the long-standing bipartisan support for the UN.
He acknowledged that the UN administration is a mess and that US conservatives are using this as a metaphor for the whole organisation (as they try to destroy it). Darfur is also a test as is the publicity given to sexual abuse by UN soldiers. Such issues feed those who want to destroy the UN and the call to ‘Get the US out of the UN; and the UN out of the US’. The majority of people would support a reformed UN, so reform is crucial, and in the best interests of the US.
(From my notes of the meeting: the lecture has not been published yet.)

Clearly this is a critical issue for the transatlantic dialogue. Our fellowship hopes there will be no weakening of the current view about UN authority. In the unfortunate event that it is, we believe a much greater burden of proof must rest on any party that would take military action unilaterally, and that the aim of international policy must be to strengthen the UN’s authority, and so make the burden of proof greater still.


The charge of ‘functional pacifism’
A theological challenge from US ethicists was not unexpected if one looks at the views of the so-called ‘realists’ in the just war debate.

Following the first Gulf War, George Weigel of the Washington-based Ethics and Public Policy Centre (and also a participant in the current dialogue) wrote a paper entitled ‘War, peace and the Christian conscience’ where he was extremely critical of the way some of the US churches had responded to the first Iraq war. He refers to their ‘functional pacifism’ and says that ‘the leadership of the mainline/oldline Protestantism and the Roman Catholic Church abdicated its teaching responsibilities and showed itself incapable of providing the kind of public moral leadership it had traditionally exercised in American society’.

Interestingly George Weigel charges that the lack of a religiously-grounded peace movement in the US was a significant limitation to proper debate about the war, particularly about the kind of peace being sought in the Middle East, and he goes on to suggest what such a movement could/should have done.

In his recent book, Just war: changing society and the churches, Charles Reed makes a similar point about the UK churches. He argues that they were reluctant to conclude that the first Iraq war provided a clear case of a just war:

‘The churches’ confused and mixed response to the First Gulf War was indicative of a tension between a Christian realist and a Christian pacifist understanding of the just war tradition. By taking the issues of proportionality and last resort out of their natural theological context, a significant shift in balance and emphasis occurred within the just war tradition. This inversion of the just war tradition amounted to a form of functional pacifism best defined as ‘just war pacifism’. Prioritization of ‘last resort’ echoed the claims of many Christian pacifists who argued that alternative methods of conflict resolution needed to be tried before recourse to war. The abandonment of sanctions in favour of military action naturally raised the issue of right intent and the motives of those countries that used force against Iraq. As a result much of the churches’ criticism of the Government’s handling of the Gulf Crisis appeared to be veiled in a shroud of anti-Americanism.’


Iraq 2003 and pre-emptive war
The Church of England’s resistance to the 2003 Iraq war was clear. In October 2002, the House of Bishops made a submission to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee’s on-going Inquiry into the Foreign Policy Aspects of the War against Terrorism. In the light of the UK Government’s own dossier on the threat posed by Iraq, the submission reckoned that threat to be ‘growing’ rather than ‘imminent’ and concluded that to ‘undertake preventive war’ against Iraq at this juncture would be to lower the threshold of war unacceptably. The importance of maintaining the credibility and authority of the UN was also emphasised.

Other churches were generally of the opinion that Iraq did not present an immediate danger, although they showed a range of different understandings as to when force would be justified.

The Church of England’s submission made a distinction between pre-emptive war and anticipatory self defence on the one hand, and preventive war on the other, arguing that the first had long been permitted by just war doctrine, whereas the second would ‘undermine the need for war to be used as a last resort and would prejudice alternative efforts at conflict prevention and resolution’. We are uneasy about such definitions when they are not underpinned by clear rules and note that in a later submission to Government by the Church’s Public Affairs Unit (June 2003) also made reference to this need.

The Church of England’s response, in the context of the just war doctrine, was well judged in the circumstances. Although our fellowship would naturally stand with the Quakers and other peace churches in saying that pre-emption cannot be a just cause for a military attack.

