Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

An Issue Held Hostage

The other day I stumbled onto a somewhat stridently liberal Catholic blog. He quoted with relish a brief passage from Pope Benedict's Easter message, in which as part of a discussion of the current problems in the world the pope said, "In the Middle East, besides some signs of hope in the dialogue between Israel and the Palestine Authority, nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees."

The point (at least to judge from some of the authors comments on other blogs to the effect of "what do you say to that, huh?") appears to be one of: When will you conservatives admit what a mess you've made of Iraq? Even the pope is against you.

I'm not sure exactly what the reaction to this is supposed to be. "Gosh, you're right. Things were so much better when there was a single brutal dictator to keep all these factions from indulging in their desire to try to wipe each other out. We should have left him in charge." Really?

There is certainly a huge amount of trouble and suffering in Iraq right now. (Though the impression is to an extent exacerbated by a media which has latched onto a simple theme "Iraq is a disaster" and only searches for stories that fit that theme.) With the clear vision of hindsight, if we had known the level of civil strife that the country would sink into (and to a great extent involve us in) we might well not have gone there, or we might have prosecuted the war very differently.

Yet in another sense, blaming the liberation of Iraq for the current chaos is like blaming the fall of communism for the civil wars in the Balkans. The dangerous thing about freedom (or at least lack of tyranny -- freedom may still be a bit too strong of a word) is that it allows people to do what they want. And if a small but significant faction of them want very much to try to slaughter each other, they will. Welcome to human history -- we've been slaughtering each other for millenia.

There seems to me to be a certain irony in on the one hand fuming about the suffering in Iraq, and on the other demanding to know why we don't "do something" about Darfur and other areas of genocide and suffering around the world. Don't get me wrong, I wish we would do something about Sudan. But understand, if we send people (either humanitarian workers, soldiers, or perhaps inevitably both) into Darfur we will (as we did in the Balkans, as we did in Somalia, as we inevitably will when inserting ourselves into a disastrous civil war or genocide situation) find ourselves in the middle of a civil war. "Doing something" does not mean that the suffering of the innocent will immediately evaporate.

In that sense, while there are certainly a number of mistakes which could (at least in hindsight) have been avoided, I hesitate to say that the suffering in Iraq is "all Bush's fault" any more than the suffering in Somalia and the Balkans were "all Clinton's fault". In all those cases, our interventions could have been managed better -- but the suffering is primarily the result of those factions in the area bent on slaughtering their fellow human beings.

Similarly, I don't exactly get the "because there is so much suffering of 'born children' in the world, you people clearly are just hiding from the issue by claiming to be 'pro-life' and helping only pre-born children" kind of attitude that one gets out of a certain stripe of thinking.

If the day ever comes that these Pharisees ever care about born children dying, or preventable death in this world at any age as much as they care about the unborn - I will be the first in line at the next anti-abortion march. Until then my friends - do not call yourself "pro-life". You are simply "anti-abortion".
Yes, the innocent, especially children, suffer terribly in areas of war, drought, famine, and the like. However it seems no more just to me to insist that war and famine be eliminated before fighting against abortion than it does to insist that abortion be eliminated before trying to alleviate all other kinds of suffering. Clearly, some people feel a calling to focus their personal energies on the abortion issue, while others feel a call to focus primarily on helping the hungry, the poor, the homeless, etc. All of these activities are good. And for all the "conservatives don't care about the born" talk, I suspect that our family is not alone among conservative families in donating more to causes like Food For The Poor than the specifically pro-life causes (that we also support).

However, it's very hard to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and clothe the naked if they are killed before they see the light of day.


Literacy-chic said...

The logical fallacy that directs one's attention to this other, more important thing (starving, dehydrated children) while ignoring the substance of the issue at hand (ie. abortion) is called red-herring, I believe. And there are statistics that support your notion that conservatives do contribute to causes to alleviate the suffering of the poor--more so than liberals, many of whom see that task as being accomplished by the government. Hence, it is the liberals who choose, in many cases, not to become involved in anything "too close to home" for fear of putting a face to the suffering. Of course, none of this is absolute, and there are many on both sides of the divide to do more than their share to relieve suffering. But because the public policies of conservatives emphasize different aspects of human life, they are open for attack. It's really rather childish.

CMinor said...

Thanks for posting this--these tiresome old assertions really can't seem to be answered too many times.

Now, if only those who need to hear it would listen.