What kind of country are we, and what kind of country do we wish to be? Robert Bellah has asked that question many times and in many ways over the years. In Habits of the Heart he explored the American culture of individualism, and he sought to revive a tradition of citizenship and concern for the public good.
To hear President Bush speak of late, you might think he was mounting a pulpit, not a podium. With war on the horizon, the Providence of God is especially on his mind. “Events aren’t moved by blind change and chance,” he said at the Presidential Prayer Breakfast, echoing similar sentiments expressed in his State of the Union address.
The Bush administration’s grand design for foreign policy, spelled out last September in a document titled “The National Security Strategy,” declares that the U.S. will exercise the responsibilities of the dominant power in international politics in order to resist terrorism and rogue states and to shape a global ethos of human dignity and prosperity.
Secretary of State Colin Powell and President Bush have used September 11 to push this country into war. The Bush administration is fully aware that half of the Americans polled believe that Iraq was involved in 9/11. (See recent polls by Gallup and Pew.) The truth is—and the administration knows this—that no connection has been found to link Iraq with Osama bin Laden.
The evidence that Saddam Hussein has an aggressive weapons program can be found in the reports made by United Nations arms inspectors and by Iraq itself. So say the experts who have examined Iraq’s recent 12,000-page declaration to the UN. They point, for example, to supplies of anthrax and biological toxins that are unaccounted for.
"We will not live in fear.” President Bush’s statement to the American people attempts to convince us that the way to ensure that we will not live in fear is to attack Iraq. Surely, the president seems to be suggesting, we can live without fear if we exert our power and eliminate the threat of our enemies.
Problem-solving requires anticipating long-range problems as well as addressing immediate crises. Columnist Molly Ivins understands this. She knows that Saddam Hussein is a problem, but she says that “there’s a serious downside” to solving the Saddam problem by invading Iraq.
Americans are fearful these days. September 11 snatched from us (forever?) a feeling of invincibility, a sense of being safe and secure from foreign invasion. Now we keep getting homeland security warnings about the probability of another terrorist attack. Besides that, a crazed sniper is on the loose around Washington, D.C.
The numbers of Christians living in Iraq, mostly Catholic and Orthodox, have been dwindling for more than two decades. One exodus of Christians began during the prolonged Iran-Iraq war that stretched from 1979 to ’88. The short, violent gulf war of 1991 was followed by 11 years of United Nations economic sanctions, which church leaders say have made life miserable and survival tenuous for many.
When he was running for president, George W. Bush decried “nation building.” It was not the task of the U.S., he insisted, to bring order to chaotic countries. The U.S. may be the global cop, but it is not the global social worker.