Mormonism and War

March 18, 2007 | 220 comments
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Tomorrow will mark the fourth anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq. Several bloggers have acknowledged that anniversary this month by responding to a challenge: link to whatever you wrote about the war in March 2003, and explain what, if anything, you were wrong about. I have put up my own response here. But for Times and Seasons, I want to reprint something else I wrote, just under four years ago: a post inspired by President Gordon B. Hinckley’s April 2003 General Conference address, “War and Peace”.

The original post, which I wrote with a non-Mormon audience in mind (the Bloggernacle didn’t exist in early 2003), is here. What follows is a slightly redacted version of the original. I interpreted President Hinckley’s sermon as a fairly obvious statement in support of the Iraq war, and wrote my post accordingly. I still think that interpretation is correct–and given that I have come to believe I was wrong to support the war, and thus look back on my writings from early 2003 with some chagrin, I can’t help but wonder if President Hinckley himself may have, over the past four years, looked back at his sermon, and done some reconsidering himself. Then again, maybe that reads too much of my own preoccupations into President Hinckley’s words.

Anyway, consider this an opportunity to revisit what are, to some of us, some pretty old arguments, as well as to think about what President Hinckley says, and what the scriptures say, regarding this war, and war in general. And hey–play nice.

*****

This past Sunday morning General Conference session, President Hinckley gave a talk titled “War and Peace,” with explicit reference to Iraq. Since the church president doesn’t often speak on topical matters, and even more rarely on ones which are profoundly divisive with the church as a whole, this was a closely watched–and subsequently much discussed–address.

The majority of his sermon made use of powerful, traditional themes of spiritual consolation which, I would hope, resonate with the longings of any Christian. “Even when the armaments of war ring out in deathly serenade and darkness and hatred reign in the hearts of some,” Hinckley said at the conclusion of his sermon, “there stands immovable, reassuring, comforting, and with great outreaching love the quiet figure of the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world. We can proclaim with Paul: ‘For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:38–39).” As that is one of my favorite lines of scripture, I took particular comfort from hearing the man I accept as a prophet of God to end his counsel to a world at war with it. But most of the debate which his sermon gave rise to didn’t result from his use of such themes; rather, it has focused on his statements on Iraq in particular, and what Mormons should or may think of a war such as this one. I want to focus on two passages from his sermon in particular: the idea of intervening–that is, making war–on behalf of liberal ideals, and the necessity of doing so anti-imperialistically. But first, a little background.

Mormonism has never been a clearly pacifist movement, though there are threads of Christian pacifism which can discerned throughout our scriptures (particularly in certain passages of the Book of Mormon) and history. But when the church began in the 1830s in New York and Ohio it fairly quickly encountered a good deal of sectarian hostility and violence, culminating in the murder of Joseph Smith in 1844. Even after departing to the Utah Territory the church continued to suffer abuse and harassment, this time mostly at the hands of federal authorities committed to stamping out the Mormon practice of polygamy (and, more broadly, to challenge the church’s theocratic authority over a large tract of mostly empty land, which in itself arguably led in at least a few tragic cases to a fair amount of internal violence). All this conflict left a mark on the church (and the country as well). So, rather than pacifism, what you find throughout early Mormon documents is a fair amount of antinomian thought: a waiting for the end of the world, in which the wicked oppressors of the church would receive their just reward at the hands of God. Until that day, members of the church were to defend themselves against their enemies, but according to God’s laws, not civil ones.

So, for instance, one can find in the Doctrine and Covenants a passage which apparently binds the church to renouncing war and bearing patiently any violence against ourselves or our families, at least up until the third offense; after that, if one’s enemy has been properly warned and comes yet once more against you, then “thine enemy is in thine hands.” This passage, and other similar to it, have been used to argue for the existence of a kind of revelatory “just war” doctrine in the Mormon tradition; one which conditions going to war on God’s explicit command, on having made peace overtures, and having already suffered violence without making a response, so as to make certain that we are not the aggressors (aggressive war is even more emphatically denounced throughout Mormon scriptures). At least one Mormon organization has made this argument explicitly, denouncing the war in Iraq as unjust and “grossly immoral” exactly because it fails to meet this scriptural standard.

President Hinckley did not mention any of the aforementioned scriptures in his sermon. Some members of the church have taken that to be plain evidence that he did not intend to expound doctrine, but rather was only giving his personal opinion. I won’t go into that hermeneutical debate here. What I can say is that, opinion or otherwise, Hinckley presented clear, if qualified, support for the war in Iraq, recognizing at the same time that there are and will continue to be broad disagreements, both within and between the various national bodies which members worldwide reside in, over the war; this is to be expected, since as he put it, “as citizens we are all under the direction of our respective national leaders.” (This, of course, may well be the reason that Hinckley found little guidance from the 19th-century revelations cited above; they clearly address the Mormon church as a more or less sovereign people, and since that, for good or ill, hasn’t been even metaphorically true for well over a century, perhaps it is reasonable that those statements should be ignored.) Furthermore, Hinckley was especially careful to emphasize that those members of the church who support the war do not (and must not) assume that the policies presently being pursued by the coalition forces endorse a general war against Islam or any particular Muslim people; also, he clearly stated that dissent was both a right and a privilege in democratic societies and should be exercised (though he drew the line at “legal” dissent, however one chooses to interpret that).

The crucial political passage, however, was when he spoke of an “overriding responsibility” we have, as a “freedom-loving people” (referring presumably to members of the church, though it would be duplicitous to deny that Hinckley obviously had his own life experience as an American in mind here) to “fight for family, for liberty, and against tyranny, threat, and oppression.” The scriptures he cited at this point are notorious ones in the church (or at least notorious for those of us who dislike the spin often put on them by the mostly conservative American church membership): passages from the Book of Mormon which speak of rallying to the cause of the “title of liberty,” and of God lending His blessing to those who go to war “inspired by a better cause” rather than simply fighting on behalf of “power.” If this sounds like a certain kind of humble, Gladstonian, liberal interventionist position….well, good, it sounds like that to me as well. Not that Hinckley ever described such wars as “good” causes–only that “there are times and circumstances when nations are justified, in fact have an obligation, to fight.” (The existence of an obligation, it should go without saying, does not in itself transform an act into something good.) The fact that he spoke of this moral cause as necessarily qualified by “times and circumstances” allows a tremendous amount of debate into this “doctrine,” if it is such. Indeed, the matter of “cause” may be easily and often subject to abuse–especially given that “liberty” need not and should not always mean the same thing to all people, thus requiring any such announced “cause” itself, and not merely the circumstances of making war on its behalf, be subject to consideration and critique. But nonetheless, President Hinckley’s statements do give us Mormons, I think, an entrance to productive thinking about how to support this war, as well as about just war principles–something which, as the church spreads, I believe we will increasingly have to engage in.

One last point. President Hinckley, in a fascinating passage near the beginning of his sermon, after describing war as one of Satan’s tools, mourned the way we “are prone to glorify the great empires of the past,” including “the vast British empire.” That rhetorical choice didn’t seem to make sense to me at first: if he wanted to talk about the evils of war, he could have easily talked about how we glorify armies, soldiers, weapons; how we make a big deal out of military heroism and get our blood up when we see scenes of war. But he didn’t; instead, he spoke of how imperial ambitions lead to “brutal conquest,” “subjugation,” “repression, and an astronomical cost in life and treasure.” (That “life and treasure” bit in particular has an almost 19th-century, anti-imperialist ring to it.) So clearly he didn’t simply want to condemn warfare; instead, he wanted to rebuke certain causes to which warfare is put. I don’t know how well-read a man President Hinckley is, but there’s no way any halfway informed American citizen (and by this I mean someone who reads Time magazine) can be unaware of the vaguely imperial language which has surrounded much of the planning and execution of this war: neoconservative “democratic imperialism” and so forth. I can’t help but feel that President Hinckley included this passage in his sermon because he wanted to underscore the care which must attend any attempt to tease out a Mormon position on war on the simple basis of “cause.” That he believes we are sometimes “obliged” to do so is apparent; that it is also a dangerous thing to do, a thing which invites triumphalism, is equally apparent.

I really don’t know what Hinckley imagines should or must happen in Iraq, but I came away from his sermon with two convictions. First, that it is justifiable, sometimes, with full consciousness of the sin invariably involved, to fight even a faraway war for a good (i.e., liberal, freedom-loving, rights-defending) cause. And second, that those who let the cause go to their heads, who flirt even distantly with the idea of using power to remake the world, have in fact left the cause behind: they have become advocates of empire, and the prophet of the Mormon church has little sympathy, historical or otherwise, with them. I am grateful that in my writings on the war I have always made it clear that I don’t think being willing to fight on behalf of liberal causes need be the same thing as defending a kind of “liberal imperialism”; still, I feel the sting of Hinckley’s reproach. What the prophet has to say to all Mormons, I think, is that we’re playing with fire here–indeed, we’re all in the fire, all us mortals–and just because we may not see our way clear to transcending it doesn’t mean we are free from watching carefully how we use it, or how it may be used (or abused) in a good cause’s name.

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220 Responses to Mormonism and War

  1. Hellmut on March 19, 2007 at 12:29 am

    Congratulations on reconsidering your opinion, Russell. That takes a big man. I happened to be against the war because it was clear to me that the Bushies were going to biff it. There was never much of a chance of success. It would have required an extraordinarily focussed effort and that’s not W’s strength.

    I wish I had been wrong. Sometimes being right is not all that satisfying.

    Anyways, somebody in the Republican party ought to praise Brent Scowcroft who predicted the difficulties with perfect accuracy. And Zbigniew Brzezinski’s book Second Chance is excellent.

    Finally, here is a fun tidbit: Mormons in Germany reportedly interpreted Hinckley’s remarks as anti-war. The German members have strong pacifist leanings. I guess many could not imagine that the prophet would disagree with them.

  2. Ronan on March 19, 2007 at 5:09 am

    Excellent post, Russell.

    Hellmut, there’s a whole study to be done here. Hinckley’s sermon is arguably the most important in years and reaction to it is fascinating. I know my heart sank when I heard it; I don’t know what rung in German ears, but the fact that it represented qualified support for the war was obvious to me. Perhaps the translator changed it?!

    One can only imagine how it would have played out among Mormon conservatives had he denounced the effort unequivocally. Anyway, the point is that you could take this talk and write about fifty papers based on it.

  3. Guy Murray on March 19, 2007 at 7:55 am

    Russell, great post. A few passages jump out at me from Pres. Hinckley\’s April, 2003 address:

    But as citizens we are all under the direction of our respective national leaders. They have access to greater political and military intelligence than do the people generally. Those in the armed services are under obligation to their respective governments to execute the will of the sovereign. When they joined the military service, they entered into a contract by which they are presently bound and to which they have dutifully responded.

    I think Pres. Hinckley here is clearly indicating his reliance on secular governments to do that which they were supposed to do, i.e., protect their citizens, based on good political and military intelligence. We now know the U.S. Government did not do this, and in fact likely did the exact opposite, i.e., hype the intelligence to justify the war. I would be curious to hear President Hinckley\’s follow up now. I think he is also allowing those in the military a moral justification for that which was to come, and to exonerate them from the blood that was to be shed. Conversely, I think the argument can be made that the respective governments (or the individuals in governing positions) involved can and will be held accountable some day.

    The other:

    In a democracy we can renounce war and proclaim peace. There is opportunity for dissent. Many have been speaking out and doing so emphatically. That is their privilege. That is their right, so long as they do so legally. However, we all must also be mindful of another overriding responsibility, which I may add, governs my personal feelings and dictates my personal loyalties in the present situation.

    Here I think President Hinckely clearly states he is speaking personally here. He is and was giving his personal opinion, and outlining why he personally is going to support this war (at least at that stage). He also leaves open the possibility for others to take opposing positions, particularly in our own country, as long as we do so legally and responsibly. His reference as well to the Church being a world Church and that differences exist suggest to me he was not speaking as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator for the entire Church and stating that the Church as a Church supported this war. Rather, he personally was outlining the reasons he was supporting such an effort.

    And even one more:

    Now, there is much that we can and must do in these perilous times. We can give our opinions on the merits of the situation as we see it, but never let us become a party to words or works of evil concerning our brothers and sisters in various nations on one side or the other. Political differences never justify hatred or ill will. I hope that the Lord’s people may be at peace one with another during times of trouble, regardless of what loyalties they may have to different governments or parties.

    Still more language allowing for the possible differences of opinions of the Saints around the world who would and did take different positions. He clearly is allowing for political differences in what clearly was and continues to be a poorly justified \”political\” and earthly war.

  4. Jonathan Green on March 19, 2007 at 8:42 am

    While reading the talk as anti-war requires a bit of willful interpretation, what’s so fascinating is that the talk seems to take pains to make a willful reading so easy. If a text invites a misreading, is it really a misreading? The rhetoric that Hickley employed is measured in comparison to his statements about prior military actions, if memory serves. He not only disavows some of the more heated pro-war rhetoric of the time with reference to Islam, but also explicitly legitimizes democratic protest and reiterates the Church’s general commitment to peace. The talk dwells at length on the necessity of soldiers to do as they are ordered but hedges its bets on the justice of the cause itself. The opening is instructive, as it talks about the local and personal costs of war without making the dead soldier into a fallen hero. Yes, there are a few passages where the willful reading gets tricky, but the talk seems intent on closing the gap between a pro-war and an anti-war interpretation so that readers who want to read an anti-war message into it will have little problem making the leap.

    As for the German interpretation, I have no first-hand knowledge and the translation looks pretty much OK to me. That being said, nearly all Germans have fathers or grandfathers or uncles who died following the orders of an evil empire, and discussions of the war and memorials to the soldiers take pains to honor the sacrifices of the fallen without giving the cause any legitimacy. Perhaps this rhetorical stance has become so common that discussing the human costs of war, as in the talk’s opening paragraph, is understood to go hand in hand with a rejection of the war’s stated aims.

  5. Chris Grant on March 19, 2007 at 9:32 am

    Hellmut wrote: “Finally, here is a fun tidbit: Mormons in Germany reportedly interpreted Hinckley’s remarks as anti-war.

    There are roughly 40,000 Mormons in Germany. Which ones are you talking about, and how did you ascertain their opinions?

  6. Dan on March 19, 2007 at 9:56 am

    On that evening, four years ago, I was having FHE with members of the Longfellow Ward who lived in the Providence area. There were about five of us. We were at one of the members’ home, having a great time, playing a game (I forget which right now). That evening was when Bush was to announce to the world that the war had begun. The member (who I will not name) wanted to turn on to hear his announcement. I pleaded with him not to turn it on, or it would ruin the evening, and I would leave. He turned the radio on. I left. I never spoke to him again. I never felt worse about my nation, about my fellow Mormons (who generally speaking so strongly backed this foolish war) than on that night. What a horrible thing we did. And so many Americans still don’t understand the evil behind that action.

    I think Guy Murray quoted the most important part of President Hinckley’s War and Peace talk, which I will quote again here:

    But as citizens we are all under the direction of our respective national leaders. They have access to greater political and military intelligence than do the people generally.

    President Hinckley assumed, wrongly unfortunately, that our governmental leaders, having access to “greater political and military intelligence than do the people generally” would somehow use that information righteously. That’s a bad assumption to make about the government, President Hinckley. It doesn’t fit with what had come out before the war regarding Iraq. Take Colin Powell in February 2001 stating the following:

    We had a good discussion, the Foreign Minister and I and the President and I, had a good discussion about the nature of the sanctions–the fact that the sanctions exist– not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein’s ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.

    I really do wonder if President Hinckley got a chance to hear Colin Powell say this. There was quite a lot of rhetoric before the war, and I fear this kind of comment was drowned out by all the fear-mongering.

    I’m glad that most Americans have seen the truth, but alas, I’m afraid we have not learned our lesson enough yet.

  7. quandmeme on March 19, 2007 at 10:04 am

    I, too, was against the war and heard the talk at the time as an exposition of the principles underlying why the second invasion was different than the first. A friend of mine who got the opposite message from the talk listened to it for the first time in a congregation in Norway. He remembers that at the end of the session both he and his Norwegian friend rushed to tell each other “see, I told you I was right” each having heard exactly what he wanted to hear (I believe psychologists call this “normalizing”).
    Since that initial hearing I have come to see how other hearers could have gotten the pro-invasion message from it. So, in other doctrines, say tithing, we understand there are various interpretations of the gray areas and aren’t too concerned about orthodoxy. I think we say that each of us will be educated by the spirit as we go along from year to year and will arrive at the interpretation that the Lord would have us, personally, adopt. Why is this issue different?

  8. TMD on March 19, 2007 at 10:17 am

    Dan–I really can’t understand people who would break friendships over politics. It baffles me.

  9. Russell Arben Fox on March 19, 2007 at 10:22 am

    Hellmut,

    Thanks for the supporting words. Though I think I’m in the same boat as Ronan and Chris–on what do you base your judgment that most German members of the church interpreted the talk as opposing the war in Iraq? Jonthan’s suggestion about how the opening lines of the sermon might have been understood within certain rhetorical frameworks makes sense, but still, is your judgment just anecdotal, or what? I have no direct knowledge of how the talk “played” around the world, but on the basis of several blog discussions at the time and soon afterward, it seems that the talk was widely understood by South American saints, at least, as endorsing the invasion.

    Guy,

    Interesting thoughts about to what degree we can or should have read President Hinckley’s comments as representing his opinion. That was probably the single most contested issue in a week’s worth of heated argument I had online with several friends of mine following his sermon. My best guess is that while he very obviously did not mean his sermon to suggest that “the church,” as an entity, was doctrinally/ecclesiastically committed to supporting the war, neither was he speaking as though he considered his thoughts to be mere personal speculation. For one thing, Hinckley, like all modern prophets, is careful: he just doesn’t engage in personal speculation from the pulpit on the Sunday morning of general conference. So yes, I think that he–while making it clear that the church, as a wolrdwide entity, was only a spectator here, and one that contains multitudes at that–nonetheless reall did see the war as a “teaching moment,” as an opportunity to pronounce correct principles. The question is: were the principles incorrect? Or did events just prevent them from being implemented?

  10. Otto on March 19, 2007 at 10:42 am

    If Mike Wallace is to be believed, President Hinckley has since voiced very different thoughts about the war, though privately.

    See http://www.adherents.com/people/pw/Mike_Wallace.html , and scroll down to the excerpted SL Trib article from July 2006.

    The main point:

    LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley “was not and is not happy with the war in Iraq,” CBS newsman Mike Wallace said Friday. “He deplores what’s going on there.”

    The longtime reporter, who interviewed Hinckley for “60 Minutes” in 1995, was in Utah to participate in Hinckley’s 95th birthday gala at the LDS Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City.

    “It wasn’t an interview situation, so I didn’t press” Hinckley, Wallace told a half-dozen or so reporters. “But I was sorry I didn’t have a camera.”

    LDS spokesman Dale Bills was quick to say the church “has no position on the war in Iraq” and that Wallace’s comments were “his own characterization of a private conversation.”

  11. Guy Murray on March 19, 2007 at 10:47 am

    Russell:

    My best guess is that while he very obviously did not mean his sermon to suggest that “the church,” as an entity, was doctrinally/ecclesiastically committed to supporting the war, neither was he speaking as though he considered his thoughts to be mere personal speculation.

    True. Yet, he asked the rhetorical question in his address:

    “Where does the Church stand in all of this?”

    And, of course he never answers that question. Why? My opinion is that while he has the right as prophet, seer, and revelator to speak for the Church, he recognized in this particular fact pattern, he could not do so for a world wide Church at least as to this war at that time. Rather, he gave his personal feelings and opinions. To underscore that he used the word personal twice in the same sentence when outlining what were his feelings and support for the war.

    I agree with you President Hinckely was not speculating from the pulpit Sunday morning during General Conference. He was speaking about his personal loyalty as a United States citizen as he understood it at that time, and why he felt the way he did. I don’t believe he was speaking as the prophet for the worldwide Church stating a collective position of the worldwide Church on this war.

    I also agree with Jonathan and Dan in their comments above.

    Was there a teaching moment? I don’t know. What principles? That we should proclaim peace and renounce war? I would argue that principle would have been an overriding one in comparison to others.

    When all is said and done, we of this Church are people of peace. We are followers of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the Prince of Peace. But even He said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword”

    Then he goes on to say:

    Let us pray for those who are called upon to bear arms by their respective governments and plead for the protection of heaven upon them that they may return to their loved ones in safety.

    Were we also to pray for the Iraqi soldiers as well as ours that they both be protected? Can God be on both sides? Is he or was he on any side here, either then or now? I’m not so sure.

  12. Matt Evans on March 19, 2007 at 10:50 am

    In the prelude to the war I argued against those arguing that the invasion was necessarily immoral. I believed then, and believe now, that Saddam Hussein held the Iraqi people hostage and that it’s moral to free the oppressed by force.

