Just War Tradition and the New War on Terrorism
National Press Club
A discussion with:
Jean Bethke Elshtain, Professor, University of Chicago and Co-chair, Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life
Professor Elshtain is a political philosopher whose task has been to show the connections between our political and our ethical convictions. Her works include Augustine and the Limits of Politics and an edited volume, Just War Theory.
Stanley M. Hauerwas, Professor, Duke Divinity School
Professor Hauerwas’ work cuts across disciplinary lines but his fundamental interest is in the upbuilding of moral discourse within the contemporary Christian community. He is a widely published author whose works include The Peaceable Kingdom and After Christendom: How the Church is to Behave if Freedom, Justice and a Christian Nation are Bad Ideas.
James Turner Johnson, Professor, Rutgers University
Professor Johnson’s research and teachings have focused principally on the historical development and application of moral traditions related to war, peace and the practice of statecraft. He is the author of numerous works, including Cross, Crescent, and Sword: The Justification and Limitation of War in Western and Islamic Tradition and Just War and Jihad: Historical and Theological Perspectives on War and Peace in Western and Islamic Traditions.
MS. ROGERS: Good afternoon. My name is Melissa Rogers. I am executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The Forum serves as a clearinghouse of information and as a town hall on issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs. The Forum is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts and we are grateful that Kimon Sargeant of The Trusts could be with us today. The co-chairs of the Forum are E.J. Dionne, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a columnist at the Washington Post, and Jean Bethke Elshtain, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago. We are so pleased that Jean could be with us today – I’ll say a bit more about Professor Elshtain in just a moment.
It has come to my attention that, quite unintentionally, we have scheduled this event during a Muslim prayer time. Apparently this conflict has prevented some of our Muslim friends from joining us today. I appreciate the fact that someone brought this to my attention and apologize for the schedule conflict.
I know that we all share the deep sadness of fellow Americans over the incalculable losses suffered through the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In the wake of these attacks, we are facing a host of critical issues, and, of course, religion has much to say about these issues. Today we discuss the just war tradition, its origins and principles and the ways in which it might apply to a war on terrorism.
We are fortunate to have speakers today who are three distinguished scholars on the topic of ethics and the use of military force. Each of them is a prolific and critically acclaimed author on this subject, as well as many others. There is really no way to do justice to their reputations and the breadth of their knowledge and writing in just a few moments. So please know that all I can do is give you just the barest glimpse of their work. I want to say a special word of thanks to each of them as we start, because this period is a very busy period in their lives and in so many lives, and we are grateful that they’ve taken time to travel to be with us and to discuss this most important issue.
First I’d like to introduce Professor Elshtain. As I mentioned, she is one of the co-chairs of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, and we’re quite proud of her leadership for the organization. She is author of “Augustine and the Limits of Politics.” She has edited a volume entitled “Just War Theory” and authored another book called “New Wine In Old Bottles: International Politics, an Ethical Discourse.”
She is a member of the Social Science Research Council of the Committee on International Peace and Security. And in a moment she will join us to discuss the origins, background and basic principles of the Just war theory. Her friend and colleague Michael Walzer calls her a truly independent, deeply serious, politically engaged and wonderfully provocative political theorist. And those of you who know Jean’s work I’m sure heartily agree.
Next we’ll hear from Professor Stanley Hauerwas. Professor Hauerwas is the Gilbert T. Rowe professor of theological ethics in the Divinity School and professor of law at Duke University. His works include “The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics.” He and Jean Elshtain have collaborated in the past on a work called “But Was It Just? Reflections on the Morality of the Persian Gulf War.”
He has vigorously defended pacifism and pacifism’s perspective on this issue. For those of you who are familiar with Professor Hauerwas’ work, you may appreciate William Cavanagh’s observation about Professor Hauerwas. Cavanagh said, and I quote: “Indeed, of all the great Christian pacifists over the centuries, Hippolytus, Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther King, Stanley Hauerwas is the one I would want on my side in a bar fight.”
What more can we say?
Finally, Professor James Turner Johnson will join us in discussion. Professor Johnson is a professor of religion and associate member of the Graduate Department of Political Science at Rutgers University. His books on this subject include “Just War Tradition” and “The Restraint of War,” “Can Modern War Be Just?” and “Cross, Crescent and Sword: The Justification and Limitation of War in Western and Islamic Tradition.”
He is co-editor of the Journal of Military Ethics and former general editor of the Journal on Religious Ethics. Professor William O’Brien has praised Professor Johnson as someone who is particularly gifted in his ability to apply the Just war doctrine to evolving dilemmas of contemporary deterrence and defense.
So I welcome all our speakers. I will ask Jean Elshtain to join us first, and then we will welcome your joining into the discussion. Thank you very much for being with us today.
PROFESSOR JEAN BETHKE ELSHTAIN: Good afternoon and thank you very much, Melissa. And it’s good to be joined by two esteemed friends and colleagues in Professors Hauerwas and Johnson. You heard what my task is, so I think that I ought to just begin because it’s going to take me a little bit of time to sketch some of the fundamental features of the just war tradition, especially with reference to the current crisis.
From President George W. Bush to the average man and woman on the street, Americans are evoking the language of justice to characterize our response to the despicable deeds perpetrated against innocent men, women and children on September 11th. When they do this, they tap into a complex tradition called Just war. The origins of the just war tradition are usually traced to St Augustine’s fourth century masterwork “The City of God.” In that text, Augustine grapples with the undeniable fact that Christian teaching challenges violence. He comes to the conclusion that wars of aggression and aggrandizement are never acceptable, but there are occasions when resort to force may be tragically necessary; not a normative good, but tragically necessary. What then makes the use of force justifiable? For Augustine, the most potent justification is to protect the innocent, and the innocent in the scheme of things are those in no position to defend themselves, to protect them from certain harm.
If one has compelling evidence that harm will come to persons unless action involving coercive force is taken, a requirement of neighbor love may be a resort to arms. Self-defense is trickier. According to Augustine, it is better for the Christian to suffer harm rather than to commit it. But are we permitted to make that commitment to non- self-defense for others? I would say not.
The upshot of Augustine’s reflections, refined over time, is that a primary rule for those committed to just war is non-combatant immunity, or the so-called principle of discrimination, meaning that non-combatants must not be the intended targets of violence. A further implication is that a carefully worked out act of terror against non-combatants of one’s own country is an injury that demands a response. That response involves just punishment, not in order to inflict grievous harm on the non-combatants of a country or a group whose operatives have harmed your citizens, but to interdict in order to prevent further harm and to punish those responsible for the harm that has already occurred. And this, of course, takes place in a world that international relations theorists called a world of self-help. That is, there’s absolutely no guarantee that anybody else is going to do this for you. So it’s an obligation of government to respond. And in responding in a way that abides by certain limits, one reaffirms a world of moral responsibility and justice.
When a wound as grievous as that of September 11 has been inflicted on a body politic, it would be irresponsible, it would be a dereliction of duty, it would be a flight from the serious vocation of politics to fail to respond. The Christian tradition also tells us that government is instituted by God. This does not mean that every government and every public official is godly, but rather that he or she is charged with a solemn responsibility for which there is a divine warrant.
A political ethic that flows from this responsibility is precisely one that emphasizes not absolute ends, to go back to Max Weber’s classic essay on politics as a vocation, but precisely the responsibility to tend to a common good, to tend to the safety, peace and security of one’s citizens.
