One of my commenters pointed me to this bizarre item* by Michael Novak at one of the blogs at First Things. Novak writes:
We again need such Christian realism. Such tough-mindedness. The most dreadful war of all time is just ahead of us, is already well begun. Many of us want to save the Christian Holy Places, and Israel, too–our best ally in the world, the creator of the most economically creative and democratic society in its region.
Fulfilling this desire will not be easy in the next twelve months, fateful months, clock-ticking months. If the nuclear capacity of Iran is not destroyed before functioning nuclear weapons are in their silos or other weapons platforms, the whole world will experience blackmail.
To make an object lesson, one nation in particular is on notice that it is listed as first for destruction.
How will we live with ourselves if Israel is annihilated with nuclear bombs? How will we survive? How will our understanding of the Word of God survive, if the fleshly, tangible heart of Jewish and Christian faith is obliterated?
He goes on to urge a war of aggression against Iran to “prevent” the absurd fantasy of the Iranian destruction of the Holy Places. It is bad enough that Novak invokes Niebuhr (!) in support of this mad call for unprovoked, unnecessary war, but when he says that the “most dreadful war of all time is just ahead of us, is already well begun” we can safely say that he has lost all touch with reality. WWII remains the most dreadful war of all time, and nothing on the horizon even remotely compares to the loss of life and destruction that occurred in that war. So there is nothing realistic at all about Novak’s “Christian realism,” and neither is there anything Christian about it if that word is to have any connection to the teachings of Our Lord.
Even under very broad interpretations of just war theory, there cannot be a just war when the other party has inflicted no grave, lasting injury on us. By definition, preventive war cannot be just, and yet it is most certainly preventive war that Novak and other advocates of attacking Iran demand. War is sometimes necessary and permitted for the restoration of peace. There is no justification for destroying what peace exists to satisfy our irrational fears of a deterrable and containable threat. There is no conceivable justification for initiating hostilities to attempt to stop the potential future acquisition of a weapon that the other state is very unlikely to use against us or our allies. To start a war for such a reason would be a crime against God and man.
What would make such a war even more unjustifiable is the improbability of success: a war against Iran might delay an Iranian bomb, but it would not eliminate Iran’s nuclear program and it would almost certainly make the acquisition of such weapons an even higher priority to deter future attacks. Meanwhile, the consequences of such a war could be very bad for U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf states, as well as for Israel and our Gulf state allies, to say nothing of the potential damage it would do to the global economy and the hardship and suffering it would inflict on the Iranian people. Thousands and perhaps tens of thousands of people would die, many more would be injured and displaced, and our government and the governments of any states that helped us would obviously be implicated in yet another illegal war. Beyond the loss of life and resources, the damage to our national reputation would be staggering.
Novak warns against the “blackmail” that will follow if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon, but the only one engaged in a sort of blackmail here is Novak. He would exploit the emotional and religious attachment Christians naturally have for the Holy Places to inspire support for massive, unnecessary bloodshed. The message is quite clear: if you treasure the sacred places where God revealed Himself, you will endorse my monstrous proposal, and otherwise you probably don’t really care about these places or the revelation itself. The proposal is horrible, and the manipulation being employed to advance the proposal is simply despicable.
As for the Iranian threat, Novak is simply wrong. The “whole world” will not experence blackmail from Iran. Most likely, no other state will experience anything of the kind. It is possible that Iranian nuclear weapons could push other states towards nuclearization, in which case the danger would be an arms race and not Iranian “blackmail.” That would be undesirable, but it would not be worse than the regional conflagration that an attack on Iran would cause. Israel’s nuclear arsenal will ensure that Iran would never attempt a nuclear first-strike against Israel.
For that matter, Jerusalem is also considered holy in the eyes of Muslims. I have no idea how Westerners can claim to “know” that the Iranian government would be so moved by religious apocalyptic fervor that it would engage in suicidal nuclear warfare, but they also seem remarkably certain that the holy status of Jerusalem in the eyes of Muslims somehow doesn’t really “count” and will be tossed aside at a moment’s notice. We often see this selective reliance on the beliefs and statements of people in other states. When Ahmadinejad or some other figure of authority in Iran makes demagogic, bellicose statements against Israel, these statements are regarded as essential for understanding the thinking of the Iranian government. On the other hand, when their politico-religious authorities say repeatedly that they regard the use of nuclear weapons as abhorrent, we are supposed to dismiss these statements automatically.
* That is, it is genuinely bizarre, but it’s actually sadly predictable and normal for many of the people at First Things.
If you read Novak’s whole post it’s simply too extraordinary for words in terms of its gargantuan absurdity. He evokes all these emotions about how precious and amazing it is to be able to pray and meditate on the same hill where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount . . . precisely for the purpose of urging Christians to utterly and completely violate the content of the Sermon itself. What matters to Novak is us being able to posses the geographic space where the Sermon allegedly happened, but he doesn’t give a fuck about the Sermon itself. After all if some country might potentially pose a threat to a piece of land where Jesus maybe preached “Love your enemies” our true and righteous response should be to launch a war of aggression against such types, right?
This guy is a sub-Christian joke who recommends immoral, illegal, and inhumane actions for the sake of a crude and insipid ideological platform. Fortunately if exponents of this political program are as stupid, clumsy, moronic, and dottering as Novak, I imagine people will be able to more easily just laugh and ignore them.