    My error, and the key error of Bush and Cheney (I don’t believe the execution of the war, or the “failure to plan for peace,” is why it hasn’t worked — it wouldn’t have worked no matter our planning), was our assumption that Iraq was filled with patriots in the pattern of America’s founding generation, who longed for self-rule but needed the French military to help throw off their oppressors. We grossly underestimated the number of Iraqis aspiring to take Saddam’s place. It’s as if we challenged Gorbachev to tear down the wall, only to find thousands of aspiring Stalins behind it, and millions more supportive or indifferent to their tactics. Or maybe we knew they were there, but underestimated the chaos 1% of the population can cause when 30% are sympathetic or indifferent.

  13. Hellmut on March 19, 2007 at 10:50 am

    Russell, it strikes me that one probably has to put Gordon Hinckley’s words into the context of Mormon history, especially the relationship of Mormon leaders to the counter-culture in the wake of the Vietnam War.

    Even though the counter-culture has pretty much vanished for decades, it still appears to weigh heavily on the minds of LDS leaders. Otherwise one cannot make sense of the regularly recurring dress code admonitions regarding beards, hair styles, and white shirts.

    When Abraham Lincoln and Henry David Thoreau opposed the Mexican American War, the poet felt an obligation to civil disobedience, refused to pay taxes and embraced jail. Likewise, the disciples of Reinhold Niebuhr and Dietrich Bonhoeffer resorted to civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is the logical consequence when governments are wrong in matters of conscience.

    It is probably fair to say that LDS leaders have a hard time with civil disobedience.

    Notice, like Niebuhr and Bonhoeffer, Hinckley uses Aquinas’s distinction of just and unjust wars. Unlike Niebuhr and Bonhoeffer, Hinckley cannot bring himself to denounce a specific war. Instead his language about unjust wars remains at the level of generalities.

    The closest that Hinckley gets to an actual case is the reference to the British empire, which is a fascinating comment in the context of the Iraq war because the memory of the British empire is on the mind of every Iraqi. Regardless, it is impossible to tell what is on the mind of Gordon Hinckley. Is he talking about the national liberation aspects of the Vietnam War? Is Hinckley telling off the neocons? Is the reference to British imperialism a rejection of unilateralism?

    There is a treasure somewhere but it remains veiled behind a dubious remark. That leads me to suspect that Hinckley feels cross pressured between competing priorities.

    In this regard, Hinckley’s words about citizens’ obligations to the republic’s president are key. Hinckley argues that we have to follow because the president has more information (the opposite turned out to be the case. Bush justified his decision in terms of the worst information). In Hinckley’s view dissent may be legitimate but it is really unresponsible. That is a very different view of citizenship than Niebuhr and Bonhoeffer had in mind.

    According to Hinckley, the authorities deserve deference while Niebuhr and Bonhoeffer burden citizens with responsibility for war and peace. If Hinkley were to invoke a single case of an unjust war then he would validate not only the counter-culture but also undermine his views about the proper relationship of leaders and citizens. Needless to say, that would have far reaching implications for the Mormon experience if not Mormon theology.

  14. Hellmut on March 19, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Russell, I only have the reports of return missionaries about the attitudes of the German saints. May be, Ronan could report about people’s sentiments in Vienna.

    I can tell you from first hand knowlege that about two thirds of German Mormons are unlikely to support any war and were vociferously opposed to new nuclear weapons in Europe during the eighties. That’s why I consider the RM reports plausible.

  15. Chris Grant on March 19, 2007 at 11:04 am

    Hellmut writes: “I can tell you from first hand knowlege that about two thirds of German Mormons are unlikely to support any war and were vociferously opposed to new nuclear weapons in Europe during the eighties.

    Pardon my skepticism, but I see no way you could have firsthand knowledge of what two-thirds of 40,000 people believe. Pauline Kael is famous for saying in 1972 that she didn’t know a single person who voted for Nixon, yet he won. Why should we believe you’re better informed now than she was then?

  16. Jonathan Green on March 19, 2007 at 11:23 am

    Chris, you’re sounding a little combative. Please, charitably emend Hellmut’s sentence to “two thirds of German Mormons [that I know].” He’s probably not too far off the mark (+/- 20% or so) for the population in general, and I don’t see that German members are more or less warlike than the general populace. Close enough for horseshoes.

  17. Dan on March 19, 2007 at 11:36 am

    TMD,

    Dan–I really can’t understand people who would break friendships over politics. It baffles me.

    Eh, it wasn’t much of a friendship to begin with. If he were an actual friend of mine, I wouldn’t have broken friendship with him. I would have been very mad that he still went ahead and let Bush’s voice into that room, I still would have left in protest, but I would still be friends. It was a very heated moment.

  18. john f. on March 19, 2007 at 11:40 am

    40% +/- 20%. Good one Jonathan! With numbers like that, pretty much everyone is right about everything, when it comes to conjecture on numbers. Having said that, I actually agree with Hellmut on his estimation of German Latter-day Saints’ view of this war and/or war in general. He’s no Latter-day Saint, but he is German. I hope it does not come as any surprise to any readers of this blog that Latter-day Saints around the world differ in their political thoughts and views. In Wismar, my group leader (we were too small even to be a branch) could go on and on in his sacrament meetings about how the SPD (Germany’s social democratic party) or even the PDS (the German communist party) was infintely better than the CDU while at the same time, obviously, many bishops around the United States lean the other way politically, although few would actually engage in political diatribe during sacrament meeting time. Moreover, I hope that Latter-day Saints in the United States will not be offended or concerned to realize that at least some and perhaps many German Latter-day Saints are relatively anti-American on political and/or economic matters. This is just the way it is and shouldn’t cause anyone to lose any sleep, I would hope.

  19. john f. on March 19, 2007 at 11:41 am

    Oops, I see Hellmut said two-thirds, not 40% (I don’t know why I thought he said 40% — just not reading very carefully). Even so, I think Hellmut is right on that number.

  20. Aluwid on March 19, 2007 at 11:48 am

    Dan,

    Any voice other than Bush’s that would have caused the same extreme reaction by you? Someone like Ahmadinejad, al-Zawahiri, or bin Laden by chance?

    I believe your story illustrates that your hatred of Bush hurts you more than anything else.

  21. Frank McIntyre on March 19, 2007 at 11:51 am

    Jonathan,

    Certainly a post on the Iraq war deserves extra policing for tone, because it so often ends in nastiness and links to such high emotions. On the other hand, I guess I did not find Chris’ comment all that combative and he was substantially re-asking the same question that Russell asked above (“how do you know this?”).

    So I appreciate your concern but, Chris, don’t feel like your comments are unwanted.

  22. Guy Murray on March 19, 2007 at 11:55 am

    Matt

    In the prelude to the war I argued against those arguing that the invasion was necessarily immoral. I believed then, and believe now, that Saddam Hussein held the Iraqi people hostage and that it’s moral to free the oppressed by force.

    And, I think it’s more of a moral imperative to keep our own country and people safe and free rather than squandering the money and sacrificing the lives we are over in Iraq, particularly in light of your observation that we wrongly assumed:

    that Iraq was filled with patriots in the pattern of America’s founding generation, who longed for self-rule but needed the French military to help throw off their oppressors. We grossly underestimated the number of Iraqis aspiring to take Saddam’s place. It’s as if we challenged

  23. Dan on March 19, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    Aluwid,

    Any voice other than Bush’s that would have caused the same extreme reaction by you? Someone like Ahmadinejad, al-Zawahiri, or bin Laden by chance?

    Ahmadinejad, al-Zawahiri and Bin Laden have no power over me. As such their words are easily discounted. Why? Because they hold no law over my head, no enforceable power. Sure they can kill my body, but our Savior has said not to fear those who can kill the body. I fear not these men. Why would Bush’s words cause that reaction in me? Because he has power over me. He holds American law over my head. Abuses by him in regards to law affects me. What Bin Laden does in a cave is inconsequential when compared to the powers Bush has over Americans.

    I believe your story illustrates that your hatred of Bush hurts you more than anything else.

    No, disappointment in my fellow Mormons has hurt even more.

  24. gst on March 19, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    Dan, sorry to let you down.

  25. Aluwid on March 19, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    Dan, I threw those names out since I find it strange, yet common, how many on the left are more negative towards President Bush than they are towards sworn enemies of the US. You know, the guys that are working towards killing our soldiers in Iraq, and, if possible, killing more civilians in the US.

    But that is beside the point, what I think is sad is that here you have a fellow Latter Day Saint who you obviously thought highly enough of to spend a family home evening with and then you choose to storm out and not speak with him for four years simply because he committed the apparently severe sin of turning on the radio in your presence when Bush was talking. If that is the way you choose to live your life then I guess more power to you but it doesn’t seem like a very happy existence to me. There are more important matter than politics, in particular when you’re talking about a fellow Latter Day Saint. Let your hatred of Bush go, it’s not helping you any.

  26. Matt Evans on March 19, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    gst, your apology is only half-hearted until you acknowledge you’ve hurt Dan.

  27. ducks on March 19, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    I have not analyzed Pres. Hinckley’s talk on the war in Iraq, but I remember it very well. My husband had been deployed and so we listened avidly to Pres. Hinckley’s remarks. I interpreted it at the time as anti-war. My husband had known for months that he would be deployed and all along thought that the U.S. would be stupid to get involved in this war. So while he did his duty, he continually hoped that something would get worked out so that he wouldn’t have to go into Iraq as an invading force.

    I can tell you that it is a difficult position to be in when you have an obligation, as my husband did, and an opposition to the political goals of your commander. I was also opposed to the war, but firmly believe in the necessity of a standing army. This does indeed, as Pres. Hinckley’s talk implied, require a reliance on the authority of the commander in chief. A difficult position for someone who has no faith in the current presidency. Pres. Hinckley’s words were of great comfort to me. Of course, my husband couldn’t hear them as he was sleeping in the sand in Iraq with no news whatsoever. He went to Iraq and worked closely with the people, coming away with a conviction that no change could occur there, but also with a love and affection for the people of Iraq.

    I think Pres. Hinckley’s words were spoken as a religious leader to a vast and diverse congregation and were carefully and compassionately crafted. Apparently there are contradictory readings, but rarely is there a topic in which larger values conflict so immediately with individual desires and opinions than war. Pres. Hinckley’s address, I believe, recognizes these conflicts and comes to no conclusion as to whether this war was just or unjust. He warns and pleads that we love one another and place our ultimate trust in God.

    In the final analysis, I think Pres. Hinckley was voicing support not for or against the war in Iraq but for all those caught up in war who are subject to the command of political leaders. Those most injured by war are usually those with the least power. And Pres. Hinckley reminded everyone of where the most important power and healing resides.

  28. Chris Grant on March 19, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    Jonathan wrote: “Chris, you’re sounding a little combative. Please, charitably emend Hellmut’s sentence to “two thirds of German Mormons [that I know].”

    Perhaps you could charitably emend away the combativeness you’ve read into my posts.

    He’s probably not too far off the mark (+/- 20% or so) for the population in general

    Hellmut said 2/3 of German Mormons wouldn’t support any war. That means that 2/3 of German Mormons are pacifists. Do you have data that indicates that 2/3 of Germans are pacifists? Why do they elect representatives who spend billions on a military then?

    john f writes: “I actually agree with Hellmut on his estimation of German Latter-day Saints’ view of this war and/or war in general

    That’s interesting. I lived in Germany during the run-up to the Pershing II deployment, and those missiles didn’t seem very popular, but I don’t recall a lot of calls for complete disarmament. Neither of the two most famous German Mormons of the last century were pacifists. (Huebener printed and distributed handbills defending the Allies’ area bombing of German cities, and Elder Uchtdorf was a fighter pilot.) I don’t recall any particular distaste expressed for Captain Moroni during Church meetings. And despite a sense of shame about WWII, I think that those who were refugees from East Prussia were glad that segments of the Wehrmacht at least made an attempt to protect them, through force of arms, from the Red Army’s unprecedented campaign of rape.

  29. danithew on March 19, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    Dan doesn’t have any problems that a little water-boarding couldn’t fix.

  30. Dan on March 19, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    Aluwid,

    Dan, I threw those names out since I find it strange, yet common, how many on the left are more negative towards President Bush than they are towards sworn enemies of the US. You know, the guys that are working towards killing our soldiers in Iraq, and, if possible, killing more civilians in the US.

    Let me say again. They have no power over me. They obviously have power over someone like Bush, because he reacts to their words. I agreed and approved of the war in Afghanistan, because Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri had attacked us and killed Americans. We were perfectly in the right to go after them. I supported that action. Iraq had nothing to do with destroying our enemies. The enemies that attacked us were not in Iraq. They were in Afghanistan, and moving over into Pakistan. That’s where we should be in full force. We had no business being in Iraq, especially with what Colin Powell said in February 2001.

    If that is the way you choose to live your life then I guess more power to you but it doesn’t seem like a very happy existence to me. There are more important matter than politics, in particular when you’re talking about a fellow Latter Day Saint. Let your hatred of Bush go, it’s not helping you any.

    Really? If it wasn’t that important, President Hinckley wouldn’t address it in conference just weeks later. This was a VERY important decision. This was not just some new treaty signed, or some small operation. No, we were talking about completely and utterly changing an entire nation, invading it, destroying its leadership, and installing something new. Please do not downplay what this incident was. This was no normal political decision. I would not have been upset if Bush had gotten on the air that night and named some ultra-conservative to the Supreme Court, as much as I would not like him to do something like that. You’re trying to say that evening’s address was something normal. No it was not.

    Yeah, it sounds like I huffed and puffed out of the room. It wasn’t like that. I simply got up and left. I went home. I wanted no part in that event.

  31. Dan on March 19, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    gst,

    Dan, sorry to let you down.

    It’s okay, just don’t do it again, ya hear! ;)

  32. annegb on March 19, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    I’m hearing murmurs that things might be getting better there. I think it was Time magazine that had something about how sending more troops might be working. I have a seriously Republican friend who rejoiced when we went in Iraq because she thought it meant the last days were coming and it had to be done. I disagreed.

    I have no clue what we should do next, none whatsoever.

    Dan, if we got in a great big fight over politics I’d refuse to go away till you gave me a hug.

  33. Dan on March 19, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    Dan doesn’t have any problems that a little water-boarding couldn’t fix.

    Maybe. Sleep deprivation certainly isn’t doing it for me. :)

  34. Chris Grant on March 19, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    Hellmut wrote: “Likewise, the disciples of . . . Dietrich Bonhoeffer resorted to civil disobedience.

    Doesn’t “civil disobedience” normally connote the use of nonviolent means?

  35. Margaret Young on March 19, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    I, like Russell, was initially persuaded that the war was probably necessary, given the persuasive arguments Colin Powell made (not realizing he had been deceived). My husband, who is a great pacifist, was never taken in by that talk or any other.
    I’ve mentioned President Kimball’s great sermon called “The False Gods we Worship,” which I’ll link here.
    http://www.nauvoo.com/library/kimball-false.html
    I like this bit especially:
    “We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel — ships, planes, missiles, fortifications — and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching:
    “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
    “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45).”

  36. Dan on March 19, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    I’m curious why President Hinckley did not refer to President Kimball’s “The False Gods We Worship” talk…..

  37. gst on March 19, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    German pacifism is good.

  38. Chris Grant on March 19, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    gst wrote: “German pacifism is good.

    Once all the Germans were warlike and mean,
    But that couldn’t happen again.
    We taught them a lesson in 1918,
    And they’ve hardly bothered us since then.
    –Tom Lehrer

  39. Clark on March 19, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    Margaret, like you, Colin Powell was the main reason for my favoring the war. I think even most war supporters would have opposed the war had they known the extent of poor war planning, poor intelligence, and so forth. I think it unfair for many anti-war folks to make a too easy false dichotomy. (i.e. the idea that the way things unfolded was inevitable)

    Having said that though the lack of planning, the lack of WMDs, and so forth really do change the ethics to going to war. However most people didn’t make the judgment knowing such matters.

    To make an analogy, had George Bush been President during D-Day and Rumsfeld instead of Einseinhower running the show, they could have made WWII look like a bad idea too.

  40. Dan on March 19, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    Clark,

    You say that your views about Iraq were strongly influenced by what Colin Powell said. I wonder, did you ever see what he said in February 2001? I quoted it above. Let me quote it again:

    We had a good discussion, the Foreign Minister and I and the President and I, had a good discussion about the nature of the sanctions–the fact that the sanctions exist– not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein’s ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.

  41. danithew on March 19, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    I wonder if comparing the recent Iraq War and WWII is a good idea.

    One of the things that is different about the Iraq War is that there was an attempt made to overthrow Saddam’s government without completely destroying the cities.

  42. Otto on March 19, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    My error, and the key error of Bush and Cheney (I don’t believe the execution of the war, or the “failure to plan for peace,” is why it hasn’t worked — it wouldn’t have worked no matter our planning), was our assumption that Iraq was filled with patriots in the pattern of America’s founding generation, who longed for self-rule but needed the French military to help throw off their oppressors. We grossly underestimated the number of Iraqis aspiring to take Saddam’s place. It’s as if we challenged Gorbachev to tear down the wall, only to find thousands of aspiring Stalins behind it, and millions more supportive or indifferent to their tactics. Or maybe we knew they were there, but underestimated the chaos 1% of the population can cause when 30% are sympathetic or indifferent.

    Sorry to jump back up the thread, but I had to respond to this comment by Matt. To me this doesn’t explain the error, it embodies it. I find it really distasteful to blame this bungled war on Iraqis — it’s simply yet another recursion of the neocon/PNAC fallacy: the American model will work, no matter where, no matter when, and if it doesn’t, it’s not America’s fault. The incongruities in Matt’s comparison between American revolutionaries and Iraqis affected by this war are endless. If the French military had come to “help” America after it was already established, attacked our shores on trumped up claims of malevolent plans by our colonial oppressors, destroyed the infrastructure, decimated all institutions of order (such as police force, justice system), incurred hundreds of thousands of collatoral casualties, imprisoned and tortured suspected loyalists on the flimsiest of evidence (and then faced a huge cultural backlash when those actions were made public), and made countless tactical mistakes based on PR rather than strategy, I don’t think we’d have nearly as many heroic stories to tell on the 4th of July. To blame this mess on a lack of will by Iraqis is just low.

  43. Mark N. on March 19, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    I’m curious (although it’s no doubt an attempt to threadjack) what everyone’s opinion on Lt. Ehrin Watada might be (who has been through one declared mistrial of his court martial thus far) who has refused to deploy to Iraq due to his belief that the war in Iraq is illegal, and that by participating in it, he would be committing a war crime.

    Is he courageously standing up for himself by “telling truth to power”, or is he a traitor to the cause despite claiming that this is a matter of conscience?

  44. jjohnsen on March 19, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    “I have a seriously Republican friend who rejoiced when we went in Iraq because she thought it meant the last days were coming and it had to be done. I disagreed.”
    *Barf*
    I have a neighbor that says the same thing. He believes President Bush was specifically called of God to start war over there to bring about the Second Coming. After hearing him say that I try to not let my daughter play at that house unsupervised, he obviously has serious mental problems.

  45. Adam Greenwood on March 19, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    I thought that President Hinckley’s speech was a statement of broad principles that could and would be interpreted and applied different ways. I liked it. Like Russell Fox, the part about the British Empire and other empires was the part I didn’t expect. I’m a Kipling fan so I’m not really sure what to make of it. I’ve been mulling it over off and on for the last few years. On the one hand, President Hinckley comes from a generation where Britain was still something of a bogeyman. One of the things thats unsettling about WWII histories is to see how suspicious American statesmen and generals were of perfidious Albion and her evil imperial designs, while this reader is screaming, Nooo, Nooo, its the Soooviets! But on the other hand, President Hinckley is the prophet and historical evaluation of something as big and complex as the British Empire is going to be way too muddy and contingent for anyone to seriously think that the prophet can’t be right in face of the obvious rightness of their private analysis.

    What I do question is Russell F.’s use of this remark. I could just as easily tell a story where Baathist Iraq is seen to be authentically imperial and therefore authentically evil and what President Hinckley is subtly warning against romanticizing it from a distance. I don’t know.

  46. Geoff B on March 19, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    FWIW, I was living in Brazil during President Hinckley’s April 2003 talk, and Brazilians were universally against the war and very few of them interpreted the talk as favorable to the war. Nothing wrong with the Portuguese translation, I just think they couldn’t bear the thought that their beloved prophet was in favor of something they opposed so wholeheartedly. My interpretation, listening to the English language talk, was that he clearly supported the war.

    Personally, I saw the Iraq war as an incredibly noble cause at the time, a selfless attempt by a small group of nations led by the United States intent on giving freedom to an oppressed people. The WMD issue was not really that relevant to me. I was more focused on bringing freedom to those I thought were yearning to be free. I still think the majority are yearning to be free — others are yearning for something else.

