Re: MD The Quality of removing Saddam Hussein from power.

From: Wim Nusselder (
Date: Sun Feb 16 2003 - 16:02:51 GMT

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    Dear Sam,

    In your 10 Feb 2003 11:00:10 -0000 e-mail, you come very close to agreeing
    that war against Iraq at this moment is undesirable. Only 'hope' prevents
    you from agreeing:
    'To my mind the key question is what would happen *after* the war. If
    the US/UK treat it in the same way as they have Afghanistan - ie don't get
    involved in "nation building" then I think that the war cannot be justified,
    for there would not be a significant benefit to the people of Iraq, there
    would not be anything to justify the suffering consequent to war. Yet I have
    some room for hope when considering Blair especially, and remembering things
    that he has said in the past (especially his party conference speech in
    October 2001).'

    You end with:
    'I don't know how to phrase all this in MoQ terms, beyond what I put in my
    original post. (If we are going to have some form of international order, ie
    a move towards the social, away from the biological, at the international
    level, then we can't allow rogue states to develop WMD, and the authority of
    the UN needs to be enforced.) But that, to my mind, shows how much richer
    the Christian language is, as a guide to clear thinking, and as an aid to
    practical and righteous living.'

    You wanted to keep 'metaphysical interrogation' out of this thread in order
    to prevent me from explaining (in this thread) patterns of value to you and
    criticizing your abuse of the terms 'social' and 'biological' in this
    context. So I'll restrict myself to saying that your inability to phrase
    your arguments in MoQ terms doesn't prove the superiority of Christian
    language, only that you are better at home in it. It may fit you better,
    which is hardly surprising for an Anglican priest.

    I am a pacifist, but not a principled one. I don't argue from principles any
    more since I experienced the value of seeking divine guidance (allowing
    God/DQ to work through me by identifying less with static patterns of value,
    including principles). Being pacifist means to me never having experienced
    being guided to use violence and not being able to imagine being guided to
    using violence. Being forced, by remaining identification with static
    patterns of value, yes; being guided, by the lure of DQ, no.

    Your 'hypothetical example' of supposing that I am an US police officer
    guarding a children's hospital that's being attacked by terrorists, cornered
    in a position in which using my gun is the only option left apart from being
    killed, ... only invokes static patterns of value. And you implicitly paint
    them very rigid. It's difficult to imagine any US police officer able to
    resist the inclination to use that gun in such a situation.

    The point is that I do NOT identify with those static patterns of value. I'm
    not American; I'm no police officer; I never touched a gun; I wouldn't see
    'terrorists', but people using means which I can't imagine to fit with their
    deepest values or even with their professed goals. Being who I am (the
    remaining static patterns of value I identify with) and finding myself in a
    children's hospital that's being invaded by armed men, I probably wouldn't
    be able to resist the inclination to start arguing with them or appealing to
    their compassion with these children. Whether that would be of any help, I
    don't know. If an unarmed foreigner like me might (unlike an American police
    officer) get a chance to find a creative (DQ inspired) way out of the
    violent patterns of value, I don't know. Being who I am I probably would
    neither be able to use violence (but I can never be sure of that), nor to
    break the pattern of value of violence and counter-violence ('probable',
    because I can't deny the reality of that pattern of value), but I might find
    a way out ONLY if I don't identify with that pattern of value, if I refuse
    to assign it any morality of the highest kind that I know, religious

    I do not condemn those who do use violence when forced by strong static
    patterns of value. I just try
    1) to show them the options they have to avoid it (to break those patterns),
    even if they are hardly there, primarily by example (I don't like telling
    them what they should do), and
    2) to suggest them to 'open up' to DQ in a vocabulary that appeals to them.
    Thus I try to contribute to the 'migration' of those static patterns of
    value towards Dynamic Quality, which I identify with a vision of a world
    without violence. A vision that is unrealistic as a goal, I agree, but
    nevertheless a moon worth pointing at (like the old testament prophets

