Finally, an Update to My June 4th Post – A Response from FoF
For those of you who read my post way back on June 4th (“Don’t Let Them Ignore Us!”), in which I said that I was going to write to Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family and challenge him to respond to an article by Michael Gaddy (posted on LRC that weekend). I stated that if I received a reply I would post it here on the blog, even though I didn’t expect to receive a response.
Well, I actually received one about six weeks ago, much to my surprise, from Mr. Timothy Masters, the man to whom Michael wrote his original article in the form of an open letter. The reason I didn’t post anything earlier is that I really didn’t like the idea of keeping this whole issue going, since I had a very good idea what kind of response to expect – that is, a non-response that would not address or answer any of the original questions or concerns raised. Mr. Masters did not disappoint me.
Basically, he rehashed the same argument that he gave to Michael’s friend who had originally challenged Dr. Dobson’s assertions on the Iraq War. I forwarded to Michael a PDF copy of Masters’ response shortly after I received it, giving him my full blessing to use it in any way he wishes in his future editorials. Michael shared my opinion that Mr. Masters’ response was “interesting”, to put it politely. The first thing we both noticed was that the response did not address, let alone answer a single one of Michael’s questions. Masters’ claim that neither he nor Dr. Dobson had ever received an email from Michael is quite curious. Michael informed me that he checked with his lay minister friend who had originally written to Dobson to make sure he had used the right address. His friend verified that he had indeed sent his email correspondence to the right address, so FoF’s claim to never have heard from him has a slightly suspicious odor to it (particularly considering that they found the time and staff to respond to me, a rather less prominent individual than Michael). Rather than attribute any particular motive to Mr. Masters, Dr. Dobson or FoF, I’ll just let you, my readers, read the response for yourselves and draw your own conclusions. Take care to read Michael’s article first, then my letter as posted on my June 4th blog entry. I doubt that I’ll waste time writing a response to Mr. Masters (Michael said he doubts he will either); it doesn’t seem at this point that it would do any good. Anyway, here is Mr. Masters’ reply. Again, draw your own conclusions.
Thank you for your recent letter to Dr. Dobson and myself (June 6, 2005). Thanks, too, for copying us on Michael Gaddy’s article, “Challenging Dr. James Dobson and His ‘Just War’ Theory,” which was written in reaction to my correspondence with Mr. King. I can assure you that Dr. Dobson would have preferred to send a personal reply if circumstances allowed. Unfortunately, he is out of the office for the summer on a writing sabbatical. I’m sure you can understand why I’ve been asked to respond on his behalf. It is a pleasure to serve you as his representative.
Let me begin by saying that, despite his claim to having contacted us by email, we have no record of having received any correspondence from Mr. Gaddy. If and when his message does reach us, I can assure you that it will be answered with all due diligence and speed. Quick and efficient service of this kind is a top priority for everyone who works here at Focus on the Family.
In response to the concerns you and Mr. Gaddy have expressed, we’d simply like to remind you that there have always been and always will be endless debates about the applicability of Augstine’s “Just War” criteria to any given conflict. In the modern world where technology, methodology, and changing military tactics have altered the face of warfare so drastically, it is not always easy to determine whether a particular military action can be considered “defensive” or not. Similar problems attend the assessment of the other four guidelines laid down by the fourth-century saint. For example, exactly how are we to determine at what point the violence employed “exceeds in injustice the original injury occurred” (criterion #5)? I’m sure you can also see that it is extremely difficult to insure the safety of innocent non-combatants (criterion #3) within the context of an air attack, an approach to warfare that was unknown in Augustine’s day. (As a side note, we don’t believe that it is fair to cite the incidents at Abu Ghraib as evidence of the “unjustness” of the Iraqi conflict; it is far from clear that the abuses perpetrated by the prison guards were in any sense a reflection of official U.S. policy).
In view of these complicating factors, one could easily write several volumes in an attempt to reconcile America’s invasion of Iraq with the details of Augustine’s theory. As a specifically family-oriented ministry, we have neither the time nor the capability to compose a comprehensive dissertation on this subject. Suffice it to say that Dr. Dobson takes issue with your contention that the war on Iraq was purely “aggressive” and “preemptive” and Mr. Gaddy’s unqualified assertion that “there was nothing “defensive about our strike against Saddam.” It’s all a matter of how you define your terms. In the Doctor’s view, the potential for mutually supportive connections between Saddam’s Ba’ath regime and dangerous anti-American terrorists was very real, weapons of mass destruction or no. This, as I tried to explain in my letter to Mr. King, is why he believes the campaign in Iraq is a case where the biblical and theological justifications for the use of force are fairly obvious. Stated simply, he sees it as a component of the much larger “War on Terror.”
We trust this reply has been helpful. Your interest in the ministry of Focus on the Family is genuinely appreciated. Grace, peace, and God’s richest blessing to you.
Office of the Chairman
Again, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about Dr. Dobson’s or FoF’s credibility, either as family relations counselors or true Christian believers. In any case I consider this matter closed.