    Given all that we have learned since then, there is no doubt that many of us were wrong about many things. I still believe in the cause but am just as distressed as everybody else about many of the negative results. I also think there’s more room for a nuanced foreign policy — that is one thing I’ve learned. For example, I believe there may be ways to overthrow the Iranian mullahs without firing a shot. Strangle them economically and they may fall.

  47. Russell Arben Fox on March 19, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    Interesting comment, Adam. (Thanks for making it–and for keeping your focus on Hinckley’s address and the question of Mormonism and war itself. I haven’t helped much so far on this thread, I admit, but I’m really much more interested in the Mormon angle here than in debates regarding Iraq in general.)

    I agree that President Hinckley’s aside regarding “blood and treasure” and the evils of the British–and by implication, all other–empires was probably the most incongruous, and thus most interesting, part of his comments. I seem to recall someone once telling me that several late 19th and early 20th-century general authorities, up to and including J. Reuben Clark, were passionately anti-British, the reasons being multiple: bad memories of the homeland passed down by Mormon immigrants, hostility to the missionaries when they traveled to Britain, or maybe just simply the fact that, at the time the Mormons were at their theocratic height in Deseret, the U.S. may have been their immediate enemy, but it was the Brits who were the extant world power, and thus the most likely candidate for “Babylon” around.

    Nate, Ardis, someone who might know the history of the church that Gordon B. Hinckely was a young man in–any thoughts? Not that, as Adam allows, we want to reduce President Hinckely’s warning to his biography; there is every reason to believe he was expressing a divine concern there, or at least a seriously considered judgment. Still, it’s worth asking the historical question.

  48. DavidH on March 19, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    I liked Elder Nelson’s talk in October 2002, “Blessed Are the Peacemakers,” given at a time when many in the Administration were rattling the drums of war. His talk seemed, at least implicitly, to call upon the U.S. to slow down the march to war. See also http://archives.cnn.com/2002/US/West/10/06/mormon.conference.ap/

    I was disappointed not long after when the Church issued statements seeming officially to distance itself from what I thought was the spirit of Elder Nelson’s sermon. http://media.www.dailyutahchronicle.com/media/storage/paper244/news/2002/10/11/WorldReport/Lds-Church.Torn.On.Decision.To.Fight.Iraq-295430.shtml

    Some of the statements I liked in Elder Nelson’s talk include the following:

    “Now, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what does the Lord expect of us? As a Church, we must ‘renounce war and proclaim peace.’ As individuals, we should ‘follow after the things which make for peace.’ We should be personal peacemakers. We should live peacefully—as couples, families, and neighbors. We should live by the Golden Rule. We have writings of the descendants of Judah as now merged with writings of the descendants of Ephraim. We should employ them and expand our circle of love to embrace the whole human family.”

    “Father Abraham was uniquely called a ‘Friend of God.’ Peace was one of Abraham’s highest priorities. He sought to be a ‘prince of peace.’ His influence could loom large in our present pursuit of peace. His sons, Ishmael and Isaac, though born of different mothers, overcame their differences when engaged in a common cause. After their father died, they worked together to bury the mortal remains of their exalted father. Their descendants could well follow that pattern.”

    “Abraham’s posterity has a divinely decreed potential. The Lord declared that Ishmael would become a great nation and that the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would bless all the nations of the earth.”

    “So descendants of Abraham—entrusted with great promises of infinite influence—are in a pivotal position to emerge as peacemakers. Chosen by the Almighty, they can direct their powerful potential toward peace.”

    “Resolution of present political problems will require much patience and negotiation. The process would be enhanced greatly if pursued prayerfully.”

    “These prophecies of hope could materialize if leaders and citizens of nations would apply the teachings of Jesus Christ. Ours could then be an age of unparalleled peace and progress. Barbarism of the past would be buried. War with its horrors would be relegated to the realm of maudlin memory. Aims of nations would be mutually supportive. Peacemakers could lead in the art of arbitration, give relief to the needy, and bring hope to those who fear. Of such patriots, future generations would shout praises, and our Eternal God would pass judgments of glory.”

    “Because of the long history of hostility upon the earth, many feel that peace is beyond hope. I disagree. Peace is possible. We can learn to love our fellow human beings throughout the world. Whether they be Jewish, Islamic, or fellow Christians, whether Hindu, Buddhist, or other, we can live together with mutual admiration and respect, without forsaking our religious convictions. Things we have in common are greater than are our differences. Peace is a prime priority that pleads for our pursuit. Old Testament prophets held out hope and so should we. The Psalmist said, ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.’ ‘He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth.’”

    To all of which I say Amen.

  49. Russell Arben Fox on March 19, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    I remember that flare-up regarding Elder Nelson’s talk. If I recall correctly, there wasn’t nearly so much public discussion (as opposed to private, in-church-hallways discussion; there was tons of that) of President Hinckely’s sermon. I suppose the likely explanation for the difference is simply that the possibility that a general authority had criticized the policy’s of a sitting U.S. president was big news, whereas a “we support our troops” message from the Prophet, for better or worse, wasn’t particularly.

  50. Adam Greenwood on March 19, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    If we’re looking at biographical sources of the prophet’s views, we should remember that it wasn’t just the Mormons who had anti-British sentiment in the early parts of the 20th Century. One reason after WWI was that for whatever reason Britain came to bear a good deal of the blame for the war in Britain and America. As I recall, President Hinckley’s older brother died in the war and I could speculate that he may not have born warm feelings towards the British Empire if he saw it as partially responsible for his brother’s death, but I’d just be speculating.

    Niall Ferguson’s Empire, a defense of the British Empire, was published in 2003, so maybe that was what prompted President Hinckley’s remarks.

    Whatever the source of our prophet’s views on the British Empire, I can see several different reasons why he mentioned those views.

    1) In response to Empire and other Neocon works, President Hinckley was subtly warning against nation-building efforts that required long-term hegemonic commitment of troops.

    2) President Hinckley was subtly warning against romanticizing brutal tyrannies like Iraq just because they had fallen or were falling.

    3) We are overstating the degree to which the talk was all about the Iraq war. President Hinckley was warning against romanticizing dead empires because he thought people shouldn’t romanticize dead empires, not because it had much to do with the Iraq war.

  51. HP on March 19, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    3) We are overstating the degree to which the talk was all about the Iraq war. President Hinckley was warning against romanticizing dead empires because he thought people shouldn’t romanticize dead empires, not because it had much to do with the Iraq war.

    I believe that the only way to read the talk this way is to completely remove it from the historical context in which it was written.

  52. Adam Greenwood on March 19, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    Why? The British Empire portion of the talk doesn’t mention current events. Its pretty reductionist to say that every statement of general principle made during some historical events must be a commentary on those events. Its not psychologically implausible that current events would occasion a discussion of general principles, some of which were not necessarily meant as a commentary on those events.

  53. HP on March 19, 2007 at 5:45 pm

    Hence, you have removed the talk from its historical context.

  54. HP on March 19, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    Actually, I am being too flippant and apologize. You may be write in reading this as simply a commentary on the British empire and nothing more. Of course, as the British empire had a large hand in the broad sweep of historical events that lead Iraq to the point that it is at (helped along by a number of other factors, natch), I do not think it much of a stretch to see the connection. In fact, I think it far more unlikely that there isn’t one intended.

  55. Clark on March 19, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    Dan, given what he said in 2003 doesn’t that override his comments in 2001? I assumed that there was new intelligence.

  56. Mike Parker on March 19, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    All the way back in #13, Hellmut wrote:

    It is probably fair to say that LDS leaders have a hard time with civil disobedience.

    The really odd thing is that 19th century LDS leaders were really good at it, especially when it came to defiance of anti-polygamy laws, and even the 1890 Manifesto itself.

    Greg Smith, in his paper on the historical justifications for plural marriage, depictss LDS defiance of the law as civil disobedience.

  57. annegb on March 19, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    #39, Clark, Colin Powell is not a person to follow because he carefully gauges which way the wind is blowing before he makes up his mind. He’s so afraid of making a mistake he has no opinions of his own.

  58. Mark N. on March 19, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    Dan, #30: Yeah, it sounds like I huffed and puffed out of the room. It wasn’t like that. I simply got up and left. I went home. I wanted no part in that event.

    One could make the argument that you were simply following the counsel given in 2 Thes. 3:6, and/or 1 Tim. 6:5…

  59. Idahospud on March 19, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    I believed at the time that the war was a necessary evil (influenced, as many have mentioned, by Colin Powell); also, I believed it would be quick–dh was in the Nat’l Guard during the first Gulf war, slated to go, but never had to because that one was over so quickly. Oh, how I have rued . . .

  60. Dan on March 19, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    Clark,

    Dan, given what he said in 2003 doesn’t that override his comments in 2001? I assumed that there was new intelligence.

    As we know though, he has regretted what he said in 2003. His whole UN presentation in February 2003 was based on Curveball, the most appropriately named informant in the history of informants! We know during the time that people within the intelligence community was questioning much of the evidence. It was reported during the build-up, but few would hear of it.

    His 2003 comments do not override his 2001 comments because Saddam didn’t suddenly reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction program within those two years. His government and his military were continually being degraded from the start of the sanctions up until 2003. At which point do you think he could have upgraded his stuff? Who would have helped him? There is no evidence of this.

    The only thing that changed from 2001 to 2003 was Donald Rumsfeld’s “paradigm shift” wherein we, not Iraq, looked at the world differently. Iraq did not change from 2001 to 2003, except in that it had continued to degrade. We changed. So yes, Colin Powell’s 2003 presentation to the UN was based on false information. I knew this in 2003 and I kept wondering why everybody actually believed this crap. Many still do. Such a shame.

  61. Hellmut on March 19, 2007 at 8:37 pm

    Pardon my skepticism, but I see no way you could have firsthand knowledge of what two-thirds of 40,000 people believe. Pauline Kael is famous for saying in 1972 that she didn’t know a single person who voted for Nixon, yet he won. Why should we believe you’re better informed now than she was then?

    That’s a legitimate point, Chris. Notice, however, that we are really talking about twelve to fifteen thousand active members. The LDS Church in Germany is quite small. I lived in five stakes and visited all stakes but two.

    If you are playing five degrees from Kevin Bacon or whatever that game is called, then I would have been two degrees removed from almost everybody who is active. Every active member and I would have shared multiple acquaintances.

    In terms of numerical structure, Mormon society in Utah is about as complex as the students of a big Utah high school and their families.

    Also, keep in mind that conservative establishment types are very unlikely to join an outsider religion from America. There is a lefty selection bias attracting more adventurous or less established personalities when religions cross cultures (I did hear, however, that the pentecostals have been quite successful with the military establishment in Guatemala, which might be a function of underdevelopment and US military assistance, I don’t know).

  62. Matt Evans on March 19, 2007 at 9:24 pm

    Otto,

    The comparison to the American revolution is this: in both cases resistance fighters petitioned the aid of a foreign government to overthrow their oppressors. The French involved themselves at the behest of Ben Franklin (Chalabi), who represented the revolutionaries, which are believed to have had the support of about 1/3 of Americans at the time (another third were Tories, the rest undecided). The key difference is that King George didn’t oppress the colonists to the degree Hussein did, allowing the American revolutionaries to be more public and outspoken. Samuel Adams would have found himself in a plastic shredder within days. Britain oppressed Americans with 2% taxes; Hussein preferred poison gas and lynch squads. The result is that Iraqi resistance needed more help than the colonists did.

    We all have reason to be grateful countries have aided the oppressed in others.

  63. Hellmut on March 19, 2007 at 9:36 pm

    Actually, it was Powell’s United Nation’s presentation that convinced me that there were no weapons of mass destruction. If we could have pin pointed the supplies to specific buildings then UNSCOM should have found them. Once UNSCOM reported that they had access in Iraq, it was clear that Powell’s presentation was not based on reality.

    Clark, many opponents of the war predicted the obstacles accurately. Therefore it is fair to hold the supporters of the war accountable. They could have known but chose otherwise.

    The neo-realist school of international relations, people who are essentially Hobbesians, warned unanimously against the invasion. Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski opposed the invasions. Richard Clark told George Bush that Osama bin Laden’s strategic goal was to get the United States to invade an oil rich Arab state.

    The bottom line is that our invasion created an existential threat to the groups that had the greatest capacity for violence in Iraq. Of course, those people would not surrender when surrender meant suicide. Phoebe Marr, the premier American researcher about Iraqi history, pointed out as early as 1999 that our efforts could not succeed unless the United States build relationships with Sunni Arabs.

    Cassandra is our friend. Without her, there can be no rational policy making process. Instead of blaming Cassandra, we should hold the people accountable who got us into the war against quality advice.

    We need to reward the people who were right and punish the decision makers who created the disaster by entering into a war of choice. That’s how democracy makes sense.

  64. Dan on March 19, 2007 at 10:08 pm

    Hellmut,

    We need to reward the people who were right and punish the decision makers who created the disaster by entering into a war of choice. That’s how democracy makes sense.

    Rewarding those who were right and punishing those who were wrong also helps us better avoid such quick rushes to war for faulty reasons. By not punishing those who were wrong, we send a message that it is just fine to make such mistakes of such magnitude. These neo-cons have learned nothing. They speak so easily and so quickly of war with Iran. They were so giddy last summer when Israel bombed Lebanon. They claimed Israel’s war was our war. Something is seriously and fundamentally wrong with their thinking. Furthermore, they continue to be rewarded rather than castigated, punished, ignominiously derided and shunned.

  65. Seth R. on March 19, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    RAF,

    Honestly, I don’t have much to add on this. I’ve made my views known about the war before in numerous places. I feel like pitching-in here would simply shout-out the voices on those who haven’t already weighed-in on Iraq. I’d like to hear from more than the “usual suspects” on this issue.

    I’ll just say that I thought Iraq was foolish imperial overstretch in 2003. I still think it’s foolish imperial overstretch.

    As for President Hinckley’s remarks, I didn’t read much into them one way or the other.

  66. Doc on March 19, 2007 at 11:31 pm

    I take serious issue with anyone who wants to lay the problem at the feet of Colin Powell. He was the one who pleaded with the administration to work with and through the UN when Bush made the ugliest foreign policy gaffe imaginable. The president’s complete lack of statesmanship is what convinced me the war was a bad idea. He could listen to no one, especially Colin Powell, who was the one voice of reason on that cabinet and sacked for his troubles. It was he and he alone that ever strayed from the “talking point” propaganda effort to justify the war. IT was only he that dared even speak up to the cabinet that “if you break it, you own it.” I realize, sadly, he spoke in a whisper, but it was a whisper over deafening silence and complete lack of “what then” planning.

    As for the Hinckley talk, I saw it as the words of someone serously disturbed by the course of events and assiduously careful not to get drawn into the politics of the whole thing. He was seeking to look out for people drawn into both sides of the conflict and those servicemen actually fighting in the thing. Hinckley has some statesmanship in him that GWB could seriously learn from.

    John Kerry tried in vain to point out to the people that it was the elder Bush’s cabinet that analyzed the options and reaslized that invasion of Iraq was a bad idea because of the destabilization, tribalism religious, and ethnic conflict it would create. Cheney had to know about this stuff.

  67. Chris Grant on March 20, 2007 at 12:14 am

    Re #61:

    Two degrees removed is not firsthand. I’ve lived for the last 12 years in the same Utah stake, lived in 3 wards within that stake, served as high council rep to 2 other wards, had bimonthly speaking assignments that put me in every ward in the stake multiple times, and I can’t say that I know more than roughly 500 (i.e., about 1/6) of the members of the stake. And of those, I only know the opinions about the Iraq war of a tiny, tiny fraction. Politics isn’t a big topic of discussion in our church meetings, and it wasn’t a big topic of discussion in German church meetings in the early 80s. Therefore, I remain skeptical of your claim.

  68. Clark on March 20, 2007 at 12:32 am

    I don’t lay the problem at Powell’s feet but rather Bush. But Powell’s arguments, especially before the UN, was significant enough to allay my fears. I still felt Bush was doing things wrong. i.e. not doing enough PR to explain things – especially to Europeans; not having enough troops; not letting the inspectors do their jobs; rushing the invasion; and then the post-invasion lack of planning.

    I disagree that critics sufficiently predicted the problems. But I’ll not go down that road.

  69. Adam Greenwood on March 20, 2007 at 1:00 am

    I think there are significant errors here in the arguments about the Iraq war. But they are less interesting versions of what I can get in the secular blogosphere.

  70. Adam Greenwood on March 20, 2007 at 1:08 am

    2 Thes. 3:6 teaches that the Saints should withdraw from those who refuse to work.
    1 Tim. 6:5 says the Saints should separate themselves from those who teach servants to rebel against their masters.

    If Paul failed to explicitly state that we should never speak to someone again if they listen to the President on the radio, it is surely because the principle is so obvious.

  71. Seth R. on March 20, 2007 at 1:23 am

    Adam,

    What “secular” blogs are you talking about, out of mere curiosity?

    I’ve tried a small sampling, but some blogs, such as the Volokh Conspiracy, the Kato Institute or Slate simply churn out too many posts each day for me to keep up without frying my brain from information overload.

    I’d love to know about some good political science/current events blogs that post at a more sane pace though.

  72. Joshua Madson on March 20, 2007 at 2:45 am

    As to Hinckley’s talk, Russel Arben Fox asked whether he was wrong in principle or application. I would argue both and that this in no way makes him any less of a prophet. I also wonder if any of us can imagine the savior giving a talk on why we should support a war, any war. Why we should support the killing of anyone.

  73. Norbert on March 20, 2007 at 6:56 am

    This talk by the prophet has given me nightmares. In 2003 I was an expatriate in Finland, as I am now. I was strongly against the idea of the war, although I did not take it seriously: I assumed the administration was bluffing. It wasn’t until February 14, in the famous speeches by de Villepin and Powell, that I could see that it was really going to happen. I was in Stockholm with my then-girlfriend for the weekend, and we marched in the big rally there the next day. A few weeks later, there was a big rally in Helsinki, and some other expats put together a group of Americans Against the War. After being interviewed on local TV, I was warned unofficially by a US embassy employee that photos and names were taken, and that I might find it difficult to renew my passport at some point. Hmm.

    Anyway, when I heard this talk, I squirmed. Significantly. I took a lot of comfort in his pleas for tolerance in differing opinions on the war, and then I assumed that his statements about the need to support it were his opinion. As was common in reading what Americans thought about the war, I sensed that they were talking about a different set of circumstances than I was, and that the news they were getting about the situation (especially WMDs) was massively different. I remember going to dinner with other YSAs in May and talking about President Hinckley’s talk. They saw it, with sighs of resignation, of more evidence of the American-ness of the church.

  74. Adam Greenwood on March 20, 2007 at 8:04 am

    “Russell Arben Fox asked whether he was wrong in principle or application. I would argue both”???

    What principles exactly do you have in mind? And what’s your technique for deciding when the prophet is wrong and you are right–please advise, as I would love to know when I can dismiss the prophet’s principles if they conflict with my own.

    “I also wonder if any of us can imagine the savior giving a talk on why we should support a war, any war. Why we should support the killing of anyone.”

    Yes, easily.

  75. Aluwid on March 20, 2007 at 8:25 am

    “I also wonder if any of us can imagine the savior giving a talk on why we should support a war, any war. Why we should support the killing of anyone.”

    Well for one example, consider Nephi and Laban.

    Look at the Isrealites, etc…

  76. Russell Arben Fox on March 20, 2007 at 9:11 am

    Regarding principles and applications…

    The primary political/moral principle that President Hinckley invoked in his sermon, as I read it, came with his statement that “freedom-loving people” have an “overriding responsibility” to “fight for family, for liberty, and against tyranny, threat, and oppression,” and that this responsibility means that “there are times and circumstances when nations are justified, in fact have an obligation, to fight.” In the context he was speaking, he plainly meant–or at least I think he plainly meant–being justified to fight a not-necessarily-strictly-defensive war, or in other words to fight a pre-emptive and/or preventive war with a foreign tyrant in the name certain ideals not directly related to our own survival.

    The application, of course, was to Iraq, which President Hinckley specifically mentioned in his talk.

    So that’s where my question comes from: President Hinckley, in that one sermon, spoke in a very humble and tentative and careful tone, but nonetheless he spoke as one who supported the Iraq war for democratic or “liberal” reasons; he did not speak the language of realpolitik. If you are, like myself, someone who has come to believe that the Iraq war was a mistake, then you have to ask yourself: were the reasons President Hinckley invoked and gave scriptural support for–pre-emptive wars for freedom and democracy–themselves flawed (which may or may not say something about the scriptures he used in their support)? Or was Iraq just a bad application of them, for whatever reason?

  77. Russell Arben Fox on March 20, 2007 at 9:16 am

    Norbert,

    “I remember going to dinner with other YSAs in May and talking about President Hinckley’s talk. They saw it, with sighs of resignation, of more evidence of the American-ness of the church.”

    This, at least, is incontestable, at least insofar as the occasional articulation of political/moral principles by the leadership of the church is concerned. They are all, with few exceptions, American citizens, and their political and moral interpretations of events in light of the scriptures and church policies invariably reflect an American context. In this case, President Hinckley’s very language reflected common streams of thought in America at the time, and I suppose perhaps Britain also. So far as I can tell, the language of “freedom-loving people” being justified in waging war against Iraq in the name of certain liberal principles was practically nonexistent outside of the English-speaking world. (Which is, in fact, an interesting cultural question, however one feels about such reasoning itself.)

  78. Matt Evans on March 20, 2007 at 9:25 am

    “were the reasons President Hinckley invoked and gave scriptural support for–pre-emptive wars for freedom and democracy”

    Given that WWI and WWII were, from the US perspective, wars of choice to protect the freedom and democracy of others, and given that it’s hard for me to believe the US was wrong to enter those wars of choice (wars of choice in that our response was unhinged from the harms of the attacks against us), then I think President Hinckley’s reasons were sound.

    The Civil War is another great example. From the standpoint of the Union it was completely a war of choice. The CSA only attacked because they feared a Union strike and wanted to hinder them. Had the Union refused to fight, the CSA would have been happy to go about their business. Lincoln’s decision to wage war against the South was owed solely to his desire to preserve democracy. Few people understand how narrowly the fragile cause of democracy was spared by Lincoln’s decision to wage a war of choice at all costs.

  79. Chris Grant on March 20, 2007 at 9:30 am

    Re Margaret’s #35:

    President Kimball’s First Presidency message is often quoted selectively. President Kimball made it clear that righteousness, not just pacifism, is required if we expect the Lord to protect us, and he also made it clear that righteousness entails avoidance of a long list of sins (found in paragraph 10 of the message), a list that is not only un-PC but that contains sins that no reasonable person could argue that the American people are avoiding. Hence, Elder Maxwell’s rhetorical questions: “Can we recommend unconditional pacifism or unilateral disarmament for any people who are not otherwise righteous and therefore are unable to rely on the Lord to bless them? Would the citizens of Sodom have been spared if they had been pacifists but otherwise unrighteous?”

    Re Dan’s #36:

    How would President Hinckley quoting President Kimball’s message have helped your cause? His message seems to make no distinction between the Iraq invasion, which you opposed, and the Afghanistan invasion, which you supported.

  80. Mark IV on March 20, 2007 at 9:31 am

    Both the U.N. and the World Health Organization estimate about 800,000 Iraqi citizens died in the decade 1993-2003 as a result of the U.S. imposed sanctions and Baathist violence. Virtually everybody who opposes the war suggests that the sanctions and inspections that were in place before 3/03 “were working”, whatever that means.

    At a minimum, those who oppose the war, and especially those who were opposed from the beginning, are obligated to address those 800,000 human beings.

  81. Adam Greenwood on March 20, 2007 at 9:59 am

    Let’s put aside the fact that President Hinckley is the prophet, for now, and just look at how one’s views on the Iraq war should or could effect one’s views on pre-emptive wars of liberation in general.

    First, some observations:

    1. I’m using your term “pre-emptive” or “preventive” war but I don’t think that strictly accurate. Those are national security terms. “Aggressive war” or “war of liberation” might be better.

    2. I don’t think the Iraq war could only be justified as an aggressive war.

    3. Your assumption that the Iraq war is a mistake is widely-shared. But what needs to be sorted out is the degree to which you think the failure in Iraq is a failure to bring liberation and democracy or a failure on some other scale (a humanitarian failure, a realpolitick failure, a failure of prestige or of national security, e.g.). I do not think that our answers here will necessarily change our answers to the principle vs. application question, but I do think respecting President Hinckley’s prophetic call means that we need to consider them. For instance, it could be that a conflict would be justified from a religious, liberation perspective even if it were a disaster from a national security perspective. It could also be that the gospel approves of liberation and democracy to some degree even if the people use that liberation and democracy to slaughter each other.

    Second, on whether the Iraq war’s failure discredits the principle of aggressive wars of liberation.

    1. You need to decide what constitutes the failure of the Iraq war and why this discredits the principles that could be and were used to justify starting it. We wouldn’t argue that wars of self-defense are unjust just because they’ve been lost so frequently, for instance. If I’m right that the Iraq war had multiple justifications, then we need to decide whether all of those principles are discredited, or only the war of liberation principle, and if so, why.

    2. You need to decide that what you consider to be the failures that discredit the Iraq war weren’t primarily due to the particular leadership and the particular strategy.

    3. You need to decide that what you consider to be the failures that discredit the Iraq war weren’t particular to the Iraq war but would be true of any war where liberation could be a justification.

  82. Norbert on March 20, 2007 at 10:02 am

    ‘[W]ere the reasons President Hinckley invoked and gave scriptural support for–pre-emptive wars for freedom and democracy–themselves flawed (which may or may not say something about the scriptures he used in their support)?

    The scriptures he uses, and the argument he makes, are generally sound in theory. I’m not sure about Jesus and the sword, but there are principles worth fighting for, and his own extension — that those principles should be fought for in behalf of others — sounds good in principle. In reality, it usually turns out to be a monkeycluster rather than the idealistic triumph one imagines, but arguably one worth clustering for based on the strength of the underlying principles.

    Or was Iraq just a bad application of them, for whatever reason?

    Iraq was a terrible application of them, and the problems are in the speech itself:

    1. “When I came to this pulpit at that time, the war against terrorism had just begun. The present war is really an outgrowth and continuation of that conflict.” Iraq was not a front in the war on terror until after the invasion. The connections between Saddam and Al Qaeda were discredited by, among other, the 9/11 commission, and were openly questioned in the European press in early 2003.

    2. “‘Mom, I have to go so you and the family can be free, free to worship as you please. . . . And if it costs me my life . . . then giving my life is worth it.’” I realize this may be a platitude, but I’ll assume it’s serious. For this to be true, one would have to assume that he’s talking about the infamous WMDs, yes? Or the AlQaeda connection? Or is there something I’m missing?

    3. “But as citizens we are all under the direction of our respective national leaders. They have access to greater political and military intelligence than do the people generally.” Even the most hawkish amongst us would have to admit there is a flaw in the application of this statement of trust regarding Iraq.

    Rereading this, I have to say its more ambiguous than I remembered. It would be easy to take passages out of context and portray it as solidly anti-war. I especially appreciated the juxtapostion of the aforementioned letter from a mother with this statement:

    There are other mothers, innocent civilians, who cling to their children with fear and look heavenward with desperate pleadings as the earth shakes beneath their feet and deadly rockets scream through the dark sky.

    Nice imagery of ‘collateral damage.’ Hmm.

  83. Norbert on March 20, 2007 at 10:19 am

    At a minimum, those who oppose the war, and especially those who were opposed from the beginning, are obligated to address those 800,000 human beings.

    If we’re going to start a list of human beings for whom we might claim a moral responsibility based on inaction, and even actions of misplaced good intentions, it’s going to be a very very long list. And if that was the main reason given for the invasion in 2003, I would be willing to engage about this. But it wasn’t before the invasion exposed the lack of WMDs and the AlQeada connection was found to be thin on evidence. The Human Rights Watch group have an article called War in Iraq: Not a Humanitarian Intervention. It makes many interesting points.

  84. Hellmut on March 20, 2007 at 10:21 am

    Dan,

    I take serious issue with anyone who wants to lay the problem at the feet of Colin Powell. He was the one who pleaded with the administration to work with and through the UN when Bush made the ugliest foreign policy gaffe imaginable.

    That’s, of course, correct. Yet Powell himself is upset with his United Nations speech. He realizes that Bush exploited and suckered Powell to leverage the general’s prestige in a dishonest propaganda effort.

    As that can happen to the best of us, I don’t blame Powell. I do find it encouraging, however, that he is taking responsibility for his role.

    Chris asks:

    Doesn’t “civil disobedience” normally connote the use of nonviolent means?

    Yes, it does. And most of Bonhoeffer’s disciples have not crossed the line to violence. Bonhoeffer himself, of course, had no qualms motivating Hitler’s would be assassins.

    While I am aware that Bonhoeffer’s ideas were influential in the ANC’s struggle in South Africa, Desmond Tutu cites him frequently, I don’t know how that relates to the violent phase of resistance.

    The French involved themselves at the behest of Ben Franklin (Chalabi), who represented the revolutionaries, which are believed to have had the support of about 1/3 of Americans at the time (another third were Tories, the rest undecided).

    Benjamin Franklin would turn in his grave if he were aware that people are comparing him to the likes of Ahmed Chalabi.

    At best, Chalabi did not represent Iraqis. He never had a base inside Iraq. Chalabi’s base are the American Enterprise Institute and Dick Cheney.

    He is a smart guy who served his neocon patrons well.

    Unfortunately, his role in the de-Baathification process has exacerbated Sunni security concerns and increased their incentives to fight. Chalabi is part of the problem, not the solution. We should force him to leave Iraq and sweeten his silence with a pension.

  85. Russell Arben Fox on March 20, 2007 at 10:21 am

    Matt,

    Regarding WWI, WWII, and the Civil War as examples of “wars of choice to protect the freedom and democracy”–there are significant historical debates that your presentation of these conflicts is not acknowledging. For example, in both WWII and the Civil War, the entrance of the U.S. and the Union into the conflict followed an aggressive attack (on Pearl Harbor and Fort Sumpter) by the opposing power. You might argue that ethically the response in those cases was “unhinged from the harms of the attacks,” but nonetheless, the logic of defense of territory against provocation was present in both cases. Moreover, especially in regards to the Civil War, I think your conflation of “democracy” with the cause of the Union–a cause that only became explicitly anti-slavery more than two years into the war, with the real proximate cause of the war being an argument over constitutionalism, seccession, and Western expansion–can be seriously challenged.

    As for WWI, you are correct that America’s entrance into that conflict was almost wholly a matter of choice and driven by Wilson’s rhetoric of a “war for democracy.” However, I’d be curious to know more about your assessment that it is hard to find any way in which to judge our involvement in that war as “wrong”; WWI is widely regarded, by most historians, ethicists, military strategists, and more, as a profoundly pointless and inconclusive war, one in which no real territory or ideology was seriously at stake.

  86. Russell Arben Fox on March 20, 2007 at 10:26 am

    Chris,

    “Hence, Elder Maxwell’s rhetorical questions: ‘Can we recommend unconditional pacifism or unilateral disarmament for any people who are not otherwise righteous and therefore are unable to rely on the Lord to bless them? Would the citizens of Sodom have been spared if they had been pacifists but otherwise unrighteous?’”

    Where did you find this quote, if I may ask? I’ve never heard it before. It does sound like something Elder Maxwell would have said, and it makes an important observation (though not, I think, an uncontestable one; for example, is the real point of pacifism to be “protected”?). But I’ve never heard a contemporary general authority speak out so specifically on pacifism before (with the one exception I can think of being an address on conscientious objection given by Elder Packer back during the Vietnam War). So anyway, if you could point me towards the source of this quote, I’d appreciate it.

  87. Adam Greenwood on March 20, 2007 at 10:32 am

    Norbert,

    I agree that the speech is actually fairly ambiguous and I agree that the principles themselves are sound. But I disagree that the other statements in the speech are inaccurate the way you suggested.

    1) The Iraq war as part of the War on Terror–
    you are simply wrong that this suggests that Iraq was responsible for Al Qaeda or even intimately linked (though I do think there was more connection than the 9-11 Commission or, heavens above, the European press, was giving credit for). The war on terror was conceived as a war on certain root causes, of which the political dysfunction and repression of Middle Eastern regimes was held to be one cause. It was also thought that having a big, swinging stick in the Middle East would put a damper on terrorism abroad and encourager les autre. In my mind these are both still possible outcomes, but even if one disagrees they were possible outcomes from the perspective of 2003. The sneer that it was all about Al Qaeda is the European anti-war equivalent of believing the Book of Mormon must be false because the evidence doesn’t show any civilization spanning South American and North America.

    2. The letter from the marine about freedom:
    This isn’t the part of the speech where President Hinckley is laying out where “the Church stands in all this.” Here he’s stating that church members are involved in the war. That church members are in uniform, that many of them are in uniform because they see military service as protecting American freedoms, and that many of them see the Iraq war in particular as a forward defense of that freedom are simple facts. I see this whole section, which begins with children seeing off thir fathers in uniform, continues with a mother receiving this letter from her marine son and other mothers fearing that their children will die from bombs in the sky, and concluding with a reference to casualties and public protests–I see this as a statement that war affects everybody and that it is therefore appropriate for the Church to comment on war.

    3. Deference to nat’l leaders:
    This isn’t really an application of the principle of liberational war, but itself another principle and, I would argue, a correct one.

  88. Russell Arben Fox on March 20, 2007 at 10:40 am

    Adam,

    Going way back to #50, given everything else President Hinckley said in his talk, I really do think 1) is the most likely interpretation. He didn’t take the time to explain who or what he meant by “freedom-loving people,” which means, I assume, that he figured such a label to be an obvious self-identification for his intended audience. And an audience of freedom-loving people, of potential Captain Moronis, presumably wouldn’t make the mistake you describe in 2). That leaves 3), which really is a good possibility; as has been observed elsewhere, if looked at solely as a literary artifact, President Hinckley’s reference to the British empire fits very much in with the tone of the talk generally, and needn’t necessarily have a specific political point.

    Regarding #81, your breakdown of the various issues involved is a thoughtful one, and brings up too many specific issues for me to go into at the moment–I may have a little bit more time later this morning though. For now, however, one quick point: you mention several times criteria that ought to be or perhaps could be incorporated into any assessment of our “failure” in Iraq. Here’s the thing: I don’t think we “failed”. The war was about overthrowing Saddam Hussein and liberating the Iraqi people; that was accomplished in record time. The “failure” came with the inability of the Bush administration and/or other actors to respond to, guide, or otherwise involve themselves in any sort of long-term, productive way in the events which came afterward, so as to prevent the situation we have today, which is–in terms of both the overall strategy of the war on terror as well as the lives of many ordinary Iraqis–arguably far worse than what existed before. So no, I don’t think the war was mistaken because we couldn’t win–this isn’t Vietnam. I think the war was mistaken because it was misconceived and wrong to wage this particular war at this particular time in the first place.

  89. Geoff B on March 20, 2007 at 10:46 am

    Russell, I think Matt’s larger point in #78 is valid, which is that it is not as easy a call as some people believe it is to say which wars are morally just and which are not. I believe the Iraq war, regardless of the WMD issue, is justified purely on a humanitarian basis because bringing freedom to oppressed people is a worthy and noble cause. Yes, a myriad of mistakes have been made, but the cause in itself is worthy and noble.

    In retrospect, many U.S. interventions could have been avoided. But would the world have been a better place if they had been?

    I wish more people strongly against the Iraq war would read about the political climate in the North in 1864. The “Peace Democrats” then sound exactly like the “peace Democrats” today. They even had a former military man, McClellan (ie Wesley Clark, Murtha) as their leader. Lincoln was the war monger. It is a fascinating comparison. How many more people would have died, and how much longer would slavery have been a stain on American soil, if McClellan had become president in 1864 and allowed the south autonomy?

    Temporary peace often will bring much more suffering in the long run and often is not the “right” thing to do morally. Imagine if we had made “peace” with Hitler and Tojo in, say, 1938 and agreed not to get involved in Europe and Asia. How many more millions would have died?

    I believe we need to consider the possibility that not acting is often worse than military action. That is one lesson history has definitely shown us. Will Iraq be an example of that? Well, it’s probably too early to tell, but there are reasons to be dismayed and some reasons for cautious optimism.

  90. Adam Greenwood on March 20, 2007 at 10:53 am

    Moreover, especially in regards to the Civil War, I think your conflation of “democracy” with the cause of the Union–a cause that only became explicitly anti-slavery more than two years into the war, with the real proximate cause of the war being an argument over constitutionalism, seccession, and Western expansion–can be seriously challenged.

    I think you are mistaken here, Russell Fox. The Civil War was always a war for democracy–for the principle that the losers in elections couldn’t opt out of the system if the elections didn’t go their way–but it later also became a war for liberation of the slaves. From the get go Abraham Lincoln publicly and privately justified the Civil War in these terms, as a defense of democratic principles as embodied in the Union. This was why, as I understand it, European radicals were pro-Union prior to emancipation and while anti-slavery European aristocrats and monarchists had confederate sympathies.

    I have a really hard time seeing the Civil War as a defensive war. Any war can be defensive if the agressor is ipso facto the party that opens fire first. All we’d have to do in Iraq is fly some planes across the border, wait until Iraqi AA units open fire, and then “defend” ourselves all the way to Baghdad.

  91. Chris Grant on March 20, 2007 at 10:56 am

    Re #85: Attacking a fort located in the harbor of one of your own cities, hundreds of miles removed from the nation from which you’ve seceded, has to rank fairly low on the scale of territorial aggression. Was the Union in possession of a Guantanamo-style lease granting it sovereignty over Sumter?

    Re #86: The quote by Elder Maxwell is from his book Sermons not Spoken in the chapter entitled something like “Distress of Nations, with Perplexity”.

  92. Adam Greenwood on March 20, 2007 at 10:57 am

    Re #81

    That being so, Russell Fox, I don’t think you can say that the principle that wars of liberation is justified is discredited by the events in Iraq, but I may be misunderstanding you.

  93. Mark N. on March 20, 2007 at 11:23 am

    2 Thes. 3:6 teaches that the Saints should withdraw from those who refuse to work.

    It does? The cross references lead specifically to Romans 16: 17-19, and I think they had a little more in mind than laziness:

    “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”

    “Renounce war” is doctrine to me.

    1 Tim. 6:5 says the Saints should separate themselves from those who teach servants to rebel against their masters.

    “Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.”

    Seems to me that the conflict in Iraq is the result of perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds (and who have greatly profited monetarily from said conflict). If Dan thinks that anyone offering a pro-war-in-Iraq position is a perverse disputing, and decides to take his leave as a result, it’s his right.

    Your mileage may vary.

  94. Geoff B on March 20, 2007 at 11:25 am

    Here is an article in Slate by Christopher Hitchens that is relevant to this discussion:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2162157

  95. Mark N. on March 20, 2007 at 11:26 am

    Well for one example, consider Nephi and Laban.

    Look at the Isrealites, etc…

    Some post-New-Testament-doctrine examples might be nice.

  96. Mark N. on March 20, 2007 at 11:30 am

    Few people understand how narrowly the fragile cause of democracy was spared by Lincoln’s decision to wage a war of choice at all costs.

    Yes, and I imagine that many an unhappy marriage has been saved because the husband had the good sense to point a gun at his wife and say something like, “Sorry, this marriage is forever. I forbid you to leave.”

  97. Adam Greenwood on March 20, 2007 at 11:40 am

    I noticed two things re-reading Hinckley’s sermon.

    First, he doesn’t explicitly condemn the Roman, Ottoman, Byzantine, or British Empires. He could just be advancing a tragic vision: imperial peace may be worthwhile, but it comes at a tragic price. This actually would fit well with what he has to say about war later on, but the immediate context makes it unlikely. I also think its unlikely for biographical reasons. Incidentally, this is an odd mix of empires to have chosen. The Roman Empire and the British Empire do get romanticized. The Byzantine Empire some also, but mostly in circles that I wouldn’t expect President Hinckley to be familiar with (paleo-con Christian eccentrics). Is the Ottoman Empire romanticized at all? Maybe among Turks. Come to think of it, didn’t Bin Laden lament the fall of the Ottomans? And I’ve seen westerners say that most of our current troubles are due to the Ottoman Empire or some other hegemon keeping a lid on. Maybe President Hinckley is saying that the peace and prosperity that empires bring aren’t worth the brutal methods used to maintain them or the loss of freedom and popular control.

    Second, I haven’t noticed this before but in addition to stating that the Church believes that freedom and liberation can justify war, he says that in his personal view this principle justifies the Iraq war. “However, we all must also be mindful of another overriding responsibility [to protect freedom], which I may add, governs my personal feelings and dictates my personal loyalties in the present situation.” Its also interesting that the speech never explicitly justifies aggressive wars of liberation, though I think that interpreting it to refer only to defensive wars of liberation is strained.

  98. Mark IV on March 20, 2007 at 11:41 am

    Norbert, # 83,

    I followed your link to HRW and found the article unsatisfactory. Quoting from the conclusion:

    Most important, the killing in Iraq at the time was not of the exceptional nature that would justify such intervention.