    You must see the parallel of my position with yours:
    'the traditional Christian view accepts the inevitability of personal sin -
    indeed, it makes it central and says that it is a dangerous illusion to
    think that you can be free of it'.
    Just substitute 'identification with static patterns of value' for 'personal
    sin'. According to me a true Christian view nevertheless recognizes the
    value of striving to become more free, of striving to 'be perfect like your
    Father in heaven is perfect'. A Christian should do 'more than what's usual'
    (which indeed may at times mean first doing what's usual, 'putting to sleep'
    static patterns of value, and only then doing something extra).
    You distinguish between 'justified, but still sin' and 'righteous'.
    I distinguished between 'excusable' and 'morally justified'.
    Do you agree that Christianity should not be in the business of providing
    excuses to politicians to start war (they're able to make plenty up
    themselves), but of pointing to a course of action that is really morally
    justified? Do you agree that given the core of Christian teaching, which is
    summarized in the Sermon on the Mount, Christians should point to
    non-violent action to end the oppression of the Iraqis as the only really
    morally justified course of action, difficult as that may seem?
    That non-violent action would -in my vision- include non-recognition of the
    Iraqi regime and non-cooperation with Iraqi officials (rather than sanctions
    forcing them to do what we want them to do, even if these may be difficult
    to distinguish, except by the way they are motivated).

    If you consider the key question to be whether 'what would happen after the
    war' ('a significant benefit to the people of Iraq') justifies 'the
    suffering consequent to war', it seems obvious that the only people who can
    make a choice when both the benefits and the costs are uncertain are the
    Iraqi's themselves. As polling them is a bit difficult, the international
    community (represented by the Security Council) have to make an educated
    guess at their opinions. I haven't heard or read that this issue figures
    very prominently in their considerations, however.
    The newspaper I read quoted yesterday morning an Iraqi refugee living in the
    Netherlands who explained why he would demonstrate against the war in
    Amsterdam yesterday. He pointed out that he would very much like to see
    Saddam Hussein removed from power, but that the Iraqi people didn't have
    much reason -after the first Gulf war- to entrust the US and the UK with the
    task. They were obviously more after their own interests then than after
    those of the Iraqis. After having stopped short of removing Saddam from
    power themselves, they first supported a revolt against Saddam Hussein of
    Kurds and Shiites, but let them down when they had taken over 14 of the 18
    provinces of Iraq. They allowed Saddam Hussein to suppress the revolt again
    with conventional and chemical weapons.

    Another key question (given the uncertainty of the balance of benefits and
    costs to the Iraqi people) seems to me what will be the effect on the
    'international order'.

    Until the First World War the 'international order' was that of balancing
    powers, mutually distrusting nations forming alliances preventing any one of
    them to dominate. The World Wars taught that this form of 'international
    order' combined with capitalism driven development or ever more destructive
    weaponry was untenable and that soft 'League of Nations' type international
    institutions weren't the solution either. The United Nations were a first
    cautious step -motivated by 'no more war' sentiments- towards supranational
    institutions. Very cautious, because the 'distrust' of the 'balance of
    power' era was built into it, by giving the -then- main powers veto rights
    in the Security Council.
    The 'balance of power' 'international order' started with 'nations'. Before
    that the largest scale type of order was that of empires like the Roman
    Empire. That era ended with the bankruptcy of the Hapsburg empire in 1555.
    The Roman Empire did mean 'rule of law'. But I don't think we should be
    willing to go back to that type of global order. It was a type of law before
    which Roman citizens were definitely 'more equal' than everyone else,
    tax-paying populations and especially barbarians to be enslaved.

    The result of a U.S. led small coalition going to war against Iraq without a
    clear Security Council backing may indeed be 'an American empire, de jure or
    de facto' (which you deemed acceptable 1 Feb 2003 12:39:57 -0000). The
    'democracy, freedom and human rights' it would uphold would -I fear-
    primarily benefit American citizens (not giving captured opponents 'prisoner
    of war' status, giving Americans immunity before non-American courts,
    allowing subsidizing its agricultural exports and laying duties on
    competitive imports in the American market while demanding open markets
    elsewhere etc.). I think it would be a step back. What do you think?

    With friendly greetings,


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