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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

An Argument Against the Moral Equivalency of the Iraq War and Abortion

Kmiec's disturbing endorsement of Obama brings up the issue of weighing the war in Iraq with abortion when voting for a presidential candidate. I am of the firm opinion that, even assuming that the Iraq War is immoral, there is no moral equivalency between the war and abortion when considering who to vote for.

The President is the highest public office in our country. I can think of no more important characteristic for a President than a well-formed conscience and an accurate moral compass, because this element of a person's character affects every single action that a person takes. I realize that we are all fallen, sinful human beings, who have lapses in our consciences and moral compasses. But some moral compasses are straighter than others, and anyone with gravely serious lapses in his moral compass is unfit to be President.

Assume for purposes of argument that the war in Iraq is unjust, and therefore immoral. If that is the case, those people who support the war are most likely gravely mistaken in their application of "just war theory" to the specific circumstances of the Iraq War. However, even though these people are mistaken in their application of the abstract theory to the specifics, generally they are not mistaken when it comes to the abstract theory of "just war" itself. In other words, these Iraq War supporters do not think that "just war theory" is bunk and that it is moral to pursue any war indiscriminately. For example, these Iraq War supporters do not think that it is moral to kill Iraqi civilians outside the rules of engagement. These Iraq War supporters recognize that an unjust war is immoral, but they think that this particular war in Iraq satisfies the criteria for a "just war."

If a person believed that killing civilians without just cause or engaging in war indisciminately without "just war" considerations was fine because "might made right" or because of some other reason, that person would have a serious lapse in his moral compass. I submit that that person would be unfit to be President.

No current presidential candidate that I know of thinks that, in the abstract, indiscriminate war without "just war" considerations is moral. Again, assuming that the Iraq War is evil for purposes of argument, the war-supporting candidates may be making prudential mistakes in applying "just war" considerations to the specifics of Iraq, but they are not mistaken on the fundamental moral principle.

In the abstract, abortion (the deliberate killing of an unborn human being) is always and everywhere immoral. This is a fundamental moral principle, just like the fundamental moral principle that indiscriminate war without "just war" considerations is immoral. Therefore, a person who believes that a war without "just war" considerations is moral or a person who believes abortion is moral, is a person with serious lapses in his moral compass. This person would be unfit to be President.

Consequently, even assuming the war in Iraq was immoral, a candidate who supported abortion would have a much greater lapse in his moral compass than a candidate who supported the war in Iraq, and thus would be more unfit to be President.

This argument addresses the position of those people who say "the President can't do much to stop abortions, but he can do much to stop an immoral war." It is irrelevant whether the President can do anything to actually stop or lessen abortions. Regardless of what a President can do, a President should have a well-formed conscience and a sound moral compass, because this informs every action he takes as President. A President who denies that abortion is immoral does not have a well-formed conscience, and so has a character unfit to be President.