    I don’t think the article even addresses my question. Our sanctions, pre-war, were responsible for over 800,000 deaths, 2/3 of them children under 10. If we want to go back to 2/03 and argue against going to war, and for a continuation of the sanctions, what do we say to those 800,000 deaths? I’m just trying to get somebody to acknowledge out loud that we don’t give a damn about them.

  99. Adam Greenwood on March 20, 2007 at 11:49 am

    Mark N.,

    Your interpretation of those scriptures is pretty stretched. If you actually read the passages in which they are found, you’ll find that the one scripture is about, yes, staying away from people who are freeloading off the church community and the other is about people who are telling slaves to rebel against their masters. But that’s a quibble.

    The real point is that its nasty to never speak to a fellow Saint again because they listened to President Bush on the radio, and its pretty nasty to bring up scriptures on shunning, disfellowshipping, and excommunicating to justify this. I’ve listened to President Bush on the radio, in some of his talks about war. I’ll bet lots of people here have. I’ll bet many of the Apostles and the First Presidency have.

  100. Seth R. on March 20, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    I don’t think President Hinckley should be expected to hand down revelation or even guidance on such matters as the Iraq War or Afghanistan. I was thinking about this and asking – if I were prophet at that moment, should I be praying to God for guidance on the current US wars?

    My conclusion was that if I were to ask for God’s opinion on those wars, He wouldn’t give it. That isn’t the role He has chosen for His church or His prophet.

    Hinckley was doing the best that could be expected of him – stating a few treasured Mormon scriptures and beliefs and trying to apply them to momentous events of concern to his listeners, while occasionally allowing some human bias to creep in. I don’t see that any of us would have done any better.

    I WAS however, disappointed that President Hinckley said nothing about the then-current climate of nationalist pride, paranoia, and existential despair that was gripping our nation following September 11. The climate of fear that had gripped America was, frankly, Satanic. It represented the wailings of a fallen and arrogant people who will not trust in God that He should watch over them.

  101. Geoff B on March 20, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    Seth R, it appears prophets in Old Testament times routinely asked Jehovah for guidance on national security issues. And, apparently, guidance was very often given. I’m not sure why things would be different now.

  102. Otto on March 20, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    Geoff B: for one thing, “national security” implies aspects of “nationhood” that are radically different today than they were then.

  103. Seth R. on March 20, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    Geoff, that was Israel.

    You know, God’s own personal nation?

    America is not God’s own chosen people. He no more directly commands its rulers than he did Rome’s.

  104. Seth R. on March 20, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    A more apt analogy to America would be when God speaks out against ancient Assyria:

    “Shall the axe boast itself against Him that heweth therewith?”

  105. Mark N. on March 20, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    Adam,

    Your interpretation of those scriptures is pretty stretched. If you actually read the passages in which they are found…

    I assure you, I did read them. I don’t think my interpretation is “stretched” at all. I’ve heard non-Mormons criticize Joseph Smith’s use of James 1:5 as his inspiration for asking God which church he should join, because if you (supposedly) read the chapter in context, James isn’t exhorting people to go get revelation from God when they attempt to make a decision or obtain truth; it’s all about praying to avoid temptation, so therefore Joseph Smith couldn’t possibly have had a vision of God, because he misunderstood James 1:5, and God never meant for James 1:5 to serve as an endorsement for praying for revelation.

    If my interpretation is “stretched”, then the context of James 1:5 would seem to say that Joseph’s use of it was pretty “stretched”, too.

  106. Adam Greenwood on March 20, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    Your reasoning, Mark N.,

    1) Some people have argued that James 1:5 does not actually say what Joseph Smith thought it said, because of the context.

    2) But Joseph Smith received an answer when he prayed, in accordance with his interpretation of James 1:5.

    3) Therefore Mark N. cannot be interpreting a scripture out of context.

    This reasoning is flawed.

  107. Dan on March 20, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    Geoff,

    #89,

    Lincoln was the war monger. It is a fascinating comparison. How many more people would have died, and how much longer would slavery have been a stain on American soil, if McClellan had become president in 1864 and allowed the south autonomy?

    Hmmm, I seem to recall from my studies of the Civil War that South Carolina threatened to secede from the Union if Lincoln was elected. They never made that threat if McClellan was elected, so really, if McClellan was elected, we may not have had a Civil War to begin with, because the South would not have left the Union.

    Temporary peace often will bring much more suffering in the long run and often is not the “right” thing to do morally. Imagine if we had made “peace” with Hitler and Tojo in, say, 1938 and agreed not to get involved in Europe and Asia. How many more millions would have died?

    I believe we need to consider the possibility that not acting is often worse than military action. That is one lesson history has definitely shown us. Will Iraq be an example of that? Well, it’s probably too early to tell, but there are reasons to be dismayed and some reasons for cautious optimism.

    Your comparisons to World War II would only work if indeed Saddam was anywhere close to a threat like Hirohito and Hitler were. Saddam, caged in through UN sanctions and American/British no-fly zones, was not a threat to his neighbors, nor to the United States of America. Sanctions actually worked at degrading his military capabilities. Colin Powell attested to this in February 2001. His comments in February 2001 fly in the face of everything else said afterwards, even with our “paradigm shift” that took place after 9/11. Do I need to repeat Colin Powell’s words? I wonder why Iraq war supporters act as if Colin Powell did not say those words in 2001? It totally flies in the face of all the fear-mongering threats spewed forth afterwards leading up to the war itself in March 2003. It is very simple. Was Colin Powell wrong in 2001? If he was, why should he be believed in 2003? If he was right in 2001, why should he be believed in 2003 when he says something completely different? Either sanctions worked, and Saddam was not a threat to his neighbors or he was.

    As such, with Saddam not a threat, any comparison to Hirohito and Hitler, who were most assuredly the most significant threats to peace in the 20th century, fails, and cannot be used. Moreover, you talk about making “peace.” We have to define what you mean by “making peace.” Does that mean signing a peace treaty, does that mean removing sanctions? Can you name me any credible person out there who was against the war who said we should remove sanctions and make peace with Saddam?

  108. Dan on March 20, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    Adam,

    #90,

    All we’d have to do in Iraq is fly some planes across the border, wait until Iraqi AA units open fire, and then “defend” ourselves all the way to Baghdad.

    That doesn’t work. If you cross the border into another nation, whether or not you fire first, your action is aggressive, and you are the aggressor. The no-fly zones were aggressive, and contrary to American views on the subject, it was Iraq that was defending itself by firing on planes entering Iraq space without permission. We’d do the same if China were suddenly going to fly planes across our skies without our permission, and we would make the right claim that China was the aggressor.

  109. Dan on March 20, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    Geoff,

    #101,

    Seth R, it appears prophets in Old Testament times routinely asked Jehovah for guidance on national security issues. And, apparently, guidance was very often given. I’m not sure why things would be different now.

    Because we’re not in a theocracy now, but a secular democracy.

  110. Adam Greenwood on March 20, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    “Hmmm, I seem to recall from my studies of the Civil War that South Carolina threatened to secede from the Union if Lincoln was elected. They never made that threat if McClellan was elected, so really, if McClellan was elected, we may not have had a Civil War to begin with, because the South would not have left the Union.”

    McClellan ran in 1864 after the war had been underway for four years already. The South did not offer to rejoin the Union if McClellan was elected, nor was there any portion of the Southern Republic that wanted to do so.

    In 1860, the candidates were Breckinridge, Bell, Douglas, and Lincoln. Lincoln was the most anti-slavery in that he wanted to forbid slavery outside of the areas where it already was. Bell was a non-entity. Douglas wanted to allow slavery in new states and territories on a popular sovereignty basis, which had already led to bloodshed in Kansas and Nebraska. Douglas ran 2d to Lincoln in the North and didn’t make much of a showing in the South. Even his popular sovereignty position was unacceptable to Southerners. In my view, the South would probably have seceded if Douglas was elected also. The South wanted the federal government to pass a federal slave code allowing and protecting slavery in all territories and the Deep South was unwilling to accept much of anything less. You may blame Northerners for not voting for peace and Breckinridge but I don’t. If this wasn’t your point, then what was?

    By the way, your comment #108 misses the point by a mile. There’s a reason I put “defend” in quotes.

  111. DavidH on March 20, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    It appears to me that there is a substantial portion of the Bloggernacle that continues to think that while “mistakes” were made in the implementation, the US was fully justified, and it was, perhaps God’s will (given President Hinckley’s implicit personal opinion in support of this war) that we invade Iraq–that it is righteous war and carnage, in the same way that Americans view Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki in WWII and the total war of the North in the Civil War. If a substantial portion of the Bloggernacle believes this, then I imagine an overwhelming portion of active white American LDS do as well. (I know many members of my ward who insist that WMDs have been found–but that the media refuse to publicize it.)

    Do I recall a poll somewhere showing that support for the war, and for Bush, is significantly higher in Utah (and among LDS in Utah) than in other parts of the country and among other religious groups?

    I wonder what it is about LDS theology or culture in the US that makes support for war (and this one in particular) and for this president so high? Was it the Church’s stepping quickly away from Elder Nelson’s sermon on peace? Was it President Hinckley’s implicit personal support for the war and the Administration? Was it President Bush’s frequent references to God and being inspired by God? Was it President Bush’s giving a special award to President Hinckley? Does it have to do with the socio-economic status of members?

  112. Aluwid on March 20, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    “Can you name me any credible person out there who was against the war who said we should remove sanctions and make peace with Saddam?”

    Well, before 9/11 there was:

    “…Despite these accomplishments, the international consensus surrounding sanctions was wavering by the end of the decade. The Security Council adopted SCR 1284 in December 1999, but France, China, and Russia each abstained from the vote. This sanctions “fatigue” was a product, in part, of the ongoing concern about the impact of sanctions of the Iraqi population. But there were political and commercial pressures at work as well…” – http://www.cdi.org/terrorism/iraq_sanctions.cfm

    9/11 renewed the consensus for sanctions temporarily at least. Had the Iraq war never happened then I imagine the resolve for sanctions would have weakened over time once again. Concerns about the welfare of the Iraqi population (it wasn’t Hussein and his cronies that were starving), political and commercial pressure, etc.

  113. Adam Greenwood on March 20, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    DavidH,

    I don’t believe President Hinckley’s personal support is equivalent to prophetic sanction. In my mind, when the prophet says an opinion is personal he means its not prophetic. Of course it probably does a lot to legitimate a viewpoint if the prophet espouses it personally, and this was probably what you meant.

  114. Dan on March 20, 2007 at 3:16 pm

    DavidH,

    Do I recall a poll somewhere showing that support for the war, and for Bush, is significantly higher in Utah (and among LDS in Utah) than in other parts of the country and among other religious groups?

    Yes, just recently Bush’s support in Utah actually dropped just below 50% for the first time ever. Meanwhile, the rest of the country is down at 30%.

    I wonder what it is about LDS theology or culture in the US that makes support for war (and this one in particular) and for this president so high? Was it the Church’s stepping quickly away from Elder Nelson’s sermon on peace? Was it President Hinckley’s implicit personal support for the war and the Administration? Was it President Bush’s frequent references to God and being inspired by God? Was it President Bush’s giving a special award to President Hinckley? Does it have to do with the socio-economic status of members?

    My own opinion comes from LDS culture’s strong aversion to rebelling. So often the point of following authority, whether church or state, is highlighted and emphasized that it is completely antithetical to LDS culture (more Utah than anywhere else) to go against what the president says. It also comes from the overemphasized point that our Constitution was “divinely inspired.” Because it was divinely inspired, therefore our leader is a man of God, so goes the thinking, but only if he is a Republican. So if the president says so, it must be right.

  115. Russell Arben Fox on March 20, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    Adam, going way back to #90:

    “The Civil War was always a war for democracy–for the principle that the losers in elections couldn’t opt out of the system if the elections didn’t go their way–but it later also became a war for liberation of the slaves. From the get go Abraham Lincoln publicly and privately justified the Civil War in these terms, as a defense of democratic principles as embodied in the Union.”

    The key phrase there is “democratic principles as embodied in the Union.” Democracy always has to be embodied in some set of practices or arrangements; otherwise, it’s just an ideal. This is the problem with claiming the that the Civil War, or the war in Iraq, or any war, can really be for an ideal–it doesn’t make the notion necessarily incoherent, just extremely problematic. Take the Civil War, for example–a strong and good argument would give the democratic benefit of the doubt to the South. Their advocation of states’ rights was far closer to Jeffersonian democracy than anything happening in Washington DC at the time. Calhoun’s doctrine of “concurrent majorities” is a perfectly valid democratic mechanism. The seccession itself was carried out by democratic means, with state referendums and assemblies, and in cases where the vote was close–as it was, for example, in Texas–you have the losers like Sam Houston going along with seccession as the legitimate decision of a state-wide democratic majority.

    I am not claiming the Lincoln was a liar when he talked about “democracy.” I am, however, pointing out that he was putting forward a particular constitutional regime and its rules–namely, the U.S. government which he was the elected head of–as the embodiment of democracy when he made that argument. Constitutions and foundings rest uncomfortably alongside liberalism and democracy, because they have to come first…and that priority cannot necessarily be defended by invoking first principles. Often they are settled by force. Which suggest that maybe the realpolitik understand something we idealists do not.

  116. Chris Grant on March 20, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    In #101, DavidH writes that some appear to think that the war in Iraq is “righteous war and carnage, in the same way that Americans view Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki in WWII“.

    For me, it’s not at all the same. Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki (not to mention Tokyo, Hamburg, Darmstadt, Pforzheim, etc., etc.) all involved the cold-blooded, deliberate, targeted killing of civilians. I don’t believe anything like that happened in the invasion of Iraq. As for the post-invasion misery caused by Sunnis and Shiites murdering each other, some of us were foolish enough to have no more anticipated that than Eisenhower anticipated the invasion of Germany to lead to years and years of Lutheran and Catholic Germans blowing each other up.

  117. Russell Arben Fox on March 20, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    Chris, thanks for the source on that Maxwell quote; I’m going to have to track it down, and read it in context.

  118. Adam Greenwood on March 20, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    Russell,

    Matt Evans, defending liberation and democracy as justifications for war, brought up the Civil War, arguing that you either have to reject it as immoral or allow that liberation and democracy can sometimes be valid bases for war. You demurred, saying that the Civil War was actually a war of defense against agression, not a war for democracy or liberation. I explained why I thought this view of yours was not tenable.

    Now you have responded and I admit that I do not understand your response. You say that Lincoln could have been wrong in believing that he had to maintain the Union and its constitution to preserve democracy. Sure. So what? That’s just another way of saying that the Civil War was unjustified.

    Second, you say we should look to realpolitik. Realpolitik has its uses, but do you really want to use realpolitik as your basis for determining whether wars are just or not? I can’t believe that you do. Would the Iraq war be morally just if only we were a lot more brutal and therefore more successful?

  119. Russell Arben Fox on March 20, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    “You demurred, saying that the Civil War was actually a war of defense against agression, not a war for democracy or liberation.”

    I don’t recall demurring from his point, only qualifying it. That is, I don’t think that the Civil War was so clearly or obviously a successful application of the principle of initiating a war for the sake of promoting liberal ends so as to justify its use in contexts relating to arguments about the Iraq war.

    “You say that Lincoln could have been wrong in believing that he had to maintain the Union and its constitution to preserve democracy. Sure. So what? That’s just another way of saying that the Civil War was unjustified.”

    Huh? How so? I think the Civil War was justified. I’m not a paleocon. However, I do think that conflating the abstract ideal of “democracy” with a specific civil war aggressively waged to preserve a Union that (after its rebaptism via Lincoln’s rhetoric) became committed to the antislavery cause, is a little simplistic. Surely it is too simplistic to justify, in my view at least, a strictly Lincolneque defense of the Iraq war.

    “You say we should look to realpolitik. Realpolitik has its uses, but do you really want to use realpolitik as your basis for determining whether wars are just or not? I can’t believe that you do.”

    You’re right; I don’t. My reference to realpolitik was not a recommendation that we “look to it” for solutions; only an observation that at least some of the realist worldview is reflective of truths about the complicated roots of all regimes that perhaps idealists like I was–and, in truth, I remain–too often ignore.

  120. Clark on March 20, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    Dan (#60) His 2003 comments do not override his 2001 comments because Saddam didn’t suddenly reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction program within those two years.

    Well yes, in hindsight. Hindsight is nearly 20/20 as they say. However in 2003 he still had a lot of credibility and Rumsfeld’s character wasn’t known.

  121. DavidH on March 20, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    Chris,

    Thanks for your comment. I agree that much of the Allied effort “involved the cold-blooded, deliberate, targeted killing of civilians.” President Clark thought it was barbaric and unjustifiable. But most white American LDS I know (that is those who have spoken to me about it) believe even the cold-blooded, deliberate, targeted killing of civilians was at worst unfortunate and certainly “righteous” in the sense that the goals of the war were “righteous” and this was the only way to attain them. When I say that they are a part of the war of which I am not proud, I am often accused of being an unpatriotic ingrate.

    Regarding the Civil War, I do not see it as a war about democracy, but as a war about whether the union was indissoluble. As others have noted, democratic processes were followed by the southern states in seceding. (Or in any event processes that were a democratic as those in the north.) I understand that Maryland would also have used the democratic process for seceding, but Lincoln prevented the legislature from meeting to do so, and Maryland’s staying in the union was not a democratic act of the people or the legislature.

  122. Adam Greenwood on March 20, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    I accept your amended defense of realism. But I still don’t quite see where you’re going with the Civil War, so maybe we have to agree to disagree. I’ll have a stab at it anyway, though.

    We agree that the Civil War was not immoral (much to my relief–this is one of those areas where paleocons drive me up the wall). But why? The Civil War was not a war of self-defense, to my mind. The justifications that the were offered at the time by Lincoln and others I would categorize as an argument that the war was justified because it was a war for democracy: first, they argued that the principle had to be enforced that the losers had to respect the results of elections and, second, they argued that if the Union crumbled democracy would be discredited worldwide. Later the Civil War also became a war of liberation.

    So it seems to me that if you accept that the Civil War was justified you either have to accept that wars for democracy and liberation can be justifiable in principle, or you have to come up with a new explanation. Accepting the Civil War does not automatically justify the Iraq war, but it probably does justify democracy and liberation as legitimate war aims and and war justifiers.

  123. joshua Madson on March 20, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    I have seen instances were people have cited Israel as an example of God justifying war. First and foremost I truly wonder to what extent Israel rewrote their history in order to justify their violent campaign into Palestine. It is much easier to lay the blame at God’s feet rather than at ones own. Yes kill all the men women and children but spare the prostitutes, they might be helpful. King David was a profoundly wicked man. Leaving his adulterous affair and murder, the man showed his “righteousness” and worth by being overzealous about the number of foreskins he could take from those he killed. Israel was not a nation to emulate. Israel was warlike and it is now wonder their idea of a Messiah was a warrior king.

    The savior not only came to atone but needed to come and change the debate. The prince of peace came to bring a higher law, a law that entailed loving ones enemies, doing good unto those who hurt you. he renounced the powers of this world. Violence was the antithesis of his love and atonement.

    Even in the book of mormon we find the savior announcing an end to their contention, an end to war and violence. If we are unsure of his message, look to the those early followers. In the new world there were no more -ites, no more war, no more contention. In the old world, the early Christians denounced violence, refused to fight, and would even give up their lives rather than serve in the military.

    Satan reigns with blood and horror and it is sad that we would ever feel justified in participating in his works

  124. Clark on March 20, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    Chris (#116), I tend to agree. I think that Americans have tried to minimize casualties. Which doesn’t minimize our responsibility for allowing the mess even if most of the mess was directly caused by Iraqi factions. The government should have done more research before the invasion. They didn’t. What bothers me about much of the anti-war crowd is basically the denial of our responsibility. (Not all do, of course, some sincerely think a pull out would help Iraq – as difficult as that is to believe)

    The one effect of the Iraq war on me has been to be much more skeptical of all political leaders on both parties. Yet many of the anti-war crowd seem to have as heavily shaded rose colored glasses as many of us war supporters unfortunately did in 2003.

    Dan (#108) If you cross the border into another nation, whether or not you fire first, your action is aggressive, and you are the aggressor. The no-fly zones were aggressive, and contrary to American views on the subject, it was Iraq that was defending itself by firing on planes entering Iraq space without permission. We’d do the same if China were suddenly going to fly planes across our skies without our permission, and we would make the right claim that China was the aggressor.

    Were these put on Iraq independent of past history you’d of course have been right. But there was that pesky war in the early 90′s that seems to change the nature of things considerably. So of course they were “aggressive” much like US presence on Japanese soil in the 1950′s and 1960′s was aggressive.

  125. Adam Greenwood on March 20, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    “Even in the book of mormon we find the savior announcing an end to their contention, an end to war and violence.”

