Martin Luther was eight years old when Christopher Columbus set sail from Europe and landed in the Western Hemisphere. Luther was a young monk and priest when Michaelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel in Rome...
Assignment completes candidacy for all people, including those ordained in another Lutheran church or Christian tradition, moving them toward first call and admittance to the appropriate roster in the ELCA...
The ELCA Conference of Bishops' Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Liaison Committee and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Committee commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation by signing a joint statement during a Lutheran-Catholic service of Common Prayer.
Martin Luther posted his “Ninety-Five Theses” in Wittenberg on Oct. 31, 1517, and the resulting debate about Christian teaching and practice led to changes that have shaped the course of Western Christianity for almost 500 years.
Comments on Vulnerability and Security and The National Security Strategy of the United States
H. David Baer
 I have two sets of disparate comments on the two documents we are
considering, which I will try in some way to relate to each other.
 The question I want to raise about Vulnerability and
Security is this: By placing the question about the
proper use of political force within the larger framework of
vulnerability, has not the document framed the moral issue
fundamentally in terms of self-interest? Clearly, of course,
that's not the intention. Vulnerability and Security
sets forth a vision of international politics in which actors are open to
cooperation with others, where disputes are approached within a spirit of
reconciliation, and where "self-interest cannot have the last word." Even
if not the last word, however, self-interest does seem to have the first word.
This is because, within the terms of the document, we arrive at concern for the
other by way of recognizing our own vulnerability. "The vulnerability ...
of humankind," says the document, is "the precondition for its capacity for
openness and solidarity.... Recognition of vulnerability as something
fundamentally human leads to the recognition of the security of others, of
strangers, as my-our joint-responsibility." By coming to recognize our own
vulnerability and weaknesses, the argument appears to run, we will come to
appreciate our own vested interest in security, and, more importantly, we will
come to see that the surest strategy for achieving security is to recognize the
value of the other and our mutual interests.
 This argument from the self to the other strikes me as
decidedly un-Lutheran. For example, Luther tells us in his
Treatise on Temporal Authority that, as concerns the self,
the Christian is guided by the nonviolent, non-resisting commands
of the Sermon on the Mount. Self-interest has little to no
moral status for Luther, and thus he does not conceive the exercise
of political power in self-referential terms. Rather Luther
understands government's use of force to be an expression of
neighbor-love, a necessary means for protecting others, not
ourselves, from those seeking to do harm. Vulnerability
and Security, by contrast, tells us that "In the
Judeo-Christian and humanist tradition the right to defense against
attacks on one's own life and property ... [is a] necessary ... [part] of
ethics." Having thus ceded the ground floor to self-interest, the document
then conceives the ethical challenge as striking the right balance between
"altruism and self-preservation."
 But why does any of this matter, since the end point for the
document as for Luther is concern for the other? It matters,
first, because the security strategy in the Norwegian document only
gains force by drawing upon the rosy assumption that the interests
of the self and the interests of the other always coincide.
Unless it's really true that my interests are best served by
serving your interests, I will have no good reason to pursue those
strategies. If and when our interests conflict, my
vulnerability will most likely trump yours. Second,
Vulnerability and Security makes the individual and his or her
vulnerability the centerpiece of any security strategy. This may seem a
good thing-it looks more democratic and humanistic-but it might also be
considered a weakness. The weakness lies in the document's failure to
analyze the phenomenology of political power as such, and its failure to put
forth any sustained Christian interpretation of government. Many passing
comments in the document, particularly about the moral and political authority
of the United Nations, strike me as offered without argumentative support.
Had the document relied more squarely on Luther, it might have been able to say
more about the nature and function of political authority in our age. In
any case, because questions of security are fundamentally questions of
international politics, and because international politics is shaped by power
wielding states, harnessing political power and ordering it to the international
common good is an essential part of any effort to build a more secure world.
I'm not sure we can learn how to harness political power simply by reflecting on
individuals and their mutual vulnerability.
 Let me turn now to The National Security Strategy,
about which I have another set of observations, essentially
unrelated to my first set of observations, although I have promised
to try to suggest a relationship between the two.
 I want to focus on the argument for preemption found in
The National Security Strategy. That argument rests
largely on the claim that the United States is exposed to a new
kind of vulnerability, one that may require preemptive
action. The origins of the new vulnerability have to do with
weapons of mass destruction. These weapons themselves are not
new, so the mere fact of their existence cannot represent the new
threat. Rather the international political order has changed
in a way to make the presence of these weapons more
dangerous. Today terrorist organizations or rogue states can
acquire weapons of mass destruction, and these entities, unlike
those in the past, are more likely to use them. Because the
damage caused by these weapons would be so great, the United States
must act preemptively to prevent them from being used.
