America at a Crossroads: Morality & American Foreign Policy in the 21st Century

crossroads_2Part Two: Moral and Political Reform and Stability: Militarism, Pacifism, or Nonviolence?
October 29th, 2001, 7:30 to 9:30 pm
Irvine 194

Panel Discussion

  • Charles Overby, Engineering
  • George Weckman, Philosophy
  • Al Eckes, History

Summaries of Presentations

George Weckman: Current events are motivated by religious concerns and dynamics. We miss that in America where religion is privatized and spiritualized. Others take their politics and economics religiously. Terror is in the eyes of the beholder. Religions prvide people with ways of understanding the world which are incredible to outsiders and contrary to what seems to be “the facts.” Just as religions can provide pictures and ideas of consolation in the face of tragedy, so religions also can encourage and inspire reckless action in the face of insuperable power. Some of this can be seen in religious texts. But it’s not what the texts literally or historically mean which dominates behavior, but the special ways in which they are interpreted. Current turmoil is produced by readings of texts and life in terms of battle warfare between God and Satan, good people and bad. Violence in the mythic battles exhibits a violence which believers can transfer to their own situations and behavior.

Al Eckes: The tragic events of September 11 remind us that we live in a harsh and brutal world in which evil forces wage war again innocent civilians. In such circumstances military action can be justified under both international law B Article 51 of the United Nations Charter B and the inherent right of nations to defend themselves. The terrorists challenge the authority of the United Nations, seek to topple the international economic and financial system, and attempt to spread chaos and terror. In such circumstances, pacifism and nonviolence have little relevance. Efforts to promote economic growth may have a long-term impact in undercutting the appeal of terrorism, but there seems no responsible alternative to use of military force.

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