National Catholic Reporter
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Issue Date:  July 2, 2004

From the Editor's desk

Will Catholic fuss really matter?

It is unclear, at least to me, how important all of this Catholics and politics brouhaha will seem when election time rolls around in November. I tend to think right now that it will prove more important for the church in figuring out how to deal practically with politics that won’t easily align with church teaching than for any politician heading into an election.

Our cover cartoon (thanks to friend and colleague Patrick Marrin) admittedly puts the case rather broadly -- that’s the way of cartoons -- but not without reason. What seems to be the most convincing lesson to come out of the public discussion -- and the bishop’s private deliberations -- is the understanding that there are no perfect Republicans or Democrats, just as there probably are no perfect donkeys or elephants. But that’s all right.

One can imagine God enjoying a chuckle at the thought that anyone could expect institutions and systems comprising humans to fall so neatly into line that we could all feel completely comfortable voting for anyone.

Life is messier than that. And we are left, in the end, with our wits and our consciences to puzzle things through.

~ ~ ~

During a two-week getaway recently, I left my laptop behind and turned off the cell phone (most of the time) but couldn’t resist looking in on the contretemps between administration officials and the 9/11 Commission it had appointed and that had published an interim report debunking most of the reasons given for invading Iraq. In another era, we might still be pondering that through daily news cycles, but things move so quickly and there is so much material flying at us around the clock that it was soon lost in the ether with Abu Ghraib and concerns over disappearing civil liberties.

With all that as backdrop, I was fascinated to read in Avi Shlaim’s slim but enormously helpful 1994 volume War and Peace in the Middle East, a snippet of what he refers to as “A Pentagon statement of defense priorities for 1984-88,” which places great importance on the Middle East. It was the plain language and statement of purpose that impressed me:

“Our principle [sic] objectives are to assure continued access to Persian Gulf oil and to prevent the Soviets from acquiring political-military control of the oil directly or through proxies. It is essential that the Soviet Union be confronted with the prospect of a major conflict should it seek to reach oil resources of the Gulf. Whatever the circumstances, we should be prepared to introduce American forces directly into the region should it appear that the security of access to Persian Gulf oil is threatened.” How about substituting Saddam Hussein for Soviets?

Foreign policy used to be so easy to understand.

~ ~ ~

One area of the paper about which I can boast with impunity is the Letters pages. That’s because I’ve got little to do with them except to read what comes in. Enough said. We’ve got great letters that make for wonderfully informed and often provocative conversation. Check out the brief one this week from Kupanda Ku of Papua, New Guinea. Haunting questions.

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, July 2, 2004

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