Here in Gomorrah-on-the-Potomac, the common wisdom is that the new Congress will not do much of anything in 1999, being paralyzed by the razor-thin Republican margin in the House of Representatives. Strangely, the new House leadership seems content with this sense of lassitude. Here, though, are four issues fraught with moral significance. Each requires the most serious attention from our national legislators in the new year.
One hesitates to say that anything is the “ultimate example” of our cultural crisis these days. But turning reproduction into a technological process is a form of narcissism that's hard to imagine topping. It is also hard to imagine anything more degrading to the human project. My friend Charles Krauthammer is no enemy of science, being himself a doctor. But the distinguished columnist has gone so far as to propose making human cloning a capital offense. I cite his proposal, not necessarily to endorse it, but to drive home what a thoughtful man, who cannot be accused of being a toady to Catholic morality, deems the gravity of the issue.
Meanwhile, there is every indication that Yassir Arafat will declare an independent Palestinian state on May 4, 1999. With such a state established on the west bank of the Jordan River, Israel between the Jordan and the Mediterranean will be narrower than Derwood Merrill's strike zone in last year's baseball playoffs, and its security will shrink accordingly. Suppose Saddam Hussein's Iraq becomes Palestine's arms depot, and the arms in question are chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons? A ghastly, bloody war in the Holy Land would quickly ensue, and on the threshold of the Great Jubilee of 2000.
The Saddam Hussein regime is not safe for the world. Something must be done about it, and about reconstructing an Iraq fit to live in for the suffering people of the country.
Missile defense is not a moral option; it is a moral imperative, as a deterrent against rogue states and as a means of legitimate self-defense. And missile defense systems ought to be deployed in ways that demonstrate that the United States is not seeking to retreat beneath a space-based technological Astrodome, but will work with others to build a shield against preemptive missile attack against neighbors and democratic allies. The next time you hear someone dismiss missile defense as “Star Wars,” tell them to get morally, as well as politically, serious.
1999: Looks like a tough year at the end of a tough century.
George Weigel is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
- January 3-9, 1999