Sunday, September 08, 2013

How Great a Struggle

Memorial of Saint Peter Claver, Priest
For I want you to know how great a struggle I am having for you and for those in Laodicea and all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged as they are brought together in love, to have all the richness of assured understanding, for the knowledge of the mystery of God, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  Colossians 2:1-3
Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?”  Looking around at them all, he then said to him, “Stretch out your hand.”  He did so and his hand was restored.  But they became enraged and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.  Luke 6:9-11
Father, let our souls rest in you because our minds are troubled by the vexing decisions of today.  You are the source of hope.  Help us to trust in you at this time when once again, the hammers are being forged for war.  Pour out your heart so that we can choose to give peace a chance. 
Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the LORD intends?
How great a struggle we continue to have over the first commandment.  Plus, we continue to ask, “Is it lawful to do evil to achieve good?”
Some people say there is no such thing as a "just war."  War is just...well...war. As we come away from the weekend of fasting and prayer for peace, let's remind ourselves of the four conditions of a just war in Catholic Doctrine (Jus Ad Bellum).  The current Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 2309) defines the four conditions for determining the justice of a war as:

  1. The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
  2. All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
  3. There must be serious prospects of success;
  4. The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.  For example, this includes factors like proportionality and immunity for non-combatants.  Proportionality means that the strike “back” cannot be more damaging than the original attack.

According to an article by Michelle Maiese: 
No individual can justly be attacked unless he has, through his own action, surrendered or lost his basic human rights.  However, because individuals with combatant status forfeit some of these basic rights when they become soldiers, their death can be morally justified. Civilians, on the other hand, have not forfeited these rights, and are never permissible targets of war. Houses, places of worship, and schools should be immune from attack as well. Thus, the principle of non-combatant immunity suggests that war is a fight between combatants, and that only military objectives are legitimate targets of attack. Many believe that noncombatants may never be subject to direct, intentional attack, even if one is fighting on the just side of the war. (Emphasis added.)
Further, she goes on to explain:
The principle of proportionality deals with what kind of force is morally permissible in warfare. It suggests that the injury caused should be proportional to the objective desired, and that the extent and violence of warfare must be tempered to minimize destruction and casualties. Restriction of means aims to protect all involved from unnecessary suffering, to safeguard human rights and to "restrict the amount of damage likely to be long-term extending beyond the period of hostilities."
These are hard conditions to fulfill; the Church teaches that war should always be the last resort if ALL of these factors are met.  I ask you: can all of these be met by the kind of action being proposed in Syria?
I have no knowledge of what the intelligence will reveal.  I have no knowledge of the battle plan but with the most powerful military in the world, let’s assume it will be swift, efficient, and effective.  Even in the “best case scenario,” can all conditions be met? 
My concern focuses on conditions two and three and four.  The use of chemical weapons by Syria on its own citizens is reprehensible.  If the evidence shows that occurred, this clearly meets condition of factor one -- once the evidence is shared with the international community. 
But have all the other means be exhausted?  The Pope, Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) and others are urging negotiations.  The United Nations – the forum established for airing out such grievances – has yet to share details of what its inspectors found.  Even a threatened veto by certain members of the Security Council should not be used to short circuit that forum before moving to other options.
Can there be reasonable prospects for success or are there plausible scenarios in which we can see the action spiraling out of control perhaps even involving counter-attacks on Turkey or Lebanon or Israel or prompting Syrian allies like Russia or Iran to get involved.
Even if the counter attack only concentrates on military targets, can we be assured that non-combatant civilians will not become “collateral damage?”  Even if we don’t miss the targets, what if Syria uses its citizens as “human shields: a concept also used elsewhere? 
Before I entirely DISMISS the war option, let’s imagine that it occurs exactly as planned.  At some point, to end the war and bury the hatchet, there will be “peace talks.”  Growing up – before I knew exactly what they meant – I heard news of the Paris Peace Talks which brought an end to the Viet Nam War.  Sometimes wars end in surrender and then we must figure out how to go forward after Yorktown or Appomattox.  Or after decades of apartheid and violence in South Africa, a Peace and Reconciliation Commission sought the means to bring the sides back together as citizens of the same nation.  The late Richard Holbrook was the master diplomat behind the Dayton Peace Accord which provided a framework agreement for peace to end the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 
If peace talks are threshold that we must cross to get to the real end game, I have a modern-day modest proposal – apologies to Jonathan Swift.  Let’s SKIP THE WAR.  Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200.  Go directly to the peace talks.
This is NOT a utopian view.  Think about the change effected by the Solidarity Trade Union in Poland.  Without buying any bullets, they brought down the communist regime there and paved the way for the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening of Eastern Europe.  Peace without war can happen.  It has happened in our lifetime.
As Rich Rubenstein has noted:  Peace is the goal in Syria, which, heaven knows, deserves security, prosperity, and freedom after losing more than 100,000 of its people in an atrocious civil conflict. Peace is not an impossible dream, if all parties concerned determine that serious peace talks must be attempted before any new attacks on the Syrian regime are launched. We can still remedy the tragic flaw in American foreign policy by insisting that peace is the means as well as the end, and that no military action can ever be considered a last resort without going all out for conflict resolution.”
If you agree to skip the WAR and go directly to PEACE, let your member of Congress know.  If you are a practical Catholic, concentrate on convincing the Catholics in Congress to share this viewpoint.  Where I live, one senator (Tim Kaine) and the member from my home district (Gerry Connolly) are both Catholics.  Let’s urge them and all of our legislators – Catholic or not -- to exhibit a consistent ethic of life.  They are part of the second largest religious block on the Hill:  163 out of 535 members of Congress are Catholic. The full breakdown is here.
Let’s ask them to make a decision based on a seamless adherence to principles of that uphold and support life – principles that go beyond party and politics.  Ignore Lenin and focus on Lennon, great poet-philosopher of our day who urges us from beyond to “Give Peace a Chance.”
Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the LORD intends?  For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans.  For the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns.  And scarce do we guess the things on earth, and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty; but when things are in heaven, who can search them out?  Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high?  And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight.  Wisdom 9:13-18

No comments: