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The Death of Osama bin Laden


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It's touching and all that, but I don't think the concerns of conscientious objectors can be fully answered by painting them as uneducated bumpkins won over by questionable prooftexting.

Yeah, them's a lot o' words, but they shore went down a might better when the patriotic music started tootin'.

I'm not sure that "Sergeant York" is the best educational tool for the Just War theory.

Although, that scene in the film seems to be a little more than just the ideas of a Hollywood scriptwriter. David D. Lee wrote (pages 19-20):

At the root of York’s unhappiness lay his lingering doubts about the morality of war, although he told his superiors nothing about his convictions until he was assigned to Company G, 328th Infantry, Eighty-second Division, a combat unit that seemed destined for front-line service. Then he went to see his company commander, Captain Edward Danforth, a Harvard-educated Georgian who quickly recognized the private’s sincerity and took him to Major George Edward Buxton, the battalion commander and a devout New Englander who so impressed York that he later named a son for him. Buxton and York spent a long night discussing the Bible’s teachings concerning war. The major began by quoting Christ’s admonition, “He that hath no sword, let him sell his cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36), and asked York if the Christ who drove the moneychangers from the temple would ignore German “war crimes” in Belgium. He pointed out that Jesus had told his followers, “For my kingdom is not of this world; but if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight” (John 18:36). Buxton argued that the United States was an earthly government due the “things that are Caesar’s” and therefore the Christian servants of that government should fight for its preservation. He ended by reading a long passage from Ezekiel (33:1-6) that suggested that the Lord expected his people to defend themselves.

The conversation introduced many new ideas to York and left him more confused than ever. The strange camp setting with its endless activity unsettled him still more, so Buxton and Danforth gave him a ten-day pass to go home and collect his thoughts ... Although Buxton had assured him of a noncombat assignment if he requested it, York’s honesty forced him to analyze the major’s ideas even though his mother, Pastor Pile, and the congregation all urged him to accept Buxton’s offer. Finally he fled again to the mountains where he spent all of one day, that night, and part of the next day praying for divine guidance.

That night on the mountain, York experienced, in effect, a second conversion, returning home convinced that God wanted him to fight and would preserve him unharmed in battle. As he put the issue to a disappointed fellow church member, “If some feller was to come along and bust into your house and mistreat your wife and murder your children maybe, you’d just stand for it?” ...

I've read the sophisticated stuff on "just war" - like Hugo Grotius on the subject, Samuel von Pufendorf, and Alexander Hamilton - and then even Thomas Aquinas was going over the same arguments being addressed in this thread - "And as the care of the common weal is committed to those who are in authority, it is their business to watch over the common weal of the city, kingdom or province subject to them. And just as it is lawful for them to have recourse to the sword in defending that common weal against internal disturbances, when they punish evil-doers, according to the words of the Apostle (Romans 13:4): "He beareth not the sword in vain: for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil"; so too, it is their business to have recourse to the sword of war in defending the common weal against external enemies. Hence it is said to those who are in authority (Psalm 81:4) "Rescue the poor: and deliver the needy out of the hand of the sinner"...

But, at the end of the day, when you find yourself engaged in actual combat, as a Christian you don't find your resolve or emotions much more complicated than Alvin York's (or even Anthony Perkins' "Josh" at the end of Friendly Persuasion.) Knowing the intellectual basis is valuable and useful, but sometimes, when it comes down to it in real life, it can be pretty simple. There are a few truths, that, if you believe them, are worth both dying and killing for - and you don't have to be highly educated to get that.

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It's touching and all that, but I don't think the concerns of conscientious objectors can be fully answered by painting them as uneducated bumpkins won over by questionable prooftexting.

Yeah, them's a lot o' words, but they shore went down a might better when the patriotic music started tootin'.

I'm not sure that "Sergeant York" is the best educational tool for the Just War theory.

