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Worth A Shot, I Suppose

I'm not big on arguments of the form, "rightwingers all say they love the Pope, but ignore his views on X, Y, and Z that prove he was really a liberal." I'll make an exception, however for the topic of democracy-promotion. Are those who, like Charles Krauthammer, rightly praise John Paul II's commitment to liberty in Eastern Europe unaware that he by no means felt that such a commitment required him to support preventative war-fighting in Iraq? It seems to me to be an important point. The Pope's commitment to the principle at hand is not in question, nor is his practical experience in getting the job done. His work in the Soviet Empire, along with more recent developments in Georgia, Ukraine, Lebanon, and with luck Egypt and Kyrgsztan seem to me to clearly demonstrate that violent overthrow of regimes by external military forces is by no means necessary to the efficacious promotion of freedom.

April 4, 2005 | Permalink


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» Democracy-promotion advice from The Ethical Werewolf
This is something that I would've loved to see more mention of in news analysis of Georgia, Ukraine, Lebanon, and with luck Egypt and Kyrgyzstan. The advancement of democracy rarely requires the invasive overthrow of dictators, and it remains to be s... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 4, 2005 10:41:29 PM

» Burdens of Infalibility from Democracy Vs. The Constitution
I am rather disturbed by how little mention of JP2's contribution to "no women priests" is getting in the liberal angst over his record. [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 5, 2005 12:34:44 PM


I forgot, who was it that argued that it was [always] necessary?

Posted by: Jason | Apr 4, 2005 1:36:23 PM

Pope John Paul II was a complex figure who cannot possibly be shoehorned into American politics left or right. His call for Jubilee year debt relief put him far left of anyone electable in this country, and his understand insistence on Catholic doctrine regarding contraception puts him out of the mainstream on the other direct.

Personally, I'm disgusted by Republicans trying to co-opt the Roman Catholic church, but the American Catholics who buy into it probably deserve what they get.

I think there are a lot of reasons to respect John Paul II as a sincere, engaged figure with a truly international perspective whether or not you agree with him or with the direction he was taking the church (or care about the church at all).

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Apr 4, 2005 1:53:41 PM

I don't think anyone argued that it was always necessary. But a hell of a lot of people, Krauthammer prominent among them, have repeatedly accused people who opposed the Iraq war of being insufficiently devoted (or actively opposed) to democracy promotion.

Posted by: Haggai | Apr 4, 2005 1:55:54 PM

As someone pointed out on a radio show the other day, it's a mistake to think of the Pope as conservative (or liberal); what he was, was Orthodox.

The real question is, would Krauthammer have pardoned Galileo?

Posted by: Wrye | Apr 4, 2005 2:04:23 PM

It's so cute the way you keep expecting right-wing interlocutors to develop a conscience. Krauthammer is sleaze. He only hears the Pope who says he's right; the Pope who says he's wrong isn't worth spending any time on.

Posted by: bobo brooks | Apr 4, 2005 2:35:10 PM

As someone pointed out on a radio show the other day, it's a mistake to think of the Pope as conservative (or liberal); what he was, was Orthodox.

Orthodox Christendom would probably beg to differ on that one!

You might want to try orthodox with a lower-case 'o' - Orthodox Christians run into the same problem when referring to their 'catholic' Church...

Posted by: Jersey Exile | Apr 4, 2005 2:37:48 PM

Go Jason! Beat that straw man!

Posted by: JP | Apr 4, 2005 2:39:31 PM

The disconnect between history and current rhetoric is even more jarring when one considers the praise heaped upon Ronald Reagan for "winning the Cold War without firing a shot", in contrast with the hot coals heaped upon the heads of those of us who thought it might be possible to sow the seeds of democracy in the Middle East without firing a shot.

It's all just wingnut rhetoric, full of propaganda and bullshit, signifying nothing. The only moral agenda the Krauthammers and Dobsons of the world stand for is getting what they want.

Posted by: Violet | Apr 4, 2005 2:46:41 PM

There you liberals go again trying to apply logic and even handedness to conservative opinion. I guess you can’t help it. If you go through life believing that what is true for the most advantaged should also be true for the most disadvantaged, you’re bound to believe an opinion on policy should apply uniformly in all instances. Trying to parse conservative logic is like following the ribbon in some Mobius loop: you end up where you started and somehow flip flopped while doing so.

Anywho, if you liberals would get more organized you would realize politically exploitive opportunity when someone is dying. Organizing liberals is like herding cats – the worst kind, cool cats.

Posted by: scou29c | Apr 4, 2005 3:23:08 PM

Jersey Exiles. Yes, it would be pretty funny if Episcopalians started referring to themselves as the episcopal church. I often find the phrase episcopal bishop funny.

Posted by: Abby Vigneron | Apr 4, 2005 3:24:30 PM

I think Ed Kilgore's comments are pretty spot-on and may help clear up some confusion about whether the Pope was left, right, whatever: he was South.

Posted by: praktike | Apr 4, 2005 3:34:44 PM

Conflate the pope with conservativism. I doubt that all the outflowing support for the pope and the papacy from influential/powerful Protestants is sincere. The conservatives are trying conflate the parts of the papal ideology that conform to their opinion with their opinion. Kind of like how Hitler (mis)used Nietsche, Hegel, et al. to support his adgenda, conservatives try to coopt the pope. When they praise the pope for agreeing with them on something, Catholics might see conservative philosophy as the political version of the pope's dream. It's best not to mention the disagreements and feign agreement. Heck, my parents who attend Mass every Sunday and are pretty well-educated were not even aware that the Vatican had publicly protested against the Iraq war.

