A while back, we blogged about the attempt of liberal Senators to impose a litmus test that would bar believing Catholics from positions on federal courts of appeals. Under this approach, nominees who “deeply believe” Catholic doctrine on the issue of abortion would be excluded, even in the absence of evidence that they would decline to follow settled rules of law on the issue.
Now something similar may be happening with top military officials. Hugh Hewitt has been all over the controversy swirling around General Boykin regarding statements he has made to the effect that God is on our side in the struggle with the Islamofascists. I have stayed away from this topic because, as I understand it, the full text of the General’s remarks is not publicly available. In addition, I’m not much of a theologian. Nonetheless, my initial take is that, other things being equal, I prefer generals who believe God is on our side when we combat obvious evil, and who are not afraid to say so. Being the tolerant sort, however, I have no desire to have generals who don’t believe this, or who won’t say it, sacked. It seems unfortunate that those who prefer the more agnostic or reticent kind of general are not equally tolerant.
The argument is made, however, that we cannot afford to give General Boykin a key role in the struggle against Islamofascism because his words will be used against the United States by radical Islamists out to make our task in the Middle East more difficult. But in my view what cannot afford is to give “the Arab street” a veto over the leaders we select to lead the war against radical Islamists. I suspect that giving leadership positions to Jews also inflames Arabs. Indeed, stuff that doesn’t happen inflames Arabs, when word of it sweeps through their “street.” The only perceptions of us by Arabs that we can control at this point are perceptions of our military efficacy. And military efficacy is the standard by which General Boykin should be judged.
A related argument raised by some who are leading the charge against Boykin is that his statements convert the war against terrorism into a “religious war,” which is contrary to President Bush’s own description of what the war is about. Here is where the lack of access to a full transcript becomes a problem. As far as I know, Boykin has not described the current struggle as a war against Islam, nor has he attacked Islam. He does cast the struggle against bin Laden and his followers in religious terms, but that seems appropriate enough, and hardly grounds for being disciplined. Bin Laden has declared a religious war against us. One of the reasons why we are fighting back is that we wish to preserve our right not to worship Allah. Another is that we understand that our enemy is evil, a judgment that, for many, is religious-based. Thus, the war has a clear religious dimension, with or without the participation of General Boykin. And in my opinion, we are more likely to prevail if we recognize this reality instead of pretending that it doesn’t exist and persecuting those who point it out.
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