Wednesday, March 19, 2003

This should get you going

From The Spectator:

Rome vs. Washington

America’s self-imposed role as arbiter of the New World Order and its quest for a ‘coalition of the willing’ to support a pre-emptive strike against Saddam Hussein has encountered worldwide lack of enthusiasm. Yet it is the opposition of the Vatican that has most wounded American neo-conservatives. To these arch-materialists, John Paul II is an icon of anti-communism and a frequent champion of unpopular conservative causes. So what has gone wrong this time? The clamour of controversy fails to drown the puppy whimper of betrayed loyalty. Jacques Chirac is an opportunist, bogus conservative, subsidy junkie who was never going to come on side; but the Pope’s defection hurts.

One of the unforeseen consequences of the Iraq crisis is that it is exposing to the outside world the incompatibility of the conflicting strands of American conservatism. A previously blurred picture is coming sharply into focus. Most neo-conservatives would have liked to claim ownership of the Pope, like rival housewives inviting the mayor to tea. Now a surprising (to them) Vatican intransigence has dispersed the fog of ambiguity and revealed the true battle lines. The core issue dividing Rome and Washington may be moral — the Pope opposes the war on humanitarian and theological grounds — but the root of the present misunderstanding is cultural.

This chasm of incomprehension could not be better illustrated than by the recent visit to Rome of Michael Novak, the Catholic neo-conservative pundit, at the invitation of the American ambassador to the Holy See, which effectively means at the request of the White House. Novak, a born-again 1960s rebel turned globalist and liberal economist, went to the Eternal City on a Mormon-style mission of conversion. He met officials from the Vatican Secretariat of State and the unpromisingly titled Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, as well as delivering a public lecture in support of war.

His fruitless embassy was an expression of American frustration: if taking out Saddam plays so well in Peoria, how come it bombs in San Pietro? The Pope was on side when Richard the Lionheart was kicking butt, so why is Dubya being handed the frozen mitt?

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