Professor Fred Nielsen teaches in
the History Department of the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Writing for the History News Service, the professor recently
published an op-ed piece entitled "Bush lacks Lincoln's humility
concerning Almighty's designs", which was reprinted in the
Quoting journalist Bob Woodward,
philosopher William James and a forty-year-old Bob Dylan song,
the good professor seems to suggest that the current Iraqi war
and its participants are on an equal moral plane with those
involved in the American Civil War. They are not.
Nielsen asserts that Abraham
Lincoln was not as sure of God's favor as is George W. Bush. He writes that "Bush, who believes America to be
ordained by God and who credits God with the fact he is in the
White House, has turned Lincoln's theological and political
wisdom on its head. Convinced that God is with him, the
president has shown remarkably little interest in allies at a
time when he needs them most."
Nielsen seems offended and almost
frightened at the certitude of a President who has told his
advisers that he does not worry about alienating other nations.
Woodward, quoting Bush: "At some point, we may be the only ones
left. That's okay with me. We are America."
I believe that most Americans are
reassured by such conviction. I know I am.
Nielsen contends that the issues
with which Lincoln wrestled were "more momentous than those we
face today." Really? Does the professor not remember
September 11th? Does he really believe the nation could
survive the unchecked proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction among the Osama bin Ladens and the Saddam Husseins
of the world? Are these less momentous than the issues
faced by Abraham Lincoln as he struggled to hold the Union
together? I would argue that while holding the Union
together as one nation was a very good outcome to the Civil War,
it pales in comparison to the prospect of nuclear weapons in the
hand of the sort of fanatics who committed the atrocities of
As Nielsen suggests, Lincoln's
Second Inaugural Address indeed questioned how prayers prayed by
both the North and South could be answered by the same God.
Yet, it does not follow that George W. Bush must be as
unsure of his place in God's plan as was Lincoln. Abraham
Lincoln was prosecuting a war against his own countrymen in
order to hold his nation together, while George Bush is fighting
a foreign enemy that has proven itself to be a danger to America
and to the civilized order.
A common thread seems to run
through the thinking of those who oppose the current war against
Saddam Hussein and his murderous regime in Iraq, and it is this: that America has no right to go against the wishes of the United
Nations. Never mind that the United Nations is a
schizophrenic body with no moral compass. That seems not
to enter into the conversation.
Professor Nielsen seems to share
this internationalist thinking. How else could he believe
in the moral equivalency of the two situations he contrasts?
Abraham Lincoln faced grave tests as President; of that there
can be no doubt. But comparing the prayers of Saddam
Hussein to those of Robert E. Lee is ridiculous.
They are not morally equivalent and the professor knows it.
Saddam Hussein is a menace to the
civilized world. No one could seriously believe that God
wants this sadistic killer in power. President Bush has
the authority and the courage to carry out the stated will of
United Nations Resolution 1441. He is carrying out the
will of the vast majority of Americans. And I am willing
to trust that he is carrying out the will of God.