Although, that scene in the film seems to be a little more than just the ideas of a Hollywood scriptwriter. David D. Lee wrote (pages 19-20):

At the root of York’s unhappiness lay his lingering doubts about the morality of war, although he told his superiors nothing about his convictions until he was assigned to Company G, 328th Infantry, Eighty-second Division, a combat unit that seemed destined for front-line service. Then he went to see his company commander, Captain Edward Danforth, a Harvard-educated Georgian who quickly recognized the private’s sincerity and took him to Major George Edward Buxton, the battalion commander and a devout New Englander who so impressed York that he later named a son for him. Buxton and York spent a long night discussing the Bible’s teachings concerning war. The major began by quoting Christ’s admonition, “He that hath no sword, let him sell his cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36), and asked York if the Christ who drove the moneychangers from the temple would ignore German “war crimes” in Belgium. He pointed out that Jesus had told his followers, “For my kingdom is not of this world; but if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight” (John 18:36). Buxton argued that the United States was an earthly government due the “things that are Caesar’s” and therefore the Christian servants of that government should fight for its preservation. He ended by reading a long passage from Ezekiel (33:1-6) that suggested that the Lord expected his people to defend themselves.

The conversation introduced many new ideas to York and left him more confused than ever. The strange camp setting with its endless activity unsettled him still more, so Buxton and Danforth gave him a ten-day pass to go home and collect his thoughts ... Although Buxton had assured him of a noncombat assignment if he requested it, York’s honesty forced him to analyze the major’s ideas even though his mother, Pastor Pile, and the congregation all urged him to accept Buxton’s offer. Finally he fled again to the mountains where he spent all of one day, that night, and part of the next day praying for divine guidance.

That night on the mountain, York experienced, in effect, a second conversion, returning home convinced that God wanted him to fight and would preserve him unharmed in battle. As he put the issue to a disappointed fellow church member, “If some feller was to come along and bust into your house and mistreat your wife and murder your children maybe, you’d just stand for it?” ...

I've read the sophisticated stuff on "just war" - like Hugo Grotius on the subject, Samuel von Pufendorf, and Alexander Hamilton - and then even Thomas Aquinas was going over the same arguments being addressed in this thread - "And as the care of the common weal is committed to those who are in authority, it is their business to watch over the common weal of the city, kingdom or province subject to them. And just as it is lawful for them to have recourse to the sword in defending that common weal against internal disturbances, when they punish evil-doers, according to the words of the Apostle (Romans 13:4): "He beareth not the sword in vain: for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil"; so too, it is their business to have recourse to the sword of war in defending the common weal against external enemies. Hence it is said to those who are in authority (Psalm 81:4) "Rescue the poor: and deliver the needy out of the hand of the sinner"...

But, at the end of the day, when you find yourself engaged in actual combat, as a Christian you don't find your resolve or emotions much more complicated than Alvin York's (or even Anthony Perkins' "Josh" at the end of Friendly Persuasion.) Knowing the intellectual basis is valuable and useful, but sometimes, when it comes down to it in real life, it can be pretty simple. There are a few truths, that, if you believe them, are worth both dying and killing for - and you don't have to be highly educated to get that.

And in the end, for some of us, there are a few truths worth dying for, but no truths worth killing for. Especially not one as hopelessly compromised as patriotism. We'll have to agree to disagree. Which is kind of where I figured this might end up when we started.

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Although, that scene in the film seems to be a little more than just the ideas of a Hollywood scriptwriter.

Well, historically accurate or not, it's an egregious misapplication of the "render unto Caesar" passage. That a theological argument is persuasive in a given situation is no proof of its correctness.

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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Overstreet wrote:

: N.T. Wright condemns the manner of the killing of Bin Laden.

I find it interesting that he imagines what the British and American reactions to his hypothetical scenario would be, but not the Canadian reaction. I mean, if the Brits are going to be launching their attack from Canadian waters...

Incidentally, the four British colonies that came together to form Canada in 1867 did so against the backdrop of the Fenian raids -- raids made by U.S.-based Irishmen into Canadian territory between 1866 and 1871.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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A critique of Wright's argument from an unexpected source:

- - -

Moral men and immoral society and the death of bin Laden

It is simply not the case, as the great British theologian N.T. Wright regrettably asserts, that this was a lawless act of cowboy vigilanteism. The raid was legal. It had the sanction of international law and was conducted in accord with that law.

