The more we hear from the antiwar movement, the more evident it becomes that the antiwar movement is not entirely antiwar. War and the brutal killing of innocent people per se do not seem to offend many of the opponents of the pending military action in Iraq. After all, it is Saddam Hussein who is courting war by his defiance of U.N. resolutions and the peace accord that ended the first Gulf War; it is Saddam Hussein who harbors terrorists and hosts training camps for them; it is Saddam Hussein who has orchestrated the deaths of and disappearances of hundreds of thousands of people; it is Saddam Hussein who cuts out the tongues of Iraqi citizens who speak poorly of him; and it is Saddam Hussein who orders the rape of women in front of their children just to get political leverage with their husbands.
Yet the general consensus within the antiwar movement is that that President Bush — not Saddam Hussein or even Osama bin Laden — is the evil one. They have compared President Bush to Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda and have concluded that Saddam Hussein and the terrorists pose the lesser of two threats.
The anti-war movement’s misguided conclusions make sense only if we first examine the underlying force that drives and unites their diverse movement: a total and utter disdain for moral certainty. Many people who are antiwar are antiwar not merely because war is violent and inhumane, but because war is the ultimate statement of moral certainty — it is the ultimate in “judgmentalness.” The pending war against Iraq is particularly distasteful to them because President Bush presents it as one against “evil” forces. Nothing is more offensive to today’s “sophisticated” mind than this kind of moral certainty.
During the Enlightenment, Western philosophers rediscovered the ancient Greek concept of systematic skepticism. They labored to discredit the idea that anything can be known with certainty, especially matters of morality. Enlightenment thinkers encouraged mankind to abandon the search for Truth and embrace a perfectly delightful and reassuring uncertainty about Truth and morality. “Good” and “evil,” they preached, are the cultural jetsam of a darker age. Today, it is the very essence of intellectual sophistication to believe that the only thing that is absolutely True is that nothing is absolutely True. (Choosing to ignore the inherent contradiction is part of the game.) The truly enlightened person therefore believes that the only “evil” man is the man who points to evil and calls it “evil;” and that the only liar is the man who says that men can know Truth.
Under this belief system, which is prevalent in Europe and (at least) among the cultural elite in America, each man becomes a god (of sorts) unto himself, with the personal authority to reject summarily all external moral guidance and to declare for himself what is “good” and what is “evil.” Western culture has thus wrapped itself in relative morality like a warm blanket. Moral relativism finds diplomatic expression at the United Nations, where representatives of murderous, oppressive and otherwise criminal regimes cast votes of equal value as those cast by representatives of pluralistic democracies. Because all agree that there is no objective morality to be sought, morality is defined by a majority vote; and anyone who doesn’t find the safety that is supposed to exist in numbers is deemed a renegade (or, if they happen to be from Texas, a cowboy).
For the enlightened person, war is never the answer because he can never identify with certainty an evil that must be confronted, or a cause that is unquestionably just. We see this viewpoint at work in any number of social and political disputes, particularly in the gun control movement, which is the domestic version of the antiwar movement. Have you ever wondered what type of person would deny fathers and mothers the right to own a gun to defend their homes and their children against violent intruders? Only someone who refuses to distinguish between the good and noble act of protecting one’s family and the evil act of endangering that family. Only someone who is not certain that the attacker is in the wrong.
Many politicians engage in “God talk” to add gravitas to their speeches. But now comes President Bush, who seems more sincere about it than most, speaking of good and evil in the arena of public policy. He asserts — outside the four walls of a church, mind you — that our notions of good and evil are real, and that mankind has a responsibility to deal with them. He is spoiling the game that is being played by the enlightened. No matter what Saddam and the terrorists have done, they are not guilty of this unforgivable secular sin. Consider this antiwar rationale by Francois Heisbourg, the director of the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris, which recently appeared in the LA Times: “The biblical references in politics, the division of the world between good and evil, these are things that we simply don’t get.”
To all who have swallowed the Enlightenment’s pill, President Bush does indeed pose a more dangerous threat than Saddam Hussein and the terrorists. For if we are truly responsible to confront evil in Iraq, North Korea, and Iran, then we are most certainly responsible for confronting it elsewhere, even in our own hearts, to whatever degree it lurks there. Mankind has spent millennia devising (and sometimes distorting) worldviews, religions and philosophies that will help him to deny more plausibly the existence of good and evil and that will relieve him of the duty to honestly examine his own heart. Many in Europe and America are not about to allow a Christian politician to bring his Biblical view of our “fallen” race — for which war is abhorrent but sometimes necessary — into the public square.
So thousands of people in Europe and America have taken to the streets in protest. Many of them cannot even articulate their reasons. But this we know for certain: They are willing to risk their lives (in future strikes against America) rather than engage in the real human struggle against evil. Unfortunately, they are willing to risk their neighbors’ lives, too, just to maintain their self-delusion.
What could be more frightening?
— Adam G. Mersereau served in the enlisted and officer ranks of the United States Marine Corps from 1990 to 1995. He is now an attorney in Atlanta, Georgia.