Michael Waltzer in an essay written in September 2002, Inspectors yes, war no (published in his book Arguing about war (2004) responded to a speech by President Bush when he made the case for the necessity and justice of pre-emptive war against Iraq. He points out that the war being discussed is preventive, not pre-emptive – it is designed to respond to a more distant threat. Such wars are not looked on favourably by international lawyers and just war theorists since the distant dangers, after all, might be avoided by diplomacy and other non-military strategies.


George Weigel and the ‘charism of responsibility’
Weigel speaks of a charism (favour specially vouchsafed by God) giving responsibility to the lay authorities.

But it is a later paper by George Weigel entitled ‘Moral clarity in time of war’ (2002) which is more relevant here because of the assertions he makes. Both Archbishop Rowan Williams (Lecture to the Royal Institute for International Affairs, 2003) and Richard Harries (open meeting of CCADD, 2003) have commented on these.

Richard Harries examined Weigel’s main assertions as follows.

He challenged Weigel’s assertion that right authority for political and military action lay with the lay authorities, who, had their own special ‘charism’. He added (1) there is a factual basis of action which is not confined to politicians, except in so far as they may have intelligence unavailable to others; and (2) politicians are always liable to ‘spin’ such intelligence to suit their own case. Furthermore, some groups know things which the government does not. Certainly the clergy should preserve. Nevertheless it was right, for example, to ensure that the House of Lords was reminded of just war principles in debates on the Iraq war. Church leaders were also citizens, and had the same rights to speak as others.

He also argued that Weigel’s cynicism about the UN was not justified, even though the Security Council is an arena of competing interests. It is precisely from that arena that international authority comes. Legality alone is not enough to justify war: if there is no consensus at the UN then there is no authority (other than self-defence under Article 51 of the Charter).

On the issue of just cause, Weigel writes that we cannot always wait for a state to launch its weapons before we go to war; the mere possession of (say) weapons of mass-destruction is evidence of aggressive intent, except when they are in the hands of stable states. Harries disagreed with this: Grotius was right to insist that the danger must be present and ready to fall upon us. Mere probability is not enough.

On the issue of last resort, Harries reminded us that this cannot mean that every alternative to military action has already been exhausted. It must mean choosing the least bad option; and time is not neutral. An early use of force may be better, and less destructive, than a later. But in disagreement with Weigel’s assertion, there must always be a presumption against violence. As Aquinas says, the prima facie case is always against war.

And he argued that success must be measured in more than military terms and perhaps a new jus post bellum category should be included in just war thinking.
(Taken from a transcript of the talk on the CCADD website.)


Rowan Williams also dismisses the concept of a special politicians’ ‘charism’, emphasising that the just war tradition is for everybody, not especially for those engaged in statecraft.

‘My unease with Weigel’s in many ways welcome and excellent essay is that it slips inexorably towards a weakening of the freedom of moral theology to sustain the self-critical habit in a nation and its political classes. By sidestepping the subtleties of the analysis of violence in the traditional theory, it ends by leaving the solitary nation battling terror or aggression morally exposed to an uncomfortable degree; and it attempts to get out from under this by appeal to a not very plausible theological innovation in the shape of the ‘charism of responsibility’. If the just war theory is to be properly reconsidered – not, indeed, as a checklist of moral requirements but as part of a wide-ranging theory of political good and political coercion – it needs to be replanted in a greater depth of soil. And it needs to see itself, as Weigel correctly says, as part of a protracted argument about statecraft; but in that argument, many voices have a proper place, more at times than government might find comfortable.’


There is much sense here and we trust these points will be heard during the international dialogue. They are consistent with the conclusions of the Demanding peace report referred to above, although this goes a little further.

