There are two ways to make your war a Just War, with all the fringe benefits. Please read carefully.
First, convince the world that the war is just by invoking the UN Charter and getting Security Council authorization. The law involved is less straightforward than the Scholastic neo-Aristotelianism that used to justify Just Wars, so you’ll be wanting to hire some lawyers. Less intelligent presidents will put angry anti-diplomats like John Bolton on the task, but cannier ones will hire smoother jurists like Harold Koh and Samantha Power to make the case in the dulcet tones of humanitarian NGOese. This is the preferred way of making a war Just nowadays, most likely a matter of supply and demand, as there’s no shortage of secular casuists graduating from the top law schools, and the US Department of Defense has 15,000 lawyers on hand.
On 22 June 2009, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, asserted that burqas (or the burqa-clad?) are “not welcome” in France, adding that “[i]n our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity” and that “the veils reduced dignity.”France’s Muslim minority is Western Europe’s largest Muslim minority, estimated at six-million-strong. And this is just an approximation, as the French Republic implicitly claims to be post-race and post-religion via a prohibition on any census that would take into account the race or religion of its citizens. (This anxiety mirrors the brouhaha in Indian media àpropos the much-contested enumeration of OBCs or Other Backward Castes in the Indian census surveys of 2011, or the urgency to declare some spaces post-caste, post-feminist, and post-racist while casteism, patriarchy and racism continue unabated.)
Karen Armstrong is the author of the classic The History of God.
UCtelevision — 17 June 2010 — One of the world’s leading commentators on religious affairs, Karen Armstrong discusses the intersection of religion and secularism in contemporary life. She explores the ideas that Islam, Judaism and Christianity have in common and their effect on world events. Series: Walter H. Capps Center Series
Update: I wrote this in 2006. If I wrote it today I would do it a little differently. Specifically, I would discuss the pernicious role of the Scofield Bible in perverting protestantism in America. I would discuss the meeting point of Christian Zionism, orientalism and racism in Western cultures. And I would point out that contemporary science has shown us that the direct descendants of the ancient Israelites are the Palestinians, not the Ashkenazi or Berber Jews who have colonised Palestine in recent years. Shlomo Sand’sexcellent book The Invention of the Jewish People, reviewed here, summarises the science and undercuts the blood-and-soil aspects of Zionism which are so important to Christian Zionists and their ultimately anti-Semitic agenda.
I have recently been discussing Middle East issues with an American colleague who I would describe as a Christian Zionist. Although I like him personally I find some of his ideas (on Palestinian history, and Lebanon, and the wider Middle East) pretty offensive, and I have told him so. So as not to start an argument, I told him so in writing. He replied, saying that although he disapproves of collective punishment of the Palestinians he believes that the Bible clearly states that the Holy Land belongs to the Jews, and that the rebuilding of Israel prophesied in the Old Testament has happened since 1948. Hmm. My first response is anger. I understand Jews with memories of European anti-Semitism being attracted to Zionism, however wrong I think they are, but Americans? People who are not oppressed, who think Palestine is a Cecil B Demille set, who think real human beings (Arabs) are less important than their own narrow interpretations of scripture. Who think that ethnic cleansing, massacres, and apartheid are supported by God. It makes my blood boil. But I think responding intelligently to this kind of thing is important, because there are millions of Americans (with power) who see the Middle East through a Biblical prism. Anyway, here is my latest letter: