The Briefing, Friday, November 16, 2012

TODAY: Violence in the Middle East and the future of Israel / A moral crisis in the military? / Why is adultery still a crime? / Another step toward designer babies, and another threat to the unborn. I discuss all these and more in today’s edition of The Briefing: A Daily Analysis of News and Events from a Christian Worldview.

1. Attack and Counterattack in the Middle East

Violence broke out in the Middle East once again, as the forces of Hamas in Gaza attacked Israel with rockets. The rockets, which in the past have killed scores of Israelis, were fired into inhabited neighborhoods. Hamas, a terrorist organization which calls for the end of Israel, may be attempting to sabotage efforts by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to gain international recognition for the Palestinian State at the United Nations.

As expected, Israel responded with force. On Wednesday, Israeli forces killed the Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari and his assistant. The two were killed by a targeted missile attack that was filmed by satellite and released to the international media as a warning to others. Israel’s leaders warned other Hamas leaders to stay underground, or face a similar fate.

With the situation escalating, reports early this morning indicate that Israel may be sending as many as 10,000 troops to the border with Gaza.

The habit of retaliation is a constant cycle, especially in the tinderbox of the Middle East. The current situation is made worse by infighting among the Palestinians, who never seem to miss an opportunity to make their situation worse.

One aspect to watch is the response and reaction of the international community. In recent years, much of the world has turned against Israel in favor of the Palestinians. But none of these nations would accept the attacks Israel is experiencing. No other nation has to live with the constant fear and reality of terror attacks such as these. No other nation has to exist under the constant threat of its own elimination or annihilation.

Neither the United States or any other nation would allow such attacks to continue. Israel is being called on to exercise restraint, but this points to the fact that the Jewish state is constantly held to a higher standard than other nations.

The Palestinian people have suffered for centuries, and often at the hands of Arab and Muslim nations. They deserve peace and a future, but they cannot have these if they are not responsible actors on the world stage. Eliminating terror groups from their midst is a necessary first step.

2. A Moral Crisis in Military Leadership?

One week ago today David H. Petraeus resigned as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, opening a scandal that has only widened since that announcement. But Petraeus, a former Army 4-star general, is only one of several high-ranking commanders to be disciplined, fired, or investigated in recent months.

Thom Shanker of The New York Times reports that many observers are beginning to wonder if the military has a major problem when it comes to the morality of its senior leaders.

He writes:

“The episodes have prompted concern that something may be broken, or at least fractured, across the military’s culture of leadership. Some wonder whether its top officers have forgotten the lessons of Bathsheba: The crown of command should not be worn with arrogance, and while rank has its privileges, remember that infallibility and entitlement are not among them.”

Paul Kane, a former Marine Reserve gunnery sergeant and a fellow at Harvard University’s International Security Program said, “The country is suffering a crisis of leadership — in politics, in business and in the church, as well as in the military,” he said. “We have lots of leaders, but we have a national deficit in true leadership.”

On the other hand, Kori N. Schake, a professor at West Point, claimed that “Our military is holding itself to a higher standard than the rest of American society.” She added: “That is beautiful and noble, but it’s also disconcerting.”

Professor Schake’s comment is disconcerting in itself. Americans do have higher expectations of their military leadership. Those who accept such a commission do accept a higher standard of accountability.

But beyond this, leadership itself requires moral integrity and character. Americans may not know how to make this argument with sophistication, but they know it to be true.

3. Should Adultery Be a Crime?

Did David Petraeus commit a crime? Ethan Bronner of The New York Times reports that he did, by his own admission. It turns out that adultery is still a crime in Virginia.

Bronner writes:

“When David H. Petraeus resigned as director of the C.I.A. because of adultery he was widely understood to be acknowledging a misdeed, not a crime. Yet in his state of residence, Virginia, as in 22 others, adultery remains a criminal act, a vestige of the way American law has anchored legitimate sexual activity within marriage. In most of those states, including New York, adultery is a misdemeanor. But in others — Idaho, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma and Wisconsin — it is a felony, though rarely prosecuted. In the armed forces, it can be punished severely although usually in combination with a greater wrongdoing.”

This may come as news to many Americans, but Bronner describes it as “yet another example of American exceptionalism.” As he reports, “in nearly the entire rest of the industrialized world, adultery is not covered by the criminal code.”

We often hear that morality cannot be legislated. That statement has an appropriate application, but as a generalization it is plainly wrong. Virtually every aspect of the law, criminal or civil, is intended to serve a moral purpose.

In recent decades, most states have dropped laws concerning sex acts among consenting adults, but at least 22 states still criminalize adultery. Melissa Murray, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, argues that such laws are rooted in the notion that sex should be reserved for marriage.

She then said this:

“Now we live in an age when sex is not limited to marriage and laws are slowly responding to that . . . . But we still love marriage. Nobody is going to say adultery is O.K.”

Look closely at that statement. First, she says that our age no longer believes that sex should be limited to marriage, but she then turns to say that no one will say that adultery is O.K..

Her statements are apparently contradictory. The fact that adultery remains sanctioned, whether or not in the criminal code, is a testimony to the fact that the law of God is written on the human heart. We know that adultery is wrong, even in this confused age.

4. Yet Another Threat to the Unborn: A Prenatal Genome Test

MIT Technology Review, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reports that doctors may soon be able to give expectant mothers a complete genome map of their unborn child. Such a test would reveal the baby’s entire genetic structure.

As the report indicates, this would mean that the mother would be told such information as whether the child has Down syndrome or a similar genetic disease. Beyond this, the test would also provide parents with the knowledge of everything from gender, hair and eye color, and potential height, to academic and athletic aptitude.

Reporter Courtney Humphries acknowledges that the test “will raise ethical questions about how to act on the information.”

That is a dangerous understatement. We already know that the vast majority of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. Who is next? This would endanger any unborn child that falls short in any way of what parents expect or demand. The age of the designer baby could quickly be at hand.

One researcher involved in the field also conceded the point: “When you open it up to whole-genome analysis, that brings up the possibility of testing for traits that are not diseases.”

Insofar as such a test could identify a disease or condition that can be treated, that would be a great benefit. But if the information simply targets an unborn child for an abortion, an even more dangerous age looms before us.

I discuss all these and more in today’s edition of The Briefing: A Daily Analysis of News and Events from a Christian Worldview. Listen here.

Links to all articles cited also provided.