Chomsky at West Point

Interesting speech given by Noam Chomsky on “Just War” at West Point in 2006. What is interesting about it is that he traces thought on Just War back to two people, “Hugo Grotius, famed 17th century humanist, who founded the dominant framework of thinking on laws of war” and Rousseau in the 18th century. There is no mention of Saint Augustine or Christianity, though he goes on to outline basic tenets of Christian Just War theory.

Meanwhile, he says, “In brief, my own conclusions are that the literature merits careful attention, but is ultimately not very instructive about just war; secondly, that the notions of human nature should be at the heart of the discussion, although serious inquiry into this is still in its early stages; and third…” Well, I would think that notions of human nature might be something the Church has a little bit of insight on, and might be able to speak to in an inquiry on just war. Yet, Christianity has no place in his discussion. Maybe there is a reason for this.

In his conclusion he states: “…what can one learn from just war theory? My feeling is that from the literature on just war, we learn mostly about the prevailing moral and intellectual climate in which we live.” And he’s right. Christians and Christianity have nothing to offer, it seems, nothing to say, nothing to add to help shape and influence the moral and intellectual climate in which we live when it comes to war. The Vatican seems to have plenty to say about war, but who listens to them? Certainly not Catholics, so why should anyone else? Christianity has become irrelevant on this issue, and it’s not hard to understand why.

Here is the text of Chomsky’s speech.

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