Demanding peace (1999)
The main conclusion from Demanding peace was that a consensus is now emerging as follows:

(1)No use or threat of force is permissible that is not in accordance with the UN Charter;
(2)Military action should normally be engaged upon only with the authority of a UN Security Council Resolution;
(3)It must be conducted with the minimum force required to achieve the objective and with the utmost practical protection of non-combatants;
(4)All personnel must adhere strictly to internationally agreed laws of war and rules of engagement.

So this points up the fact that the key elements of the just war doctrine (particularly ‘just cause’ and ‘lawful authority’, along with the religious and humanitarian consensus that the innocent must be protected, are embodied in the UN Charter, and that this now provides a guide to the Christian conscience which replaces both. Indeed, the duty to support the UN and its agencies and to adhere to the Charter is laid on all who are committed to work for peace. This does not mean, of course, that the UN is above reproach or can claim ultimate authority over the conscience of individuals.

Demanding peace also draws attention to the fact that:

‘There has been a discernable shift in the public posture of the churches from their historic identification with the fortunes of the armed forces of their country towards a penitential recognition of the inevitable evils of war and a determination to bring all possible resources of mediation and reconciliation to the task of preventing its recurrence. It goes on: ‘The shift seems likely to continue; and as it does so it may well foster an enhanced Christian commitment to promotion of arms control and confidence building, to education in peace studies, to humanitarian and development aid towards eradicating the long-term causes of war, to training in conflict resolution, to support for the UN and the rule of international law and to promotion of peace by all available means. Under the promotion of arms control, we could include the curbing of the international arms trade. It may even impel Christians to recognise that the centuries-old involvement of the church in warfare has been a form of apostasy from its faith in the non-violent redemption wrought by Christ’.

The report also suggests that ‘the time may be ripe for the church leaders to initiate a broader debate on this issue, a debate which might eventually lead to pacifism becoming the norm for the churches instead of a minority movement within them.’ Now it seems we shall have to wait until the current realist challenge has been resisted!


The ethical case for humanitarian intervention?
The genocide in Rwanda claimed the lives of nearly a million people, an atrocity that spurred world leaders into promising they would never again prevaricate while innocents were killed. Ten years later, the international community has failed to stop the genocide in Darfur that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced 2 million people.

I do not want to discuss this issue here except to say that pacifist views differ on the matter. Our fellowship has considered it in recent issues of the Anglican Peacemaker and readers will see the views expressed there. Liberal pacifists tend to see a need for military action against genocide and the argument then centres on the extent of military intervention and whether the action may be regarded as peace keeping or policing. Many of the ethical issues are discussed well in the introduction to Humanitarian intervention by Robert O’Keone. He begins thus:

‘Saying ‘humanitarian intervention’ in a room full of philosophers, legal scholars and political scientists is a little bit like crying ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre: it can create a clear and present danger to everyone with earshot. Arguments burn fiercely on this subject.’

We trust that the transatlantic dialogue will examine effectively the case for humanitarian intervention in relation to the just war doctrine.


Speaking truth to power: our Christian responsibility

It is also important to review some of the broader issues surrounding the just war discourse.

The discourse is complicated, involving serious theology, legal considerations and much insider knowledge. Consequently, the churches have a responsibility to explain to Christians, in simple terms, what is actually going on. They should try to avoid the disconcertingly legalist feel to the just war doctrine, ticking off the principles one by one, as it were. The key issue is to say clearly whether the conflict can be brought within the scope of the authority on which governments may normally call and be undertaken in such a manner as to establish justice.

In doing this, they should exercise the authority of their spiritual teachings rather than analyse the geo-political system and give alarms about the likely success of failure of a war – this, one assumes is the realm of politicians and military men.

The responsibility of individual Christians needs to be emphasised. Oliver O’Donovan (2003) states this well. He says:

‘Let us also remember that we are responsible before God in relation to other members of society who, of course, have their own differently responsible positions. The decisions are ours and cannot be thrown off because we have elected representatives (let us call them ‘politically responsible deciders’), yet they are not ours exclusively but only in relation to these deciders, among whom we have to deliberate sympathetically and collaboratively.’