    And that great city Jacobugath did I cause to be burned with fire. I did cause them to be burned, to destroy them before my face.

  126. Dan on March 20, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    Clark,

    #120,

    Well yes, in hindsight. Hindsight is nearly 20/20 as they say. However in 2003 he still had a lot of credibility and Rumsfeld’s character wasn’t known.

    In 2003 I could not understand why Powell said what he said at the February UN presentation when just two years earlier he said that sanctions worked, and that Saddam was not a threat. It did not make sense. I did not believe Powell’s 2003 presentation because of this very issue, because I knew what he said two years earlier. When everything stays the same (same sanctions, same political pressure on Saddam) in a two-year period, and you change your rhetoric, it is you that changed, not Saddam. The evidence was there in 2003 that we were being bamboozled. I think the reason why so many Americans were unwilling to see it was because, as opinion polls showed, up to 75% of Americans thought Saddam was behind 9/11, or had something to do with it. They were unwilling to see reality because they were still so overheated over 9/11.

  127. Dan on March 20, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    Clark,

    #124,

    But there was that pesky war in the early 90’s that seems to change the nature of things considerably

    It may have changed the nature of the relation between the United States and Iraq, however, the no-fly zones were not authorized by any UN resolution, and were unilateral decisions made by the United States, Great Britain, and France. In any case, this is veering off course. Let’s let it be.

  128. Jack on March 20, 2007 at 6:51 pm

    Has anyone ever tallied a list of unecessary deaths (friendly fire, poor strategy, etc.) from WWII? And how many of those deaths would be civilian? I bet the numbers would be heartbreaking.

    I grow weary of hearing about the poor planning and what-not. If we had today’s IT back in the forties, you can bet your hide that the level of public morale would’ve been a sight less.

  129. Russell Arben Fox on March 20, 2007 at 6:58 pm

    Adam,

    “It seems to me that if you accept that the Civil War was justified you either have to accept that wars for democracy and liberation can be justifiable in principle, or you have to come up with a new explanation.”

    1) I could believe the Civil War was justifiable because I feel a patriotic attachment to our constitutional order, and consider the South’s seccession from the Union, however arguably democratic and localist and all, to be a crime against that order. In saying this, I am of course acknowledging myself as a believe in Lincoln’s Christian/romantic recreation of our country, in which “America” means not so much an experiment in republican self-government, as a general will embodied in the principles of the Declaration which we have all agreed to.

    2) I could further believe that, since the Iraqi people were not part of that general willing, and thus are not beholden to that principled social contract, fighting for their freedom–”forcing” them to be free, as it were–involves an entirely different moral calculation, one arising from, perhaps, the argument that as human beings the Iraqis are under those principles anyway, because said principles are universal. But either way, we are no longer in the territory of saying that just because a) it is justifiable to fight an aggressive civil conflict in order to preserve a particular liberal order, it is therefore automatically b) justifiable to fight an aggressive international conflict in order to impose a liberal order.

  130. Adam Greenwood on March 20, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    General will talk never makes sense to me, but if I understand correctly, you’re saying that it might be justifiable to be the aggressor in a war to preserve a liberal order but not in a war to create one?

  131. gst on March 20, 2007 at 7:25 pm

    “the no-fly zones were not authorized by any UN resolution, and were unilateral decisions made by the United States, Great Britain, and France.”

    You know, one of those multi-lateral uni-lateral decisions.

  132. Dan on March 20, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    Russell,

    #129,

    In saying this, I am of course acknowledging myself as a believe in Lincoln’s Christian/romantic recreation of our country, in which “America” means not so much an experiment in republican self-government, as a general will embodied in the principles of the Declaration which we have all agreed to.

    It wasn’t just Lincoln. Much earlier, George Washington, a southerner himself, warned in his Farewell Address, to prioritize the union as a whole over the individual parts. He focused nearly half of his farewell address on the issue of the union.

    The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth;

  133. Chris Grant on March 20, 2007 at 7:30 pm

    In #128, Jack asks: “Has anyone ever tallied a list of unecessary deaths (friendly fire, poor strategy, etc.) from WWII? And how many of those deaths would be civilian? I bet the numbers would be heartbreaking.

    It’s not exactly what you asked for, but my impression is that this site is not overly tendentious, and it’s certainly thought-provoking.

  134. Dan on March 20, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    Chris Grant,

    Just gotta say, wow, that’s quite an impressive website. That’s good information to know.

  135. joshua Madson on March 20, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    Adam,

    you state “And that great city Jacobugath did I cause to be burned with fire. I did cause them to be burned, to destroy them before my face.”

    God may forgive or not but unto us we are commanded to forgive all. How do you see this scripture justifying anything we do as individuals let alone as a nation state

  136. Clark on March 20, 2007 at 9:13 pm

    Dan: When everything stays the same (same sanctions, same political pressure on Saddam) in a two-year period, and you change your rhetoric, it is you that changed, not Saddam.

    I disagree. There could be new information. The information you had could have undergo a rethinking given past intelligence failures. Recall that after 9/11 there was a lot of talk about how all the signs were there and people just didn’t put the pieces together. Once again in hindsight it is easy to say Bush and company were wishful thinking. But at the time there was a lot of reason to give them the benefit of doubt.

  137. Clark on March 20, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    (Someone want to fix my missing bold tag? Thanks)

    Dan: (#127), I won’t veer off into a discussion of NFZ in Iraq pre-2003. I’ll just say that the idea the UN has to sanction everything isn’t something I can agree with. Especially when looking at situations like Darfur. When two of the powers, Russia and China, have so much to gain by blocking any resolution the idea of the UN as a kind of super-government that determines ethical behavior isn’t something I can accept in the least.

    This isn’t to say that one shouldn’t be multinational. One should and that was one of many failures of George Bush (in contrast to his father). However waiting for the UN to do anything is a recipe for genocide as we’ve seen time and time.

  138. Adam Greenwood on March 20, 2007 at 9:29 pm

    Josh Madson,

    if you don’t like Christ’s example, don’t bring it up.

  139. Adam Greenwood on March 20, 2007 at 9:31 pm

    All right, that was a little curt. Here’s the point: don’t argue that Christ practiced or practices non-violence and I won’t bring up the numerous counter-examples.

  140. Dan on March 20, 2007 at 10:02 pm

    Clark,

    #136,

    I disagree. There could be new information.

    I distinctly recall various reports released that intelligence experts doubted some of the conclusions of those higher up. The experts on the ground hedged their conclusions with qualifiers, whereas those at the top, namely people like Rice and Cheney, made definitive statements. I played close attention to what was going on. I remember Andy Card in August 2002 telling reporters that the Administration was waiting until after Labor Day to begin their war propaganda, because, in his words:

    Why did the Administration wait until September to make its case against Iraq? White House chief of staff Andrew Card told The New York Times last week, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”

    Note the key word there, “marketing.” The evidence was there, in 2002. Intelligence officials were hedging their assessments with cautious words, meanwhile administration officials were sounding dire warnings like Ms. Rice who said:

    To those who say, we want more evidence that there’s a real threat, the Administration says, we can’t wait for a smoking gun to turn up. “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,” National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice said on CNN’s Late Edition recently.

    Her warning makes the assumption in the listener’s ear that she has evidence of weapons of mass destruction pointed at our country close actual use. But we knew in 2002 that the NIE was filled with hedged conclusions, using words such as “maybe” “likely” “could have,” etc. These were taken out in the public release of the October 2002 NIE, because of course, if it was shown that the intelligence community doubted the possibility of WMDs in Iraq, it would fatally undermine the rationale for the invasion of Iraq that the Bush administration certainly wanted to do. Without the threat of WMDs, there was no way Bush could have convinced enough Americans to go to war with Iraq.

  141. Dan on March 20, 2007 at 10:15 pm

    In addition, Bob Woodward’s account is a must read on the build-up to the war.

  142. Mark N. on March 21, 2007 at 12:21 am

    Here’s the point: don’t argue that Christ practiced or practices non-violence and I won’t bring up the numerous counter-examples.

    I guess that’s why it’s so much fun to be a god: apparently “do as I say and not as I do” is allowable.

  143. Hellmut on March 21, 2007 at 1:27 am

    Lincoln’s justification for the use of force was quite clear: A house dvided cannot stand. He thought the Civil War to protect the integrity of the United States against rebellious segments in the population.

    Democracy and other idealist motives were secondary.

    By contrast, Iraq is thousands of miles away. It was a problem but not a threat to the United States, especially not at the level of threatening the territorial integrity of the state. May be, Iraq was a threat to Israel but even if we answer that question affirmatively, Iraq was a less serious challenge than Syria. Neither one has ever been in a position to defeat Israel.

    Whatever happened in Iraq is negligible when compared to the consequences of the attempted secession of the South, which tore asunder the country itself.

  144. Hellmut on March 21, 2007 at 1:28 am

    Correction: He fought the Civil War

  145. joshua Madson on March 21, 2007 at 1:40 am

    Adam,

    We have many scriptures, many interpretations, and many humans who have experienced the divine, but all these are filtered through our own lenses, world views, and prejudices.

    However, we have one clear example of what Christ practiced and taught. It is his life here on earth, his life which he asked us to emulate, follow, and to take up our cross. That is the example we have been asked to understand and follow. His discipleship does not entail destroying cities. Such a power if he does actually cause rather than allow such to happen is not a power that we are either worthy or capable of exercising. We are commanded to forgive seventy times seven, our priesthood operates on principle of righteousness and the least degree of compulsion, which includes force even force in the name of freedom or democracy, means amen and goodbye to any authority we hoped to have. we are commanded to renounce war and proclaim peace, we are told to forgive our enemies three times and even then it more righteous and pleasing if we still forgive. Surely, the Lord’s standards and expectation go far beyond anything we practice. There is no justification for the nation state wars and corporate killings we commit as a nation.

    If those principles do not work in our world and you prefer realpolitiks, fine. But, don’t tell me the Lord does not expect a much higher standard than anything we have ever practiced in the United States and in my mind a pacifist stance. Nevertheless, even if you feel war is justified at times, the Book of Mormon is clear that regardless of what Christ later taught, only a defensive war on ones own lands was arguably justified and then only after multiple first offenses and attempts at peace.

  146. Hellmut on March 21, 2007 at 2:22 am

    But at the time there was a lot of reason to give them the benefit of doubt.

    No, there was not. Especially not after UNSCOM could not find anything. That failure proved that the administration was full of it. It was clear that very little of what they said was grounded in reality.

    One only needed to read the paper and put the Powell presentation and Hans Blix’s report together to realize that the two were mutually exclusive. Since UNSCOM is a multilateral effort, it is impossible for that agency to keep any secrets. There are too many disparate interests to conspire. Therefore, the Powell presentation must have been false.

    That was a matter of simple logic. If people failed to see that then they either did not pay attention or their irrational commitments lead them to ignore the evidence.

    I will admit that selective perception and group think are only too human. However, human frailty may be sufficient excuse error but clearly people could have known if they had not been misled by their desires.

    Even before UNSCOM reentered Iraq it was clear that Hussein did not have a meaningful nuclear program.

    It was also illogical to expect that Saddam Hussein might share weapons of mass destruction with terrorists. First of all, he could not have done that without being identified, in which case he becomes subject to retaliation. Second, Saddam Hussein was too controlling and suspicious to surrender control over strategic resources that might even be used against himself. Third, if Saddam Hussein had used weapons of mass destruction then our retaliation would have annihilated him.

    If it was possible to deter the likes of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin then it is possible to deter Saddam Hussein. In fact, we knew that it was possible because we did it successfully during the liberation of Kuwait.

    Kenneth Waltz laid out the deterrence reasoning best before the war started: http://globetrotter.berkeley.edu/people3/Waltz/waltz-con6.html

    As for the post-invasion misery caused by Sunnis and Shiites murdering each other, some of us were foolish enough to have no more anticipated that than Eisenhower anticipated the invasion of Germany to lead to years and years of Lutheran and Catholic Germans blowing each other up.

    I am not quite sure what you mean to say but I agree with you if you mean foolish literally. Phebe Marr from the National Defense University, for example, predicted Sunni resistance to regime change in 1999. Shibley Telhami predicted similar trouble, so did scores of Arabists and Iraq experts. The only exception was Adeed Dawisha who was hoping that the USA would liberate the Iraqi people.

    Unfortunately, we did not fight a liberation war. We prepared for a war that would smash up the Iraqi war machine, which was rather humble having to rely on a two billion dollar annual budget. Had we fought a liberation war then we would have brought a force that could have established order. We would have had a plan for the occupation and transition to Iraqi self-determination. Most importantly, we would have built relationships with Sunnis.

    Instead we fought a war of shock and awe. If actions speak louder than words then what we did reveals the American purpose.

    To those of us who paid attention to the war preparations, it was painfully clear that Bush could not possibly succeed in Iraq. (That’s why some of those who made such predictions switched parties).

    The famous debate between Ken Pollack and Bill Galston predicted that we would not be fighting a liberation war but Bush’s war of cronyism, arrogance, and incompetence. Here is the evidence: http://www.brookings.edu/views/articles/pollack/20040628.htm

    Talk about democracy and liberation might make us feel good. Realistically, that was never on the table. Bill Galston could see that before the first shot was fired. There is no excuse for others, not to get it.

    Even Tom Friedman admits that he was guilty of wishful thinking. Better late than never. With the benefit of hindsight, it would behoove proponents of liberation to follow Friedman’s example.

  147. Adam Greenwood on March 21, 2007 at 7:54 am

    Hellmut,

    the House divided speech was not about the necessity for preserving the Union, but about the eventual certainty that the nation would become either all slave or all free. It occurred before Lincoln ran for President. Your argument that the North fought to keep the nation intact in order to keep the nation intact is tautological. Lincoln, for one, clearly thought that keeping the nation intact was necessary for democracy for the reasons I have explained above. You are correct that accepting the Civil War does not necessarily mean accepting the Iraq war, but no one has argued otherwise.

    Joshua Madson,

    We’ve argued at length about what the scriptures command elsewhere and to what degree we should follow the example of Christ in this matter. But one thing is clear–Christ’s example is not pacifistic, if you accept the scriptures. Don’t argue otherwise.

  148. Russell Arben Fox on March 21, 2007 at 9:23 am

    Adam, going back to #130,

    “You’re saying that it might be justifiable to be the aggressor in a war to preserve a liberal order but not in a war to create one?”

    Yes, I am saying that such is an entirely legitimate reading of the Civil War, a reading which would prevent it from being an appropriate analogy in support of the Iraq War. This is not to say that we can’t wish our liberal democratic order to be a template for others; after all, thanks to Lincoln, we now understand American democratic ideas to be incompatible with slavery, and since we have entirely unrelated moral and political reasons for disliking slavery, America is good role model there. But I guess I now question whether “democracy” as a principle, outside any existing historical/cultural context, can be a legitimate basis for war. (Yes, I know the issue is more complicated than that. More here.)

  149. Adam Greenwood on March 21, 2007 at 9:29 am

    You’ve put your finger on a real distinction, Russell Fox, and for all I know it may be an important one. But in the absence of an argument that’s clear to me on why the distinction is important, I think I’ll continue to accept President Hinckley’s statement that a war for freedom and democracy could, in principle, be justified.

  150. Chris Grant on March 21, 2007 at 9:41 am

    In #147, Hellmut wrote: “If it was possible to deter the likes of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin then it is possible to deter Saddam Hussein.

    Since Hitler was not effectively deterred from doing much of anything, I assume that you’re talking about logical possibilities. In that vein, it was certainly logically possible for the Sunnis and Shiites to have decided not to murder each other.

    I am not quite sure what you mean to say but I agree with you if you mean foolish literally. Phebe Marr from the National Defense University, for example, predicted Sunni resistance to regime change in 1999. Shibley Telhami predicted similar trouble, so did scores of Arabists and Iraq experts.

    But of course! Phebe Marr! Shibley Telhami! Many’s the night I spent nestled by the fireplace reading their briefing papers!

  151. Chris Grant on March 21, 2007 at 9:54 am

    In #143, Hellmut wrote: “Iraq . . . has [never] been in a position to defeat Israel.

    Israel’s (illegal) raid on Osirak might have had a little to do with that.

    Syria . . . has [never] been in a position to defeat Israel.

    So despite their opponents’ numerical superiority in the Six-Day War, you think Israel’s victory was inevitable?

  152. Chris Grant on March 21, 2007 at 11:06 am

    Phebe Marr on March 28, 2003:

    Interviewer: “How do the Shiites and the Sunnis get along? The popular image is that they are quite hostile.”

    Marr: “I don’t know where that perception comes from, and it ought to be dispelled immediately. Iraq is not the Balkans. There really isn’t traditional enmity or hostility between Sunni and Shiite communities in Iraq. They have coexisted for time immemorial in Iraq.”

  153. Chris Grant on March 21, 2007 at 11:36 am

    Hellmut:

    I’ve used Lexis/Nexis and Google to search for predictions (as opposed to postdictions) from Shibley Telhami that deposing Saddam Hussein would lead to Sunnis and Shiites murdering each other, but those searches have come up empty. Can you back up your assertion with a bibliographic reference?

  154. madera verde on March 21, 2007 at 11:51 am

    The civil war could be considered a defensive war in that territory that was part of the United states was being claimed by another political entity which was backing its claim with military force. (Ft.Sumter) That the claimants were U.S. citizens and local goverment structures makes no difference…

    Is war solely to spread democracy justifiable and moral? If we say yes, where would such a war stop? Much of humanity is not under a democratic system. Should we make war on them too?

    It seems that the Sunni/Shiite conflict is about obtaining power. We want power for our group, we don’t want the other group to rule over us. An unstable goverment makes it seem rational to vie for the power. I think a large part of the unrest stems from the belief that the United States won’t stay in Iraq hence more violence is directed against rival power grabbers than the U.S. I myself don’t believe the U.S. will have a signifigant presence much past ’08. In these circumstances why not make a power grab? To the victors, the spoils, lucrative oil revenues.
    IHMO there were only two courses of action in Iraq after invasion. Leave, perhaps if we wish arm our favorite group. Or we could occupy in hopes of creating a better political system. That seems to me to be the work of a generation at least. Sadly it seems that we will pursue the worst middle course, with most of the price payed but with little of the benefit realized.

  155. Matt Evans on March 21, 2007 at 11:59 am

    “I think I’ll continue to accept President Hinckley’s statement that a war for freedom and democracy could, in principle, be justified.”

    It’s probably a safe bet that President Hinckley won’t turn from praising to condemning America’s founders anytime soon. Has any modern apostle ever challenged the morality of the American revolutionaries’ war of choice?

  156. joshua Madson on March 21, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    adam,

    the issue is not about accepting scripture, we just interpret them differently. a pacifist interpretation is not only consistent with many other interpretations such as the amish, quaker, mennonite, ana-baptist traditions but is also consistent with how those who lived closest to Christ interpreted them.

    I have no doubt you and I both accept scripture, we just read it differently.

  157. Adam Greenwood on March 21, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    What, exactly, is the Mennonite interpretation of 3 Nephi 9?

  158. BBELL on March 21, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    Adam,

    I was actually wondering the other day how my evangelical co-workers would understand this verse from 2 Nephi.

    “We are saved by grace after all we can do”

    Then I realized that they do not accept the BOM so I guess what they thought of the verse was irrelevant.

    Same goes with the Amish or the mennonites eh?

  159. Clark on March 21, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    Even before UNSCOM reentered Iraq it was clear that Hussein did not have a meaningful nuclear program.

    I don’t think that was ultimately the issue. It was whether he was trying to redevelop it.

  160. Mark N. on March 21, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    Adam,

    But one thing is clear–Christ’s example is not pacifistic

    What part of “renounce war” (D&C 98:16) do you not understand?

    I’m sure you’re well aware that Christ will judge us all, eventually, just as He apparently judged the Nephites and Lamanites in 3 Nephi 9.

    We, on the other hand, are not called to sink cities into the ocean because we have judged the inhabitents to be wicked. We are commanded to forgive all men. To attempt to cite 3 Nephi 9 as an excuse for bombing our fellow man back to the stone age would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic.

  161. Dan on March 21, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    Clark,

    #159,

    I don’t think that was ultimately the issue. It was whether he was trying to redevelop it.

    The evidence was inconclusive, but sold by the higher leadership as conclusive and definitive. That’s where the deception lies.

  162. Adam Greenwood on March 21, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    Mark N.,

    I’m aware that one’s attachment to pacifism and revulsion for violence have deeply felt emotional components that can make it difficult for one to engage in technical argument parsing. So I’m going to work extra hard at being clear in this post. Please try to see the distinctions I’m making.

    It was suggested earlier that Christ’s example was pacifistic and non-violent. Note that referring to Christ’s example is not the same thing as referring to Christ’s teachings and commandments to us. Christ’s example is what he did, not necessarily what he taught.