This operation was also conducted, to the extent that we can tell from the account emerging from various reports, with a commendable and largely successful effort to abide by the ethics of law as described by those “just war” principles we’re always discussing here — the same principles President Barack Obama discussed in his lecture on Reinhold Niebuhr in Oslo (on the occasion of being given the Nobel Peace Prize). . . .

I admire and respect N.T. Wright greatly. I am deeply grateful to him for several books that have enriched my thinking, my faith and my life. But his argument that this raid was unjustifiable is simply wrong. The series of analogies he presents do not correspond to the facts of the matter. They would only be relevant if we completely disregarded the existence and importance of those U.N. resolutions and authorizations that Matt Yglesias points toward. That’s an odd thing to disregard in the midst of what amounts to an argument for such resolutions and authorizations. “By what right?” Wright asks, but then unfortunately doesn’t seem interested in listening to the answer. . . .

Fred Clark, Slacktivist, May 7

- - -

There's a lot more at the link. Check it out. (Clark, BTW, is the guy who has been doing weekly page-by-page eviscerations of the Left Behind novels for the past six or seven years. He's still working on the second book!)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The series of analogies he presents do not correspond to the facts of the matter.

The problem a lot of people have at this point is that "the facts of the matter" keep changing.

(Clark, BTW, is the guy who has been doing weekly page-by-page eviscerations of the Left Behind novels for the past six or seven years. He's still working on the second book!)

blink.gif That juice ain't worth that squeeze.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Bummer. And I usually like reading N.T. Wright.

Considering the following scenario. A group of IRA terrorists carry out a bombing raid in London. People are killed and wounded. The group escapes, first to Ireland, then to the United States, where they disappear into the sympathetic hinterland of a country where IRA leaders have in the past been welcomed at the White House. Britain cannot extradite them, because of the gross imbalance of the relevant treaty. So far, this is not far from the truth.

But now imagine that the British government, seeing the murderers escape justice, sends an aircraft carrier (always supposing we've still got any) to the Nova Scotia coast. From there, unannounced, two helicopters fly in under the radar to the Boston suburb where the terrorists are holed up. They carry out a daring raid, killing the (unarmed) leaders and making their escape. Westminster celebrates; Washington is furious.

What's the difference between this and the recent events in Pakistan?

Well, let's see, first of all he's comparing the American government to the government of Pakistan - a weak, unstable, government that had it's own Constitution suspended 4 years ago, party members assassinated, it's prime minister barely protected from multiple assassination attempts, a weak & incompetent military, and a demonstrated inability to control terrorist use of its borders. Second of all, assuming our government was in the wrong in this scenario, I don't find it that objectionable. Third, would we really cry and complain that much if news just came out that Mossad agents just efficiently knocked off another terrorist within our own borders?

Answer: American exceptionalism. America is allowed to do it, but the rest of us are not. By what right? Who says?

American exceptionalism is not that we are allowed to do things with our military and other countries aren't. It's that other countries aren't willing or able to do things with their military forces, that we would happily step aside and share the workload with. For example, if the people of Iran don't eventually overthrown Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, America would happily let Great Britain bear the brunt of the workload whenever Iran's screwing around with nuclear bombs finally demands that someone put a stop to things. American exceptionalism is that the United States is one of the most free, politically and economically, nations in the history of the world. This does not make us superior or give us moral rights others don't have.

... Perhaps the myth was necessary in the days of the Wild West, of isolated frontier towns and roaming gangs. But it legitimizes a form of vigilantism, of taking the law into one's own hands, which provides 'justice' only of the crudest sort. In the present case, the 'hero' fired a lot of stray bullets in Iraq and Afghanistan before he got it right. What's more, such actions invite retaliation. They only 'work' because the hero can shoot better than the villain; but the villain's friends may decide on vengeance. Proper justice is designed precisely to outflank such escalation.

Of course, 'proper justice' is hard to come by internationally. America regularly cast the UN (and the International Criminal Court) as the hapless sheriff, and so continues to play the world's undercover policeman. The UK has gone along for the ride. What will we do when new superpowers arise and try the same trick on us? And what has any of this to do with something most Americans also believe, that the God of ultimate justice and truth was fully and finally revealed in the crucified Jesus of Nazareth, who taught people to love their enemies, and warned that those who take the sword will perish by the sword?

