America and the World

According to the mid-summer polls, Americans are primarily concerned about the U.S. economy as the country enters the last lap of the 2008 election cycle. No visitor to the gas pumps, and no investor, can doubt why. Yet we also live in a globalized world in which the tectonic plates that shape international politics are shifting, often dangerously. What does a Catholic optic on world politics suggest about these circumstances? What questions might thoughtful Catholic voters put to the principal presidential candidates about U.S. foreign policy?

Some suggestions follow; Iraq will be addressed in a separate column.


1. We know what you think the Bush administration got wrong. What do you think the Bush administration got right? Would you, for example, continue the administration’s massive funding of AIDS relief and AIDS prevention in Africa? Would you follow the Bush administration in resisting the siren song of condom-mania in fighting AIDS? Would you continue President Bush’s other Third World health initiatives?

2. At the United Nations this past April, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of a “duty to protect” as the fundamental task of governments and the litmus test of political legitimacy. There are several prominent cases, however, where governments are manifestly failing in their “duty to protect.” Without using the words “international community,” please tell us in specific terms what you propose to do about the genocide in south Sudan? Avoiding that same phrase, please describe your approach to impending, government-caused starvation in Zimbabwe? And, once again avoiding the words “international community,” what would you have done about the grotesque irresponsibility of the Burmese military junta when faced with a major humanitarian disaster?

3. Europe keeps proclaiming that “this” is its “moment” — and then does nothing. How will you persuade European governments to change the rules-of-engagement that govern their forces in Afghanistan, so that they actually fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda? Will you challenge European governments to invest in the military capabilities that will permit coordinated western responses to global crises? How can Europe help contain and deter a revanchist Russia?

4. The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has frequently stated his determination to incinerate the State of Israel, and on occasion has made similar threats against the United States and Great Britain. Do you believe him? Do you agree that Iran, governed as it is today, cannot be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons — which it could then use, or transfer to terrorist organizations? If, however, you are prepared to live with a nuclear-armed Iran, why do you believe that deterrence will work in this case, given the passion for martyrdom among Shi’ite jihadists, some of whom are in the Iranian government?

5. What will you do with the hard-core terrorists now held at Guantanamo? Do you agree with the Supreme Court majority that foreign terrorists now held abroad have the same constitutional rights as American citizens imprisoned here in the U.S.?

6. What steps will you take to ensure that the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the Central Intelligence Agency recognize the dynamic, multiple roles that religious conviction plays in world politics?

7. What measures will you take to counter the barrage of anti-American agitprop that comes from new media like al-Jazeera and old, once-respected media like the BBC?

8. What will you do about the terrorist camps in Waziristan and the other essentially ungoverned tribal areas of Pakistan?

9. Is Afghanistan really governable? If not, how does NATO prevent Afghanistan from reverting to Taliban barbarism and acting as a base camp for global jihadism?

10. Is the first use of military force ever morally justifiable? Is so, when? If not, why not?

11. Can liberal democracy take root in the Arab Islamic world?


How would you work with Democrats so that the war against terrorism is a bipartisan effort?


Is it possible that President Bush is unpopular in Europe because he forced Europeans to face truths they’d been avoiding for years? If consultation with old allies leads to strategic paralysis, at what point are you willing to act unilaterally? 

George Weigel


George Weigel is an American author and political and social activist. He currently serves as a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Weigel was the Founding President of the James Madison Foundation.

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  • noelfitz

    May I congratulate George Weigel on an excellent article and CE for putting in on its site.

    Recently I have been criticizing articles, so I am please to be able to congratulate all on this. It shows Catholic interest in and knowledge of important issues in the world today.

    God bless,

    “When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons” Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI.

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  • Bruce Roeder


    I agree.

    Regarding your quote after your signature: Are you thinking there are porportionate reasons to vote for a pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia candidate?

  • goral

    Mr. Weigel’s individual questions to each candidate contain the answers within.
    John McCain has been bipartisan ad nauseum.
    President Bush is unpopular with some Europeans for the same reason that Obama would be popular. There’s a strain of cowardice there that refuses to act on principle.

    It is so blatantly obvious that the quote attributed to Cardinal Ratzinger in the above post is so disproportionately self-serving.

  • Richard Bell

    Question 5 offends me, as it either implies that there are only hard core terrorists in Guantanamo, or that all of the other detainees are in a legal limbo.

    A better version of question would be “What are you going to do with all of the detainees for which no reason has been given for their detention?”.

    Why is it such a big deal for the Bush administration to offer reasons for the detention of these people?

    As these detainees have never been charged, let alone tried, it is pure speculation that they are all hard core terrorists.

    It is a simple rule of common sense that if the state cannot give any explanation for a person’s detention, the state must release that person.