Now, the just war tradition offers a way to exercise that responsibility. It attempts to steer a course between, on the one hand, the sort of anything goes ethic of realpolitik, often associated with thinkers like Machiavelli and Hobbes. But the just war tradition rejects as well an effort that forswears action, if that action commits the country to the use of armed force in a responsible and limited way.
Now, in the immediate aftermath of the events of 9/11, I said to a friend in conversation, “Now we are reminded of what governments are for.” It made the debates about which prescription drug plan is better than another seem, I mean not utterly unimportant, but it put it in a certain perspective, let’s say. None of the goods human beings cherish, including the free exercise of religion, can flourish absent a measure of civic peace and security. If evil is permitted to grow, good goes into hiding. Evildoers that lurk and plot in darkness and secret, that operate stealthily and that refuse to accept responsibility for wrongdoing, perpetrate harm beyond the immediate violent event. It is they who try to force good into hiding.
Now, what “good” do I have in mind? The simple but profound good that is moms and dads raising their children, men and women going to work, citizens of a great city making their way on streets and subways, ordinary people buying airplane tickets in order to visit the grandkids in California, men and women en route to transact business with colleagues in other cities, the faithful attending their churches, synagogues and mosques without fear.
Make no mistake about it. This quotidian idea, this basic civic peace — tranquilitas ordinis it’s called in the tradition — is a great good. It is not, of course, the peace of the kingdom promised by scripture. That awaits the end time. Beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, a world in which nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more, is a vision connected with certain conditions, as Kenneth Anderson reminds us in a recent articles in The Times Literary Supplement. For the prophet tells us that the condition of eschatological peace is one in which the Lord’s house has been established everywhere, and all go up to the mountain of the Lord, for out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. So it assumes a kind of unity of order and the rule, a singular rule of a law that applies to all of that distinction. Well, we are not there yet, to put it mildly. As Martin Luther observed, if the lion lies down with the lamb, the lamb must be replaced frequently.
The ordinary civic peace that horrific violence disrupts and attempts to destroy offers intimations of eschatological peace and is a good to be cherished and not to make light of. It is a good we charge our public officials with maintaining. If we live from day to day in fear of deadly attack, the other goods that we cherish become difficult. Human beings are fragile creatures. We cannot reveal the fullness of our being, including our deep sociality, if airplanes are flying into buildings and cities become piles of rubble, composed in part of the mangled bodies of victims. We can neither take the civic peace for granted, as we have learned so shockingly, nor shake off our responsibility for helping to respect and to promote the norms and rules whose enforcement is constitutive of civic peace.
Saint Augustine taught us that we should not spurn worldly vocations, including — and his famous example is the vocation of the judge; tragic because he or she can never know with absolute certainty whether punishment is being meted out to the guilty and not the innocent. But we depend on judges and on others to uphold a world of responsibility; a world in which people are not permitted to devour one another like fishes, in Augustine’s pithy phrase.
Now, public officials are charged with protecting a people. As those extraordinary firemen in New York City said simply, “It’s my job. It’s my job.” The same holds for our military, operating within the limits I have just very briefly sketched. It’s their job. These are our sons and daughters. This is their right authority, or what they do. The job they do flows from right authority; another vital dimension of the just war tradition, right authority, and one aimed at limiting freelance opportunistic and individualistic violence.
So even as just war permits limited resort to arms, it challenges, as I’ve already indicated, the “anything goes” approach to violence. Now, responding justly to injustice is a tall order, for it means that it is better to risk the lives of one’s own combatants in certain situations than to intentionally kill non-combatants of the society with whom one is in conflict. It is often difficult to separate combatants from non-combatants, but one is obliged to try.
The restraints internal to the just war tradition encode the notion of limits to the use of force. Many of these rules and stipulations have been incorporated into various international agreements, including several Geneva conventions. During and after a conflict we assess the conduct of a war fighting nation by how its soldiers, its warriors conducted themselves. Did they rape and pillage? Were they under careful rules of engagement, or was it a free-for-all? Was every attempt made to limit civilian casualties, knowing that in time of war civilians are invariably going to fall in harm’s way?
I think we are obliged not to respond simply cynically to this attempt to limit the damage that is done. It’s a very important attempt, a vital attempt, and one that our military has, certainly since the restructuring of the military since the Vietnam War, taken up. That is, pains have been taken to underscore the codes of ethics that derive from the just war tradition in our military academies and in the training of our Army, our Marines, our Navy and our Air Force.
Indeed, it is my impression talking to students, looking at the curricula of institutions, that no group in the country pays more attention to this question of the restraint, ethical restraint on the use of force than does the United States military in its academies, in its training centers. That means we do not kill or threaten to kill nearly 6,000 civilians because that number of our own civilians have been murdered by perpetrators who scarcely deserve the name of either a soldier or a warrior. We put soldiers into combat rather than unleashing terrorists. The soldier puts himself at risk as surely as the firefighter.
Now, just punishment that I’ve been talking about, to seek out those who have perpetrated an evil deed and to punish, is very different from revenge. Revenge repudiates all limits. Just punishment observes restraints. The course thus far chartered by the administration is admirable in its complexity, its nuance and its restraint. The use of military force is planned, at least at this point, as one part of an overall strategy that involves, as you all know, decoding messages, cutting off money flows, and many other ways to go about dealing with this issue.
One sign that the President and his advisors are aware of the need for restraint is their renaming a mission that was first dubbed, as many of you know, Operation Infinite Justice, with a more modest name that does not suggest a utopian goal. And that was done almost immediately once the name was given. Another sign is the President’s repeated insistence that our response is not aimed at a whole people, a religion, an entire nation or a way of life, but is, instead, directed at those who drag their own people into harm’s way, defame their religion and perpetrate an ideology that has as its end the deaths of babies, people in wheelchairs, moms and dad, brothers and sisters, grandmas and grandpas, friends and colleagues going about their daily routines.
And why should they die? Simply because they are Americans? It didn’t matter if you were white or black, young or old, male or female, able-bodied or with a disability, gay or straight, Christian, Muslim or Jew. If you were in those buildings and you were an American, you were slated for death. The aim of terrorism — again, let’s make no mistake about it — is terror. The terrorists do not issue a set of demands. They do not say, “We’d like to negotiate about the following three points.” They simply murdered. That is why one does not negotiate. There is nothing to negotiate about if the end your opponent has stated clearly is your own complete obliteration. At some point the word breaks off and the call to responsible action begins.
This is an extraordinary moment in our nation’s history. On September 11 we sustained a greater loss of life in a single day than ever before in our history, easily topping the previous norm for a day of death, which was the Battle of Antietam. Americans tell us that they are prepared for this different kind of war. But as I’m sure you know, the numbers of those who support action, military action against terrorism begins to waiver when the question is put as to whether this force would be acceptable if innocent men, women and children in large numbers became victims. So you can see the public is making certain kinds of discriminations as well.
No war, as I’ve already indicated, can be fought without putting non-combatants in harm’s way. The American people favor doing everything possible to limit this damage. One reason this country wearied of the Vietnam War was the realization that fighting that war meant that we could not — given the nature of that war, could not distinguish combatants from non-combatants and that even without horrors like the My Lai massacre, our soldiers were put in the impossible position of regarding everyone without discrimination as the enemy. That is not the case here.