‘In particular God’s peace is a practical demand laid on us. We must deny any ‘right’ to the pursuit of any claim on a part of a people that it may sacrifice its neighbours in the cause of its own survival or prosperity. For the Gospel demands that we renounce goods that can only be won at the cost of our neighbours’ good. Belligerence is a crime against peace.’

The responsibility is not easy to assume because there is always a temptation to make a once and for all judgement about the justice of a particular war: indeed, the just war doctrine tends to encourage this. Yet we know that rumours of war and the waging of war have their own language and momentum. So how do Christians speak truth to power in such circumstances in the most difficult time when military action is imminent?


Here I want to draw on a talk which Ched Myers (of the Bartimaeus Cooperative Communities in the US) gave at the 2004 Greenbelt meeting ‘Freedom bound’. He emphasised that the Christianity should be grounded in the real world and in the life and passion of Jesus. (Is this, I wonder, what Rowan Williams meant when he wrote the just war doctrine ‘needs to be planted in greater depth of soil’?)

Ched Myers argued that we have a responsibility to question the way things are with a vision of the way they are supposed to be. In the Gospels we see Jesus challenging the nationalism of his own people and is driven out of town; challenging the unequal wealth and being arrested; challenging the myth of retributive justice with a vision of love of enemies. To follow his example obliges us to monitor the way wars develop in future because we (and the churches) keep getting caught by surprise. He says:

‘If we wait for the drums of war without figuring out how the last war affected us, we will just roll over. This is because war time is the worst time for Christians to determine their position of war. So much so that the politicians can soften us up by the propaganda give timelines for the ending of hostilities and grand visions. If we are not clear most of us will not be able to swim to the vision of a world without war against the undertow of inflamed public opinion. In our Christian world, there are few denominations which carry out discussion and reflection on justice and war issues on a regular basis as part of their spiritual life, when a crisis develops we always seem to be starting from scratch. The situation may be different in the Peace Churches the Mennonites and you few ratbag radicals of organisations that exist on the edge of our traditions. But these are the exceptions that prove the rule. But war surprises us.’

‘We should be saying ‘What does Jesus have to say about war?’. This is the system where countries prepare themselves to carry out massive and systematic slaughter of enemies. Christian should stop talking about war as though we were preparing for a joust. We must talk about the new realities. It is about fragmentation bombs, technology targeting water and electricity plants and the torture of prisoners.’

In this regard, the long period of talking about, working up to and positioning around the recent war against Iraq could have been used by the churches to school their members, and all people of good will in the relevance of the just war doctrine; and to rehearse them in approaching decisions that may need to be made soon as they face their Christian responsibilities. The churches have tended to be disinterested in doing this.

The help that the just war doctrine provides is, of course, meant not only for political leaders. The Bishops may speak as authorised representatives from the Christian community to the state, or they may speak as pastors to the Christian community. But either way, the priority must be to communicate the moral posture of those who recognise their responsibilities in Jesus Christ. Such an approach is important because a deliberating public would elicit a more conscientious performance from its representatives, political and military.

We hope this perspective will influence the discussion during the transatlantic dialogue.


So where are we in all this?
Clearly the transatlantic dialogue is revealing some of the fundamental differences in ideology that can influence the perception of the just war doctrine. The key one relates to the question of appropriate authority and links to deeper concerns about the future of the UN. We await the outcome with much interest and would not wish to see a ‘well-crafted compromise’ which confuses the subject or weakens the war criteria for political expediency. (This seems unlikely given the statements made so far by our senior churchmen.)

In the discussion about pre-emption we ask for clarity. We hope the phrase ‘as a last resort’ will not be used without attempts to define what it means in practice, because the term is easily abused by politicians keen to make war.

The other jus ad bellum criteria have weight but we think it would be appropriate to move away from the legalistic ticking of boxes and the simple acceptance or rejection of a war. The world is now too integrated a place and countries impinge on each other in such a way that careful monitoring and review of conflicts is important .

