Saturday, October 26, 2002

The Last Refuge of a Scoundrel

I heard Bishop Thomas Gumbleton on NPR yesterday. I’ve grown up knowing that name.

I have little respect for him.

On any given foreign policy issue he opposes the American government. If he ever had anything to say about the horrors of Soviet Russia, or any lesser communist state, he certainly wasn’t motivated enough to be this vocal about it. Defending Saddam Hussein’s government does motivate him. And make no mistake, he is running interference for Saddam’s regime, though the bishop would not think of it that way.

But he feels the "injustice" of the coming war against Iraq. He believes it is wrong to invade Iraq and free the Iraqi people and is giddy with the prospect of protests to halt the war. He says that the people of America don’t want war, relying on anecdotal evidence from a large meeting for a very left wing U.S. Representative. He dismisses the polls. He said that while, yes, the polls show that a clear majority favors war to end the threat from Iraq, support goes down if you ask whether high casualties would change their minds. Then support goes down. This, the good bishop says, shows the pro-war side isn’t as committed. The anti-war side is totally committed, he said with pride.

Yes, the pro-war side can be persuaded by higher costs to oppose war.

The anti-war side cannot be swayed.

How is that rigidity superior? He is boasting that his side cannot be persuaded to support overthrowing Saddam’s regime by his invasions of his neighbors? By his mass executions and brutal repression? By his liberal use of poison gas? By his blind pursuit of nuclear weapons at the expense of his people’s health? By his personality cult? By his reliance on a small Sunni power base and exclusion of the majority from the benefits of Iraq’s wealth? By his support of terrorists? His attempt to assassinate President Bush 41? By his refusal to agree to the cease-fire terms of 1991? By his repeated threats since 1991 against Kuwait? None of these, Gumbleton apparently proudly asserts, could change the minds of the anti-war crowd. Since a hypothetical casualty question was used to illustrate how pro-war people can be swayed, what if Saddam sent poison gas to terrorists who then used them in the Sears Tower and killed 10,000 people? Is that enough to make them think Saddam should be destroyed?

Probably not. They are "committed" after all.

It is said so often that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. I’ll not dispute the dubious broadness of that claim here (after all, those who quote it only seem to be upset over American patriotism). But by Gumbleton’s own judgment (and I realize I’m on weak ground basing an argument on his judgment) the pro-war side is not made up of inflexible "my country right-or-wrong" types. They can be persuaded to be against the war. But what about the anti-war types? What kind of scoundrels are they that they cannot be convinced by any argument that war against Iraq is just and in our interests? How is this inflexibility morally superior?

Truly, militant pacifism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

On something I wrote earlier (although maybe it was in defense issues, I forget. Anyway, I don't think we have even a full Stryker Brigade ready for combat to airlift into Iraq. I wouldn't rule out scraping up a battalion task force just to see how it could be used.