So respond we must, respond we shall. We must stop those who use civilians against other civilians by turning a great symbol of human freedom of movement, the commercial airplane, into a deadly bomb. If one abides by just war restrains, we will put our combatants in harm’s way to punish and interdict those who put our non-combatants in harm’s way and have no compunction about mass murder, and that is the burden of the just warrior.
In the dark days of Nazi terror, there was a brave young German theologian, known to many of you I hope and trust, named Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who had been moving toward pacifism, which was a rather remarkable thing for a German Lutheran under that era to be doing. And he committed himself to a conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler, to “cut off the head of the snake,” as he put it. And he asked in his letters and papers from prison, “Who stands fast?” “Who stands fast?”
Bonhoeffer observed that the great evil that had appeared among the German people had played havoc with all our ethical concepts, and he was particularly severe in his criticism of those who, in his words, flee from public altercation into the sanctuary of private virtuousness. But anyone who does this must shut his mouth and his eyes to the injustice around him. Only at the cost of self-deception can he keep himself pure from the contamination arising from responsible action.
It is the vocation of those that we elect to carry the burden of political office that they must ongoingly deal in ways that most of us are spared from. Ongoingly deal with the problem of what’s called in the world of political theory the problem of dirty hands. There are times when there’re things that one must do that are not ethically pure, but they are ethically defensible given what is at stake, given the issues at hand, given what the alternatives are, obedient and responsible action. And one who cares about these, Bonhoeffer taught us, asks the following question. He doesn’t say, “How can I do the right thing?” The question is, “How is the coming generation to live?”
Now, we know what happens to people — and it’s with this I’m going to close. We know what happens to people who live day in and day out over a long period of time in pervasive fear, and it isn’t pretty. It invites lashing out. It invites isolation from a desire to protect oneself. It encourages over time harsh measures, and in this Thomas Hobbes was surely right. We simply cannot live as human beings if we live in constant fear of violent death. The International Criminal Court is not going to protect us from that or from other terrorist acts.
Last week my daughter and I found ourselves having this discussion. We found ourselves discussing the possible need for a family plan should there be a biological or chemical attack. Who would pick up the children, the grandchildren? This is something that Melissa Rogers and I were talking about, too – her responsibility for our staff here at the Pew Forum. Are there plans? Are there instructions from the CDC about what one should do?
It’s extraordinary to be having these kinds of conversations, certainly if you live in this country and simply assume that civic peace, if you will, that we can no longer assume. Who would pick up the children, the grandchildren? Where would we rendezvous? Are gas masks any protection? Should one discuss any of this with two five-year-olds and a seven-year-old, and already these children are drawing pictures of planes flying into buildings and asking what happens if grandma’s plane is hijacked? We reassure them, knowing that the correct answer is there is no more grandma.
Of course, we all must die one day but we are called to life. Christians are taught that their savior came that believers might have life and have it more abundantly. There are times when the call to live demands. It demands action against those claimed by death. I do not believe this is contrary to our tradition. I believe it is consistent with it and with the fact that believers are claimed by a god of mercy, who is also a god of justice.
PROFESSOR STANLEY M. HAUERWAS: I want to make candid a claim that was intrinsic to Jean’s defense of just war using Augustine that I think is not unimportant for these kinds of deliberations.
Oftentimes people assume that just war developed as a mode of reflection in the Christian tradition as an exception to the general position, the general Christian tradition of non-violence. There is some basis for that. I mean, why would you even have to come up with a justification for violence if, as a matter of fact, you assumed the priority of non-violence on the part of these people?
I mean, the Romans did not presume that non-violence was something they were called to, though the Stoics came up with certain kinds of views about how you could think about the justification of violence. So just war from this perspective is seen as a series of exceptions — the attempt to develop a series of exceptions against the general Christian presumption against violence.
The justification that Jean gave of just war is not a series of exceptions to non-violence, but rather assumes the priority of justice to non-violence. This is extremely important, I think, because justice names not self-defense but, as she so eloquently put it, the defense of the innocent. So you only want to use as much violence as is absolutely required to stop the attacker. And all “innocent” means there is they did not deserve the attack. They did not deserve the attack. It doesn’t mean they’re a baby or something like that.
Now, presupposing this is that in the world as we know it, we are never free from disorder. So just war assumes a world at war even if there is no violent conflict going on at this time. Just war presupposes that you never live in a world free of war. One of the crucial questions involved here is a question of historicity in terms of the kind of disorder that you’re actually finding in the world. It is one thing for the Roman Empire to think about the kinds of disorder it confronted. It’s quite another thing to think about the kind of disorder that now names the world of international nation-states. That is a new development.
And the question — and I mean Jean spoke, of course, of the political realism that has given the description of that world fundamentally as a balance of power. So you assume that some kind of balance of power names the order that is relatively tranquil. But then that raises the question of what do I mean when I say “justice?” Can you talk about justice and international order? Justice normally presupposes goods that can be named in common that therefore allow you to articulate what is just and unjust.
This indicates, I think, one of the great tensions in modern accounts of just war; namely, how do you square the ability to fight a war justly when, as a matter of fact, you presuppose an international arena in which justice no longer makes any sense? This was the great task of Paul Ramsey, who tried, as a matter of fact, to take a Niebuhrian account of political realism and wed it to just war. Whether that can be done or not still seems to me to be a deep question. And I’m more than willing to enter in as a pacifist into that project, because just war is clearly better than political realism. And so I certainly want to do that. I don’t pretend that that’s their problem. I need to take it on too.
Now, one of the implications, however, if just war is an account to produce justice, one of the implications of this view is that pacifists are not just confused, but we are deeply immoral. Because exactly to the extent that we refuse to take up the project of defending the innocent, then as the matter of fact we have betrayed a deep moral responsibility that shall be incumbent upon anyone; and in particular on the disciples of Jesus.
On this view, of course, the disciples should have rushed back to Galilee and gotten up the Galilean Liberation Front to save Jesus from being killed, because that death was clearly an unjust death. It is very interesting to ask how just war people narrate the scriptures on these grounds. It’s not a question of pacifists trying to preserve some kind of purity. Hell, I’m from Texas; purity was never an option.
Pacifist and just warrior alike, because of their commitments, will have to watch the innocent suffer for their convictions.
Now, I want to raise a couple of issues about this account of just war. One, I want to raise the issue “What makes the outbreak of violence war?” I mean “What makes the outbreak of violence war?” War is an honorific term, I mean, that people then use war to distinguish war from murder. I mean, in talking with reporters about these matters I oftentimes bring up Hiroshima and Nagasaki as issues of just war, and they will always say, “Oh, but that was war.”
Well, murder can occur in war. I mean, that’s what the just warrior is committed to. And so do you call — does the fact that terrorist acts — I mean, the British blanket bombing in World War II, the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, the firebomb raid on Tokyo, does that mean World War II must be described as something other than war, if war is an honorific term that distinguishes war from murder?
If, from a just war perspective, you can only describe war as just war, then you need to distinguish war from what is not a just war. I mean, what was the bombing of Yugoslavia we just did? What was that? Was that war on just war grounds? I’m interested, in particular, many people have said that just war somehow — or that there’s no one to declare war against in terms of the terrorist raid on the World Trade Center. And I wonder about how do they presuppose you can — I mean, of course, you need to declare a war where your enemy will know under what conditions they can surrender.
Now, is the mere fact that you are declaring war against a terrorist organization means that just war has somehow become unintelligible because you can only deal with state agencies? And you can see then how the point about history makes a difference here. In the Middle Ages there were no state agencies. There were kings and queens and they were sovereign. So the very idea that you have a bureaucratic order which you can call a state, how does that change how you think about these matters?