With regard to the actual conduct of war, the need to use all possible restraint is obvious and crucial. The development of jus post bellum criteria would be valuable in view of the present Iraq debacle.

The churches should also be blunt about the need for honesty when politicians state their aims. In today’s complex world rationales for war are invariably multifaceted so that selfish interests can be conveniently hidden behind defensive and humanitarian aims.

But at the root of all this, as we all seek to abolish war as a means of settling international disputes, there is a need for the church to be more engaged in international affairs and prophetic with advice to Christians as well as to Government. We see these qualities more clearly in the way Christians and their churches are involved in world poverty, aid and debt concerns. This level of engagement is needed to respond to international conflict which is a major cause of poverty especially in Africa. The churches should also be doing more to bring the less well-known conflicts, such as that in the Congo, to the attention of the politicians.

To end on a ‘softer’ musical note. At the LIVE8 concert in Hyde Park last weekend, the singer Sting performed one of his old songs ‘Every breath you take’ but, thinking of its relevance to the G8 world leaders gathering at Gleneagles, subtly changed the words to ‘We’ll be watching you’!



References

Biggar, Nigel, 2004. ‘Anglican theology of war and peace.’ Crucible, October-December 2004, 7-21. (Not referenced in the text but included here because this is a clear and well-researched view of the subject. It was good to have it to hand.)

Harvey, Anthony, 1999. Demanding peace: Christian responses to war and violence. Based on discussions among theologians and military experts, in collaboration with members of The Council of Christian Approaches to Defence and Disarmament and The Churches Peace Forum. London, SCM Press.

Holgrefe, J. L. and Keohane, Robert, 2003. Humanitarian intervention: ethical, legal and political dilemmas. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Myers, Ched, 2004. Gospel discernment in the apocalypse of war: resisting the propaganda of empire then or now. Talk given at the 2004 Greenbelt meeting, ‘Freedom Bound’. The Anglican Peacemaker 4.4. Milton Keynes, Anglican Pacifist Fellowship.

O’Donovan, Oliver, 2003. The just war revisited. Current issues in theology. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Reed, Charles, 2004. Just war. In the series: changing society and the churches. London, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

Waltzer, Michael, 2004. Arguing about war. Yale, Yale University Press.

Weigel, George, 2001. War peace and the Christian conscience. In Just war and the Gulf War (edited by Johnson and Weigel).

Weigel, George, 2002. ‘Moral clarity in the time of war.’ The second Annual William Simon lecture (Washington DC).

Williams, Rowan, 2003. Just war revisited. Lecture to the Royal Institute for International Affairs, Chatham House on 14th October 2003.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Excuse Makers vs the Experiencers

Adbusters : The Excuse Makers: Condoleezza Rice: "Asked by Lehrer about the connection between US foreign policy decisions and the apparent rise in global terrorism, Secretary Rice responded by scolding everyone who would dare ask about root causes"
There is a good antidote to this in an Alternet article by Sean Gonsalves. In it he writes,
"When IRA terrorists were in full swing there was no ''shock and awe'' bombing of Belfast. What happened? To oversimplify, IRA leaders and British officials sat down at the negotiating table. Has IRA terrorism increased since then? Nope. In fact, just last week the IRA declared an end to their 36-year campaign of coercive violence against Britain to pursue a nonviolent political path."
Perhaps we should be listening to our own British experience in the face of Al Qaida rather than the Rice approach?

'War' in political discourse

The Bush regime has relabelled the 'war on terror' as "the struggle against violent extremism." There's a good comment on this from Alternet
"The problem here is the word 'war.' Unfortunate term. Unduly contentious. Steeped with insinuations of antagonism. Indicative of an enterprise to be either won or lost. And having yet to exhibit any of the signs normally associated with winning, like a lack of dead people, its obviously time for a change. 'Struggle,' conveys more of the murky lifelong commitment that fighting terrorism, excuse me, violent extremism, will require."
AlterNet: The Escargot Stratagem: