If abortion kills children, what does war do to them?

Dear Joel,

I appreciate your empathy for a pro-life position–and your willingness to hold pro-life Christians to a fully pro-life position. “Birth to natural death” means nothing if Christians can find a way to excuse every war that their leaders bring to them.

To your well-made point that it’s not pro-life to advocate nuclear war, I’ll add a few more:

If you believe that abortion is wrong because it kills innocent people, you should oppose war, too, because most of the people killed in war are also innocent. Even with our most precise drone technology, we kill a lot of people we’re not aiming for. 

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Above, the face of a Pakistani girl whose family was killed in a 2010 US drone strike, as seen from above. If you think that doctors who perform abortions are doing evil, what do you think that drone operators are doing?

If you believe that abortion hurts women, you should oppose war because it hurts women, too. Women are injured when rape is used as a weapon in war, and they die in attacks that kill civilians. The UN estimates that 86% of refugees fleeing violence in South Sudan are women and children. But it’s not just “bad guys” who hurt women. The international system of US bases feeds prostitution that harms women and children.

If you believe that women who have abortions are seeking an easy-way-out from a problem of their own making, see if you can tell me why we entered the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, the Philippine-American War, or any war of the twenty-first century. Also, tell me how much military budget you are willing to cut to put toward efforts that are more likely to work than war. War isn’t just a moral failing–it’s a practical one. 

If you think that abortion is a sign of a self-centered culture that hates children and God, don’t say that the military protects people or that war is holy. Just admit it: you don’t love women and children. You love power over others.

Rebecca

 

 

Nuclear war isn’t pro-life

Dear Rebecca:

I’m not, strictly speaking, “pro-life,” but I have a lot of sympathy for my pro-life friends. I understand why they think abortion is murder, and while I’ve decided there are also real and important issues of women’s freedom and health to be considered as well, I’ve never really had it in my heart to fight about this. For somebody who considers themself, ultimately, “pro-choice,” I’m about as sympathetic to pro-life folks as you can possibly get.

I even understood why evangelicals were big fans of Donald Trump, despite the fact his life and habits appear ignorant of Christianity at best and hostile to its moral precepts at, well, also best. It was abortion. And the Supreme Court. Everything else zeroed out for such folks. OK. I get it. I’m not going to persuade you to vote for Hillary.

But.

To my mind, the problem with Donald Trump was never merely ideological. I don’t like his stances on many issues, but we’ve survived Republican governance before. What troubled me was his temperament. He’s a narcissist verging on nihilism — I see no public evidence that he’s interested in the existence of a universe that doesn’t center around him.

Before the election I wrote this:

Understand: Probably all politicians (and writers) are narcissistic to an embarrassing degree. The smart ones put that self-regard to the service of a broader agenda, one that benefits the people that they represent.

The, uh, less smart politicians have a two-year-old’s sense of object permanence, unable to see past the irritation in front of them to take the long view. And that leads to trouble.

With Trump, we know. We know exactly what we’re getting and … we know exactly how that story ends.

And, separately, this:

Trump has shown little evidence that he knows much about the issues facing American policymakers and doesn’t seem to care to know. His instincts are not just dangerous but perhaps catastrophic: Joe Scarborough reported this week that Trump had asked a foreign policy expert why America doesn’t use its nuclear weapons to solve international problems.

“And three times (Trump) asked about the use of nuclear weapons,” Scarborough said. “Three times he asked at one point if we had them why can’t we use them.”

There’s a reason the United States doesn’t use nukes so cavalierly: They are genocidally lethal. Using them would make other nuclear powers nervous and angry, increasing the likelihood of a war that could destroy this country — and a good portion of the world. Donald Trump should understand this. It is frightening that he doesn’t.

Which leads us to today:

President Trump threatened on Tuesday to unleash “fire and fury” against North Korea if it endangers the United States as tensions with the isolated nuclear-armed state grow into perhaps the most serious foreign policy challenge yet in his young administration.

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Mr. Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

Let’s review:

I believe the North Korean regime is evil. It inflicts suffering on its own people, and on occasion spreads violence to its neighbors. I do not wish it to possess a nuclear weapon and a rocket capable of delivering that weapon to the United States.

However…

The North Korean regime is regularly given to bombastic statements. The job of U.S. presidents has traditionally been to ratchet down the rhetoric, and thus the likelihood of devastating war.

Donald Trump, who never met a dick-measuring contest he didn’t elbow his way into, would rather satisfy that particular itch rather than be the adult and ratchet down the rhetoric.

I do not feel safer tonight.

And to bring this full-circle: Donald Trump may appoint the “right” justices for my conservative friends, but I have no reason to believe he possesses any ethic that is reasonably called “pro-life.” It is not pro-life to threaten nuclear genocide. And if you think abortion kills babies, you should see what a nuclear bomb can do.

This was foreseeable. Donald Trump was always going to be a horror show as president. Let us hope he doesn’t show his toughness all the way into helping create some of the worst horrors ever seen.

Related: National Interest, delete your account.

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Fearfully,
Joel

War is not inevitable

Dear Rebecca:

Speaking of the way Americans are sold wars of choice as no choice at all:

While the Kim regime is technically a Communist government, the ideology that governs North Korea is known as “Juche” (or, more technically, “neojuche revivalism”). The official state ideology is a mixture of Marxism and ultra-nationalism. Juche is dangerous because it is infused with the historical Korean concept of “songun,” or “military-first,” and it channels all state resources into the North Korean military—specifically its nuclear program.

Juche is not a self-defensive ideology. Rather, it is a militaristic and offensive belief system. If the North gets a fully functional nuclear arsenal, they will use those weapons to strike at their American, South Korean, and Japanese enemies.

Get that: If North Korea gets the right combination of nukes and missiles, it will definitely attack the United States. Which leads to the inevitable conclusion: “Given these facts, why should we waste precious time on negotiations that will only empower the North and weaken the rest of us? We should be preparing for conflict on the peninsula, not begging the North to take more handouts from us as they build better nuclear weapons.”

But there’s plenty of reason not to believe that North Korea will automatically strike the United States if it’s capable.

Here’s why. If North Korea launched nukes at America, America would launch its nukes at North Korea. Everybody knows this. The North Koreans know this. This is not in doubt. It is difficult to establish one’s dominance over a continental peninsula if you, along with the peninsula, are smoking, radioactive ash.

As NBC News reports: “The country says it wants a nuclear bomb because it saw what happened when Iraq and Libya surrendered their weapons of mass destruction: their regimes were toppled by Western-backed interventions. It wants to stop others, namely the administration of President Donald Trump, from toppling its totalitarian regime.”

The North Korean regime is awful. But that penchant for self-preservation means it’s unlikely to start a war that will end with its destruction.

Understand, there’s a long history of this. America’s hawks warned that Iran’s mullahs had a messianic ideology that would cause them to lash out with nuclear weapons once they were capable; we invaded Iraq because we didn’t want Saddam Hussein to prove he had weapons “in the form of a mushroom cloud.

The essential idea is always that nations unfriendly to the United States are so irrational, care so little for their own survival, that they’re willing to commit civilizational suicide via a nuclear attack on the U.S. or its allies. But it hasn’t happened yet.

So when hawks make that case, make them prove it. Point out that history hasn’t worked out that way so far. Point out that we’ve invaded a country to no good end because of similar thought processes. But never merely accept that we have to choose war. It’s not inevitable, no matter how much hawks sell it as such.

Sincerely, Joel

‘Self-restraint’ in North Korea

Dear Rebecca:

This has been stuck in my craw for the last day or so.

The unusually blunt warning, from Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, the commander of American troops based in Seoul, came as South Korea’s defense minister indicated that the North’s missile, Hwasong-14, had the potential to reach Hawaii.

“Self-restraint, which is a choice, is all that separates armistice and war,” General Brooks said, referring to the 1953 cease-fire that halted but never officially ended the Korean War. “As this alliance missile live-fire shows, we are able to change our choice when so ordered by our alliance national leaders.

“It would be a grave mistake for anyone to believe anything to the contrary.”

You know what else is a choice? Making war.

There’s something awful and dangerous about the idea that war is a default position, that it takes an act of will not to send thousands of soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen into combat to inflict death on a widespread scale.

This is particularly true in North Korea, where it seems likely the regime is developing nuclear weapons as a means of protecting itself from interference from superpowers like the United States. The likelihood they’ll actually start a war? Pretty low.

Which means we’d be starting a war for the purpose of … making sure they can’t retaliate if we decide to go to war with them. That seems like a terrible squandering of life in order to prevent an unlikely outcome.

Listen, the North Korean regime is — as George W. Bush once said — loathsome. But if our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan have proved this century, going to war against loathsome regimes doesn’t necessarily result in a net improvement.

But their provocations do not require an armed response. Anybody who tells you differently might have an itchy trigger finger.

Worriedly, Joel