Taking the law into our own hands like in the Wild West? Maybe Wright just hasn't read Grotius and Pufendorf, but "International Law" is a phrase that can only be used loosely. Any International Legal Institution has LESS power to enforce, and LESS popular mandate to declare, laws than the weak Continental Congress did under the ineffectual Articles of Confederation. I don't know how many times I have to say this, but we did not kill bin Laden out of mere revenge. Or if we did, that wasn't the right reason to kill him. There absolutely should have been shoot-to-kill orders out of for him years ago - whether he was armed or unarmed is irrelevant. The national security of any country demands that its government take out any threat that has successfully murdered its own citizens by the thousands. It's not "proper justice" or "joyful revenge." It's pure national self-defense.

America isn't the world's policeman in any sense of being "undercover" or a "vigilante." Out in the open, for all to see, we are the current world's military superpower. Because we say we believe a few things that no other superpower in the history of the world said they believed in, we happen to be committed to certain actions. This isn't a job we want, it's a job we're stuck with. Name a single American that wants us to invade Iran and do there what we are currently doing in Iraq? Not one - but we may have to in the future, just because of what we stand for. Wright is making light of the helpless, weak sheriff in town, who can't enforce right. Well, the world is full of helpless and weak governments who can't enforce right, can't protect their own selves (much less their neighbors), and have weak and incompetent military forces that couldn't fight their way out of a barn. This is the real world. And it's the world we're stuck with.

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SDG wrote:

: blink.gif That juice ain't worth that squeeze.

Oh, but it's so informative. I mean, it's not just about the books; it's about everything they reveal about the right-wing evangelical mentality. It's about the link between bad art and bad theology. And so much more.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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SDG wrote:

: blink.gif That juice ain't worth that squeeze.

Oh, but it's so informative. I mean, it's not just about the books; it's about everything they reveal about the right-wing evangelical mentality. It's about the link between bad art and bad theology. And so much more.

I just read his comments for the entertainment value. Hilarious.

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SDG wrote:

: blink.gif That juice ain't worth that squeeze.

Oh, but it's so informative. I mean, it's not just about the books; it's about everything they reveal about the right-wing evangelical mentality. It's about the link between bad art and bad theology. And so much more.

I just read his comments for the entertainment value. Hilarious.

Yeah, but still ... after six months ... or a year ... or two years ... of going back to the same well again and again and again, surely you get to the point (what's a mixed metaphor or two among friends?) where there are greener pastures?

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Guest Pax

Although I don't think Tom Wright nailed it, there is something in his argument that has stuck in my mind.

Rather than the model he suggests: How would we feel if China killed a few U.S. citizens while taking out an individual hiding out in Hawaii (or Guam), someone universally seen as responsible for some Very Bad Thing back in mainland China?

I'm not upset about the operation itself but rather about the issues surrounding Pakistani sovereignty. Surely there must have been some way better to engage the Pakistan government without putting the operation at risk.

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I'm not upset about the operation itself but rather about the issues surrounding Pakistani sovereignty. Surely there must have been some way better to engage the Pakistan government without putting the operation at risk.

Not if you thought there was a chance that elements within the Pakistan government were protecting OBL.

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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Yeah, but still ... after six months ... or a year ... or two years ... of going back to the same well again and again and again, surely you get to the point (what's a mixed metaphor or two among friends?) where there are greener pastures?

Well...just yesterday produced this cute little gem:

Tsion’s presence livens things up a bit. He suffers from the malady of ethnicity in lieu of character but — slender praise though it may be — he’s still more likable than either Buck or Rayford.

Mainly though, he’s new. More than 800 pages in this series has encountered the problem that plagues many soap operas and long-running sit-coms: characters who never grow get stale. One solution to that problem is to allow characters to grow and change the way we humans ought to do. Another, more common, solution is to introduce a new character who hasn’t yet had time to become as stale and stagnant as the original cast.

So think of Tsion as Cousin Oliver.

