Academic journal article Mennonite Quarterly Review

A Peace Crueler Than War? Just Policing in a Foucauldian Perspective

Academic journal article Mennonite Quarterly Review

A Peace Crueler Than War? Just Policing in a Foucauldian Perspective

Article excerpt

Abstract: Gerald Schlabach argues that the reconception of just war theory as a theory of just policing and its application to the sphere of international politics has the potential of overcoming the divide between just war theorists and pacifists. An important issue, however, is whether the political identity formed within the practice and theory of policing can be reconciled to that formed by the practices of forgiveness and reconciliation basic to Christian political identity. I argue that the theory and practice of just policing actually import the logic and structure of "policing" into the structures of the church in a way that betrays Christian nonviolence at a level that is even deeper and more insidious than war. This should give us pause when assessing the significance of replacing just war theory with a theory of just policing.

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In a widely-debated editorial published after the events of September 11, 2001, the editors of the Catholic ecumenical journal First Things argued that

  those who in principle oppose the use of military force have no
  legitimate part in the discussion about how military force should be
  used. They only make themselves and their cause appear frivolous by
  claiming that military force is immoral and futile, and, at the same
  time, wanting to have a political say in how such force is to be
  employed. (1)

The editorial targeted what the journal termed "real" pacifists, including monastic orders and Mennonites.

The controversy sparked by the editorial and pursued in later issues of First Things raised an important matter that has been somewhat neglected by Mennonites and others with a peace tradition. In a response to criticism of the first editorial, the editors of First Things asked: "Why would a person who in principle believes that it is always wrong to use military force even want to have a public say in how military force should be used?" (2) The editors assume that there is a clear and well-defined line between the refusal of military force and deliberations about its use. Once the determination has been made that military force must be exercised, the discussion with those who refuse to wield it is over. It seems the pacifists have nothing more to contribute.

The challenge of defending the right of pacifists to participate in the discussion surrounding the appropriate use of military force while remaining true to the principles of pacifism has been taken up in a series of books and articles written by ethicist Gerald Schlabach and others. (3) In the edited collections just Policing: Mennonite-Catholic Theological Colloquium 2002, At Peace and Unafraid (with Duane Friesen) and Just Policing, Not War, these authors have addressed issues of security and order within the broad outlines of the peace tradition. While the essays in these books address a variety of important issues, one of the most relevant to the post-9/11 arguments engaged by the First Things editors is Schlabach's own contribution in which he attempts to address the just war tradition on its own terms. (4) In several different articles, Schlabach seeks to draw out implications of the just war tradition in ways that force just war proponents to move closer to pacifism than has generally been the case. He concludes that if the just war tradition is going to be consistent with its own fundamental principles, it must understand itself as a tradition of "just policing."

After examining Schlabach's case for replacing the concept of just war with that of just policing, this essay raises several critical questions about the distinctions between war and policing. Moreover, it discusses the implications of this distinction on the formation of political identity. I will argue that the case has not yet been made that the political identity formed within the practice and theory of policing can be reconciled to that found within the practices of forgiveness and reconciliation of the Christian church. …

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