Gravitertainty

June 23, 2006 § 21 Comments

“If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It’s not about our analysis … It’s about our response.” – Vice President Dick Cheney

I’ve remarked before on a number of occasions that when evaluating the criteria for a just war, a ton of gravity doesn’t equal an ounce of certainty. If the quote and its implementation as the “one percent doctrine” is accurate and reflects administration policy, then early in the days after 9-11 the administration explicitly rejected a key element of the Just War doctrine.

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§ 21 Responses to Gravitertainty

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–No, it’s true. Al-Qaeda is surreptiously building suitcase bombs in the luggage section of the Baghdad Wal-Mart. Cheney has pix. And get this: the manager of the Wal-Mart is a Paki with a big black beard. Watch for Condi’s affirmation on the Sunday morning talk-circuit, mid-October.

  • c matt says:

    Will the suit-case bomb have that yellow and black radiation symbol, or the Wal-Mart price-chopping smiley face (and shouldn’t it all say “made in China”)?

  • zippy says:

    I don’t know, but we are going to act as though I did know because the event in my imagination is a high-impact event.

  • Rob says:

    High impact event?“A silver bullet, a cloud of dust, and a hearty cry of “Die, O, Karachi”?

  • zippy says:

    ‘Absorbing the possibility that al-Qaeda was trying to acquire a nuclear weapon, Cheney remarked that America had to deal with a new type of threat–what he called a “<>low-probability, high-impact event<>” … ‘The whole point to the “One Percent Doctrine” seems to be to take 1% hypotheticals and act as though they were certainties, because, you know, if they actually <>were<> certainties they would be “high-impact”.“High-impact” seems to be Bush administration jargon for what the Catholic Just War doctrine calls “gravity”, and Cheney seems to be articulating a foreign policy doctrine of acting on < HREF="https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2005/11/hypothetical-sin-and-pure-evil.html" REL="nofollow">hypothetical<> as opposed to actual threats.If Ron Suskind’s reporting is accurate, there isn’t any question – none, zip, zero – of the War on Terror being conducted in a manner consistent with the Just War doctrine. The Just War doctrine has been explicitly repudiated by the administration.

  • Steven says:

    Dear Zippy,Perhaps I’m off the point here, but is there anything wrong with working with the Pakistani government to assure that such scientists as may be assisting Al Qaeda are prevented from doing so? War is one thing, but taking suitable precautions short of war and unjust persecution seems to be merely a matter of prudence. Now, if Cheney is using this as justificaiton for waging war on Pakistan, then I would grant your point (I honestly don’t know the context). But I think we can work on the hypotheticals to prevent them from becoming actuals without ever going to war or having to invoked the “just war doctrine.” In a sense, isn’t that what all intelligence gathering is about.But as I said, I may have missed the point entirely. And as I don’t read self-serving political fal-de-rol, I will readily admit to commenting without having read the cited source.shalom,Steven

  • zippy says:

    <>Perhaps I’m off the point here, but is there anything wrong with working with the Pakistani government to assure that such scientists as may be assisting Al Qaeda are prevented from doing so?<>Nothing at all, as far as I can tell. But if the article is correct, and the administration made it a matter of general policy early in the days after 9-11 to treat a 1% chance of a threat as a certain threat, then the whole Iraq debacle suddenly makes sense as the outcome of an explicit repudiation of just war principles.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–You realize, of course, that any implication that can be drawn concerning just war doctrine that would connect JWD to the Bush regime’s decision to launch this war is purely coincidental?

  • zippy says:

    To be perfectly honest, Rob, that isn’t the most interesting issue to me. The most interesting issue to me is whether it is at all possible for a Catholic to accept known facts about the war and simultaneously hold the position that launching the war was just, without outright rejecting some authoritative teaching of the Church. That is, the question my posts address isn’t directly whether the war was or was not just, but whether, as so many on the postmodern Right contend, a legitimate diversity of opinion on the matter is even possible. An explicit repudiation of a key element of the Just War doctrine by the Administration would be the final nail in that coffin. If the administration formally and explicitly repudiates the Just War doctrine then there is no longer any relevance to particular facts (e.g. whether or not the WMD-to-AQ threat was in fact lasting, grave, and certain; etc).

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–Of course I understand your interest in the issue as a Catholic, and I applaud the moral integrity upon which it is grounded.I was just reminding anyone who may have lost sight of the fact that the Bushies were *not* considering the implications of JWD in planning their Iraq agenda.

  • brandon field says:

    <>I was just reminding anyone who may have lost sight of the fact that the Bushies were *not* considering the implications of JWD in planning their Iraq agenda.<>You put this forth as an axiom; Zippy has been in dialogue with Catholics from the Postmodern Right who disagree, even to the point of maintaining their claim on the fact that Iraq was a just war. But the information in this post would represent concrete evidence that Just War Criteria was not being considered. I.e. you would be right, and the “1% doctrine” should be conslulive.