Secondly, I want to raise a question to the people that are committed to just war perspectives, and that is: how do you form a people and institutions for just war prior to violent outbreaks? How do you form a people prior to a violent outbreak to be just warriors? Are the American people — would the American people be ready to invade the beaches of Japan rather than drop the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Because more lives would have been lost that way than Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but it would have been just. It would have been just. Are the American people ready to sacrifice lives to fight a war justly?
I mean, I think that Jean’s right. I’m extremely impressed with our military in terms of the agents. I’m interested though what would military forces of the United States look like if they were structured on just war grounds? I mean, is the institutionalization of the United States military in terms of the kinds of weapons it uses, in terms of how it’s trained to use those weapons, just war training? I mean, see, it’s too late if you just get an event and then say, “How do we fight it justly?” You’ve got to prepare to fight wars justly in this way.
Secondly, what does a just war foreign policy look like? What does a just war foreign policy look like? Again, just using national self-interest won’t cut it, if you have a just war foreign policy. I mean, America walks around the globe with great power. How do you do that as a just war nation?
Now, finally, I want to ask how would Christians prepare themselves for a just war? At the Eucharist, before we receive, we wish one another the peace of Christ. How would that peace be understood if we said, “Except”. I mean, I’ve oftentimes wondered. Christians don’t develop theories of Just Adultery. I mean, you know, you could be the last resort, it’s the only way to save this person and so on.
How is it that we develop theories of just war, and what would that do to our understanding of what we do when we wish one another the peace of Christ? Because I take it that the deepest issue here is the doctrine of God. And what happens when Christians cross their fingers is we turn God into a spirit, rather than the material presence found in Jesus Christ through which we continue to be made God’s material people in the world through body and blood.
What I fear about just war is that it always leads to the spiritualization of the Christian faith, and that’s what I think and why I think I must remain committed to Christian non-violence.
PROFESSOR JAMES TURNER JONHSON: We were joking among us up here that each of us would have his or her say and then Jean and I would beat up on Stanley. I want to start the process in connection with three things Stanley has just said, before I get on to what I was actually planning on saying today. [Laughter.]
First, on the matter of how the Christians — how do Christians narrate the scriptures in connection with just war reasoning. I would suggest that in fact there has been — or there was an awful lot of this in the development of the idea of just war, and all one has to do is go back and read the materials and you’ll see that they’re full of scriptural references. This is not an idea that somehow comes out of Augustine’s fertile neo-platonic imagination, but is an idea that historically Augustine and his successors in the Middle Ages and the early modern period who developed this idea in religious terms, grounded very explicitly in passages of the scripture.
Secondly, on the matter of the kinds of weapons used by the U.S. military and their kinds of training, are they appropriate for just war theory? And I would say “hey yeah,” but it may be not always this way. I remember very well the debates of the early 1980s when people on the pacifist side of the line were arguing against the development of cruise missiles and PGMs as war fighting weapons, and therefore inherently bad as they would increase the possibility of war.
Well, I’m awfully glad that we have them now, you know, despite this kind of argument. It seems to me that this is an example of how the U.S. military has been configured so as to be able to fight justly, and I would suggest further that the training that makes possible the insertion of relatively small groups able to fight in a discriminate and proportionate way in a particular context is a much more moral way of thinking about the training of troops than to think in terms of vast operations that necessarily have huge amounts of collateral damage.
The third point on Just Adultery versus Just War. That’s a nice quip, Stanley, and I know that it makes a good point to make it. But notice what it presupposes. It presupposes that violence is what is wrong, which is basically the pacifist position. Just war tradition says that it’s not violence that’s wrong, but rather the reasons that may be right or wrong. Under some conditions it is unjust; under other conditions it serves justice. And so you end up on different sides of the page on this issue, depending what your presuppositions are.
When I was thinking about what I wanted to do today, I reflected that — and I’m sure that all of you have had this same kind of thought. I reflected that, my God, it seems like all I’ve talked about since the 11th of last month has been this subject. And from that perspective there are far, far too many words to squeeze into 10 minutes, and so I’m woefully over-prepared. And yet on the other hand, when you think of the horror of what happened on the 11th of last month you realize that words cannot express it. And so from that standpoint, I’m woefully under-prepared.
What I want to do is just make some fairly simple observations about the contemporary debate, and then conclude with some rather pointed things about the idea of just war that will give you a better sense of how I come at this as opposed to — well, in terms of slight differences between me and Jean on the debate: is this war or is this criminal activity? This is an issue that it seems to me has surfaced in the debate as a way of arguing that we ought not to use military force against Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda and against his supporters, but we instead ought to use judicial process.
Well, this confuses the issue it seems to me. Morally speaking there is no difference between the use of force, whether one uses it in the context of police action or whether one uses it in the context of international projections of force, military force. In the medieval coming together of the idea of just war, and this reflects Augustine’s view very directly. The central issue was the public use of force versus the private use of force; in the Latin, bellum versus duellum. “Bellum” translates as war, we have the legacy of that. “Duellum” translates as the duel. Any private use of force is wrong. The one who has the authority to use force is the one who has the responsibility for the public good, and anyone who is authorized by him or her to do that — or them to do that. So the central issue here is, as Jean said very, very well, that it is the protection of the political community which is centrally at stake in the effort to think about moral uses of force.
The second thing I want to say about the contemporary debate I can illustrate by something that happened on a panel that I was on last night at my university, Rutgers. There were five of us talking about the whole idea of the clash of civilizations and whether this is inevitable and so forth. And one of the people was arguing at some length that we really are in no position to throw stones or throw bombs; that basically everybody has sinned and therefore nobody can throw the first stone; that the United States is complicit on all kinds of misery around the world and the 9/11 events are perhaps an understandable response to this.
She was particularly upset about the use of the idea that the terrorist attack was somehow evil. She didn’t like this word “evil.” She also didn’t like the word “punishment.” So you can see, if you know the just war tradition, that she would have some serious problems with the tradition because one of the standard items on the listing of the just cause is this punishment of evil.
Well, when she got done one of the people in the audience stood up and said, “Professor, would you say that the Nazis were evil?” Big pause then the response: “That’s a hard question.”
You know, I don’t think that’s a hard question. I don’t think that it’s a hard question to answer to say that the attacks on 9/11 were evil. And so I think that from this perspective we need to do an awful lot to educate members of the American community in being able to morally discriminate between the kind of background noise of human imperfection and genuinely evil actions; which this attack certainly qualifies for, I have to say. So those two comments on the contemporary debate.
Now let me say some things about thinking about this in just war terms. If you look at recent examples of just war debate, what you tend to find is that almost always the idea of just cause is listed first and the requirement of right authority or sovereign authority is listed after that. If you look back at, for example, the American Catholic bishops in 1983, this is how they did it. They did it again in 1993 and I must confess if you look at some of my works from that period, you’ll find that I do the same thing.
And I think there’s an excuse for it or a reason for it; namely, that in the context of the modern period there has been a real effort in the shaping of the whole international order to define sovereign authority in a de facto way in terms of territory, in terms of recognition by other states. If you have that, then you have it. So if that’s defined in that morally contentless way, then what you are left with is the question of just cause first.