 Thus essential to the argument for preemption as we find it
in The National Security Strategy is not the reality of
WMDs, but rather the claim that deterrence doesn't work. According to the
document, "deterrence based only upon the threat of retaliation is less likely
to work against leaders of rogue states more willing to take risks, gambling
with the lives of their people, and the wealth of their nations." Clearly
this is an assertion that needs to be reexamined in light of what we now know
about Iraq. And in general, one wishes the document had distinguished more
clearly between states and terrorist organizations. States will always
have national interests, which suggests the possibility that they can be
influenced by deterrence strategies. Terrorist organizations, by contrast,
lack national interests; and often they lack clearly identifiable political
objectives. This suggests the argument against deterrence is more
plausible when applied to terrorist organizations than when applied to states.
The argument for preemption, although too loosely formulated in the document,
should not be ruled out completely. Weapons of mass destruction, in the
hands of persons ready and able to use them, would represent a serious threat
needing to be dealt with.
 However, even if one allows for the limited possibility of
preemption, The National Security Strategy is troubling in its failure
to consider the risks attendant upon a general policy of prevention. The
document announces a bold vision for foreign policy, one in which the United
States advances world-wide democracy, but it is silent and seems unaware of the
danger of overreaching, the problems that come with excessive foreign
entanglements, and the strain such a policy must inevitably place on the
military. This large lacuna arises from the way the document conceives
U.S. foreign policy exclusively in terms of self-defense, without also
considering the broader problem of international political order.
 The National Security Strategy grounds its
expansive doctrine of preemption squarely in the right of national
self-defense; "the United States ... will not hesitate to act
alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense, by
acting preemptively against ... terrorists, to prevent them from
doing harm against our people and our country." Now I
certainly do not wish to deny the right and responsibility of the
U.S. government to act on behalf of the defense of the American
people. My point, however, is that preemptive wars to capture
or neutralize terrorists, even if beginning from self-defense,
necessarily move beyond self-defense to refashioning the political
order. Rendering a country inhospitable to terrorists
requires refashioning it; it requires nation-building.
Successful nation-building depends upon friendly relations with
regional powers, and it would also seem to require broad
international support. Absent international support, the
expansive exercise of American power, even if well intended, is
likely to be perceived as an abuse of American power. That
perception cannot help but to reconfigure the international
political order in ways that isolate the United States.
 Allow me to provide an illustration of what I mean.
One striking feature of the prelude to the war in Iraq was the
tension between the United States and its traditional European
allies, particularly France and Germany. In America much was
made about the irresponsible character of French and German
opposition to the war, but little attention was given to the way
these nations, like all nations, were acting from legitimate
national interest. France and Germany, although they are
large states in Europe, are small states in the international
community, unable by themselves to influence the shape of
international politics. Thus they both have national
interests in a healthy U.N. and a strongly internationalist
political order. France, in particular, through its permanent
seat on the Security Council, is able exert influence on
international affairs to an extent that it could not by relying on
economic and military strength alone. Thus American
willingness to circumvent the U.N., irrespective of the problems
with Iraq, could not help but be perceived by the French, and also
by the Germans, as a threat to their national interests. The
way the United States pursued its policy of preemption in Iraq
caused a shift in the international political order, one in which
traditional American allies, including stable free market
democracies in Europe, began to perceive their national interests
in competition with those of the United States. This sort of
shift, if unaddressed, may in the long run hinder rather than
promote American interests worldwide.
 In any case, my point with this brief political discussion
was to illustrate the way the policy of preemption set forth in
The National Security Strategy has had implications for
the international political order of which the authors of the
document seemed unaware. Their failure to attend to the
relationship between U.S. power and larger dynamics of
international politics, I am suggesting, may be rooted in their
determination to formulate the problem of terrorism and WMDs
exclusively in terms of American self-interest and the right to
self-defense. What is needed is more stereoscopic vision, one
that sees American political power as related both to narrow issues
of self-defense and also broader issues of international order.
 The proclivity to perceive security issues fundamentally in
terms of self-interest is not restricted to The National
Security Strategy alone. It is also present, or so I
have tried to suggest, in the Norwegian document Vulnerability
and Security. The way forward, toward a more satisfying
vision of international politics, may be through sustained
reflection on the nature and purposes of political power. As
regards this task, Christians, and especially Lutherans, should
have a head start, since they have never conceived government and
its use of force as ordered to self-interest.
Helmut David Baer is an Associate Professor of Theology and Philosophy
at Texas Lutheran University.
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