Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Preface to An Analysis of the War with Libya

The decision by President Obama to enter into "a broad coalition that is committed to enforcing United Nations Security Council 1973" (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/03/19/remarks-president-libya), presents a number of problems, from both a Catholic perspective and in regards to the idea of war in the twenty-first century. While I do not presume to be an expert on either of these domains of thought, I do hope to offer a few ideas on the problems of US involvement, placing emphasis on a) the casuistry of the Libyan intervention, especially from the perspective of Just War theory and Catholic moral theology; b) the Libyan conflict as it relates to the strategic ideas of Col. John Boyd; and c) a critique of the idea that the US should necessarily allow other countries to take the lead in both this conflict and other international problems. 

Prior to these analyses, I would like to offer a brief analysis of President Obama's on Libya, which can be read in its entirety in the link above.  The President's justification of military action in Libya begins by framing the use of military action in the terminology of Just War, which proposes that, given a just cause, 
- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
- there must be serious prospects of success;
- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. the power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.   (Catechism of the Catholic 2309: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P81.HTM)
 To this end, President Obama states that "this is not an outcome that the United States or any of our partners sought" and that "the international community offered Muammar Qaddafi the opportunity to pursue an immediate cease fire," hoping that this demonstrates that other means of addressing the civil unrest have failed.  Unfortunately, a simple offer that Qaddafi declare a cease fire does not present a viable attempt to resolve the conflict.  Instead it proposes that Qaddafi placate the international community by toning down his violations of human rights, in order that they do not side with the opposition in an internal civil war.  What distinguishes this civil war from the conflicts in Yemen or in other areas of the Middle East and around the world?

Following his discussion of why military intervention is necessary, President Obama presents his main argument for war: "Actions have consequences, and the writ of the international community must be enforced."  This sentence reveals the vapid doctrine underlying the military intervention.  "Actions have consequences." We could divine as much from Newton's Third Law. "The writ of the international community must be enforced." When did the holy "writ" of the UN become a motivation that must be enforced throughout the world?

To conclude these prefatory remarks, I would like to comment on the premise that we are not deploying US ground troops in this conflict. This does not present a significant departure in the military doctrine of the United States, which is already moving away from ground engagements (see Robert Gate's recent address to U.S. Military Academy cadets) nor does it limit any liabilities.  In fact, I would propose that it could escalate problems within the conflict and lead to greater risks for civilians in Libya.     

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Pleasure of Reason and the Delight of Imagination

Si l'ordre est le plaisir de la raison, le désordre est le délice de l'imagination. -- Paul Claudel

The demands of Truth, in its many forms, Beauty, and the Good are for the human subject to better comprehend both itself and the context into which it has been situated.  This comprehension is not something that can be grasped in an act of violence, it is rather something that arises from the everyday experience of Being-from the prayers, relationships, readings, (inter)actions, and thoughts that define life.  While imposing order can be pleasing to the rational faculty of the subject, the fragments of experience, as disorderly as the may seem, can provide a window into the delight of the imagination, which dances before Wisdom and her children.

This blog offers occasional reflections, both theological and philosophical, some arising from personal experience, others being an occasion of intellectual reflection.  I invite my readers to respond in a generous manner, offering their ideas about the thoughts that I share. Hopefully, these musings will be an aid in my own personal journey and may aid others in their path.