May 23, 2011

AND IF WE'D HELLFIRED EVERYONE IN THE HOUSE IT WOULD BE DEEMED NORMAL WARFARE:

Killing bin Laden, Executing Justice (George Weigel, 5/19/11, Catholic Exchange)

What the death of bin Laden did demonstrate unmistakably is just how poorly many religious leaders and religious intellectuals think about the new kind of war in which we have been engaged for more than a decade and a half (although most of us only recognized that after 9/11). Which is to say, the death of Osama bin Laden demonstrated yet again how badly the just war tradition has been received by the men and women who are supposed to be its intellectual custodians.

Thus from some religious quarters came laments, not over the ongoing damage that bin Laden’s evil network causes, but over the fact that he was killed and the method used to kill him. It seemed as if, at various divinity schools, bin Laden was a gangster writ large who ought to have been dealt with by law enforcement agencies and methods and, after apprehension, read his Miranda rights and given a trial by a jury of his peers.

This is nonsense, and dangerous nonsense at that. As I told one reporter, attempts to portray what happened to bin Laden in Pakistan as the equivalent of the Chicago police department breaking into a Milwaukee crack house and gunning down a crack-cocaine dealer are preposterous; they completely misconstrue the nature of the conflict between bin Laden and the United States since the mid-1990s.

To say it yet again: in dealing with the bin Ladens of this world, we are engaging in war, not police work; and the relevant moral standards are those derived from the just war tradition, not from the U.S. Criminal Code as interpreted by the Warren Court.

As usual, Rutgers University’s James Turner Johnson got it exactly right: bin Laden’s death was “an execution of justice, plain and simple, carried out under the authority of the one who can properly use bellum (war) in the service of good.”

And why is it important to grasp this? Because if soft-minded and ill-informed religious leaders and intellectuals succeed in gutting the just war tradition and loosening our public culture’s grasp on it, the only alternative will be a raw pragmatism that justifies any end and any means.


Posted by at May 23, 2011 5:38 AM
  

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