Wednesday, February 14, 2007

On plans for surges

Rep John Boehmer (R-Ohio) echoed the thoughts (or party line) of many Republican Senators and Representatives yesterday in the House debate regarding the President's plan for a surge. He repeated the chestnut that it just wasn't fair to pass a resolution against a plan that hasn't been tried. Now, I think that there might be good reasons not to pass a non-binding resolution of this sort. For instance, it shows a singular lack of the courage of the Democrats' convictions and an attempt to have it both ways. But to complain that we shouldn't reject a plan that hasn't been tried because it hasn't been tried ranks among the most confused arguments that there could be. Presumably, one cannot try out all possible plans. One must choose one in particular. In order to do this, one must reject a multitude of plans that have not been tried. In fact, trying some of them forestalls trying others of them. The only time it makes sense to reject a plan is precisely before you have tried to put it into effect. If you wait until you have executed it, it isn't a plan anymore.
It could be that Boehmer and others are just claiming that we ought to give the President and his plan the benefit of the doubt. But, of course, his plans for this war haven't exactly been sterling.
So that leaves him to fall back on that other old nut of an argument, that if we were to withdraw we would be giving al-Qaeda exactly what they want. It seems that we already did this when we invaded--we removed a secular albeit evil ruler and opened the way for sectarian violence of exactly the sort that al-Qaeda desires in the region.
Is it in their interest that we leave? Or is it in their interest that we come more and more to look like a long-term occupier of Iraq? Should every decision we take always rely on a consideration of what the many dispersed leaders of al-Qaeda may think is in their interest? I don't know. What I do know is that, in spite of the Pottery Barn rule, sometimes things you break can't be fixed, or at least not very easily.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

On legitimate authority and immorality

Haggard Pronounced ‘Completely Heterosexual'

Published: February 6, 2007

Filed at 9:59 a.m. ET

DENVER (AP) -- One of four ministers who oversaw three weeks of intensive counseling for the Rev. Ted Haggard said the disgraced minister emerged convinced that he is ''completely heterosexual.''

Haggard also said his sexual contact with men was limited to the former male prostitute who came forward with sexual allegations, the Rev. Tim Ralph of Larkspur told The Denver Post for a story in Tuesday's edition.

''He is completely heterosexual,'' Ralph said. ''That is something he discovered. It was the acting-out situations where things took place. It wasn't a constant thing.''

Ralph said the board spoke with people close to Haggard while investigating his claim that his only extramarital sexual contact happened with Mike Jones. The board found no evidence to the contrary.

''If we're going to be proved wrong, somebody else is going to come forward, and that usually happens really quickly,'' he said. ''We're into this thing over 90 days and it hasn't happened.''

Haggard resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals last year after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced. He was also forced out from the 14,000 New Life Church that he founded years ago in his basement after Jones alleged Haggard paid him for sex and sometimes used methamphetamine when they were together. Haggard, who is married, has publicly admitted to ''sexual immorality.''

Haggard said in an e-mail Sunday, his first communication in three months to church members, that he and his wife, Gayle, plan to pursue master's degrees in psychology. The e-mail said the family hasn't decided where to move but that they were considering Missouri and Iowa.

Another oversight board member, the Rev. Mike Ware of Westminster, said the group recommended the move out of town and the Haggards agreed.

''This is a good place for Ted,'' Ware said. ''It's hard to heal in Colorado Springs right now. It's like an open wound. He needs to get somewhere he can get the wound healed.''

It was also the oversight board that strongly urged Haggard to go into secular work.

We are definitely lucky to live in a world where a self-selected board of experts in--well, I'm not sure what they are experts in, because among evangelicals there isn't always any real educational requirement for the ministry--who can state unequivocally that Ted Haggard is not only a heterosexual but a complete one. Now, honestly, I don't much care what Haggard does in the privacy of his or his escort's bedroom, but there's more than just forgiveness or rehabilitation going on here.

The argument of the ministerial board is that Haggard didn't have sex with anyone other than just this one escort--with whom he also used crystal meth--and, since there was only the one partner, he isn't really a homosexual.

They believe that they know there couldn't have been any others, since no one else has come forward. It does seem pretty likely, though, that Haggard would have tried to pick discreet partners. Presumably, he used an escort because he hoped for discretion. So, it is not unreasonable to assume that if he had sex with any other men, it was probably with other escorts who are more bound by their sense of professional discretion or with other men, for instance married men, who themselves might have something to lose. My first point, then, is that the experts have no evidence that Haggard wasn't much more sexually active than he claims.

Since there were not other partners, according to the experts, they can be assured that he wasn't really homosexual. I suppose that by this reasoning, monogamous married couples are not really heterosexual, since there is just the one partner. Without a pattern of behavior, we don't have enough to show that they are really heterosexual.

The strategy, of course, is to say that Haggard just committed an act of sexual immorality. In other words, there is no such thing as a homosexual--a person who is naturally or intrinsically attracted to members of the same sex--there are only homosexual acts. And, like Haggard, if we would all just become right with God, we would be rid of the immorality and the non-existent orientation that drives us to it. We aren't supposed to ask ourselves why it is that Haggard, when he strayed, hired a male escort and not a female one. I suppose it was just a throw of the dice.

God help whoever ends up receiving psychological counseling from either of the Haggards.