So far, as a reader, the series has not gotten old, even when he rehashes topics.

"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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Moral men and immoral society and the death of bin Laden

It is simply not the case, as the great British theologian N.T. Wright regrettably asserts, that this was a lawless act of cowboy vigilanteism. The raid was legal. It had the sanction of international law and was conducted in accord with that law.

This operation was also conducted, to the extent that we can tell from the account emerging from various reports, with a commendable and largely successful effort to abide by the ethics of law as described by those “just war” principles we’re always discussing here — the same principles President Barack Obama discussed in his lecture on Reinhold Niebuhr in Oslo (on the occasion of being given the Nobel Peace Prize). . . .

I admire and respect N.T. Wright greatly. I am deeply grateful to him for several books that have enriched my thinking, my faith and my life. But his argument that this raid was unjustifiable is simply wrong. The series of analogies he presents do not correspond to the facts of the matter. They would only be relevant if we completely disregarded the existence and importance of those U.N. resolutions and authorizations that Matt Yglesias points toward. That’s an odd thing to disregard in the midst of what amounts to an argument for such resolutions and authorizations. “By what right?” Wright asks, but then unfortunately doesn’t seem interested in listening to the answer. . . .

Fred Clark, Slacktivist, May 7

I'm, oh, a week or so late to this, but Clark has responded to some of the critiques of his earlier post:

- - -

Just, juster, justest

The alternatives were not between this raid by Navy SEALs and a similar raid conducted by federal marshals armed with Tasers, pepper spray and handcuffs. President Obama was not faced with the choice between ordering this military raid or ordering bin Laden’s criminal arrest. He was faced with the choice between ordering this military raid — conducted by military troops, employing military means under military rules — and doing nothing. Given such options, I believe he made the right choice. . . .

Today it might seem like we’ve got that equation backwards. Due to the continuing presence of tens of thousands of American troops in Afghanistan and the ongoing, if ill-defined and amorphous, so-called “war on terror,” it might seem like military measures have become our dominant means of dealing with terrorism. But for all the blood and treasure spent on those efforts, the reality for many years now has been that law enforcement has played the primary role in preventing terrorism and prosecuting terrorists. From the would-be shoe bomber to the would-be underwear bomber to the dozens of stings and arrests and prosecutions in various cities around the country, it has been the FBI — a branch of that same Justice Department that Grant established to fight the terrorism of the Klan — that has taken the lead, supported by good local police work and the assistance of the occasional Dutch tourist or Times Square street vendor. (Thank you again Jasper Schuringa and Duane Johnson.)

The effectiveness of that primarily law-enforcement approach has been vindicated time and time again, and that vindication doesn’t seem to me to be undermined by the recent raid on bin Laden’s compound. That raid seems to me an example of military action in support of the larger, primary work done by law enforcement, an example of the military playing a lead role when — and only when — they were uniquely capable and there was no feasible course of action for the FBI or police.

The architects of the so-called “War on Terror” are desperately trying to portray this raid as, instead, a vindication of their approach. I don’t think that’s correct or even plausible — the “War on Terror” approach would have required the invasion and indefinite occupation of the entire nation of Pakistan. This wasn’t a military action against Pakistan or against “Terror” in the abstract. It was a focused action directed against a single compound.

I see this raid as an opportunity to finally begin sloughing off this idea of an elastic, unrestrained and unrestrainable “War on Terror” and to bring its many dubious, lawless, immoral and counterproductive tactics to an end. Proponents of that never-ending “war” could always point to the enduring freedom of Osama bin Laden as Exhibit A that this unfinished effort must be continued. They have now lost the ability to make that argument. . . .

Fred Clark, Slacktivist, May 10

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Pakistani Intelligence Announces Its Full Cooperation With U.S. Forces

... CIA director Leon Panetta praised Lt. Gen. Pasha's announcement, calling his ISI counterpart an indispensable ally in the ongoing fight against terrorism. "We've certainly had our differences, but I appreciate the candidness and transparency he brings to our joint operations," Panetta said. "Though there may be some elements within his organization sympathetic to al- Qaeda, I know we have a trustworthy partner at the head of the ISI."
Edited by Persiflage
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