    The scriptures record that Christ took responsibility for acts of violence. A notable example is 3 Nephi 9 where Christ claims to have massacred thousands. In my mind, this means that Christ’s example is not entirely pacifistic and non-violent.

    Now here’s the key part: nowhere on this thread have I argued that Christ’s *example* justifies us in killing people. I have been arguing about what Christ’s example *is*. Before we start arguing about what Christ’s example *means,* we first have to agree what it is.

    If you argue that Christ’s example is pacifistic and non-violent, I would be interested in your interpretation of 3 Nephi 9-10.

  163. DavidH on March 21, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    Out of curiosity, how does an apparently pro-”war of liberation” interpretation of Christian/LDS scripture (or conference talks) differ from Islamist, apparently pro-”war of liberation from infidels,” interpretation of their scriptures?

  164. Adam Greenwood on March 21, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    How does the “pro-LDS” interpretation of LDS scriptures differ from the pro-Islam interpretation of Islamic scripture? Clearly they don’t, so a pro-LDS interpretation of LDS scripture is illegitimate.

  165. Mark N. on March 21, 2007 at 3:09 pm

    If you argue that Christ’s example is pacifistic and non-violent, I would be interested in your interpretation of 3 Nephi 9-10.Christ is not acting as a mortal being in 3 Nephi 9-10. He is the resurrected savior of the world with a completely different calling and purpose at that point. He is not serving as an example to us in these passages. The example he has asked us to follow was the one that he set during his mortal life. Pacifism is a mortal trait; I don’t expect the resurrected savior and judge of the world to be a pacifist. Since Christ is no longer mortal in 3 Nephi, whether or not his actions at that point were pacifistic or not no longer matters because we are not asked to look at his actions in 3 Nephi 9 and attempt to mimic them.

    Apples and oranges.

  166. Adam Greenwood on March 21, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    I think that’s as close to a concession as I’m going to get.

  167. Seth R. on March 21, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    This just in. Apparently North Korea’s nuclear program isn’t as big a deal as the Bush White House made out:

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=3755

    Seriously, is there anything these clowns can’t screw up?

  168. Dan on March 21, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    Seth,

    Seriously, is there anything these clowns can’t screw up?

    Yeah, there is. It’s called loyalty. These clowns can’t screw up loyalty. They remain loyal to their cause, to their Dear Leader and they do it with gusto.

  169. Clark on March 21, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    There’s a good show on Fresh Aire right now about the N. Korea situation. (Which I felt they’d screwed up from day one – now the solution we’ve got is what they could have had at the beginning) To be fair though Condi Rice has done a good job with Iran thus far. One wishes she’d been in the State Department earlier. Not that she’s lived up to my hopes either. But she’s been more effective than the last guys. Although that’s at least in part due to having the ear of Bush so he listens.

    Dan: The evidence was inconclusive, but sold by the higher leadership as conclusive and definitive. That’s where the deception lies.

    You’re mixing issues though. I agree with that. My point is that this could only easily be known in hindsight.

  170. Dan on March 21, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    Clark,

    You’re mixing issues though. I agree with that. My point is that this could only easily be known in hindsight.

    What I was trying to say back in #140 is that this hedging was known in 2002. I knew it then. I saw articles written about it then. I’m not speaking in hindsight. I am speaking about what I knew in 2002. I saw evidence that the intelligence community was hedging its assessments while higher leadership were using definitive statements. I’m not talking about what everybody else has finally come to figure out. The evidence was there in 2002 that the intelligence was not as leadership were portraying it.

  171. Aluwid on March 21, 2007 at 9:27 pm

    Mark N, you asked for post New Testament examples. Are you only paying attention to examples in the Old World or in the New World? Both Mormon and Moroni lived after the time of Christ, yet they both took part in war between the Nephites and the Lamanites. In fact they did so at a time that they knew that the cause of the Nephites was lost:

    Mormon 5:
    1 And it came to pass that I did go forth among the Nephites, and did repent of the oath which I had made that I would no more assist them; and they gave me command again of their armies, for they looked upon me as though I could deliver them from their afflictions.
    2 But behold, I was without hope, for I knew the judgments of the Lord which should come upon them; for they repented not of their iniquities, but did struggle for their lives without calling upon that Being who created them.

    I don’t believe there are any scriptures mentioning a specific commandment for them to take part in the fighting however. My understanding is they did it out of love of their fellow Nephites, but I also don’t believe that there is any indication that what they did was unjustified or unacceptable to God. Given Moroni’s current state I think his example is worthwhile to consider.

  172. Clark on March 21, 2007 at 9:28 pm

    What I’m saying Dan (and then I’ll drop this) is that the evidence in 2002 was no where near as overwhelming as you are portraying it. I’m not an idiot and I looked at probably the same articles you did and came away feeling that things were far more up in the air. In hindsight I was wrong but those who say it was “obvious” were quite unable to demonstrate it as such to me back then.

  173. Dan on March 21, 2007 at 11:22 pm

    Clark,

    What I’m saying Dan (and then I’ll drop this) is that the evidence in 2002 was no where near as overwhelming as you are portraying it.

    I still don’t think you are understanding what I’m trying to say. My point is exactly this, the evidence was NOT overwhelming for WMDs in Iraq, but our leaders portrayed the evidence as being overwhelming. All you had to do was tune out the words of the administration officials and read and hear what the intelligence analysts themselves were saying. I never have, nor never will trust political leaders to tell me the truth. Anything and everything a political leader says is based on a political calculation. The most important words coming in 2002 were not anything that Condoleezza Rice ever said, nor even George Tenet, and certainly not Colin Powell (as much as his reputation pre-2003 was quite rock solid—his loyalty was a higher priority to him than the truth, sadly), and never any words that came out of Cheney’s or Bush’s mouths. Remove their words from public record and review the words of the analysts themselves and you will see quite clearly that even in 2002 they were unsure about their own intelligence in Iraq. The reason? They just did not have any bodies in Iraq to verify claims by those who fled, like Chalabi and Curveball, liars the both of them. Most of the rhetoric from the administration came exactly from the words of Chalabi and Curveball, NOT from the words of intelligence experts who could never verify those claims, many of which turned out to be outrageous, and most of which turned out to be false. You think someone like Chalabi would care about telling Americans the truth? He wants Saddam dead. If he can convince America to take him out, he’ll do it. He did, and we fell for it.

    Never trust the words of political leaders. Never trust the words of refugees and those who flee. Always verify before taking action.

    What should have tipped you off that there was a disconnect between the rhetoric and the facts was the fact that when the UN inspectors were let back in in 2002, they just could not find anything. Occam’s Razor states that the simplest answer is almost always the correct one. Why could the UN inspectors not find any WMDs during their search? What if the answer (which turned out to be the right one) was that the UN inspectors from 1992-1998 actually were successful in their mission, just as Scott Ritter said they were? What if sanctions actually did work as Colin Powell said in February 2001 that they did? Could the answer have been that there just weren’t any WMDs in Iraq in 2002? The evidence was inconclusive. Is that how we go to war? On inconclusive evidence? That sure is a mighty risk to take, because if you are wrong, you lose all credibility. And we’re not talking about small things here, we’re talking about warfare, the most destructive and influential thing in the world. If you are wrong, you are in serious trouble. Just look today at how much credibility and standing we lost in the world today. This cost was not worth the effort, especially when we knew before the war began that we were being “marketed” a product on hyped up intelligence.

  174. Mark N. on March 21, 2007 at 11:32 pm

    I also don’t believe that there is any indication that what they did was unjustified or unacceptable to God.

    I think that the fact that the Book of Mormon does not have a happy ending, but ends with the annihilation of the Nephites and “exceedingly fierce [wars] among” the Lamanites says all that needs to be said about the lack of justification for what they did. It may have become strictly defensive on the part of the Nephites at some point in time, but by then it was too late. Going to war with the Lamanites was never going to be the solution to their problems.

  175. Joshua Madson on March 22, 2007 at 2:02 am

    In addition to Mark’s comment is Mormon’s request that we be wiser and his statement after seeing all this mess.

    Mormon 7: 4 Know ye that ye must lay down your weapons of war, and delight no more in the shedding of blood, and take them not again, save it be that God shall command you.

    He apparently feels like there is only one way to be justified in war and thats a direct command from God.

  176. Aluwid on March 22, 2007 at 4:49 am

    My statement about being unjustified or unacceptable to God applied to Mormon and Moroni themselves, not to the Nephites who were lost at that time whether they went to war or not. In other words Mormon and Moroni, both righteous men, willingly chose to take part in a war of survival for the Nephites even when they knew that the Nephites cause was not just. And there is no indication that this action by Mormon or Moroni was viewed negatively by God as far as I can tell.

    As for Mormon 7:4 the chapter is a message from Mormon to the descendents of the Lamanites/Nephites “the remnant of this people who are spared.” The message is fitting given that they were busy killing themselves off.

    Mormon 7:
    1 And now, behold, I would speak somewhat unto the remnant of this people who are spared, if it so be that God may give unto them my words, that they may know of the things of their fathers; yea, I speak unto you, ye remnant of the house of Israel; and these are the words which I speak:
    2 Know ye that ye are of the house of Israel.
    3 Know ye that ye must come unto repentance, or ye cannot be saved.
    4 Know ye that ye must lay down your weapons of war, and delight no more in the shedding of blood, and take them not again, save it be that God shall command you.
    5 Know ye that ye must come to the knowledge of your fathers, and repent of all your sins and iniquities, and believe in Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God, and that he was slain by the Jews, and by the power of the Father he hath risen again, whereby he hath gained the victory over the grave; and also in him is the sting of death swallowed up.

    http://scriptures.lds.org/en/morm/7

  177. Seth R. on March 22, 2007 at 7:48 am

    The wars in Alma are difficult to apply completely to modern-day wars.

    The wars in Alma have a very strong and unambiguous element of divine approval and guidance that you simply cannot confidently declare for the wars of the 20th and 21st centuries. In the case of Captain Moroni, he was operating under a theological code of Mosaic-derived laws which spoke of first and second offenses, etc. The scriptures on self-defense are nice enough, but still don’t give us much assurance in the face of Christ’s later admonitions to “turn the other cheek.” And in any event, modern wars are almost never clear-cut instances of self-defense, no matter what side you support.

    We can’t really use the pacifist example of the the “People of Ammon” either. Their example was an instance of a people who had made a covenant with God. Their continuing refusal to fight was partly due to a general rejection of violence, but primarily about keeping promises to God. Since we have not made similar covenants rejecting warfare, the example of the people of Ammon is not really binding on us today.

    If anything, the examples of the armies led by Mormon at the end of the Book of Mormon narrative are more instructive for our situation, since both our peoples live/lived after the New Covenant brought by Christ. Mosaic laws that governed “Captain Moroni” no longer apply in the same way.

  178. Chris Grant on March 22, 2007 at 9:38 am

    Dan writes: “Never trust the words of refugees and those who flee.

    Implementation of this policy was one of the reasons that Allied recognition of and reaction to the Holocaust was so slow in coming.

  179. Hellmut on March 22, 2007 at 10:12 am

    The New York Times headlines The Culture of Obedience in the context of Rocky Anderson’s agitation against the war. I have not read it yet but thought some of you might want to read it, too.

    By the way, editors not authors get to pick the headlines at newspapers. So the first thing that I will be looking for is if the article actually talks about Utah culture in terms of obedience.

  180. Matt Evans on March 22, 2007 at 11:07 am

    Thanks for the link, Hellmut. I just flagged it in Notes From All Over. The journalist seems largely sympathetic to Anderson, but throws in a couple of funny digs. The best one: “Mr. Anderson, who has been married and divorced twice, said he believed that divisiveness could be a virtue.”

  181. Frank McIntyre on March 22, 2007 at 11:12 am

    You know Seth, when PResident Hinckley gave his post 9/11 talk, a lot of his scriptures came from the Book of Mormon. I think it is very unlikely that all those chapters on war in Alma don’t contain alot of the useful doctrine on war that we should be using, since the book is written for our day.

  182. Dan on March 22, 2007 at 11:13 am

    Chris Grant,

    Dan writes: “Never trust the words of refugees and those who flee.”

    Implementation of this policy was one of the reasons that Allied recognition of and reaction to the Holocaust was so slow in coming.

    And the rush to judgment led to the debacle we see in Iraq today. Prudence suggests that you verify first. Secondly, in regards to the Holocaust, with a powerful Germany, just how do you expect the Allied forces to get to those concentration camps while they were still at war with Germany? You’re already at war with the nation to stop their aggressive actions.

  183. Dan on March 22, 2007 at 11:18 am

    Frank,

    I think it is very unlikely that all those chapters on war in Alma don’t contain alot of the useful doctrine on war that we should be using, since the book is written for our day.

    The most instructive thing to learn from those war chapters, if you read them carefully is that the Nephites, under Moroni’s command, never entered Lamanite territory, but waited until the Lamanites came to them (see Alma 43). Then when the battles were at their highest, they again never entered original Lamanite territory to overthrow the regime and install one to their liking. They merely repelled the Lamanites back to their own land. This is very instructive, because it shows defensive warfare, not offensive aggressive warfare. This is also in line with what we read about Gidgiddoni in 3 Nephi 3. We read:

    20 Now the people said unto Gidgiddoni: Pray unto the Lord, and let us go up upon the mountains and into the wilderness, that we may fall upon the robbers and destroy them in their own lands.
    21 But Gidgiddoni saith unto them: The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands; therefore we will prepare ourselves in the center of our lands, and we will gather all our armies together, and we will not go against them, but we will wait till they shall come against us; therefore as the Lord liveth, if we do this he will deliver them into our hands.

    The only time the Nephites attacked the Lamanites and tried to destroy them was when they were wicked, in the post-Savior era. And note that they failed and were utterly destroyed.

  184. Matt Evans on March 22, 2007 at 11:21 am

    It’s not just Alma, modern prophets haven’t been inspired to condemn many wars, either. Church-controlled BYU actually *celebrates* the anniversary of America’s first war of choice. President Hinckley has even led the festivities.

  185. Chris Grant on March 22, 2007 at 11:45 am

    Dan writes: “Secondly, in regards to the Holocaust, with a powerful Germany, just how do you expect the Allied forces to get to those concentration camps while they were still at war with Germany?

    See, e.g., The Bombing of Auschwitz: Should the Allies Have Attempted It? (University of Kansas Press) and Bombing Auschwitz: The Auschwitz Escapees’ Report (Taylor & Francis).

  186. Frank McIntyre on March 22, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    Dan,

    I agree that even without a careful reading it is obvious that the Nephites did not enter Lamanite territory for a war of aggression. It is far less obvious to me that:

    1. This represents the “most instructive thing” in the war chapters. I think you might be letting your preferences color your analysis. I would suggest that President Hinckley, and other prophets’ use of those chapters would be one way to evaluate what are the most instructive things. So there is a fruitful avenue of future study.

    2. President Hinckley’s post 9/11 discussion– which used the Book of Mormon rather fully– did not, as best I recall, draw the inference that we should not enter Afghanistan. So it is not obvious to me that entering foreign land is the no-no, so much as entering in order to destroy a people or subjugate them or what have you. Something the Nephites clearly attempted in later times, and clearly got hammered for.

  187. Adam Greenwood on March 22, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    “Secondly, in regards to the Holocaust, with a powerful Germany, just how do you expect the Allied forces to get to those concentration camps while they were still at war with Germany? ”

    Most historians agree that the Allies could have slowed the death rate by bombing the railroads that led to camps. The controversy is whether using bombers for that purpose would have allowed Nazidom to keep the war going longer, perhaps even leading to an equivalent total death toll.

  188. Russell Arben Fox on March 22, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    Matt,

    “Modern prophets haven’t been inspired to condemn many wars, either. Church-controlled BYU actually *celebrates* the anniversary of America’s first war of choice. President Hinckley has even led the festivities.”

    A couple of thoughts:

    1. Which “modern prophets” are you talking about? Ones from the past sixty years or so? Because, prior to WWII, you had numerous leaders of the church speaking out regularly against the wars which the Gentile nations–including the U.S.–participated in. Brigham Young condemned the Civil War as an example of the corruption and violence which Satan was sowing in the last days; the First Presidency issued a message which refused to take sides in WWI, calling the whole thing an act of wickedness being perpetrated by unrighteous nations on faithful Saints in both Europe and America; right up until Peal Harbor, and in some cases even afterwards, you had J. Reuben Clark and other apostles encouraging pacifism and conscientious objection for the Saints, rather than give into “war fever”; etc. None of this is to say that there weren’t also leaders of the church that were supportive of America’s wars; B.H. Roberts served as a chaplain in WWI and stated that it was an important part of God’s purposes that the church be a leader in supporting the government in the conflict. But, if you’re talking about all of this dispensation, as opposed to the post-WWII, Cold War-and-after world, then your statement about modern prophets being reluctant to condemn wars needs a little qualification.

    2. This is the second time in this thread that you’ve described the Revolutionary War as a “war of choice.” Which, of course, it was. However, it appears to me that you are using that kind of language at least in part to associate the Revolutionary War with contemporary debates regarding “wars of choice,” such as the invasion of Iraq most certainly was. I don’t want to deny that there is any relevance to associating the Iraq War with the Revolutionary War; of course there are at least some parallels, as there are with the Civil War. But overall, I think your association fails. Until you or someone else can explain to me the deep, substantive similarities between an 18th-century home-grown rebellion of socially homogenous, already mostly free farmers against a bunch of culturally similar colonial masters, conducted with only minimal strategic assistance from a rival colonial power, in contrast with a late 20th-century pre-emptive invasion of a radically divided and dissimilar (both culturally, linguistically, and historically) society which had never had any sustained experience with free government by a distant superpower that had almost no history in the region whatsoever, then I’m going to continue to go ahead thinking that while the prophet may celebrate the Revolutionary War, such a celebration tells us next to nothing about the advisability of waging an invasive “war of choice” in a foreign country in the name of democracy.

  189. Adam Greenwood on March 22, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    Russell Fox,

    Why do those dissimilarities matter? Do you really think the Revolutionary War was justified because, e.g., it was fought against a culturally similar group, or because they were socially homogenous? Unless you want to argue that there are no general principles about when a war can and cannot be justified, then you have to go beyond describing the situation of the Revolutionary war and actually offer reasons as to why it was or was not justified. As with our discussion of the Civil War, you seem to want to shy away from doing this and instead describe the Iraq war in emotionally-loaded terms. But Matt Evans is responding to arguments that only defensive wars against physical aggression can ever be justified. I just don’t see the Revolutionary War that way.

  190. Adam Greenwood on March 22, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    Put another way, Russell Fox, I think you’re starting from the position that the Iraq war is unjustified, and that if other wars are to be justified there must be important differences between them and the Iraq war and these differences must be morally significant. Matt Evans and I are starting from the position that our involvement in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and WWII are justified (Matt would also add WWI) and want to tease out moral principles from those wars. The interesting thing about this is that we all three appear to just *know* that some wars were justified or not and want to derive our moral principles from them, instead of the other way around. Very Mormon of us, maybe, but also wierd.

  191. joshua madson on March 22, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    Well Adam, why don’t we just leave those wars right out. The civil war justified, WWII, WWI, revolutionary war. I see no reason to justify them. war was not the only option in those situations.

  192. Russell Arben Fox on March 22, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    Adam,

    “Why do those dissimilarities matter? Do you really think the Revolutionary War was justified because, e.g., it was fought against a culturally similar group, or because they were socially homogenous? Unless you want to argue that there are no general principles about when a war can and cannot be justified, then you have to go beyond describing the situation of the Revolutionary war and actually offer reasons as to why it was or was not justified.”

    I guess I would say those dissimilarities matter because I no longer believe, as I once did, that an argument for the justification of a war can be made on the basis of a single set of theoretical criteria. The Iraq War made good sense to me because it fit my primary theoretical worldview; the Revolutionary War also satisfies my primary theoretical worldview. However, the Revolutionary War also made sense–that is, it seems like a war whose benefits and historical outcomes, depsite the evils of the war which were attendant to them, were worth pursuing–from a variety of perspectives; it was not an enterprise waged solely on the basis of an ideological conviction without a great deal of supportive cultural, social, and economic detail along with it. The invasion of Iraq, by contrast, was waged almost entirely on the basis of a few (at the time arguable, in not dubious; in retrospect almost wholly false) theoretical suppositions. Hence, I now have a greated appreciation of the need to be detail oriented in one’s attempts at justificiation.

    I suppose, now that I think about it, you might be reserving the language of “justification” solely to ideological, “general principle,” type matters, and would consider the rest to be more matters of “advisability.” In the sense of arguing, “yes, an invasion of Iraq is justifiable, but given practical matters on the ground, it’s not an advisable thing to do at this time.” As my final comment implies, I’m not really distinguishing between these terms; I am assuming that what might be called a justified war would also be an advisable one, and vice-versa; hence the presumed importance of loading up one’s worldview with a lot of real-world details and concerns. But maybe you’re not arguing along those lines.