Posted by: scott | Apr 4, 2005 4:26:57 PM

I think Ed Kilgore's comments are pretty spot-on

Works for me. Though it only adds to the confusion that "South" has an entirely different and specific meaning within American politics. It'd be interesting to see this followed up by a pope who is really from Latin America or Africa.

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Apr 4, 2005 4:33:26 PM

violent overthrow of regimes by external military forces is by no means necessary to the efficacious promotion of freedom

Is this the most obvious thing ever posted by Matthew on this blog?

I'll also mention that whether "violent overthrow of regimes by external military forces" is "necessary to the efficacious promotion of freedom" has absolutely nothing to do with whether the decision to invade Iraq was right.

Posted by: Al | Apr 4, 2005 5:01:57 PM

" think Ed Kilgore's comments are pretty spot-on and may help clear up some confusion about whether the Pope was left, right, whatever: he was South."

I think that's something of an oversimplification. His real dedication to nonviolence, ecumenicism and opposition to government-run socialism are very much of the North, and the West.

But it's a lot more true than not.
One thing he has in common with the South and the Bush administration that Kilgore doesn't mention: an unfortunate tendency toward "democracy and freedom for thee, but not for me".

Posted by: Katherine | Apr 4, 2005 5:18:16 PM

"His work in the Soviet Empire, along with more recent developments in Georgia, Ukraine, Lebanon, and with luck Egypt and Kyrgsztan seem to me to clearly demonstrate that violent overthrow of regimes by external military forces is by no means necessary to the efficacious promotion of freedom."

That's the equivalent of saying that because force was necessary in Germany and Europe in WW's I & II it proves that force is always necessary. NO ONE IS SAYING MILITARY FORCE IS ALWAYS NECESSARY!

Complete straw man. It's not like the world didn't try non-military action to weaken and overthrow Iraq - remember the 17 UN resolutions, no-fly zones, UN inspections and 12 years of sanctions? All that did was, arguably, contain Iraq and, unarguably, starve the country half to death. Anyone who says non-military means would have ever brought down the Sadaam & Sons regime gets the Neville Chamberlin award for foreign policy vision.

Also, the Pope wasn't "all peace, all the time" - he did support military intervention to stop the atrocities in the Balkans. So while Matt rants about how conservatives pick and choose from the Pope's positions that supported their ideology - he does the exact same thing.

Posted by: MJ | Apr 4, 2005 5:36:54 PM

I agree with Paul Callahan's post that it is impossible to shoehorn Pope John Paul II into U.S. political categories, but the reason why is that he is committed to the Roman Catholic Church, whose function is--to use a quaint term--salvific.

No one reading an encyclical such as "Veritatus Splendor" will be in any doubt that the Pope was anything but a democrat (NB the small "d".) His chief objection to Communism was that it trespassed on the Church's prerogatives, not that it was un- or anti-democratic. If anything, he finds the pluralism and materialism of American society just as obnoxious.

Now that he is gone, I can't help wondering if the College of Cardinals will elect someone from the Third World who may be even more hostile to the United States. We shall see...

Posted by: Diogenes | Apr 4, 2005 5:58:55 PM

I'll also mention that whether "violent overthrow of regimes by external military forces" is "necessary to the efficacious promotion of freedom" has absolutely nothing to do with whether the decision to invade Iraq was right.

Good point, Al. Obviously, the proven links between Saddam and Al Qaeda--and Saddam's massive stores of WMD--were much more important in the calculus supporting the war than thoughts about spreading freeedom. Thanks for that crucial reminder.

Posted by: bobo brooks | Apr 4, 2005 6:33:52 PM

Here in the US, we rightly remember the Pope as a great fighter of Communism, but conveniently forget that he equally and ferociously opposed unfettered Capitalism.

Like His Savior, the Pope reached pit to everyone, saints and sinners. He loved us all, even as he sought to teach us a better way. He thoroughly diapproved of both the culture and capitalism of the US, and of our grotesque treatment of the poor and disenfranchised, and of children.

At my personal blog, Heart, Soul & Humor, I republished a thought-provoking essay for a Warsaw professor on this very topic.

Posted by: Deborah White | Apr 4, 2005 6:34:55 PM

"it's a mistake to think of the Pope as conservative (or liberal); what he was, was Orthodox."

LOL, the one thing John Paul II was NOT, was Orthodox.

The Patriarch of Alexandria, currently Theodoros II, is the Orthodox Pope:


Posted by: rea | Apr 4, 2005 6:38:41 PM

He thoroughly diapproved of both the culture and capitalism of the US, and of our grotesque treatment of the poor and disenfranchised, and of children.

Yeah, no matter how many billions of capitalist dollars ended up being tithed to his church. I'm sure that's What Jesus Would Do.

Posted by: bobo brooks | Apr 4, 2005 6:47:01 PM

I think that the people (like AI) who are saying "that Democracy promotion doesn't require war does not invalidate war as one of several tools of democracy promotion" are, strictly speaking, right (though the specific war in Iraq was just dumb).

However, it DOES mean that right-wingers shouldn't say we're on Saddam's side or anything whenever they want to go to war and we don't.

Posted by: Julian Elson | Apr 5, 2005 12:53:22 AM

Many liberals seem to have fallen for the conservative pitch that the Pope is a Republican.

In the opposite strategy from conservatives, they are focusing only on the differences between the Pope's views and their own.

I'm not sure what they hope to accomplish by this, except to establish their street cred as liberals or their cultural insensitivity (how ironic).

Posted by: owen | Apr 5, 2005 7:22:25 AM

Whoops, I should have said I wasn't referring to this post, but to some of the other blogs and commentors I've seen recently.

Posted by: owen | Apr 5, 2005 7:27:35 AM

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