Capturing Saddam

This past Sunday, you and I and millions around the world rejoiced as American troops dug Saddam Hussein out of the ground. The capture triggered the predictable 24-hour-a-day news coverage. It also prompted celebrations. ESPN's Sports Center named the capture "the play of week." Newspaper headlines read "We Got Him!" Great stuff! But a lot of people have also been saying that now there will be a quick end to the war in Iraq. I hate to rain on anyone's parade, but in the midst of all the jubilation, let's be careful not to delude ourselves. We have a long way to go, both in Iraq and in the war against terrorism and radical Islam. I'm grateful for President Bush's steadfastness in the face of criticism. He does what he believes is right and sticks to it. I'm also thrilled that, even in this postmodern era with our culture of self-indulgence, our country is still capable of producing a generation of courageous, dedicated, and patriotic young men and women to serve in our military. That's good because we're going to need them in the ongoing struggle against terrorism. Historically, triumphs like this last weekend have been followed by a giant sigh of relief. We have kidded ourselves after nearly every war we fought, believing that somehow history really had come to an end, and we had found a way to eliminate war and evil. The utopians among us have placed great faith in institutions, like the League of Nations after World War I and the United Nations (UN) after World War II. I've lived long enough to remember all the triumphant rhetoric. Well, you know what happened. The League was an utter failure, and the UN has been largely ineffective in dealing with the conflicts of the last fifty years. But the failure to preserve the peace can be traced to another, far more fundamental failure: the failure to take into account the effects of the Fall. The Enlightenment and Romanticism told us that war was unnatural, the result of some breakdown in communications. History and anthropology, not to mention the Scriptures, tell us that the opposite is true. War and conflict are the natural state of man. Men and states want what others have, and they are willing to kill to get it. Terrorism, which disregards the distinction between combatants and non-combatants, is simply the most vicious and dangerous manifestation of that very human tendency. That's why the primary duty of government is to preserve order, what Augustine called tranquillitas ordinis, the peace that come from right order. It must resist aggression and wage war against those who would harm the innocents out of greed, fanatical religious conviction, or secular ideology. The split today between the United States and Europe arises in large part because Americans still have a residual belief in the Fall and Europe has lost that belief. Nothing about the events of last weekend -- glorious though they are -- changes these facts. There is no quick fix, no easy answer, no one great decisive battle in the war against terrorism. That's why we need to be steadfast and patient. Christians, of all people, should be realistic. We know what makes wars like the one in Iraq necessary: fallen human nature, a condition that will never surrender and is overcome only by the Prince of Peace. For further reading and information: Read President George W. Bush's remarks on the capture of Saddam Hussein and Press Secretary Scott McClellan's responses to the press. Bradley Graham, "Hussein Document Exposes Network," Washington Post, 17 December 2003, A01. Charles Colson, "Finishing the Job," BreakPoint WorldView, November 2003. Albert Mohler, "Saddam Hussein at the Bar of Justice," BreakPoint Online, 16 December 2003. "'We Got Him'," Wall Street Journal, 15 December 2003. John R. Guardiano, "'No Saddam'," Wall Street Journal, 15 December 2003. Claudia Rosett, "One Down, Dozens More to Go," Wall Street Journal, 16 December 2003. Terry Eastland, "One Threat Removed," Weekly Standard, 18 December 2003. Erin Montgomery, "Remembering Saddam's Iraq," Weekly Standard, 16 December 2003. Joel Mowbray, "What Saddam's Capture Means for bin Laden Manhunt,", 17 December 2003. Rebecca Hagelin, "What this means to the Iraqis,", 17 December 2003. Michelle Malkin, "Meanwhile, back on the home front . . . ,", 17 December 2003. Maggie Gallagher, "The face of evil,", 17 December 2003. St. Augustine, City of God (Modern Library, 2000).


Chuck Colson



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