    I am not asking that detainess be released for not getting mirandized, nor am I suggesting that the US go soft on terrorists. However, I am insisting that anyone held for no reason that can be presented in a court of law be released.

    The detainees are human and must be accorded human rights, as we all know what happens when we allow anyone to arbitrarily deny someone else’s humanity.

    For the detainees captured in combat, that is reason enough. However, most of the detainees were not apprehended in combat, but in situations where there is doubt about their status, and it is in those situations where a writ of Habeas Corpus must be respected.

    The rules are not there to protect terrorists and criminals, they are there to protect YOU. While it is unlikely that you will be mistaken for a terrorist when you return from a holiday in the sunbelt, you would like some protection if you were (would that Maher Arar got some).

    When you suspend rules of justice for any exceptional circumstance, you are also suspending those rules for yourself, which is why I am concerned about injustice, anywhere.

  • noelfitz


    Many thanks for your post.

    I believe that not all the millions of Catholics who will vote for Obama will commit a mortal sin by doing so.

    God bless,

    “When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons” Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI.

  • elkabrikir


    who cares what YOU think about whether a Catholic voting for the barbaric, baby killer Barack is in mortal sin.

    Only God’s judgement counts…Only He is the Just Judge. So play your little games with verbage/garbage Jesus has spoken to wordsmiths:

    “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a huge millstone 1 tied around his neck and to be thrown into the sea.
    NIV ©

    biblegateway Mar 9:42
    “On the other hand, if you give one of these simple, childlike believers a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you’ll soon wish you hadn’t. You’d be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck.

    There is always the alternative of Not voting if you believe voting for either candidate is tantamount to cooperation with major evil eg Hitler VS Stalin or Kim Jung IL VS Ahmadinejad.

    PS the latter two have endorsed Baby Killer

  • Bruce Roeder


    Um, I care what Noel thinks. I might be wrong, but I think there are probably others.


    I agree with you that not every Catholic who votes for Obama will commit a mortal sin by doing so. Unfortunately, many Catholics are either largely ignorant of the teaching of the faith, have very poorly formed consciences, or both. Mortal sin requires not only a grave matter (which abortion and embryonic stem cell research clearly are), but also full knowledge and full consent of the will.

    Many Catholics are ignorant of what an intrinsic evil abortion and ESCR are, keep themselves in ignorance, or do not understand the doctrine of porportionality. The war in Iraq, immigration, the death penalty, the tax code, trade policy, and same sex “marriage” are not porportionate reasons to outweigh the violent death of over 40,000,000 innocent human beings.

    If we correct the sinner in love rather than spit invective, we might get us all closer to the Kingdom.


    “You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thy enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: That you may be the children of your Father Who is in heaven, Who maketh His sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust. For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have? Do not even the publicans this? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more? Do not also the heathens this? Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” ~ Matthew 5:43-48

  • elkabrikir

    my point is that whether your neighbor thinks you are in sin or not is irrelevant to your eternal salvation. “Try to please God and the angels” to paraphrase St John Vianney.

    Of course I’m interested in what other people think, or I wouldn’t read and post on a website such as CE.

    Voters need to make a decision on whom to elect based on more than a “proof texted” quote and another person saying he doesn’t think they’re in mortal sin. Find a good priest and see what he has to say. And of course you are correct in your discussion of proportionality. I have yet to see what Noel says is proportionate to the 45 million babies killed in the US since Roe. He seems to doge the question as in his above posts. That is why I said he is a “wordsmith”. He needs to back up proportionality or stop using it to sway the less informed.

  • baptizedsoul

    There is no good reason whatsoever to vote for Obama, Biden or Hilary ever! He and his wife along with the entire Democrate Party so heavily endorse murder of the un-born, that those who are against abortion never are heard, even being brushed aside.

    Unfortunately, there are much too many Republicans who are in favor of abortion and or are non-committed to ending abortion, and this has fueled the abortion enthuesists to end. The republicans have owned much of the later 20th century and most of the 21st century and still we have abortion, because no one in politics is willing to stand up for truth, justice or mercy.

    With that said there still is no good reason to support and vote for any candidate who approves of abortion. Spititual Laws are not options, as long as a nation or society continues to ignore the reality of spiritual laws it will suffer the effects of being against God.

    As for those who try to manipulate Pope Benedict XVI words to satify their own cravings by ignoring the Spiritual Laws of God by claiming that the Church says it is o.k. to vote pro-abortion because the pope gave us an out, they are entirely wrong and they know it, but are hopeful in hiding their guilt by intentionally misinterpreting “Proportionate Reasons!” Bishop Vasa explained the notion of proportionate reasons, saying, “The conditions under which an individual may be able to vote for a pro-abortion candidate would apply only if all the candidates are equally pro-abortion.”

