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Tuesday, April 01, 2003



Ambrose, Augustine, Aquinas...Andy! Let us gather, Oh Brethren, to listen to the dispensation of Revealed Wisdom by one of the most visible proponents of the Church's just war tradition. Yes, watch the Right Reverend Sullivan mount the pulpit and harangue the assembled with his latest sermon, entitled, "Yes, a War Would Be Moral."

Or just ignore him and hope against odds that he will go away. You will profit but little studying a man who operates so determinedly outside the realm of fact. Some mystery attaches to this, as Sullivan's are not the usual flat-earth notions, ignorant dogmas, and under-informed speculations of the typical warblogger. He presumably knows better. Sullivan is allegedly possessed of a graduate education - from an Ivy League school, nonetheless - and is regarded to know enough about his Church's teachings to be trusted with the task of lecturing the readership of Time about Catholicism. Yet his histories are privileged, which is to say empirically false, and his interpretation of Christian just war theory is at obvious variance with doctrinal consensus. The confluence of his mistaken cognitions and his curious theological precepts is an unappealing sight which gives one pause to ask why a man would choose to so fully cram himself full of shit.

Sullivan's latest exercise in homiletical cynicism is handily reprinted in slightly modified form at his accurately titled "Unfit to Print" vanity site as "A Just War:
The morality of ousting Saddam." Just war theory, in its most noble strains, toughens the presumption against war and heightens the threshold before resorting to same. Sullivan subscribes to the degraded version which posits a checklist of questions requiring a perfunctory answer before dropping the MOABs. Sullivan in his piece provides a non-exhaustive list of these questions, to which he then puts facile answers. Let us start with the most egregious of his omissions, the question of just intent, the most urgent question when considering the ethical magnitude of any homicidal conflict.

The incoherence of the stated war aims baffles even those willing to take the Administration at its word. Is it about disarming Iraq? Bringing it into full compliance with U.N. resolutions? Regime change? September 11? It gets even more muddled when one considers rationales not meant for public consumption. Is a war to remystify power, aggrandize military might, and unambiguously advance national interest ever just? Is it something that the Jesus of Sullivan's faith would approve of? By saying it is, Sullivan posits a like amount of Incarnational Truth and moral splendor in Richard Perle, Bernard Lewis, Harlan Ullman, and the president's very favorite political philosopher. The possibility of constructing a more absurd equivalence beggars the imagination.

The most compelling intent devised by the Administration to date is the promised installation of a democratic government in post-war Baghdad, and Sullivan believes in imperative to "do all we can to encourage democracy in the aftermath." This would be admirable if it could be accepted at face value. Unfortunately it cannot. Just as Sullivan endlessly exercises his rawmuslglutes, so must his readers exercise skepticism when tangling with the reptilian columnist. Recall the paean to democracy he issued last week while discussing polls pointing to "an enormous swing toward the pro-war camp" and its counselor Tony Blair: "Heck, I'd vote for him next time. Blair is teaching an old lesson: if you lead, they will follow." Translated from the Sullivanian, that is, "Send out an army of invasion without any popular support to speak of first, then watch the plebes fall into line after the fact." Sullivan's vision of democracy is as debauched as his interpretation of the just war tradition, to which we now return.

Unlike the question of just intent, Sullivan does engage the question of "last resort," the necessity of exhausting all alternatives prior to launching a war. Unfortunately Sullivan exhausts only his readers, or those among us who remember what he wrote in the recent past. Assiduously and untiringly aping the Administration as per his usual, and making its projects his own, Sullivan has long wanted this war. Whatever designs the unelected President has on Iraq, they predate the various crises used to rationalize the current bloodshed. Mega-dittoes for Sullivan. Why, though, someone presenting themselves as a Christian - and an advocate of just war principles in addition - would be vigorously in favor of the catastrophic failure of Human Community is wholly beyond me, but Andrew Sullivan, years before Saddam and Iraq's last chance "under U.N. Resolution 1441," was penning dangerous nonsense for The New Republic titled "Iraq Now." That piece merits our attention.

"Iraq would be easier than Afghanistan," Sullivan ventured in one of the piece's more startling sentences. And the remainder startles as well. After affirming - without substantiation - that Iraq is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction with which it would "attack the West," Sullivan poo-poos the Afghanistan nay-sayers and urges a campaign against Iraq which "will be a broader awareness within the Muslim world that we should not be messed with." I'm waiting for the learned Reverend Rippedfuel to direct me to the corresponding passages in Augustine that provide moral sanction for the manipulation of terror.

The above is Sullivan at his worst: wielding a hardcover copy of Michael Walzer's book as a cudgel against those presumptuous enough to interfere with his idolatry of weapons systems, and writing bunk history that completely ignores relatively accessible fact. The Afghanistan he uses to scold those among his audience who questioned the ease with which the U.S. can work its magic - much less the morality of the act - bears next to no relation to the Afghanistan that appears daily in the papers. Sullivan's "Blog," so far as I can tell, has yet to even mention the weekend's fatal ambush. Kabul, the erstwhile oasis presided over by Mayor Karzai and his ice cream man assistant, was just hit by rocket fire, damaging the international peacekeeping force headquarters located "across the street from the heavily fortified U.S. Embassy." Mullah Omar, despite a $10 million bounty on his head, renewed his calls for war on America, with 600 Islamic clerics singing back-up.

And those are just stories filed in the past few days. Sullivan would rather ignore them, inconvenient as they are to his bizarre fantasy of Saracens rushing to meet the invading Crusaders with flowers. The market for such delusions in Andy Land seems on a maniacal run, what with the success of Sullivan's recent fund-raising drive and the objectively third-rate material he's been offering for sale as of late. While others are doing substantive work that will be remembered for decades, Sullivan squanders his access to elites and offers only fraudulent theology, false history, and platitudes to power. That in addition to his wearisome denunciations of an ever-lengthening list of stooges, appeasers, brain-dead peaceniks, and anti-war activists often collectively slandered as Jew-haters. This, of course, is all consonant with the work and Word of the Jesus Sullivan reveres.

Expect him therefore to ride out the war as a source of omnidirectional anger, applying Divine sanction to what he ridiculously declares a just war. Expect him to holler himself to professional injury, a further loss of credibility, and, ultimately, complete self-marginalization. In short, expect the expected. Just don't expect Sullivan to ask himself aloud whether any of his post-September 11 words were penned in the spirit of the Christ who invoked a special benediction upon the peacemakers.

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