N. T. Wright on the Death of Osama bin Laden

N. T. Wright

N.T. Wright comments on the killing of Osama bin Laden over at Ruth Gledhill’s blog.

I hear Wright’s objections and I am no fan of American exceptionalism. The point I would like to make is that this is not really exceptional but typical of how governments go after terrorists. The UK and other governments spasmodically engage on seek and destroy missions in other countries where the goal is to terminate rather than capture terrorists. Israel does it all the time and they are not alone. To give an example, an SAS hit team killed three IRA members in Gibraltar in 1988. In terms of the degree of force applied, in the 1980 siege in the Iranian embassy in London all but one terrorist was shot and killed by the SAS who had explicit orders to take no prisoners! You can pursue terrorists with a Tomahawk missile or a special forces hit team, but the result is the same. It is important to remember that under the Laws of Armed Conflict that terrorists are not subject to the protection of the Genevan conventions because they do not qualify for its provision (long story, but it’s true). For this reason, the rules of engagement given to soldiers dealing with terrorists are usually different from that during conventional warfare or peace keeping operations.

There are questions of legality and morality about war, how warfare is conducted, and how Christians tackle these tough ethical issues. For all of its limitations, I still think Just War Theory is the best way to go and provides the framework for us to approach this subject.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/ Patheos

    This is an example of a WordPress comment, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many comments like this one or sub-comments as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress.

    • http://johngreenview.wordpress.com/ John Thomson

      It’s worth reflecting on how much of a ‘kemo sabe’ Joe American really was to Tonto. Perhaps the Lone Ranger’s horse should have been at least a piebald.

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  • http://www.tomsterbens.net Tom Sterbens

    There is a little known background on NT Wright’s social parody….

    Few people know the history behind the Lone Ranger. Prior to dawning mask and gun and becoming “The Lone Ranger,” Joe American was an independently wealthy innovator who had moved to an area of the old west where a lawless bad guy Alberto Kyda (Al for short)was tormenting the towns people. Al had an incredibly large gang that was overwhelming to the local sheriff, whose name was P. K. Stan. Sheriff P.K. Stan and his deputies were grossly under-manned, under-trained, and under-funded to fight the network of Al’s bad-guys.

    Joe America decided to help. Joe met with Sheriff Stan and agreed to provide funding, training and all the necessary resources to rid their region of Al Kyda and his gang. Over the course of nearly 10 years Joe provided approximately 20 billion dollars worth of resources to Sheriff Stan—in fact Joe thought they were the best of friends. (Joe even developed an endearing reference for Sheriff Stan, he called him “Kemo Sabe). The agreement between Joe America and P.K. Stan was a seeming unending supply of resource with the single goal being to rid the land of Al Kyda and his gang. Joe America even assisted in supplying technology for the sheriff to have nuclear capabilities to defend against tribe of Indians that were wanting to take over as well.

    In time Joe America learned that Sheriff Stan had become good friends with the bad guys and even helped provide a place for them to live in safety—a place from which they could operate their ongoing bad guy stuff. All the while the towns-people still suffered from the actions of Al and his gang. The day that Joe dawned the mask and became the Lone Ranger, was the same he discovered Kemo Sabe Bin Lyin about the location of Al Kyda..

    And that’s the true story.

  • Impartial Observer

    Erm… Gibraltar is British; Pakistan is not American. Try comparing like with like.

  • Impartial Observer

    Erm… Gibraltar is British; Pakistan is not American. Try comparing like with like.

  • http://johngreenview.wordpress.com/ John Thomson

    It’s worth reflecting on how much of a ‘kemo sabe’ Joe American really was to Tonto. Perhaps the Lone Ranger’s horse should have been at least a piebald.

  • Richie

    Sound comments Michael. Just War Theory is indeed the best way to go because it has been worked out through the course of the real events of history – and, continues to be refined as times continue to change. Unfortunately, NT Wright forgot to mention the only “sword” applicable to this situation – that of the governmental officials of Rom. 13 in the wielding of true, though always partial and imperfect, justice in this present evil age. That work is par excellence godly, but rarely is it neat and clean. The alternatives are various forms of anarchy or totalitarianism – both of which are far worse.

    The idea that American presidents are acting out against the background of some national myth of American exceptionalism misunderstands both the term American exceptionalism and our recent presidents. American exceptionalism does not mean that America has the right to act in any way it sees fit – that is, as an exception to the expected norms of other nations. America’s belief in its “exceptionalism” relates to its founding principles as a republic – rather than a monarchy, etc. – and Americans’ responsibility to act justly in accordance with the ethical, moral and legal principles derived from that founding.

    Neither George W. Bush nor Barak Obama acted out of some supposed superman myth either consciously or subconsciously – but rather, on the basis of a thoughtful – at least from their perspective – consideration of right and wrong in the midst of real world events. They, like all of us, can err in doing this but neither they nor any American I know of believe that they have the right to act immorally or unjustly in the carrying out of their duties. When our presidents or other parts of our government have done this in the past they have always been subject to the greatest of scrutiny and criticism, and either the wheels of justice or, at least, the ballot box afforded change.

    The caricature that is so often painted of America by those abroad – such as in this case by NT Wright or Rowan Williams – very seldom resembles the reality of the America that I and the vast majority of other Americans know. I can’t even count the number of foreigners whom I know who have come to live here and find out that the reality of American life and perspective is hardly at all related to the caricature that they held before they came. It is disappointing to see this otherwise excellent blog so often support that caricature itself.

  • Richie

    Sound comments Michael. Just War Theory is indeed the best way to go because it has been worked out through the course of the real events of history – and, continues to be refined as times continue to change. Unfortunately, NT Wright forgot to mention the only “sword” applicable to this situation – that of the governmental officials of Rom. 13 in the wielding of true, though always partial and imperfect, justice in this present evil age. That work is par excellence godly, but rarely is it neat and clean. The alternatives are various forms of anarchy or totalitarianism – both of which are far worse.

    The idea that American presidents are acting out against the background of some national myth of American exceptionalism misunderstands both the term American exceptionalism and our recent presidents. American exceptionalism does not mean that America has the right to act in any way it sees fit – that is, as an exception to the expected norms of other nations. America’s belief in its “exceptionalism” relates to its founding principles as a republic – rather than a monarchy, etc. – and Americans’ responsibility to act justly in accordance with the ethical, moral and legal principles derived from that founding.

    Neither George W. Bush nor Barak Obama acted out of some supposed superman myth either consciously or subconsciously – but rather, on the basis of a thoughtful – at least from their perspective – consideration of right and wrong in the midst of real world events. They, like all of us, can err in doing this but neither they nor any American I know of believe that they have the right to act immorally or unjustly in the carrying out of their duties. When our presidents or other parts of our government have done this in the past they have always been subject to the greatest of scrutiny and criticism, and either the wheels of justice or, at least, the ballot box afforded change.

    The caricature that is so often painted of America by those abroad – such as in this case by NT Wright or Rowan Williams – very seldom resembles the reality of the America that I and the vast majority of other Americans know. I can’t even count the number of foreigners whom I know who have come to live here and find out that the reality of American life and perspective is hardly at all related to the caricature that they held before they came. It is disappointing to see this otherwise excellent blog so often support that caricature itself.

  • http://twitter.com/craigadams49 Craig L. Adams

    I cannot access the document, Joel.

  • Anonymous

    It’s fixed. Thanks Craig.

  • jon

    Is there a way to download your edited review, Joel? Many ask me about good reviews, but not all have access to your online review. Thanks, jon


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