  • Rob says:

    Brandon:The Bushies certainly have been taking pains since the git-go to justify the war. This does not mean, however, that they were applying *Catholic* JWD to either their initial planning, nor to their subsequent PR campaign to sell the war to the public. What they have been trying to justify has been preemptive war, with no believable evidence of a current and/or imminent threat to the United States. To have argued for this using Catholic JWD would have been immediately self-defeating, or so it seems to me.

  • zippy says:

    <>This does not mean, however, that they were applying *Catholic* JWD to either their initial planning, nor to their subsequent PR campaign to sell the war to the public. <>That is true, but quite a number of very prominent Catholics (not to mention hordes of not so prominent ones) have been arguing that the war is based on Just War principles. There were consultations with the Pope; George Weigel, Robert Novak, and others have consulted with the administration on it; the JWD is a part of common Christian tradition, not merely a Catholic thing; etc. A “one percent doctrine” as a formal policy underlying military action is a smoking gun — the sort of thing that trumps any arguments over facts and circumstances.

  • Rob says:

    “…a number of very prominent Catholics…have been arguing that the war is based on Just War principles.”Zippy–I know, and I find that incomprehensible. To me, this is clearly to give patriotism priority over faith. But I’m a C.O., so what do I know, right?That said, I might be able to accept this as plausible on the basis that it is the opening battle of a new Crusade. If one wants to claim that Islam is an imminent and immediate threat to the Body of Christ and that America has elected herself to defend the Church, I’ll listen. But Iraq would clearly, even in this case, not be the place to strike first. That would be Saudi Arabia.

  • zippy says:

    <>That said, I might be able to accept this …<>Someone who didn’t know you better might think that you were telling a whopper rather than engaging in irony.

  • brandon field says:

    Rob,One of the problems is that *Catholic* JWD, authentically applied, does not allow for such black and white polarizations, and does not give a rat’s cuss for which political party you have sworn alliegence. But you’re right, the Bush Administration (I firmly believe that calling them “Bushies” only contributes to the animosity or defensiveness that Americans feel and thus only polarizes the situation further. Mark Shea, from whom I believe the term originates, is not well known for his non-polarizing attitude) has been continually attempting to *justify* the war. Which is different than it being a *just* war. Some of Zippy’s (and subsequently Patrick’s comments) posts on the necessity of clear language with this regard.Fortunately, I’m not in a situation that I would have to make this choice, but I would probably also find myself a C.O. (I celebrated my 26th birthday four years ago, putting me above the age of conscription). My grandfather told me years ago that he would have been a C.O. in WWII, except that he was second generation Japanese in California, so he never had to make that choice either. (He told me this when he said that he never signed up with the 442nd Infantry out of the camps).

  • Rob says:

    Brandon–I think that Americans should be polarized. There are the sheep, and then, there are the goats.There is the Kingdom, and then, there is the world. There is right, there is wrong, there is good, and there is, in great abundance, evil. To be mediocre is to be nowhere. Jesus was an extremist, but He was not a violent one. In the Kingdom, there is no violence. In the world, there is the sword. Any man is free to choose to live in either place.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–I am neither telling a whopper, nor am I engaging in irony. I am simply stating that the only possible plausible justification I can see for a Christian to (mistakenly) think that this war in Iraq is a just war, would be as part of a war in defense of Christendom.As a pacifist, it is not a position I could personally take, but it is one that would be worth arguing, and upon which reasonable men could differ.

  • TM Lutas says:

    Re: 1% solutionSubsequent to 9/11, we found out, in fact, that Pakistani scientists were engaged in nuclear proliferation. War did not, in fact, ensue. The reason for this is because the 1% solution is not about going to war. It’s about not ignoring possibilities that may lead to war. Had Pakistan decided to throw the official weight of the government behind AQ Khan’s black market nuclear bazaar, we might well have had war (because of the certain threat of having nukes for sale to anybody who can pony up the cash) but it would not be because we had a suspicion about Pakistani nuclear scientists but because we followed up that suspicion in accordance to the principle of the 1% solution fleshing it out until it became a just cause for war.

  • zippy says:

    It is true that the 1% doctrine applied to non-military responses would not violate the Just War Doctrine, because non-military responses are not war. The question is how believable is it that the Cheney doctrine is strictly limited by the administration to non-military decisions; and even in the unlikely event that it is formally so limited, to what extent it corrupts military decisions.

  • zippy says:

    I am now reading < HREF="https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2006/07/lasting-grave-and-one-percent.html" REL="nofollow">Suskind’s book<>, and if the book is accurate then the 1% doctrine was definitely used as the basis for action in Iraq.

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