The question of intervention has reawakened me to something that Augustine and his medieval and early modern successors knew very well, that the central issue is the issue of authority. The central issue is the degree to which the government in question, or the person if it’s an authoritarian state, is actually serving the good of his or her people. Once you have made that determination you know whether there is any possibility that that individual’s use of force is justified or not.
So in the classical just war tradition you always began with the question of sovereign authority, and the sovereign authority had the responsibility of weighing the other issues: the matter of just cause; the matter of having a right intention; the matter of intending to restore peace. These are the four things that I call the de-anthropological requirements. They’re the ones that Thomas Aquinas specifically mentions. Today in contemporary discourse there’s a lot of attention to the prudential requirements of apportionality. That is, the expectation that the use of force will do more good than harm; the requirement of reasonable hope for success and the requirement of last resort, properly understood, anyway, as the calculation that nothing else is going to do the job.
In the classical tradition these were all concerns that the sovereign rightly worked with in order to decide whether in a particular instance the use of force, already justified by the other terms, ought to be undertaken or not. And so I’m rethinking my own position in terms of the requirements of sovereignty so as to try to do better justice to this than I fear that I may not have done in the past.
What about this whole business of intentionally? Again, you look at contemporary writings on this — and again I’m thinking of the U.S. Catholic bishops as an example of this — and the treatment of right intention is just plain wimpy. It is usually put in terms of something like “an intention in line with the just cause.” Well, that’s not what it meant originally. Augustine says when talking about this, and it’s always Augustine who is quoted on this subject, “What is evil in war? It’s not the deaths of some who will soon die anyway.”
And then he says these are the things that are evil in war. He mentions the lust to dominate, the lust of power, just showing your power. He mentions the cruelty of avenging. The important thing here is not avenging; the important thing is that it’s done cruelly. He mentions an implacable animosity towards the enemy, and some other things. These are the kinds of mindsets that we don’t want to have when thinking about the restoration of justice. And I would submit they are precisely the kind of mindset that we find in the justification for the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Let me conclude by saying that while we’re here to talk about the just war tradition and its help in thinking morally about the possibility of the United States response and the coalition response to the terrorist attacks of the 11th of last month, that there are very important overlaps with the jihad tradition. The jihad tradition also requires right authority. Historically, for the community to act, the leader of that community, the caliph for the Sunnis, the imam for the Shi’ahs, had to authorize it. In the case of an attack against the Islamic society, there could be — or there was, indeed, a responsibility for individuals to act to defend against that attack. But there were very, very stringent restrictions put around this. And so the Fatwa of 1998 which Osama bin Laden, styling himself as a sheikh, issued is simply against what the normative tradition allows in the way of defensive jihad.
Further, and I’ll just make one other point here. The jihad tradition includes very explicit limits on whom you may fight against. There are a number of traditions associated with the prophet Mohammed which have the language “you shall not kill the women and children.” Some of the traditions also include other groups of people: the aged, the infirm, the mentally incompetent. These are exactly the same lists that we find in the just war tradition and the same lists that we find in contemporary international law of armed conflicts.
So there is no culture conflict here. There is fundamental agreement on these issues and it seems to me that from this perspective there is good reason to say from the standpoint of Islam, as well as from the standpoint of just war tradition, that the attacks of 9/11 were indeed evil and that there is a just necessity for a response to them. Thank you.
MS. ROGERS: I want to thank each of our speakers for those very helpful reflections on these profound issues, and in a moment I want to turn to you for your questions.
Let me mention something that I want to bring to your attention that’s related to this topic. We want to encourage discussion about the many issues that are flowing out of the September 11 attacks and one of our upcoming activities will be an online discussion, focussing on understanding Islam and Muslim Americans’ reaction to September 11 and its aftermath. I hope you picked up a flyer outside about that discussion. It will happen on October 18 and will be facilitated through the Washingtonpost.com. So we’re looking forward to carrying the conversation forward in that way at that time, and also in future events that we will sponsor.
I want to call at this time for questions. I have a number of my own, but I’m going to try to restrain myself since we –
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: Will I get a chance to respond….?
MS. ROGERS: Oh sure, yeah. Stanley, let me go ahead — yeah, let me go ahead and let Professor Hauerwas respond to the comments that have been made, and then we’ll open up the floor for questions.
PROFESSOR ELSHTAIN: I need to respond, too.
MS. ROGERS: Sorry. Each of you get an at-bat.
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: There’s much that I could respond to, but I want to take up the point that Jim made about that he, among others, early on as there was this great reclaiming of the just war tradition tended to emphasize the use of “in bellum” rather than the use of “ad bellum.”
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: I didn’t say that.
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: You didn’t? I thought that’s what you were saying?
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: No, no. I said we emphasize just cause –
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: Right, rather than — I think — well, right. But Ramsey certainly wanted –
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: Yeah. If I had said that, you –
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: Right, right, right.
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: And Ramsey had a lot of trouble with just cause because he wasn’t clear how it could be articulated in a way that — and the reason he couldn’t be — the reason he had problems about how it could be articulated is not only the difficulties of understanding how self-interest works in an international system, but more how do you — I mean, Jim is absolutely right that the issue of authority is serving the good of their people.
The difficulty is in liberal political theory, if not practice, you don’t want goods; all you want are interests. And one of the difficulties, it seems to me for just warriors, is what kind of political activity do you name to involve goods that are in common that are not matters of interest? Augustine was very clearly. No society can be just, Book 19, that doesn’t worship the true God. All other kinds of justice will be half-measures and possibly very distorting.
Now, this is not discussible in liberal democratic societies, because the whole point is the privatization of religion. Now, how just warriors — I mean, because I believe the questions of legitimacy are very important. I mean, I think that’s exactly right. And how you get to them in these kinds of social orders is not at all clear to me. So the just warriors say, “Well, no matter where you go, you’ve just got to observe non-combatant immunity.” I don’t think that’s sufficient, as Jim doesn’t think it’s sufficient, but then how you really develop that within our kinds of politics is a deep issue.
PROFESSOR ELSHTAIN: I’m going to very quickly respond to a couple of Stan’s points. This will be a little bit hit and run, but that’s okay; he can take it.
First of all, one of his questions was: what makes the outbreak of violence war, and isn’t war an honorific term that one perhaps shouldn’t apply to the events of September 11? I would say, if you just call it a crime, you radically diminish what happened. Moreover, one of the reasons we use the term “war” is that we recognize that any response to an event of that proportion is simply going to fall outside the boundaries of the domestic legal and penal system to deal with it.
It’s an act of a magnitude perpetrated by those who are not members of your own polity, against your polity on the body of your people. And I think there’s a very good reason for seeing that as an act of war rather than a crime. A crime suggests that there is available to us some kind of set-down, normative international order that can somehow deal with this in a convincing and viable way, and that simply doesn’t exist. So I think that’s one of the reasons that the language of war is appropriate to characterize that situation.
I don’t want to let this one slip by, because Stan had an interesting and an important question – what would a just foreign policy look like, or a foreign policy that is paying some attention to the just war tradition? I think, among other things, it would mean that you would have to ask yourself a whole range of questions about the kinds of measures that those who say we shouldn’t have violence, we shouldn’t have a war, often favor, as if they were if fact more just. That is not necessarily the case at all.
You would have to look at something like the use of embargoes, for example, and what is embargo. Are you embargoing the necessities of life? Are people, including children, dying because they don’t have access to necessary medical supplies or food? And so you would have to ask questions about that.
