In the debate over U.S. action in Iraq, there is little consensus among Christians. Before the war began, Robert A. Seiple wrote in The Christian Science Monitor, "Although this will disappoint many of my friends in the faith community, I come down on the side of President Bush."

Seiple is president and founder of The Institute for Global Engagement. After 11 years as president of World Vision, Seiple spent two years in the State Department as the first U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.

What's your response to the war in Iraq? And how have you viewed the response of the Christian community?

There was a great deal of controversy and hesitancy as the events in the United Nations played out. And people came down on different sides. I have to say that in my own family we were not of one accord on this.

My point of view was in favor of the action for three reasons. First, the Middle East is a cauldron of activists who hate the United States and the West. There's a great deal of terrorism that is spawned there and kept there. Right in the middle of this cauldron is this country of Iraq, that also hates us and has the ability to create the kind of weapons that could really play havoc in the world after 9/11.

Second, when I was in the State Department for two years as the Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, I read all the cables coming from in and around Iraq. Saddam Hussein did the most brutal things to the Shiites in the south and we sanctioned Iraq because of that. But the guy is absolutely heartless and probably the most brutal dictator that we have seen in the last 100 years.

The third reason is that many people say we shouldn't go to war but, my goodness, we were already at war. And war was declared against the Shia, war was being fought against Muslims in Iraq by Saddam Hussein, weapons of mass destruction were already being used in the gassing of the Kurds. We could no longer turn our backs on that part of the world. We had to do something dramatic. All available means had disappeared. Diplomacy could not get the job done. We simply had to make a stand. None of this is easy, but there comes a point in time where you say, "Nothing else has worked, will work," and you have to apply power.

Why has there been so much animosity toward America in reaction to the war?

We probably didn't do a very good job in terms of articulating why we should do this and why it was important. A real reason [for the backlash] is that we're the last remaining superpower. Whoever is the last remaining superpower would face a certain amount of animosity, a certain amount of jealousy, and a certain amount of caution in terms of how that superpower may react.

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But along with that we also have a problem that unfortunately we've created in this country—a [lack of balance between national values and national interests.] We have national values like the golden rule and religious principles that are deeply imbedded in our history. At the same time, we have national interests that tend to be economic in nature. Essentially we've never put the two together. One speaks to power and the other speaks to philosophical precepts and theological underpinnings.

This disjuncture between the two and our inability to resolve it creates an inconsistency. The Achilles heel of human rights is always inconsistency. Why people hate America is that we have this large display of power that sometimes allows us to be inconsistent and get away with it.

What should the U.S.'s role be in reconstruction of Iraq?

The reconstruction can't happen unless there's security. And the only countries that can provide security are the countries currently fighting the war. If you look at what the United Nations did in Rwanda, you say to yourself, "Is this the way we want to go?"

If you look at its history, the United Nations only really works when one country steps forward and gives it backbone. I think there's a role for the United Nations and I think there's an opportunity to bring a larger coalition together. But the issue has to overlap with the issue of humanitarian aid and reconstruction. So there definitely will be a place where we will be the lead gun. The world is far better off if we continue to provide the security.

How does Israel fit into this war?

If you were to judge who the winners are in this conflict, you'd have to put Israel somewhere at the top of the list. They didn't fire a shot, they didn't pay a dime, and they used the war as cover to do what they felt they needed to do in the refugee camps, the Gaza Strip, and so on.

This complicates things, and this is where we need a great deal more nuance. It's great to have moral clarity when you're fighting evil and a common enemy. But the Middle East and the Israeli Palestinian issue cries out for nuance.

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Recent Dick Staub Interviews include:

Marcia Ford on Christian Misfits | The author of Memoir of a Misfit describes her eccentric family and her faith journey. (April 8, 2003)
War Is Not a Necessary Evil | The author of When God Says War Is Right says early Christians weren't pacifists but looked at the entire Bible for advice on war. (April 8, 2003)
Jim Van Yperen on Church Conflicts | The author of Making Peace: A Guide to Overcoming Church Conflict says the early church was also "full of problems." (March 18, 2003)
Texas Pastor James Robison on the Life-Changing Faith of George W. Bush | The president of Life Outreach International talks about his friend's faith, the moral need of America, and his own conversion. (March 11, 2003)
National Book Award Finalist Ron Hansen on Christian Fiction | It's important to instruct while entertaining, but method can be as important as message, says the author of Isn't It Romantic? and Atticus. (March 4, 2003)
Gods and Generals' Director Links the Civil War with Today | Ron Maxwell talks about the role his faith plays in his career and what attracts him to the generation of the 1860s. (Feb. 25, 2003)
Why Don Richardson Says There's No 'Peace Child' for Islam | The author and missionary says he has tried to find bridge-building opportunities with Islam, but failed. (Feb. 11, 2003)
Did Martin Luther Get Galileo In Trouble? | David Lindberg talks about the early relationship between science and faith and his own journey on the subject (Feb. 4, 2003)
Dan Bahat on Jerusalem Archaeology  | One of Israel's leading archaeologists talks about the importance of the Temple Mount and key historical finds in the Holy Land. (Jan. 27, 2003)
Eddie Gibbs Reconsiders Gen X Churches | The author of Church Next and Fuller's professor of church growth says his views on church leadership have grown. (Jan. 21, 2003)
Peter Jenkins Finds Jesus While Walking America | The author of A Walk Across America talks about why angels smiled down at him at a revival in Mobile, Alabama. (Jan. 7, 2003)

The Dick Staub Interview
Dick Staub was host of a eponymous daily radio show on Seattle's KGNW and is the author of Too Christian, Too Pagan and The Culturally Savvy Christian. He currently runs The Kindlings, an effort to rekindle the creative, intellectual, and spiritual legacy of Christians in culture. His interviews appeared weekly on our site from 2002 to 2004.
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