    McCain and Palin are against abortion. Obama, Biden and Hilery are for abortion as well as euthinasia.

  • jmtfh


    Pray about this; I mean REALLY pray about this!

    It just might be that when you get to the “other side,” God will ask…”And what did you do for the least of my brothers?”

    If you answer, “I voted for B. Hussein Obama, of course,” God will then introduce you to the hundreds of thousands, maybe MILLIONS of people who lost there lives before birth as a result of Obama.

    And then, when your eyes have been opened, you will be separated with the “goats.” Is that what you really want?

  • jmtfh

    P.S. Please watch this video–you OWE IT TO YOURSELF BEFORE YOU VOTE, and the many unborn people whose lifes hang in the balance.

  • noelfitz

    Many thanks for all who contribute to this discussion.

    It is lively and stimulating.

    The issue is huge.

    I have a few quibbles. McCain is in favor of abortion in certain circumstances.

    We are all sinners and stand in need of God’s mercy. It is not a case that Republicans are saints and Democrats are sinners.

  • elkabrikir


    checkout the Democrat and Republican platforms.

    The Dems have only strengthened their pro abortion plank.

    The Republicans are clearly pro life.

    I could never vote for a Democrat because of the systemic evil inherent in their social positions.

    After I screen for party membership, I look to the next level. If both candidates favor abortion at some level, I do as the bishops say and vote for the candidate who will do the least harm. Since Barak, the Baby Killer who even approves of infanticide, has a 100% pro abortion rating according to NARAL, and NARAL despises John McCain, McCain is the clear choice here too.

    It is disingenuous subterfuge to suggest that McCain is pro abortion and therefore Catholics have a choice on that issue. Please refer to my above post. Millstones are very heavy and effective as an anchor.

    Your soul and those you influence are too valuable to lose. Obviously you are a leader and verbal or you wouldn’t be on CE. So, it is good that you are the “Devil’s Advocate” here. For all I know you are the Pope and want to invigorate us to fight for the Kingdom. The fate of our eternal soul is serious business and worth the attention we all seem to be paying to it.

    We are all sinners, indeed.

  • elkabrikir



    THE AMERICA and the world trackback is PORN!!!!!!!!


    [Thank you for the warning. We have removed the post.] — Blessings, Mary Kochan

  • Bruce Roeder

    I agree that the Republican party alows a pro-life person to voice the truth and get it somewhat recognized. The Democratic party seems to have a deaf ear when it comes to the weakest and most innocent among us.

    McCain has a much stronger position regarding unborn life.

    But there is still much work to be done within the Republican party, since the platform seems to support aborting innocent babies in admittedly rare cases of rape and incest. This incongruous exception makes it evident that either the Republicans have not thought the issue through clearly, or have politically sacrificed the lives of these babies in a compromise to keep more folks in the party.

    Scientific research regarding human embryos is another log in the eye of Republicans.

    The Democrats seem to see support for “abortion rights” as a litmus test. If not for membership, then at least for any recognition in policy.

  • kent4jmj

    Weigel’s questions are good ones but miss the point for me We are a Republican form of democracy with a Constitution.
    Congress has the responsibility to coin money and set the weights and measures based on gold and silver. How does that mandate square with Fiat money, fractional banking and a Federal Reserve that is not Federal but private? A Bank that is in charge of our money supply.
    Congress has the responsibility to declare war before sending troops.
    The founding fathers said No entangling alliances.
    What about sovereignty issues. Why are we in the UN? Why are we funding them? Why are our southern borders wide open?
    Why are we still in NATO? The berlin wall is history and there is no USSR.
    Why do we have a trillion dollar military budget?
    What about the discussion that touches on the right to own private property and the fruit of ones labor in light of Taxation of our personal incomes.
    How does any policy or position stand up in light of our Constitution?
    Where is the Constitutional rational for taking our money to bail out private banks and businesses?
    If non intervention and free trade were strong beliefs of our founders, which made us such a strong nation, then shouldn’t we revue any involvement on the “World Stage” in light of their wisdom.

    If our government has a “duty to protect” then lets start here with our privacy, no more email/ telephone spying, no more police state legislation lets repeal Patriot Act and Homeland security. How about no more imminent domain, taxation without representation, how about recognizing homeschoolers and the 2nd amendment.

    Why is the 3rd Infantry Division ’s 1st Brigade Combat Team returning from Iraq for homeland patrols to help with “civil unrest” and “crowd control?”

    Just some thoughts.

  • Bruce Roeder


    If the citizens would support a viable political party devoted to the US Constitution, the republic would be the better for it.