    Incidentally, when have I used “emotionally-loaded terms” in describing the Iraq War? Maybe I have, but I’m not remembering using such in this thread.

  193. danithew on March 22, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    The way may be clearer and easier after 50, 100, 150, 200 years to discuss whether a war is justifiable – at least in comparison to discussing a war that is current and ongoing.

  194. Matt Evans on March 22, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    Until you or someone else can explain to me the deep, substantive similarities

    Like all wars, the most substantive similarity between the American Revolution and Operation Iraqi Freedom is that lots of people end up being killed in an to attempt to achieve an objective. America’s founders were willing to have lots of people killed for democracy and freedom (mostly to protest a 2% effective tax rate!). I’ve been addressing the issue of whether democracy and freedom are objectives sufficient to justify mass casualties.

    As for your historical questions, 1) Brigham Young may have believed the Civil War stemmed from bad karma from America’s treatment of the Mormons, but I doubt he ever condemned the North’s decision to wage war to preserve the Union. 2) J. Reuben Clark’s isolationism shouldn’t be confused with pacifism. Pacifism is the belief that using violence is immoral, and Clark was not a pacifist. (Few people are. I’ve yet to meet a “pacifist” who thinks it’s immoral for the police to take criminals by force, to return their fire, or to kill them to prevent their killing innocents.)

  195. Adam Greenwood on March 22, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    Russell Fox,

    You are absolutely right that I’m making a distinction between justified and advisable. You are also correct that advisability itself has moral connotations. But I think mixing the questions up the way you do makes it harder to think clearly about them. Also, I believe that fighting might sometimes be proper even if inadvisable. The American Revolution and to a lesser degree Britain’s continued participation in WWII were both recklessly foolhardy in my opinion. Because they succeeded through a number of unlikely events, we retroactively see them as more reasonable than they were. I think you’re doing much the same thing in your judgments of the Iraq war.

    I’ll also note that the social and economic judgments that the Union made in starting the American Civil war were extraordinarily wrong. It’s only the moral reasons that hold up in retrospect.

  196. Adam Greenwood on March 22, 2007 at 3:24 pm

    Good point, Danithew.

  197. joshua madson on March 22, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    Matt,

    sorry to disapoint but Brigham was not a fan of the Civil War,

    “I care for the North and the south and if I had sufficient power with the Lord, I would save every inocent man, woman, and child from being slaughtered in this unnatural and almost universal destruction of life a property. I pray that the Lord Almighty will so order it that all those who thirst for the blood of their fellowmen may be found in the front ranks that they may be cut off speedily and the war come to an end, that the innocent may escape.” (JofD 10:272)

    and as to police force, there is a distinct difference between it and military force. Police force uses violence as a last resort, something to be avoided at all costs unless necessary and even then there is oversight and when violence is used it is not assumed always just or right. Military force, well they always try to avoid violence and death don’t they. Isn’t that their tool. Isn’t the military the tool when diplomacy is abandoned. Pacifists come in all different shapes and sizes and there are many different schools of thought. Some feel the police are ok others feels they are able to use force but not deadly force. The military only knows one type of force.

  198. joshua madson on March 22, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    Danithew,
    that is assuming war is ever justified and that if it is we are the the ones to decide such. No wonder Mormon exhorted us to lay down our weapons of war and only engage in war if God commands.

  199. danithew on March 22, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    Joshua, what I’m not assuming is that war is never justified.

  200. Mark N. on March 22, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    Aluwid: “In other words Mormon and Moroni, both righteous men, willingly chose to take part in a war of survival for the Nephites even when they knew that the Nephites cause was not just.”

    The impression I get from Moroni 9 is that Mormon had a reason for participating in the war that had nothing to do with the war: “And now behold, my son, I fear lest the Lamanites shall destroy this people; for they do not repent… Behold, I am laboring with them continually… And now, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God.”

    Mormon, in my view, went back to war not with the purpose of defeating the Lamanites, but to attempt to call the Nephites to repentence. His outlook on the war, so far as the Nephites were concerned, was extremely gloomy: “I fear lest the Spirit of the Lord hath ceased striving with them… Behold, thou knowest the wickedness of this people; thou knowest that they are without principle, and past feeling; and their wickedness doth exceed that of the Lamanites.
    Behold, my son, I cannot recommend them unto God lest he should smite me… I know that they must perish except they repent and return unto him.”

    So I think, at that point, Mormon had an ulterior motive for rejoining the ranks. He was no longer interested in destroying anyone, he only had the spiritual salvation of the Nephites in mind. That, in my opinion, was the labor he refers to in his letter to Moroni.

  201. Adam Greenwood on March 22, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    If you concede that, Mark N., you’ve conceded everything. The continentals did not fight in order to destroy the British but in order to create a free government or popular representation. The Union did not fight to destroy individual southerners but to preserve the Union. And etc. If you concede that motive can justify fighting and killing then you’re at where I and Matt E. and Russell F. are at–trying to sort out which motives are proper and which aren’t.

  202. danithew on March 22, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    Mormon had already determined that the Nephites were a hopeless cause. He changed his mind (after refusing to fight with them) and led them again. He did so because he loved them, but without any hope of actually saving them.

    Mormon 5:1-2
    1 And it came to pass that I did go forth among the Nephites, and did repent of the oath which I had made that I would no more assist them; and they gave me command again of their armies, for they looked upon me as though I could deliver them from their afflictions.
    2 But behold, I was without hope, for I knew the judgments of the Lord which should come upon them; for they repented not of their iniquities, but did struggle for their lives without calling upon that Being who created them.

  203. danithew on March 22, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    I find it very interesting that Mormon chose to fight and lead his people in fighting, when he did not feel there was any hope for them. He had a lot of reasons not to fight and chose to do so anyway.

    This is quite a different approach than Ether, who stood by and watched the Jaredites kill each other off.

    Both prophets were justified in their decisions, though the possibility must exist that one made a better decision than the other. It could be quite an argument. This is a comparison that shows just how nuanced the Book of Mormon really is.

    A Mormon pacifist would have to ignore a lot of scripture to push the point. Frankly, such a view has no scriptural basis whatsoever. I’m not saying that we should delight in war. Quite the opposite.

  204. Adam Greenwood on March 22, 2007 at 7:22 pm

    Looks like some of our comments got eaten. Durn glitches.

  205. Matt Evans on March 22, 2007 at 10:07 pm

    Both prophets were justified in their decisions, though the possibility must exist that one made a better decision than the other.

    A key difference between Moroni and Ether was that Moroni was a military general, and his people were pleading with him to help them.

  206. Hellmut on March 22, 2007 at 10:24 pm

    I’ve used Lexis/Nexis and Google to search for predictions (as opposed to postdictions) from Shibley Telhami that deposing Saddam Hussein would lead to Sunnis and Shiites murdering each other, but those searches have come up empty. Can you back up your assertion with a bibliographic reference?

    Here is what Telhami said in his book The Stakes in 2002 (a second edition came out in 2004):

    In addition to the issues of repression, public opinion, and resentment of America among a new generation of Arabs and Muslims, there will also be uncertainty about the ability to bring about stability in Iraq and the countries surrounding it. There is little doubt that Iraqis have suffered tremendously under the rule of Saddam Hussein, and most probably look forward to the day when they will be rid of his regime. But as soon as the dust settles, the reality of internal divisions and external interests will significantly complicate America’s task. At a minimum, large economic and military resources would have to be employed in a sustained fashion over a long period to assure success…
    As for the aftermath of a war, although most Iraqis would probably be happy to be rid of their repressive government and would welcome change, many will not, as no man rules alone, and many of the regime’s backers will fear retribution. Moreover, hate toward the Iraqi regime does not by any means translate into a love of the United States or its policies, so the challenge of maintaining a unified, stable, and friendly Iraq should not be underestimated. Even aside from the global consequences for U.S. policy, which will be addressed in the next chapter, would it be wise to ignore the fact that our actions may intensify hostility, anger, and a sense of deep humiliation for a new generation of Arabs and Muslims? It is in our interest to be seen as the new imperialist in a region whose contemporary history is defined by a hatred if imperialism?

    I apologize for not having the page number at my finger tips. I will be glad to look it up. If anyone needs it, please, email me at hellmut at mac.com.

    But of course! Phebe Marr! Shibley Telhami! Many’s the night I spent nestled by the fireplace reading their briefing papers!

    Of course, citizens can’t be expected read the expert literature. But people who don’t should not question the judgement and motives of those who do. More importantly, that excuse applies neither to members of the Bush administration nor the fellows of the American Enterprise Institute.

    In light of D&C 9, it may also be the case that ecclesiastical leaders have an obligation to study the expert literature when they want to advice the Saints about the war.

  207. Ugly Mahana on March 22, 2007 at 11:18 pm

    “Of course, citizens can’t be expected read the expert literature. But people who don’t should not question the judgement and motives of those who do.”

    So, is there a group of people whose opinions should not be questioned? Who populates this group? How can we recognize them?

  208. Doc on March 22, 2007 at 11:22 pm

    Hellmutt,
    I don’t know to whom you are responding in this gargantuan behemoth thread, but I hear you. Hear is what I read in July 2002 that was part of what convinced me that this was probably a bad idea, in Time magazine no less, something for the common man.
    The Dangers of Victory

    Beating Saddam, of course, is only half the problem. A considerable portion of the Senate discussion may focus on how America might manage the consequences of such a victory. One of the major reasons the U.S. held back from marching on Baghdad during the first Gulf War was the belief that Saddam remained a bulwark of regional stability. Iraq had functioned as a strategic counterweight to Iran during the 1980s, which was why it won support from both the U.S. and the Saudis in its gruesome war with Tehran. Iraq’s ethnic makeup raises fears that the state itself could be dismembered, destabilizing the regional balance of power: The members of Saddam’s regime are largely drawn from the country’s 15 percent Sunni Muslim minority. Sixty percent of the population are Shiite Muslims, and the largest opposition group among them is allied with Tehran. To the north, secessionist-minded Kurds make up a further 20 percent of the population. Their aspirations diametrically opposed to the interests of Turkey, which fears it’s own Kurdish minority across the border would try to join the Iraqi Kurds in a new state.

    Besides the deep ethnic cleavages and strong, competing regional interests in Iraq’s future, existing Iraqi opposition groups remain fractious — a number of key leaders have been invited to Washington next week in search of some agreement over a post-Saddam scenario. Right now there is no U.S.-friendly Iraqi leader who the U.S. could simply install in Baghdad after Saddam’s ouster, and there’s considerable fear on Capitol Hill (and in the Pentagon) that ousting Saddam could force the U.S. into a long-term occupation of an Arab country

    source: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,332697,00.html

  209. Clark on March 23, 2007 at 12:36 am

    Hellmut: (#206) But as soon as the dust settles, the reality of internal divisions and external interests will significantly complicate America’s task. At a minimum, large economic and military resources would have to be employed in a sustained fashion over a long period to assure success…

    And this is where they made their greatest failure. I think many predicted turmoil. What was shocking to those of us in support of the war was how completely unprepared American forces were for it. I strongly felt at the time that they went in before they were ready. (Remember the troops who were supposed to enter via Turkey who couldn’t)

    Dan: (#173) Never trust the words of political leaders. Never trust the words of refugees and those who flee.

    And that cynicism that is demanded for your conclusions to be “obvious” is exactly why they weren’t obvious.

    Perhaps now, given the events of the last three years instilled more cynicism in me. Certainly I predicted, perhaps out of cynicism, the hypocrisy of the Democrats which has been amply demonstrated the past couple of months. But I pray I never quite reach the level of cynicism your logic demands.

  210. Dan on March 23, 2007 at 6:58 am

    Doc,

    #208,

    Don’t forget that Cheney himself said back in 1992, after the first Gulf War that post-invasion would be chaotic.

    Once we rounded up Saddam, then the question is what do you do? You’re going to put a government in his place. Presumably, you’re not just going to turn your back and walk away. You have to put some kind of a government in its place. And then the question comes is it going to be a Shi’a government or a Kurdish government, or maybe a Sunni government, or maybe it ought to be based on the old Baathist Party regime, or some combination thereof.
    How long is that government to be able to stay in power without US military support to keep it there? How long can we maintain the coalition?

    Remember we entered into this activity with the support of 30 other nations. A very important part of that support was the support of other Arab nations who took up arms against a brother Arab state, who allowed us to operate military forces from their territory, who sent combat forces to fight alongside our people in Kuwait.

    How long could we have maintained that coalition of Arab states if we had been involved in the long-range occupation by the US in Iraq? I would guess if we had gone on to Baghdad I would still have forces in Iraq today. I don’t know how we would have let go of that tar baby once we had grabbed hold of it.

    A final point that I think is very important. Everybody is fond of looking back at Desert Storm and saying that it was, in fact, a low cost conflict because we didn’t suffer very many casualties. But for the 146 Americans who were killed in action and for their families, it was not a cheap or a low cost conflict. The question, to my mind, in terms of this notion that we should have gone on and occupied Iraq is how many additional American casualties would we have had to suffer? How many additional American lives is Saddam Hussein worth? And the answer I would give is not very damn many.

    Clark

    #209,

    And that cynicism that is demanded for your conclusions to be “obvious” is exactly why they weren’t obvious.

    I guess I assumed, wrongly it seems, that we learned our lessons from previous political leaders (Nixon and Reagan) not to trust them to tell us the truth, because they were hiding something underneath their language.

    But I pray I never quite reach the level of cynicism your logic demands.

    I wish I could trust them to be honest with their power, but I’m afraid I can never give that kind of trust to human beings again. Verify, check and balance their power. Our Founding Fathers knew what would happen with power.

  211. Hellmut on March 23, 2007 at 8:25 am

    Ugly Mahana asks:

    So, is there a group of people whose opinions should not be questioned? Who populates this group? How can we recognize them?

    Thanks for giving me an opportunity to clarify. Of course, everybody needs to be questioned. However, if we do want to challenge people who have studied Arab and Iraqi politics for decades then we do have an obligation to read what they actually say.

    Because war is risky and requires cruelty, supporters of war have the burden of proof. If expert opinion opposes the war overwhelmingly then supporters’ burden of proof increases substantially.

    In other words, if I am not willing or able to read the literature myself then the prudent course is to submit to expert opinion. It would be even better if citizens exercised client control and read the expert literature themselves.

    In the case of the inavasion, there were hardly any students of Near East, Arab, or Iraqi politics who thought that the invasion was a good idea. The only exception that I can come up with is Adeed Dawisha who was hoping for the liberation of the Iraqi people. There might have been a couple of supporters that I missed but there were dozens that were skeptical about our capacity to stabilize Iraq after the invasion.

  212. Chris Grant on March 23, 2007 at 8:46 am

    Re #206:

    Telhami saying that there are internal divisions among Iraqis falls way short of describing the implacable, murderous hatred that appears to exist between Sunnis and Shiites there now. No prophet points for that. And do you have no response to Marr saying essentially the opposite in 2003 of what you said she said in 1999? What was it that Cliff Clavin said? “‘It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.’ Boy, this Dickens guy really liked to cover his butt.”

  213. Clark on March 23, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    Dan I can but say there is a big difference between being skeptical and cynical.

  214. Clark on March 23, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    Let me clarify that somewhat and apologize for my tone. (I can’t tell how others are reading it – but I’m in the midst of bad allergy attacks which tend to put my irritation level higher than is normal – so apologies if it came off harsher than I intended)

    The reason I think simply discounting anything politicians say as irrelevant and ditto for roughly anyone with any involved interest is because it discounts too much and is unfair. In this case it wasn’t just the politicians but also most intelligence agencies who thought Iraq had chemical weapons and then the media who are supposed to be the ones checking the politicians. Now one can point to a few weapons inspectors and CIA folks. However there was disagreement among weapons inspectors so if you pick one above the other you have to justify why. Secondly the CIA had just shown themselves fairly incompetent intelligence wise and had shown themselves the same in the 80′s. While it’s fair to appeal to the CIA, they are wrong so often that I’m not sure that of itself is sufficient.

    The problem ultimately though is the problem the public always faces when the supposed evidence comes from classified sources. It is almost impossible to verify. At that point if we merely discount what all politicians (and media) say then we’re basically saying that we can’t consider specific secret information, only more broad secret information and then only over years.

    Now, given your verification principle you might favor that. I think it fair to say that after 9/11 most people weren’t. The dangers appear to be too high. Although I suspect most are now rethinking that position.

    There’s no doubt that over a period of 5 years or so broader trends can be discerned. However that approach simply will always lead to being unable to deal with specifics that need dealt with more quickly.

    Exactly how to deal with that issue in a democracy isn’t terribly clear to me. (Perhaps the topic of an other post some day…)

    As to the verification. I actually agree more with you than you might expect. One thing I was critical of in 2003 was that I felt weapons inspectors needed to be given more time and that more evidence was necessary. However I also felt (wrongly) that Sadaam had WMDs (although I never bought the nuclear weapon claim – beyond perhaps fragmentary beginnings). A large part of that was because of his actions towards past inspectors.

  215. Dan on March 23, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Clark,

    And I tend to be more cynical about those in power than most. I’ve had an abusive bishop to deal with, as well as an abusive father. My trust of those in positions of power is pretty low to begin with. I really wouldn’t want everybody to have to deal with that in order to be as mistrustful of leaders as I am.

    That said, politically, I hope Americans are more weary of charges against other nations. How we’ve responded to this point re: Iran and the bogus evidence Bush has attempted to use to portray Iran as American killers is a good step forward.

  216. Clark on March 23, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    Dan, I think Americans are far more weary – witness the response to Iran charges and the rethinking of N. Korea. A big problem though is that the American press is rather poor to begin with (both the right and left have a lot of valid gripes). But as bad as its basic coverage is its international coverage is even worse. So most Americans have a hard time deciding much.

    So I hope more Americans become more informed on complex issues like the internal politics of Pakistan and why it’s hard to deal with Al Queda because of that. I wish they’d learn more about Canada and Mexico. But I doubt they will.

  217. Seth R. on March 24, 2007 at 12:49 am

    I doubt it Clark.

    Niall Ferguson once described America as an Empire with Attention Deficit Disorder.

  218. R. Gary on March 25, 2007 at 8:05 am

    Don’t miss Blogger Guy Murray on the Iraq war in today’s Salt Lake Tribune.

  219. grego on March 27, 2007 at 12:41 am

    Well, I have to ask this:

    From Pres. Hinckley’s “BoM Ensign” talk (AUGUST 2005):
    First Presidency Message
    A Testimony Vibrant and True
    By President Gordon B. Hinckley

    …”I know of no other writing which sets forth with such clarity the tragic consequences to societies that follow courses contrary to the commandments of God. Its pages trace the stories of two distinct civilizations that flourished on the Western Hemisphere. Each began as a small nation, its people walking in the fear of the Lord. But with prosperity came growing evils. The people succumbed to the wiles of ambitious and scheming leaders who oppressed them with burdensome taxes, who lulled them with hollow promises, who countenanced and even encouraged loose and lascivious living. These evil schemers led the people into terrible wars that resulted in the death of millions and the final and total extinction of two great civilizations in two different eras.

    No other written testament so clearly illustrates the fact that when men and nations walk in the fear of God and in obedience to His commandments, they prosper and grow, but when they disregard Him and His word, there comes a decay that, unless arrested by righteousness, leads to impotence and death. The Book of Mormon is an affirmation of the Old Testament proverb: righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).

    The God of heaven spoke to these people of the Americas through prophets, telling them where true security could be found: “Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ” (Ether 2:12).

    While the Book of Mormon speaks with power to the issues that affect our modern society…”

    Who was he talking about? Iran? Afghanistan? or…? ; (

  220. James on March 27, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    I appreciate the discussion on this site. There were a lot of things I hadn\’t read or thought about. I wrote about my thoughts on President Hinckley\’s April 2003 talk on my blog http://tinyurl.com/yse2cb (\”Mormons for Peace\”) a couple of months ago.

    Here\’s a good summary excerpt:

    In other words, after warning against glorifying war and being warlike, he says that there do exist just causes for war (even for a Christian). And according to our \”respective national leaders\” who \”have access to greater political and military intelligence than do the people generally\” such was adjudged to be the case at the time.

    On that authority, President Hinckley\’s \”personal feelings\” and \”personal loyalties\” were given to the causes of freedom, liberty, peace, and security.

    In the intervening years, however, I think it is crystal clear that our \”respective national leaders\” were given much information that was inaccurate. There are many in trustworthy positions of \”access to greater political and military intelligence\” than the rest of us who now adjudge the reasons provided both for our initial intervention and our continued fighting as being inaccurate, underestimated, misleading, and in a number of cases completely fabricated.