Just Intervention: Libya and Iraq Compared

March 23, 2011, 4:25 pm | Posted by

As the U.S. takes military action in a third Arab country, it’s important to evaluate the moral considerations of our engagement in Libya. Just War Theory, a centuries-old tradition rooted in Catholic social teaching, can help guide our ethical analysis. As outlined below, just war theory lays out the following key criterion for intervention: just cause, proper authority, right intention, reasonable hope for success, proportionality and last resort. Over at U.S. Catholic magazine, managing editor Bryan Cones is skeptical:

Less than a week into this operation, I worry that what we have is another intervention by Western colonial powers to secure the natural resources of a weaker nation. Muammar Gaddafi, like Saddam Hussein before him, may be a bad man who does cruel things and oppresses his people. But the world is filled with those kinds of people, and we aren’t bombing them.

Other critics, including Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, have made stark comparisons between Bush-era unilateralism and the Obama administration’s rationale for intervention. However, as we evaluate this conflict through a moral lens, we should acknowledge its complexity and pay attention to careful nuance. Using just war theory, it’s helpful to put Libya side-by-side with the Iraq War.

VP Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
The Architects of Intervention

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; NSC Senior Director for Human Rights, Democracy, and Multilateral Affairs Samantha Power; US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice
Weapons of Mass Destruction, Global War on Terrorism, 9/11, Iraq’s history of hostility toward the US, especially in the first Gulf War, and Saddam Hussein’s repression of civilians
Just Cause

Preventing attacks on innocent civilians and potential genocide; Removing dictator Muammar Gaddafi
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan described the war as illegal, saying in a September 2004 interview that it was “not in conformity with the Security Council.” In lieu of UN Security Council authorization, Bush claimed authority from a “coalition of the willing,” which included troops from the UK, Australia, and Poland.
Proper Authority

UN Security Council Resolution 1973, authorizing “all necessary measures” to enforce no-fly zone and protect civilians – called for by the Arab League, France, and the UK; full support of UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-Moon
Highly debatable: Cheney and Co., all part of the Project for the New American Century, called for increasing the U.S. military involvement in the Middle East and specifically for invading Iraq as early as 1998. Blighted track record on supporting human rights and unilateral march to war against the will of the UN.
Right Intention

Consistent and proven over time: Samantha Power, the world’s leading expert on genocide and Founding Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard; Susan Rice, Senior Director for Africa on the National Security Council during the Rwandan genocide, has vowed not to see that tragedy repeated and Hillary Clinton (whose husband called not intervening in Rwanda the greatest regret of his Presidency) all have strong track records of supporting human rights.
Defeating the Iraqi Army was easy for the US, but invasion led to occupation, which led to nation-building, which has had mixed results. US still in the country 8 years later.
Reasonable Hope for Success

Enforcing a No-Fly Zone has been successful; preventing genocide seems to be initially successful; pro-Gaddafi forces have stopped their advance on Benghazi.
Shock-and-Awe, full-scale invasion, followed by 8 years and counting of occupation.

Surgical strikes to disable Libya’s air defenses to allow the French and Qatari planes to patrol the No-Fly Zone and the protection of civilians; the mission is limited to enforcing the UN Resolution, which explicitly rules out direct ground intervention that could lead to occupation.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which was responsible for inspecting Iraq for WMDs, wanted more time. President Bush did give Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave the country, and only then used force to remove him.
Last Resort

Pro-Gaddafi forces were closing in on rebel stronghold in Benghazi, meaning it was no-fly zone or a very good chance of Gaddafi taking back the entire country and having “no mercy;” continuing the apparent genocide he already started.

On CNN, President Obama’s decision to intervene in Libya may look similar to President Bush’s march to war in Iraq, but a closer examination reveals important differences.

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New Poll: Nuance on Same-Sex Unions Drives up Catholic Support

March 22, 2011, 11:05 am | Posted by

An ABC News/Washington post poll made headlines last week for showing that a majority of Americans support legalizing marriage between same-sex couples. As Sally Steenland at Center for American Progress notes, some of the biggest increases in support have come from religious Americans, especially Catholics.

Of course, top line numbers often hide significant diversity within the Catholic population, and that’s the case here. As you might expect, Catholics’ opinions on this issue vary widely depending on frequency of mass attendance, with weekly attenders holding more conservative views than less frequent attendees.

However, Catholic culture warriors who might be inclined to highlight these divides to reinforce their good Catholic/bad Catholic worldview should take a pause. As a new report out today by the Public Religion Research Institute shows, asking a slightly more detailed question reveals a more complex landscape of opinion.

When given the choice between three options (legal recognition of same-sex marriage, civil unions, or no legal recognition at all), support for some form of legal recognition jumps to over 70%. What’s more,

even among Catholics who attend services weekly or more, only about one-third (31%) say there should be no legal recognition for a gay couple’s relationship, a view held by just 13% of those who attend once or twice per month and 16% of those who attend less often.

PRRI Catholic Support for Same-sex Marriage by Attendance.jpg

Moreover, the poll suggests there is still significant confusion over what expanding marriage rights to same-sex couples would mean.

If marriage for gay couples is explicitly defined as a civil marriage, Catholic support for allowing gay couples to marry increases 28 points to more than 7-in-10 (71%)

Given the confusion, it’s probably not entirely fair to make grand pronouncements about Catholic’s views one way or the other yet, but it’s worth noting that opinion does seem to generally be moving in a more accepting direction.

