Michael Novak, George Weigel: Iraq Yesterday, Syria Today
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Michael Novak, George Weigel: Iraq Yesterday, Syria Today

The National Catholic Register asked prominent Catholic intellectuals Michael Novak and George Weigel to address the current U.S. involvement in Syria and its involvement with Iraq 10 years ago. While both supported the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003, they have a different take on the current situation with Syria.

First, George Weigel;

There were obviously a lot of things that could have been done better in securing the peace after the regime fell,” he acknowledged, in a reference to the Bush administration’s inadequate planning for both an on-going jihadist threat and the costs of rebuilding a battered nation.

“But anyone who thinks that the world or the Middle East would be better in 2013 with Saddam Hussein in power in Baghdad, having re-ramped-up his WMD [weapons of mass destruction], is living in a fantasy world.”

Weigel argued in a National Review column last week that the Obama administration was missing “a strategically and morally defensible definition of the end being sought” in regards to Syria. Sifting through the Catholic Church’s just-war theory, Weigel declared there was no reasonable way to argue for armed assault against the Assad regime, despite the “lethal mess” it has caused.

Michael Novak, Templeton Prize winner and AEI Scholar, told the Register that while he had backed former President Bush in 2003, he lacked the same confidence in President Obama regarding Syria.

One hundred thousand people have been killed in Syria, and the rebels are much weakened,” said Novak, who said the president “missed the opportunity” to influence the direction of a popular uprising against the Assad regime.He also noted Pope Francis’ outspoken opposition to U.S. military intervention in Syria, and recalled Pope John Paul II’s passionate call for Washington to set aside its plans for a U.S. invasion of Iraq.

“Different people have different roles. It was the role of Pope John Paul to be against the war, so it would not be turned into a religious war. The same is true today: [the Pope does not want the Syrian civil war] to turn into a Christian-Muslim war.”

Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.