Pope Francis says it’s OK to ‘stop’ the bad guys in Iraq

Breaking with a recent trend toward the Vatican disapproving of U.S. military actions in the world, Pope Francis says it’s OK to ‘stop’ aggressors in Iraq, while being a bit vague about how he believes they should be stopped:

“In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor,” Francis said aboard the papal plane. “I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’ And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated.”

When he says, “bomb,” however, he seems to be questioning the one means we’ve been using to stop ISIS.

And he also requires that actions to “stop” bad guys be multilateral, and particularly mentions the U.N.

The problem with that, from this Catholic layman’s point of view, is that sometimes — such as when you have thousands of men, women and children being starved out on a mountain — you can’t really afford to wait the three or four eons that it might take the U.N. to reach consensus. Sometimes Just War has to be waged in a hurry if it’s to achieve just aims.

But in any case, I’m glad to see a pope acknowledging that there is such a thing as Just War, even if he’s adding new prerequisites atop St. Augustine’s.

I appreciate that the pontiff wants there to be a high bar. Of course, it’s hard to find a higher one than one that will induce Barack “Red Line” Obama to take military action that doesn’t involve drones….

9 thoughts on “Pope Francis says it’s OK to ‘stop’ the bad guys in Iraq

  1. Bryan Caskey

    “I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’ And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated.” – The Pope

    Did His Holiness have any good suggestions for how to “stop” jihadists who are beheading children, starving thousands on a mountain, and basically committing mass murder? Just “stop” them? What exactly does he propose? ‘Cause last time I checked, these ISIS guys didn’t seem all about negotiating a reasonable “live and let live” kind of thing.

    Bad guys are doing bad things. We ought to have some volunteers go over there and start fighting ISIS, like we did with the Flying Tigers.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I think he sees the need for action, but modern popes just seem to have a powerful, ingrained inhibition against just going ahead and saying, “weapons free.”

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Or maybe he’s thinking we could “stop” them using the Vulcan nerve pinch.

        But I don’t mean to be disrespectful.

        If you’re the pope, you don’t want the non-U.S. part of the world to hear you saying the U.S. should just act as it sees fit.

        And if you are the pope, you might actually buy into the bad PR that we’re crazy cowboys, and you just have to spell out boundaries for us — as though the U.S. military doesn’t have strict rules of engagement, or as though there weren’t internal political inhibitions holding us in check (such as having a president for whom “I got us out of Iraq like I said I would” looms large in his legend).

        I just read between the lines and feel like Francis is worried that if he says yeah, go get ’em, we’ll just run in with guns blazing, not caring what or who we hit…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Whereas if I were Pope, I’d say Go Get ‘Em. And I’d be giving POTUS a sermon about how a strong nation has an obligation to step in and prevent weaker people from being butchered by an army of terrorists. I’d be saying that morally, we don’t have the option of looking the other way.

          I’m just giving you fair warning. So if that’s a dealbreaker for you, you might want to make a note to yourself not to vote for me for pope…

    2. Kathryn Braun Fenner

      Judging from all the church message boards I passed on the back roads to Aiken, we just need to get a-prayin’

  2. Mark Stewart

    Maybe he thinks a Crusade would be more appropriate? But then, that didn’t stop the Muslim expansion back then.

    I think we should all – countries and religions – refrain from viewing ISIS as anything other than criminal psychopaths. Everyone, including the Sunnis in Iraq, ought to be very careful about legitimizing ISIS as a political/religious movement though military action. The key to this situation is to empower and strengthen the Sunnis in Iraq. The world needs then resisting the take-over of their country, not joining it. As the saying goes, there is no cure for stupidity.

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