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Media Hit of the Week, Ctd.

March 17, 2011, 2:14 pm | Posted by

The religious drumbeat against Florida’s proposed immigration enforcement law continues in Tallahassee this week.

The Florida Council of Churches and FOCUS (Federation of Congregations United to Serve, a federation of the PICO National Network) hosted an interfaith prayer service at First Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee today. The service attracted media coverage from outlets like the Associated Press and La Prensa.

Catholic Bishop Frank J. Dewane of the Diocese of Venice, who spoke at the service, gave these remarks:

In the book of Leviticus we hear: “When an alien resides with you in your land, do not molest him. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt. I, the Lord am your God.”

We, the Catholic bishops of Florida, in our meeting with Gov. Scott yesterday, expressed to him that we are deeply concerned with our nation’s flawed immigration system and its impact on the human dignity and lives of our migrant brothers and sisters. This system divides families and causes human suffering to those who search for work in support of their families.

Read the rest after the jump.

It is the teaching of the Catholic Church that the more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2241)

While we support the right of the sovereign nation to control its borders, this does not mean that it should be done in a manner that undermines basic human rights. The vast majority of immigrants to this nation are not criminals, which should be taken into account in any enforcement strategy. The recent increases in deportation and the sometimes inhumane treatment of detainees such as refusal to allow contact with families and no legal representation causes us to question the methods used against those already in fear for their lives. Immigration law is complicated and only trained professionals have current knowledge of the laws, not local law enforcement.

Any passing of laws that give legal sanction to profiling people will decrease public safety and discourage reporting of crime. The so-called ‘illegals’ are so, not because they wish to defy the law, but because the law does not provide them with any channels to adjust their status in our country which needs their labor.

We call upon our federal delegation to lead the fight for comprehensive immigration reform in Congress. We call upon the Florida legislature to resist efforts to demonize those who provide the labor for our economy and a living for their families. Our Catholic Social Teaching and the tradition of the Church affirm the dignity of every human being, made in the image of God.

On behalf of the Catholic Bishops of Florida, we congratulate you for the way you are engaging this issue. Let us not impose our solutions, but propose just solutions that honor the dignity of all. Thank you and God bless you.

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Bishops Defend Community Health Centers

March 16, 2011, 11:20 am | Posted by

Via Vox Nova we learn the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops seems to have let go of the erroneous notion that community health centers provide abortions and is now opposing the GOP’s proposed funding cuts for these crucial facilities:

The USCCB has long called on Congress to work to ensure adequate and life-giving health care coverage to those in need. The proposed cut to Community Health Centers will deny health care to nearly eleven million poor and vulnerable people including mothers and children at risk. These centers are often the only access to health care for tens of millions of people in our country.

As CHC’s funding and other key protections of health care reform are under attack, this is a very welcome development from the USCCB, and yet another sign of the decidedly more constructive stance the conference has taken since the bill’s passage almost a year ago.

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A Ceasefire in the “Wafer Wars?”

March 9, 2011, 4:45 pm | Posted by

bishop hubbard.jpgGiven that a sizable segment of the Catholic hierarchy has lurched right in recent years, it’s not always easy to find bishops showing prudent leadership on prickly political issues. Headline grabbing prelates such as Archbishops Charles Chaput and Raymond Burke politicize the communion rail and have publicly denounced pro-choice Catholic public officials during the heat of presidential campaigns. Many bishops blasted the University of Notre Dame for inviting President Obama to give a commencement address. It’s an understatement to say this is a group not always inclined toward finding common ground and embracing engagement over confrontation in the public square.

So it’s noteworthy that one of New York’s leading Roman Catholic bishops said yesterday that he disagreed with a Vatican consultant who called for denying communion to Gov. Andrew Cuomo because he lives with his girlfriend outside of marriage. This may seem like rather mundane news, but in Catholic political circles Bishop Howard Hubbard’s stance is significant because it demonstrates at least some healthy fatigue with communion politics or “wafer wars,” as headline writers dubbed it during the 2004 presidential election. Here are Bishop Hubbard’s comments as reported in the New York Times.

“There are norms for all Catholics about receiving communion and we have to be sensitive pastorally to every person in their own particular situation,” Bishop Hubbard said. “And when it comes to judging worthiness for communion, we do not comment on either public figures or private figures. That’s something between the communicant and his pastor personally. It’s not something we comment on.” Bishop Hubbard also distanced New York bishops from bishops in other states who have sparked controversy in recent years by calling publicly for communion to be denied to elected officials who disagree with church teachings on issues like abortion or same-sex marriage. “Some bishops have done that but not all bishops have done that,” Bishop Hubbard said. “Quite frankly, there is a disagreement among bishops about using the communion line as a place for a confrontation. And I don’t think that the bishops of New York State feel that’s appropriate.”

I bolded those words because it’s not every day that bishops speak, to use Hubbard’s word, “frankly” about disagreements with other bishops on controversial issues. Moderates in the hierarchy who emphasize pastoral sensitivity and the full spectrum of Catholic teaching are often drowned out by those who prefer throwing sharp elbows over abortion. Perhaps Hubbard and other New York bishops can broker a ceasefire in the wafer wars. Let’s also hope that conservative Catholic bloggers, including Thomas Peters – whose father is the Vatican consultant who urged denying communion to Governor Cuomo – will take a cue from Bishop Hubbard the next time they consider playing Catholic orthodoxy police.

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