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Joseph Sobran’s
Washington Watch

President Paul?

(Reprinted from the issue of June 21, 2007)

Capitol Bldg, Washington Watch logo for President Paul?Is it possible? Behold, there are signs that Ron Paul is now gaining support. All his many virtues make him a misfit in the Republican Party, which would love to be rid of him: He shames it by quietly and steadfastly practicing the principles it preaches.

Paul?Over the years he has made enemies of George W. Bush and Newt Gingrich; and he is a truer conservative than Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan ever were.

Paul?This thoughtful, unassuming man has a rare ability to get under people’s skin without trying to. The anger his gentle consistency provokes is something to behold; it’s not the Democrats who detest him, it’s the Republicans! He is, in spite of himself, a walking rebuke to hypocrisy.

Paul?By rights Paul should be the hero of a Molière comedy, or a Frank Capra film. Politics is mostly hypocrisy, and the man of simple good faith can be a disruptive force, like the driver who observes the speed limit when all the others are flooring it.

Paul?My own hope is that Ron will run for president on the Constitution Party ticket, as the two big liberal parties nominate Hillary and Rudy. It’s not so much that I want him to win — wonderful though that would be — as that even if he lost, he could outshine his opponents and change the terms in which American politics is discussed.

Islam at War

A rather chilling article in the June 10 issue of The New York Times sketched various Muslim views of whom it is allowable to kill in wartime, and under what circumstances. Civilians? Children? Americans? Israelis? Sunnis? Shi’ites?

Read Joe Sobran's columns the day he writes them!President Paul?Of course it’s a gross and unfair mistake to assume that Muslims are unanimous about these questions, let alone uniformly violent and pro-terrorist in their conclusions. Far from it, as anyone with Muslim acquaintances knows. The debates among them are subtle and nuanced, like similar debates in the West.

Paul?The very fact that these controversies occur attests to the conscience and civility of these people. I doubt that the Mongols under Genghis Khan agonized over morally permissible tactics.

Paul?Such problems arise now in large part because the Muslims have been severely provoked by the Western powers, especially the United States, where certain interests have long agitated for war between the U.S. and the Arab-Muslim world. It ill becomes those who invade a country and kill and sometimes torture its people to get indignant at the methods the defenders adopt and justify.

Paul?Having said all that (and much more could be added), I must say that my mind keeps coming back to one point. All this talk of “legitimate targets” sounds like the way our own modern warrior-intellectuals talk, but what it doesn’t at all sound like is the New Testament.

Paul?Centuries after the Roman persecutions, when Christians had political power, they did confront the problem of warfare in ways they hadn’t had to in the age of the martyrs. And their criteria for just warfare were far more severe than those of today’s U.S. government.

Paul?But even that is a secondary matter. More important is the fact that so much of the Koran is concerned with war and violence. Never mind whether it is right or defensible. It’s simply strange. I’m baffled that anyone could think that Islam superseded Christianity, that Mohammed improved on Jesus or even St. Paul.

Paul?Try to imagine the epistles to the Corinthians and Ephesians laying down conditions for just revenge and decent polygamy.

Paul?I’m not suggesting that Muslims are bad people; far from it. I merely feel that Islam itself borrows from, and abridges, the Christian message, while completely missing the essence.

Paul?It’s rather as if you were to call Gandhi a failed general or social engineer, when he was actually in a different line of work altogether.

The Genius of GKC

Great genius can be permanently amazing, even shocking. Working on a book about Shakespeare for students lately, I’ve had prolonged exposure to Hamlet, and I never get over it. How could any writer produce something so inexhaustibly wondrous?

Paul?Then, last week, a friend gave me a copy of another book I hadn’t read in many years: G.K. Chesterton’s little study of St. Thomas Aquinas, The Dumb Ox. I’ve always loved Chesterton, but this time I felt the full force of his genius as never before.

Paul?I used to suspect Catholics overrated him a bit out of partiality to a distinguished convert. Perish the thought! At his peak (where we often find him) he is one of the greatest, deepest, most eloquent and joyous writers in the English language, not far below Shakespeare, whom in some ways he even excels.

Paul?What a gift from God Chesterton is. I pity anyone, especially the young Catholic, who hasn’t read him.

Paul?If you have not seen my monthly newsletter, SOBRANS, yet, give my office a call at 800-513-5053 and request a free sample, or better yet, subscribe for two years for just $85. New subscribers get two gifts with their subscription. More details can be found at the Subscription page of my website.

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Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2007 by The Wanderer,
the National Catholic Weekly founded in 1867
Reprinted with permission

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