A Christian Defense of the War
Removing a dictator, introducing democracy, staying the course in difficult times--it's right, noble, and it's just.
North Korea isn't the only other dictatorship in the world. According to biblical principles, does the American military have an obligation to go into other countries that are suffering under unjust regimes, in Africa or Iran?
You have to use all of the tests. You have to use the test of just cause, just intent, you have to have a declaration of war or a joint resolution from Congress, it has to be authorized by legitimate authority, which in the case of the United States is the elected Congress of the United States. It has to meet the test of proportionality—will the good gained outweigh the suffering in the loss of life.
You talked about some future examples, let's talk about some past ones. I argued for intervention in Rwanda. If we had intervened in Rwanda, it would have taken probably 10,000 Marines to save about 750,000 Africans from being hacked to death. I think we're morally culpable for not having done so. I think we should have intervened in Bosnia, and I argued in 1991 that we should have. One of the biggest tests that we face as an international community today is not how we deal with aggression from one state to another, but how we deal with a state that is committing crimes against humanity and is acting in an aggressive way that amounts to genocide against its own people. I argued for American-led NATO or U.N. intervention in Bosnia, and I argued for the same thing in Kosovo.
Do you argue for the same in Sudan now?
I sure do. I think there needs to be international action. The sad truth is that without American leadership, the international community won't do it. They should. NATO should have intervened in Bosnia. NATO should have intervened in Kosovo. But only after we were willing to do it ourselves if they didn't support us, they finally agreed to help us in Kosovo. And they never did agree to do it in Bosnia until after the terrible kinds of atrocities that we saw at Srebrenitza.
I think that we have an obligation and a responsibility when we can to act. We could stop what's going on in Darfur, and I believe that we should. I would not use American troops, except as a last resort, but I would use American logistics, and I would use American leadership to say, we must do this. This is not the kind of thing that human beings should allow to happen to other human beings in the 21st century. We as an international community must act to stop it.
This is a genocide going on in Sudan, and one of tests is, when you can do something and you don't, then you become culpable morally for not having done something. I believe that the United States and the international community are culpable for what happened in Rwanda. It didn't have to happen, it could have been stopped with minimal effort and minimal sacrifice on the part of the western powers. We just didn't care enough to do it, and it's morally reprehensible. I'm not saying this after the fact, I said it in print and on the air about Bosnia-Herzegovina, about Kosovo, and about Rwanda, and I've said it about Darfur.
Getting back to Iraq, if the situation were to devolve into sectarian civil war, what kind of moral responsibility would the United States have at that point?
I think our responsibility would be to try to do what we could to help bring about its end, to bring about a cessation of ethnic conflict. I think we have to ask ourselves, what are the consequences? This is a question too few American commentators are asking, and they need to do more of it. What are the consequences of failure in Iraq? The consequences of failure in Iraq are horrific for the security of the United States, and for the security of moderate Islamic regimes and moderate followers of Islam around the world. The consequences of failure in Iraq are too horrendous to allow failure to happen.
So, I would argue that it must be the policy of the United States to help bring about a stable democratic government in Iraq and take whatever steps we can, along with moderate Iraqis, to ensure that civil war doesn't happen. I must say to you that I have been very encouraged by the admirable restraint that has been shown by the Iraqi people in the face of supreme provocation by the radical Islamic jihadists who have tried to foment a civil war, have so far been unsuccessful in doing so.
President Bush's speech this week urged Americans not to rush to judgment based on the violent images from Iraq they see on the evening news. As a religious leader, do you see this as the president asking us to take this war on faith? Is it easier for people of faith to relate to that request?
I don't think it's easier for people of faith to be skeptical about the national news media. That's what the president is talking about, he's talking about a national news media people of faith and otherwise believe have presented a very biased view of this war. We believe that based upon our own conversations with American military who have served in Iraq and who have a very different viewpoint, by and large, from the one that's presented in the electronic news media and The New York Times, and from our discussions with Iraqis.