In this week’s episode, the editors cover recent content, including on the Israel-Hamas conflict, the Good Samaritan, and LGBTQI+ rights.

Tooley: Hello this is Mark Tooley, editor of Providence: A Journal of Christianity & American Foreign Policy, with another episode of Marksism, with fellow editors and fellow Mark(c)s, Marc LiVecche and Mark Melton. We’re discussing three pieces from Providence this week, starting out with what’s happening between Hamas in Gaza and Israel. And we’ll have some special analysis from our Just War scholar on the issue of proportionality. Secondly, we’ll discuss a piece by Michael Sobolik on loving our enemy, as the Good Samaritan did, especially in the wake of January 6 and enhanced political polarization in America. And thirdly, the policies of the Biden Administration advocating LGBTQ plus, plus, plus issues in American foreign policy. But starting out with Gaza, Hamas rockets, and Israel’s response, I did an interview with our contributor and cobelligerent Robert Nicholson, president of the Philos Project, who makes the point that there is in this, as there is in all issues involving Israel, the mythologization of the Jewish people, such that whatever happens to Israel cannot be addressed impartially or proportionately but is always addressed with great heat and emotion. And those who are against Israel, and those who are antisemitic, and those in between will make an issue of what otherwise would be unimportant and insignificant to them. And those who are friends to the Jewish people and friends to Israel also will jump to its defense without necessarily making careful arguments. So, Israel, being on the receiving end of attacking rockets, if that were happening to any other country, that would not be a topic of global concern typically, or not a topic of great controversy. But anything involving Israel by definition will be controversial, because the Jews are mythologized, and we as Christians understand that dates back to their special role and their special location in the providence of God. But Marc LiVecche, as a Just War scholar, how do you address proportionality, especially those who would claim that Israel is overreacting to the rockets falling upon its cities by killing more residents of Gaza than there have been Israelis killed by these incoming rockets?

LiVecche: Right. It’s a familiar misunderstanding of what proportionality is intended to do. Proportionality comes in in two places in the Just War tradition. The first is in the ad bellum, or “when is it right to fight” category. And that simply says that the ends you’re seeking in your war ought to outweigh the harms that you’re trying to avoid or the harms that would come from not engaging in that war. And the second, that may be more pertinent here, I think is in the in bello, or how to fight that war. That’s the “right to fight” category of the Just War tradition, which says, controversially maybe, that proportionality is a calculus. Again, between the good that you intend to achieve, which is peace, and the harms that you’re trying to prevent, and the harms are two. Again, it’s the harms that would occur if you do not use the force in question and it’s the harms that will come by using the force in question. It’s both. Very often there’s different ways that people have miscast proportionality, and I think the way we’re seeing it miscast here is that proportionality is somehow supposed to be maybe one of two things, either a fair fight, so it’s like a football game where both sides are only going to get so many players and have so many resources at their disposal and then they can clash, so it makes war a game. And I think nobody really wants to believe that, but that seems to be the practical outcome of some of the cries of disproportionality that we see. The second way is that people often think that proportionality is supposed to mean that you use only the minimum amount of force necessary to achieve the task. And even Paul Ramsey says as much. And on the surface of it that sounds right, but then when you think about it to any degree you recognize sort of the practical absurdity of that. That in the high stakes type situations of conflict, it’s always only going to be maybe retrospective at best that you know the minimum amount of force that is going to be necessary to do something. So, I think what proportionality advocates is that in light of the right intention of achieving peace, proportionality is a calculus that says the good that you achieve ought to outweigh the harms that you prevent. And this should be constrained by decisiveness rather than a minimalist approach. You aim at decisiveness; you hedge toward thoroughness. In the article, I have an article coming out in just a few minutes, that argues that with proportionality, you should hedge toward clean margins, like you would in cancer surgery. You want thoroughness, not just enough to get the job done.

Tooley: Thank you, Marc LiVecche. Turning to Michael Sobolik’s piece, a reflection on current polarization in American politics, but our propensity to hate whom we perceive to be our political adversaries. He cites January 6 and the events unfolding from that event, but obviously there are wider implications. But the example of the Good Samaritan calls us to love and serve sacrificially those whom we perceive to be the enemy. Your thoughts, Mark Melton?

