Are Bush and Obama both unjust? Over at dotCommonweal, Peter Nixon notes that Obama makes “Bush’s pace” look “positively dilatory,” since at least in the lead-up to the Iraq war, there was a vigorous debate about justice.
NPR reported this morning that the British parliament will be debating this, but that the advocate for the government will argue that the war is “legal” because of the UN resolution. This is also apparently what is supposed to make us think Obama is acting rationally and carefully, and not like a “cowboy.” We are witnessing the reduction of justice to process. What makes a war just (apparently) is not its aims, but the process by which it is entered. Indeed, the ambiguity (or confusion) over exactly what the aims are is bad-to-embarrassing.
In the American context, the Bush and Obama administrations seem to provide constant reminders that the political options available to Catholics are frustrating. Either the view of justice is substantively wrong, or the view of justice is empty. We get the “dictatorship of relativism” or simply “dictatorship.”
The political options available to Catholics are always frustrating; in the real world of sinners, one makes the best choice possible and live with the consequences. Obama, doesn’t want to call his current actions in Libya “war” because of his acute anxiety about offending Muslims, so he talks loftily about preventing savagery against civilians. As it happens, I believe he is doing the right thing, but his reasoning about all of this is muddled.