Just War, Terror, and Preemption
I don't think I've done this before, but here is a column in its entirety, from the pen of Chuck Colson, because I think he makes a point we all need to consider.
During my days working in the White House, I often came home feeling nauseated after meetings about national security. You’d feel that way, too, if you’d spent the afternoon hearing about possible nuclear attacks, first-strike survivability, and the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), which shaped every decision we made. I used to come home and tell Patty, “I don’t know if I can take this, because we are making decisions that could, by one miscalculation, obliterate this country!”This election could very well determine the path of Christian civilization for the next few centuries. The Christians in Constantinople must have thought it was the end of the world when the Islamic armies overran the city and finally toppled the Roman empire. It wasn't, and their progeny have had to live under centuries of Islamic domination, suffering uncountable degradations. We have a responsibility to our progreny to do all we can not to let the same happen to us.
Now consider: The entire MAD policy assumed that leaders on both sides of the Cold War—the Americans and the Soviets—were reasonable, rational people. Today it’s a totally different ballgame. With Islamic fanatics, you don’t assume that they are rational. You assume, based on their behavior, that they’re irrational—that if they get their hands on nuclear weapons, they’re willing to use them.
I have come to the sobering conclusion that we are in greater danger of a nuclear strike today than we were during the Cold War.
That being the case, can we really wait until an attack to go after the terrorists who perpetrate it? Or do we have to, instead, rethink the whole spirit of Just War arguments, accepting that preemption is the only humane and just solution in an age of terror to accomplish what the Just War doctrine proposes? Today we are dealing with an irrational enemy who knows it cannot conquer us, but will do everything in its power to destabilize us. Can we wait until the attacks—perhaps killing tens of thousands—or should we seek them out and destroy them before they have a chance to destroy us?
This is a huge debate which defies easy answers. The candidates this year are expressing radically different views. Some candidates believe in seeking out the terrorists wherever they hide, and others prefer treating terrorist acts like criminal acts that ought to be dealt with in a “law and order” kind of way.
Christians have to decide which view makes more sense. We need to ask ourselves if we should accept the thesis of Samuel Huntington of Harvard, who has said that we are in a new kind of conflict. From the time of the Russian Revolution to the fall of the Berlin Wall, most conflicts centered on ideology—communism versus democracy—but today the great divisions are cultural. The world is divided not so much by geographical boundaries as by differences in ultimate beliefs—that is, divided by worldviews.
The radical Islamic worldview is buttressed by thousands of terrorist cells spread throughout the Islamic world, agitating for violence and training for terror attacks. And as World magazine reported last week, U.S. forces in Iraq have seized intelligence documents revealing that Saddam Hussein collaborated with and supported Islamic terror leaders, including Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
We need to think seriously about these issues before we go to the polls on Tuesday. Yes, fighting in places like Iraq and Afghanistan is messy, and getting to the source of terror is long and even messier. But with weapons of mass destruction at large and our national security at stake, we may not have any other options. Take a look at where all the candidates who are running for every federal office stand, and soberly ask who has the right strategy and record to protect our country.
For more on the issues confronting us in the struggle against Islamofascism and the concept of "just war" within the Orthodox tradition, see the interview in Again magazine with Fr. Alexander Webster.