Reflections on Iraq IX: Voting Implications

I’ve touched on this subject already in this series, and previously on this blog, but one the most crucial questions regarding the War for the average person is, “How does this effect my vote”?

Well, early in the series, I tracked down the direct statements from the Vatican that condemn the war as such. However, the same Cardinal Ratzinger who wrote that the war was unjust in 2003 wrote in his 2004 letter that the war did not carry the same moral weight as abortion for voters, because the Church gives a certain leeway for Catholic voters to use their own prudential judgements regarding war. This is not just a “loophole” for Catholic Republicans: it’s the teaching of the Church. Recent statements by the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life notwithstanding, the Church never permits direct abortion. The Church does, sometimes, permit direct warfare.

In a post that garnered some attention a month or so ago, I addressed the question of “just war” and civilian casualties. A war that may be just in its intent may commit unjust acts along the way, such as direct targeting of civilians. However, I concluded that a voter cannot be held responsible for such decisions.

Another problem with “civilians” is when one is fighting in a war against guerillas, insurrectionists and/or terrorists, when anyone is a potential soldier.

My US history professor recounted a story he’d heard from another professor who had served in special forces in Vietnam. An old man came out of the woods in one of those traditional Asian robes where the long sleeves serve as huge pockets. He calmly walked up to a jeep, pulled a grenade out of his sleeve, laid it on the jeep, and walked back into the woods.

How do you fight an enemy justly when every civilian is a potential enemy soldier? There are several questions there, but I wanted to lay it out for discussion.

In any case, the voter, in weighing a war, has to decide:
1) Does the voter think the war is unjust?
2) Does the voter think the incumbent president thinks the war is unjust?
3) Does the voter feel confidence in the incumbent’s leadership, given the incumbent’s level of care in determining whether to go to War?
4) How much of a consideration has the voter given to issues like torture and targeting civilians? Does the voter think the president is personally responsible for such evils, or they are being perpetrated under his nose without direct orders?
5) Is the opponent, if we presuppose the two party false dichotomy, likely to end the war? At this point, even if the war *is* unjust, is it wise to just “pull out”?

I think the key is really #5, as neither Kerry nor Obama was likely to get us out of Iraq soon, despite campaign promises.

War or no war, I have always been adamant in my conviction that the two parties are a false dichotomy, and we should vote for the candidate who *best* embodies our views, regardless of apparent popularity or regardless of the apparent size of the party, that, if everyone really voted his or her conscience rather than falling back on the two party “lesser of two evils” system, the country would be a much different place.

Unfortunately, there really were no noteworthy 3rd party candidates in 2006, and the idea of another pro-abortion “Catholic” in the White House was too much to bear.

In 2008, there *were* a variety of third party candidates. There was a Democratic candidate whom the pacifists drooled over, even though he said he wanted to get out of Iraq to invade Iran. And there was a Republican candidate who was moderate-right on the war, opposed to torture, and picked an outstanding vice presidential nominee.

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