Stanley also used an example of churches where we give one another the greeting of peace. That of course presupposes a community with a shared faith; a community that is at peace, one with the other, although thinking about some of the churches that I’ve been part of, that’s not necessarily the case. But, in fact, you can make that kind of presupposition.
I think in a situation in which we’re dealing not just with the ordinary routines of complex pluralistic societies, that same kind of robustness of that kind of peace I think cannot be fully attained. One cannot make that presupposition. Certainly something like civic affection binds us one to the other, and that’s why I think the shock waves of what happened on September 11 continue to ricochet and to echo, because we recognize that there is an “us”; there is a “we.”
I don’t have a car in Chicago, I’m in cabs all the time, and there is an African American cab driver that I call upon very frequently who has begun speaking of an “us.” That’s something that before September 11 I think I would have heard from him. He talks about politics all the time, and I didn’t hear that image evoked. So there is something that stretches that and binds us in a kind of civic affection.
But that stops at one point. That cannot be stretched sort of infinitely, and I think those who have violated a community in such a way that we all respond appropriately to that deep violation of the polity, the body of the polity itself, then at that point one is simply obliged to do what one can to restore the peace, the ordinary peace — the tranquilitas ordinis it is called in the tradition, the ordinary civic peace — to restore that which has been so violently assaulted and violently attacked.
The issue of formation, I’m just going to sort of note that that’s something that’s vital and that’s very interesting. But I think that you can’t say — and I know Stan isn’t suggesting this, that because we haven’t all been formed completely and robustly in the tradition, that is therefore foresworn and cannot be evoked because people haven’t been properly formed in order to act fully and completely on its principles. It strikes me as far better to see what we can do with those principles, and their availability to us and to act in a way that honors them and abides by some of the restraints of that tradition; than to say because we haven’t all been formed in the tradition, we simply can’t go that direction at all.
MS. ROGERS: Okay, thanks. I will make sure each panelist gets time to answer questions and sneak in any other comments that they would have to address one another. We are recording this session and we have mikes. I will ask that you wait till a mike gets to you and then say your name and your organizational affiliation, if any.
David Saperstein, I’ll call on you for a question first.
MR. DAVID SAPERSTEIN: This has been illuminating and I deeply appreciate it. Let me ask you to address even more directly the issue of terrorism; particularly in terms of just means. Many of the rules that you’ve discussed were created when it was state versus state, with distinct armies, with different and civilian populations. Terrorism is different in that the state sometimes gives sanction, often is complicit, often in opposition.
In terms of the civilian community, very often terrorists live within civilian communities. They look and live their lives as civilians. The civilian population may be supportive, may be complicit, may be in opposition immediately around them. Often they don’t know of the activity going on by their very neighbors, whether we’re talking about people living in cities, towns, universities, refugee camps. How do you apply the just means issues that you have been discussing here, when it talks about the use of force against targets that intentionally locate themselves in the very fabric of civilian societies?
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: Well, let me take the first cut at this. The first thing I would say is that your premise is a little wrong. You’re suggesting that this a uniquely modern problem or a uniquely contemporary problem. And, in fact, in the 10th century there was a series of church councils in the West that reiterated something that was collectively known as the Peace of God, and the immediate problem was that they were brigands who were doing terroristic kinds of things. There were using force privately, they were using force against subtle townspeople and pilgrims and peasants on the land and these sorts of people. And they were attacking them, not only for their own benefit, but also to dominate them; also to terrorize them you might say.
So the tradition that I’m talking from and that Jean is talking from has confronted this kind of stuff for a long, long time. And historically the reason why there is an effort to insist that the right to authorize force be restricted to the person or persons who are responsible for the good of the political community, that on the one hand, and the insistence that there are some people who ought not to be directly, intentionally targeted by the use of force, that, on the other hand, these are both responses to this kind of activity when it was encountered a thousand years ago.
As for how you apply the means test in the contemporary circumstance, the answer is you do it by using forces that are designedly capable of discrimination and proportionate use. You do it so as to try to avoid the kinds of very massive uses of force that tend to maximize collateral damage, unintentional, to be sure, but nonetheless unfortunate, and to be avoided if at all possible.
And so it seems to me that to talk in terms of very closely targeted bombing using precision guided munitions, if you talk in terms of the insertion of small groups of force in areas that are very heavily populated by civilians among whom the terrorists are hiding. If you talk about the use of larger, more conventional kinds of force against troops that may be guarding an area where someone, a group or a person that you are trying to get at, may be sheltered, then you’re in the ball park of the just war kind of reasoning.
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: In Vietnam Ramsey argued that the Maoist strategy that was used by the Vietcong meant that when civilians were killed, it was their fault. And I take it that that could also be transferable. The same thing about ICBMs. If you put an offensive ICBM near Moscow, when we aim at it we’re not trying to destroy the civilian population, you’re just trying to destroy the ICBM, but it’s an indirect effect. I mean, there’s something to that logic. I think Jean’s suggestion that it’s very hard to be a human being exacting that logic when you’re the soldier doing it makes it tough.
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: Let me just give a footnote to that. I think Walzer has it right when he argues that not only do you have the obligation to avoid direct intentional attacks, but you also have the obligation which comes from proportionality to try to minimize the collateral harm.
PROFESSOR ELSHTAIN: And, David, very quickly, there are a number of different kinds — you’ve really nuanced your question so there — we can imagine a number of different kinds of situations that present very different challenges. The one where you have those who intend to do harm, who are just mingling indiscriminately among a civilian population and you only know them when their horrible deeds take place; that of course presents particular kinds of challenges.
But another of the examples you offered isn’t I think as much of a challenge to the just war tradition. Namely, a regime that knowingly aids and abets and sustains those who commit terrorist activities, terrorist networks, does that, is in cahoots. At that point one doesn’t make a distinction between the regime and those who actually commit the terrorist deeds. They are all part of an entity that in fact has as its end the killing indiscriminately of civilians.
I’ve heard a few people in the aftermath of 9/11 say, “Well, you know, I wonder what their aims were.” They achieved them. The aim was to kill as many people as you possibly could. So the notion that this is within the boundary of ordinary political bargaining and discussion is preposterous. Now, the aim is to kill and that’s what happened.
MS. ROGERS: Yes, right down here please. Yes, in the black coat.
MR. JUSTIN CAPIZI: Justin Capizi, Catholic University. Two quick questions, one for Professor Johnson and one for Professor Hauerwas.
Professor Johnson, you spoke a little bit about evil, but it seemed like you were using two different important categories: evil people and evil actions. You referred to the Nazis, were they evil, and you referred to the acts of September 11th as evil. I mean does that at all complicate, you know, the capacity to say, well, I mean, they both are sort of clearly evil?
And then for Professor Hauerwas, very quickly. I didn’t get the force of the point about just cause and the Augustinian question. Because it seemed like the conclusion to draw is that the Christian community is the one that is most capable of defending itself with lethal violence. I was wondering if because they have that love for God and therefore, you know, they have kind of a, you know, monistic position. Is that what you were saying?
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: First, on evil. You remember when I brought up the Nazis, I was actually recounting a conversation that went on last night between two other people.
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: Was she from the English Department?
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: No. [Laughter.] She was actually a historian. English professors are too busy deconstructing to know what they mean.
But the general answer is you know them by their acts. So that’s the sort of language that I — when I was stating my own position, that I used. You don’t hate the people, you hate what they do. And thus we don’t have any quarrel with Afghanistan. What we have a quarrel with is Al Qaeda, with the leaders of that movement and with the Taliban leaders who are supporting it.
