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 War and Faith 

April 18, 2006 
I can’t see our getting into a war with Iran — not while both countries are led by Today's column is "War and Faith" -- Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.such cool, reasonable men.

Of course at the moment both of them are snorting and pawing the earth with their forehooves a little; President Bush has indicated that he would be pleased with a little more regime change and fewer weapons of mass destruction in Iran, while President Ahmadinejad would be delighted to see Israel wiped off the map.

But these are mere bargaining positions, the lofty dreams idealists bat around in idle moments. They’ll both come to their senses, and all things shall be well. Peace will prevail.

Back here at home, though, Bush is in big trouble. He isn’t my idea of a conservative, but he’s the conservative liberals deserve; they’ve brought him on themselves, and I have no pity for them. Without them, he wouldn’t have been possible. For them to complain he’s violating the Constitution is a joke for the gods; whom do they think he learned from? Who has been teaching us that the Constitution is a “living document” that keeps “evolving”?

Still, they are right about Bush, and the polls suggest that the voters agree with them in a general way. The idea that the country is evenly divided between “red” and “blue” states appears unlikely to survive this fall’s elections. The day after his reelection Bush pledged to spend his political capital, and for once he has kept his promise. It’s gone.

Bush may leave office as the most unpopular president since Harry S. Truman. Though Truman is now widely regarded as a “great” president, this was far from the case in 1952, when he decided not to bother seeking another term.

Truman’s undeclared war in Korea was dragging on endlessly. He was usurping powers in defiance of the Constitution. The public was sick of him. Many were calling for his impeachment. So it is with the incumbent.

[Breaker quote for War and Faith: Two believers]Opposition to Bush has erupted in an unexpected quarter: the military, which feels he has bungled the Iraq war and fears he is planning even more disastrous military action against Iran, not ruling out a nuclear attack.

Meanwhile, several retired generals — who presumably reflect the sentiments of many active officers who don’t feel free to pipe up yet — are calling for the removal of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld is the pinup boy of the neoconservatives, who feel such criticism of him verges on “mutiny,” “revolt,” and “sedition.”

How so? Well, the military is supposed to be submissive to the civilian leadership, don’t you see, and this smacks of insubordination. True, the neocons concede, the retired officers have a technical right to speak their minds, but they find this exercise of that right unseemly. Coming at this critical moment, it could cause the Iraq war to be lost!

Well, these officers don’t want to lose the war; their whole point is that Rummy’s conduct of the war is bringing defeat. But the suspicion grows that they think the war was misconceived in the first place, and that their real target is not Rummy, but Bush.

Yes, professional military men are paid to kill when commanded to do so, but this doesn’t mean they always enjoy their work. They also have minds and consciences of their own, and they may resent it when civilian rulers give orders they regard as stupid or immoral. What a clergyman sees as a holy war may seem insane to the soldier who has to fight it.

Both Bush and Ahmadinejad, for all their piety, seem to think they are acting on behalf of the Almighty. Since they have clashing conceptions of the divine will, at least one of them may be mistaken.

But Bush and Ahmadenijad and millions of others share one article of faith: faith in the state. That is, faith in the authority of organized force, and ultimately faith in war.

Indeed, how many modern people can shake this faith? Very few, I’m afraid. Many men who can’t believe in God find it nearly impossible to imagine society without the state — the threat of force. The more the state demands of us, the more harm it does, the more inconceivable life without it seems to become.

Sometimes I think our coins should bear the legend “In Caesar we trust.”

Joseph Sobran

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