Thursday, October 20, 2005

GBCS -- Why should we leave?

Apparently, the General Board of Church and Society has decided that withdrawal of American troops from Iraq is a good idea. Don't get me wrong -- I'm an eschatological pacifist, I'm never in favor of war, but as a trained historian, I'm not sure the GBCS's reasoning is entirely appropriate. Politically expedient? Sure. In keeping with American patriotic ideals? Certainly. Cognizant of the real, long term implications for Iraqis? I'm not so sure.

This particular proposal is not so bad -- and grows out of a sense that the Iraqi people both can and should be trusted with increased responsibility for their own stability. However, the GBCS's reasoning for the withdrawal -- the tired list of inaccurate reasons for entering the war in the first place, defies what I learned about the use of just war criterion. It seems that because American intelligence proved wrong, and the primary reasons presented to the American people for removing the Ba'athist regime proved unsubstantiated, that proves that the war is unjust and should be ended for that reason.

Hold on -- isn't just war theory supposed to critique the prosecution and resolution of war, just as much as determining the criterion for going to war in the first place? Aren't the methods of warfare used, and the long-term benefits to be measured as well? As John at Locusts and Honey cited James Lileks:
On one level, you can’t be in favor of the Iraqi vote and opposed to the war. On another level, you can, but it’s a happy chocolate land where the fountains spout fudge and the bunnies are edible and Saddam relinquishes power, ashamed, because Kofi Annan drafted a stern letter promising Serious Consequences, and some Iraqi Gandhi not only showed he was morally superior to the Tikriti gang, but had a titanium-hulled body that made him impervious to torture shredders. And then the Baathists devolved and the Rotarians took over.
I'd like to offer an alternative -- you can be in favor of Iraqi voting, and be against this war as well -- if you're against all war and simply see this as one of the not-so-bad things that comes out of all the coercion, oppression, and force used by government. This applies to what good comes out of any government -- all of which coercively extract taxes from their citizens, all of which coercively restrict freedom for the maintenance of civil society, and all of which inflict punnishments on the guilty (and too often on the innocent) to control people.

The GBCS wants American troops to leave Iraq because according to a certain set of criteria the war should never have happened. Simultaneously, they're using that reasoning to support a good proposal for withdrawal (in geopolitical terms), that recognizes the time has come to begin withdrawal because it would increase Iraqi responsibility without destabilizing the country and thus threatening its citizens. Maybe the GBCS needs to hire some new ethicists to write their position papers -- Congress has made a better just-war argument for withdrawal than they have... and they're stuck complaining about the sins now banished to the irreperable past.


John said...

What's an 'eschatological pacifist'?

David said...

I'd identify with the pacifism of the anabaptist tradition, focused on living out the values of the coming Kingdom of God in the world as a sign of things to come, as opposed to the pacifism of Quakers or late 19th and 20th century Christian liberals. Hauerwas, John Howard Yoder and James William McClendon have been influential advocates of this form of pacifism for me. Stanley Hauerwas, and perhaps others, have used the term "eschatological pacifism," and I find it a useful shorthand.

jean said...

Thanks for your comment on my blog.

I am not an eschatological pacifist, or any other kind. I think anyone who advocates withdrawing from Iraq NOW, when they are on the verge of success in forming a parliamentary government, is playing into the hands of the terrorists, and flirting with snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

David said...

Jean, if I read this particular proposal correctly, withdrawal should begin within 1 year -- with no specific timeframe for completion. Practically, I think your resoning is exactly right (Congress seems to get that -- marvel of marvels -- while the GBCS doesn't), I just wouldn't support this or any war on moral grounds.