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: You know, the issue of intention — and I’m sure Jim agrees with this — you have to be very careful not to subjectivise intention. It’s how it’s actually embodied in the action itself that you’re really interested in. I do believe that Christians are the only people capable of knowing rightly how to use violence. Unfortunately, the God we worship won’t let us do it. So I mean it’s just that simple. Namely, the good itself, that is that we find in terms of the God we worship, then is a nonviolent God, and so we can’t use it.
MR. CAPIZI: For instance, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it seems to me, had a tradition that was very similar to what you articulated. It was, yes, we can defend ourselves when God says so, you know, with lethal force. I mean, that’s the only situation when we’ll do it. We are the people of God, and when God says, you know, “Now we must defend ourselves to the point of violence” — I mean it’s a different kind of pacifism, you know, than –
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: Oh, I agree. I mean, in Jewish tradition there’s also that position also. But the truth of the matter is I think Jehovah Witnesses have God wrong. I mean, I don’t know any other way to say it. I mean, they just have God wrong.
MS. ROGERS: The mike is right there.
MR. JAMES STANDISH: Okay, great. Well, thank you very much. This has been a very enjoyable, stimulating discussion.
My question about the just war tradition is that it sounds very good in theory. They are very good principles, but they are very malleable. When we think back to the First World War, for example, where we had very Christian nations on both sides getting their guns blessed by priests, and so forth. And my question is, can this theory actually be applied in a principled manner in a real world where people are actually being attacked and so forth? And is there a danger, in fact, in applying this principle, because it gives a sort of infallible God-sanctioned type of war? We think, for example, of the song, the old song by Bob Dylan, “With God on their side.” Does this sort of theory actually lead into that kind of mentality?
PROFESSOR ELSHTAIN: It seemed to me that in fact within the framework of this theory or this tradition, there are certain constraints and sort of brakes that are put on to guard against the very outcome that you suggest. When people within the just war tradition think back on some of the bellicosity attendant upon the first world war and the invocations of something akin to a crusade, one of the strongest arguments against crusades — which are assault without limit, sacralizing the use of violence and making it indeed a kind of normative good – are that the just war tradition is a very powerful argument against precisely that.
If you’re going to tell me that people who call themselves Christians have often behaved very badly, of course. I mean, there is no doubt about that and I think we’ve been talking at the intersection of just war and pacifism. There is also that other intersection that all three of us noted between just war and the tradition of real politique, which would say, “Well, you know, whatever violence you need to apply in order to get the job done, just do it.”
But there is also the other end of a continuum, if you have pacifism and just war, and that’s the crusading use of violence. And it seems to be one of the sturdiest available traditions that we have to guard against that, which is a tradition many of us have called upon and criticized the very things that you noted, is in fact the just war tradition and its account of restraint by — for the occasions of going to war and how war is pursued.
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: If you look back at the debates surrounding the use of force in the First World War, you don’t find any presence of just war reasoning there. One of the things that happens when you take just war thinking out of the mix is you go to the other extremes. And so what you were talking about is not the result of just war reasoning; what you’re talking about is the result of what happens when you don’t have just war reasoning.
In fact, there was a considerable period when moralists, Christian and otherwise, just completely lost track of this tradition entirely. There was a considerable amount of it present in the philosophy of international law and in the positive law of war when it began to be codified. But the philosophers and the Christian moralists weren’t doing anything about it. And it’s our mutual friend and my former mentor Paul Ramsey that started the recovery of this, and now we can — we don’t really have any excuse not to think about it now, I think.
MS. ROGERS: Can I just ask a related question in there? Does the just war tradition prescribe recommended ways for policy-makers to check their policy as they go? I mean, is there a recommended sort of procedure of discussing whether one is holding to the just war tradition as one moves forward, and whether one is checking — a lot of these deal with motives. You know, motives that one shouldn’t have. How does one try to check these with policy makers, and is there any recommended process or some process that’s happened in the past that’s defined; as opposed to just societal criticism of such?
PROFESSOR ELSHTAIN: Well, Melissa, you don’t have anything obvious here like a checklist, you know where you say, “I am or I’m not following it.” But certainly as a set of — shall we call them roughly very solemn guidelines, I mean one is obliged to ask within the just war tradition — which makes this issue a very complicated tradition within the framework of ethical and moral philosophy.
It’s not a consequentionalist theory, but you’re obliged to think about potential consequences and to think about whether — what the probability is that a world after the limited and discriminate use of force, whether that world will be a more just world and more peaceful world than the world as we now know it, or a world without some response to what’s already happened that would occasion the just use of force.
So that you’re always having to deal with — it’s a very solemn responsibility to deal ongoingingly with possible outcomes and possible consequences and to think about those in a way that put some of these ethical kinds of foregrounds, some of these ethical kinds of constraints and concerns. But, you know, it would be a very daunting challenge, or it is indeed one to attempt to stay within the framework that we’re here talking about. I think it would be too much to expect that any policy-maker could do this certainly at this point in time, probably any time, when you come right down to it, could do it perfectly.
But I completely agree with Jim. It’s much better to have this discourse and to have people lifting it up, paying attention to it, debating it, than not to have it; because then you are more likely without it to precisely fall into the limitlessness attendant upon either a certain version of a realist tradition or a certain variant on a kind of sacralization of nation state violence. And I think both of those are, well, outcomes that one wouldn’t want to endorse and doesn’t like to contemplate.
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: I just want to respond very quickly to that. There was once several years ago a guy in HEW called me up and said, “We’re considering this policy and I need to ask an ethicist whether it’s consistent with Rawls’ maximin principle. I thought, “Oh Jesus, have we created this?” And I think if you think that it’s a set of ticks that you look at, it’s just a mistake. And what you have to see is the just war tradition works within a sea of an understanding of an ethics virtue. And that’s very important because, as Jim reminds us, the ruler should have the virtue of patience. Patience is absolutely crucial and therefore you have to absorb often times much wrong, rather than repaying in this way. And so these are — just war is sets of skills for frenetic judgments, I think, rather than just ticking off whether everything fits in that way.
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: Melissa, I take it your question had to do with the question of institutionalization. And I was reflecting as others were talking that there is a requirement in the U.S. military that the judge advocate general’s office review all new weapons proposals to determine whether they’re lawful by the law of war and by U.S. law. There isn’t any similar requirement that the chaplain corps do the same thing for the morality or that there be a corps of ethicists to do this. If there were, it would be something like what we have in the field of health research where there are, in fact, ethics panels that have to review proposals as they come forward and offer their guidance and sometimes have to approve it or else you don’t go forward with it.
The institutionalization is different with just war. We’re in the middle of an example of it right now. This is the way that the debate gets carried forward and the concerns get expressed. I know Jean and I, and maybe Stanley, too, have been involved in discussions and think tanks here in this city and in other places and with people who were policy folks under the former administration and now are out of work, but are going to be policy folks in the next administration, and so forth. By carrying on this kind of a dialogue, we make people conscious of this level of concern. And it’s just extraordinarily present in the U.S. military.
MR. KEITH PAVLISCHEK: Jim mentioned his colleague at Rutgers and her hesitancy about mentioning evil. But I wonder if it just is limited, you know, this sort of thing is just limited to English professors or history professors.
