Pope To The UN: Man Up

WaPo the other day described the Holy Father's address to the United Nations thus:
In a subtle swipe at recent U.S. foreign policy, he said that while every state has the right to self-protection, such a right comes with responsibilities.
So subtle the Holy Father himself missed it. Similarly, the Curt Jester caught this headline: Pope says unilateral acts undermine U.N. As the Jester puts it
This is the template the media wanted from the beginning for the Pope's speech so it is no surprise that they would try to interpret it in that light.
If anything, however, I read the Pope's address as a subtle endorsement of Bush's attitude about Iraq. I don't say the Pope has changed his mind about the U.S. entering Iraq on its own --this would indeed seem to be a criticism of "going it alone" so-called:
the obvious paradox of a multilateral consensus that continues to be in crisis because it is still subordinated to the decisions of a few, whereas the world's problems call for interventions in the form of collective action by the international community.
(Then again, maybe he means France & Russia shouldn't have prevented UN action in Iraq.) Nevertheless, the Pope's message to the UN echoes Bush's plea to them in the run-up to the war: don't just sit there, you have a responsibility to act.
Every State has the primary duty to protect its own population from grave and sustained violations of human rights, as well as from the consequences of humanitarian crises, whether natural or man-made. If States are unable to guarantee such protection, the international community must intervene with the juridical means provided in the United Nations Charter and in other international instruments. The action of the international community and its institutions, provided that it respects the principles undergirding the international order, should never be interpreted as an unwarranted imposition or a limitation of sovereignty. On the contrary, it is indifference or failure to intervene that do the real damage.
And later:
When faced with new and insistent challenges, it is a mistake to fall back on a pragmatic approach, limited to determining "common ground," minimal in content and weak in its effect.
Well, that sounds awfully to me like W. to the same body in 2002, also speaking about the peace of the world being subverted by unilateral action:
All the world now faces a test, and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment. Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant? The United States helped found the United Nations. We want the United Nations to be effective, and respectful, and successful. We want the resolutions of the world's most important multilateral body to be enforced. And right now those resolutions are being unilaterally subverted by the Iraqi regime.

My nation will work with the U.N. Security Council to meet our common challenge. If Iraq's regime defies us again, the world must move deliberately, decisively to hold Iraq to account. We will work with the U.N. Security Council for the necessary resolutions. But the purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced -- the just demands of peace and security will be met -- or action will be unavoidable. And a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power.

Events can turn in one of two ways: If we fail to act in the face of danger, the people of Iraq will continue to live in brutal submission. The regime will have new power to bully and dominate and conquer its neighbors, condemning the Middle East to more years of bloodshed and fear. The regime will remain unstable -- the region will remain unstable, with little hope of freedom, and isolated from the progress of our times. With every step the Iraqi regime takes toward gaining and deploying the most terrible weapons, our own options to confront that regime will narrow. And if an emboldened regime were to supply these weapons to terrorist allies, then the attacks of September the 11th would be a prelude to far greater horrors.

If we meet our responsibilities, if we overcome this danger, we can arrive at a very different future. The people of Iraq can shake off their captivity. They can one day join a democratic Afghanistan and a democratic Palestine, inspiring reforms throughout the Muslim world. These nations can show by their example that honest government, and respect for women, and the great Islamic tradition of learning can triumph in the Middle East and beyond. And we will show that the promise of the United Nations can be fulfilled in our time.

Neither of these outcomes is certain. Both have been set before us. We must choose between a world of fear and a world of progress. We cannot stand by and do nothing while dangers gather. We must stand up for our security, and for the permanent rights and the hopes of mankind. By heritage and by choice, the United States of America will make that stand. And, delegates to the United Nations, you have the power to make that stand, as well.

Of course, the UN did not act. Or rather, as we later found out, it acted to continue lining the pockets of two particular countries, Saddam himself, and the son of the Secretary General rather than act in favor of human rights. The question the Holy Father does not answer in his address is what recourse free nations have when human rights are threatened and the UN or other international bodies prefer to place their heads in sand. That's alright; it wasn't a treatise on politics, it was a plea to the UN to be true to itself and to defend human rights as discernible across time and cultures in the natural law.

At any rate, that leads to me something else. In the commemorative papal visit edition of Inside The Vatican, there's an article (not on-line) by Andrea Kirk Assaf entitled "End of An Alliance?" It recalls the famed "holy alliance" between Reagan & John Paul the Great to end Soviet Communism, purports to show that Bush's Iraq policy has undermined Vatican-US cooperation and speculates that this relationship will continue to erode. Under a Democratic president, certainly. But the Reagan-JP alliance wasn't without its policy differences, we mustn't forget. Reagan's great contribution to exhausting the Soviet project was through military build-up, which John-Paul opposed, and which the Catechism of the Catholic Church condemns outright (not Reagan, it condemns arms races). Reagan took unending fire from the US Bishops at the time for withdrawing from Salt II, for deploying Pershing II missiles in Europe, for the development of the MX missile, for SDI, etc., etc., etc. Bush's venture into Iraq, while opposed by the Popes and the Vatican, represented a difference in prudential judgment, but still fell within the confines of acceptable action according to Church teaching. And of course, now that we are in Iraq, Bush's agenda has more or less fallen in line with that of the Holy See. So in a sense the Bush/Benedict connection is stronger, because they don't disagree on any principle, even if they have disagreed on policy. So I stand by my intuition that the "holy alliance" remains intact, and that the combined courage of Bush (& Blair)& Howard) & Benedict according to their different modes of leadership have the potential to turn the tide of Jihadism in much the same way that Reagan (& Thatcher) & JP ended the Cold War.