Melton: So, I think this is a good piece, especially in this hyperpolarization of current American politics that we live in silos where we don’t actually interact with people we disagree with as often as we might have at a different time. Both because our social media is siloed, and also, our communities are becoming more partisan. So, this I think is a good reminder to understand that you have to love your enemy. And that doesn’t mean I think, as it says in the article, that you excuse wrongdoing and crimes. You prosecute the people who are responsible for the riots or for going into the Capitol and whatnot, which is what we’re doing. We need to do those types of things. So, neighborly love doesn’t mean you don’t, you still prosecute those crimes, but you also don’t just write them off, you still love your neighbor even when you disagree with them thoroughly. And so, that’s a very difficult task, and I think that’s the reason why Jesus has to remind us that with the Good Samaritan and other parables. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be in the Bible.

Tooley: Any thoughts, Marc LiVecche?

LiVecche: I’m going to get a coffee mug, “If it was easy, it wouldn’t be in the Bible.” That’s my new mug. Yeah, I think Melton is right. I like the article as well. I think it demonstrates the kind of nuanced thinking that I hope Providence exemplifies. He does several tricky things. He says that there is a place for anger, you should prosecute justice, you should do all those things. While at the same time, those things are commensurable with love. So, it’s language that’s close to my heart.

Tooley: Lastly, a piece by Grace Melton about the LGBTQI plus, plus advocacy in American foreign policy. She is obviously offering her critique of it. I’d be curious on your thoughts. My own are that, as Americans and as Christians, obviously, we affirm basic human rights for all people everywhere. And we would not want versions of sharia that imprison persons for consensual sexual sins, and yet to advocate LGBTQI plus, plus ideology, which you assume it affirms and even sacralizes an endless list of sexual preferences and gender identities, is definitively outside the realm of advancing US interests and US principles abroad. What do you think, Marc LiVecche?

LiVecche: That’s well said. Again, I think she threads a careful line. She, like you’ve just done, she insists that naturally, and it shouldn’t even have to be said, but the United States should always defend those inalienable human rights of all individuals. It should encourage other countries to do the same thing. All that is true. While at the same time, you’ve got this potential clash with the individual right to religious liberty. She calls it the first freedom. I think this is true. You see it in the Canticle of Zachariah. God saves us from our enemies so that we can worship him in peace. It might be the clash of individual rights. They don’t have to be incompatible. So, she argues for I think grace but also, again, firmness in not giving into those things that we probably shouldn’t give into. And she does so in light particularly of the Department of Defense’s seeming eagerness to push Biden’s agenda on precisely what this is going to mean. And, in particular, I always think when people try to turn the United States military into a place of social experimentation, we go awry. Again, you don’t want to see people’s inalienable rights discriminated against, but to use the US military as a testing ground as to what those rights are and how they ought to be supported is probably never a good thing. Its job is to defend us by deterring, and when it can’t deter, by killing people and breaking things. It’s not supposed to be a social experiment.

Tooley: Mark Melton, final thoughts?

Melton: Yeah, this piece is interesting because she was also responding to Secretary Blinken’s comments about the international religious liberty report that came out by the State Department. And In Defense of Christians was actually very positive about this report. For instance, he says that religious freedom is essential for being a human being. And so, I think that there is the ability to, reading on in Egypt of how they imprison gay men and torture them and stuff, I think there’s room to allow for allowing them to be refugees. I read about one, he seemed to have to go to Canada, and I don’t know if he was able to come to the US or not. I know during that time we really dropped off how many refugees we were allowing into the country. And so, I think we should be appalled by that, in the same way that we’re appalled by, as Steven Howard mentioned today in his article, of an elderly Coptic woman who was stripped and forced to parade through the town that she was living in. And so, I think we should be appalled by both of these things and allow for refugees from these countries to come in. I also tend to think that the countries where they’re going to have the worst LGBT violations with torture and violence and whatnot are going to be the same countries that will also not respect religious minorities’ rights. So, yeah, but I also think that on this front, because of a lot of domestic fighting on these issues, there’s a lot of mistrust. For instance, there’s a lot of talk about the money that’s going to be spent, like USAID money. Will it go toward international religious liberty? And I think some of these articles and some of this worry I think is really coming from are these programs going to get funded? For instance, are the Yazidis going to have the money to convert this school into a museum. I think that was approved, but there’s some other programs that there’s questions about. So, there’s real hardcore like where’s the money going to go? And in Iraq, my understanding is that Congress passed a law with overwhelming bipartisan support to allow for money to be directed towards these persecuted religious minorities. Snd so, it seems to me going forward that the Congress, if we have this bipartisan support on this level, like I think in the Senate was almost unanimous passage, then we could not do that just in Iraq, but do it globally. Where if we want to prioritize persecuted religious minorities, we can pass a law to make certain that those funds should be allocated.

Tooley: Mark Melton, Marc LiVecche, thank you for, as always, an insightful and enjoyable episode of Marksism. Until next week, bye-bye.