A mutual friend of ours, Gil Meilaender, wrote an article in the most recent “Christian Century” which he begins by deploring the very disappointing, and I would probably say pathetic, way in which this has been discussed among ethicists, ecclesiastical authorities. And he was particularly pointing his finger at the mainline. And, you know, the moral symmetry, the talk of reconciliation and forgiveness apart from the notions of justice.
I’d like you to address whether you think Gil’s statement is an accurate assessment of the guild of ecclesiastical statements on this kind of thing? And what is the source of the rot, if so? And then I think we’d be remiss if we didn’t give Stanley a chance to respond to sort of the classic response to pacifism, [which] is that were we all to become pacifists, attacks on the innocents would continue and may result in even a worse situation, tyranny. And I think there’s a certain type of pacifist response to that classical pacifism, the kind you find in the Schlittime articles that says, “Well, we just don’t do that, but that’s what civil authorities — they need to kill and punish the evil. It’s just not us Christians.” And I wonder if that’s a reasonable response or, if not, how do you typically respond to that kind of question?
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: Well, I don’t think that’s a completely accurate account of Schlittime. But my response is that as a person committed to non-violence, I want to work as had as I can to have a social order in which those who are called to the police function do not have to bear weapons. And so I want to do everything possible I can to enter into the creation of more nearly just societies in which it might even be possible for Christians to be called to the police function, exactly because — I mean, remember the police function is the function under law that is not about killing; it’s about preventing the possibilities of the necessities people feel for killing.
Of course sociopaths exist, but there are ways as a matter of fact to deal with sociopaths. The police, who I admire deeply, do all the time know how to deal with sociopaths in a manner that is without killing them. Now, I’m not going to say that you’re not going to get into some hard cases. But, Keith, there’s no difference between a person committed to non-violence and a person committed to just war. It’s going to get into hard cases. And I’m obviously committed to trying to work within a social order to make violence less likely.
PROFESSOR ELSHTAIN: Keith, I think that you have really raised in reminding us of Gil Milander’s editorial, which raised the question of formation within — which Stan raised originally within the framework of the Christian ministry and the pastorate and the kinds of training that goes on in our seminaries, and so on. And I think there is a problem. I think that the lamentation, the entirely correct one that Jim offered up about the impoverished response of many in the Christian communities, the moral leaders and the moral philosophers at the time of World War I that just created this space that a kind of bellicose crusading mentality just flowed in take over, that they bore some responsibility for that outcome.
I’ve been struck by some of the very inadequate responses that have come to my attention from the pulpit. In one church service, the person preaching on the Sunday after 9/11 said, “Well, it’s been a terrible week, I know that. But that’s no reason for any of you to lose sight of your individual dreams.”
And then he went on to talk about how we have to hold on to our individuality. And I thought, you know, this shows you what happens when psychobabble substitutes for thinking. And that comes out of some place. I think that the emphasis in many of our seminaries, and so on, has been pastoral counseling. We’ve got to figure out how to hold people’s hands and be nice to them. I mean, I don’t mean you should run around and be mean to — everyone who knows me knows I’m a nice person – I don’t want people to be mean to one another. But for heaven’s sake. I think that we have to find a way to be able to respond to these horrible events and respond in a way that has some authenticity, some robustness, some seriousness, that can conjure with what people are feeling and how deeply they’re feeling it. And I think it’s an intellectual vacuum and that we really need to take stock, certainly within the community, the mainline community of the United States, of whether or not young people going out to occupy the pulpits are being formed in a robust and rigorous way so they understand the complexity of some of the traditions that are supposed to be their traditions.
You know, when Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whom I lifted up, was here in the United States in the 1930s, and you know he left the safety of Union Theological to go back to Germany and met his fate, hanged by the Gestapo for his activity in the anti-Nazi conspiracy, he was already complaining about what he took to be a kind of intellectual slackness that was going on in seminary and theological training in the United States. I think it’s a very serious problem, and I think we’re seeing some of the effects of that in some of what we’ve been hearing from the pulpit, which has just not being able to come to grips with the scope, the reality, the seriousness of what’s happened and how we have to think deeply about our response.
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: Yeah, but I want to say to that — I mean, no one is more critical of the liberal sentimental shit that passes muster as Christianity today. But the reason that it passes muster as Christianity is because the Protestant Church has lot any hold in Christology and they’re scared to death of it. And the other side of that is the church’s absolute capitulation to the identification of God and country, because the sentimentality that on one side gives you this stuff about, you know, “We want easy reconciliation” and the way the truth doesn’t matter, turns out to be on the other side saying, “Ah ha, then that means God and country are co-evil” — I mean co-equal.
PROFESSOR ELSHTAIN: Co-evil too.
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: And I think where you have the Color Guard at Saint Pat’s walk down the aisle at the start of the memorial mass should not happen. Should not happen. I mean, that is not Christianity.
MR. HILLEL FRADKIN: I wanted to return a little bit to David Saperstein’s question about this situation which combatants hide among non-combatants, because — and I have a feeling — though I don’t know that he raised it, because initially James suggested that this would be very different from Vietnam. In that situation it seems to me it’s quite likely to be the opposite: that it will be very — we will be presented with many circumstances in which it will be hard to discriminate between combatants and non-combatants.
The reply I think all of you gave, as I understood it, was that what’s called for in that situation is very discriminating forces. So that seems to me something like what — if rumors and newspaper stories are believed, what we’re going about; just insert Green Berets, Seals and so forth. Now, I think it likely that the administration is doing that at least partially because it doesn’t want to harm non-combatants. But it’s also doing it because it thinks that it will work best. If it doesn’t work best, where does just war theory take you after that situation?
MS. ROGERS: Thank you for that question. That’s going to have to be the last question since our panelists need to take off. But I’ll let each of you respond.
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: And notice how they’re kicking it to me.
PROFESSOR ELSHTAIN: You didn’t get a chance to attack the last question, so it’s yours.
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: Okay, it’s just all fair. Well –
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: I was watching the Today show this morning briefly before I left home to come down here, and General McCaffrey was on. He’s a consultant for the Today show and was talking about thinking in terms of the three year campaign.
My first answer to what you just said is, well, it’s going to take a while to find out if it works or not. I myself have a very high confidence that it will work, and in fact will work better the more time goes on, because intelligence will develop better as time goes on. But the answers really depend on what the eventualities are. I can’t foretell how that’s going to be. One of the things that you would expect would happen from the application of force appears, if The New York Times yesterday is correct, already to have begun happening. That is, the Taliban is beginning to fragment because of interests that drew it together in the first place not being there any more, or being negated and switched around in the other direction and a lot of other reasons as well.
The end result might very well be, for example, that important groups of terrorists effectively go to the mountains or, you know, consolidate in a particular place and then a more indiscriminate, more destructive means of force might be appropriate there. But the short answer is that I think that what appears to be contemplated now is the right answer, and over the long run I don’t know what the answer is.
MS. ROGERS: Thank you so much and I’m sorry that we’re out of time today. Thank you to each of you for coming today. I’d like to thank our speakers.
I’d just also like to — E.J. Dionne walked in. I don’t know where he is now, but he raised his hand.
PROFESSOR ELSHTAIN: His phone was ringing.
MS. ROGERS: His phone rang, okay. And thanks to the Forum staff for making this come together. Staci Simmons, Amy Sullivan, Kirsten Hunter, Brett Swearingen, and Kayla Drogosz. Thank you so much for your help and for your putting together this event today. Thanks a lot.
[END OF EVENT.]