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Prof pens ‘just war’ essay for George H.W. Bush academic series

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary ethics professor Daniel Heimbach has contributed to a multi-volume academic work documenting the presidency of George H.W. Bush, stemming from his personal service on the former president’s staff.

Heimbach wrote the work’s major essay about the 1991 Gulf War, in which he addresses the president’s use of classic “just war” doctrines during the conflict. The essay is based on a speech Heimbach delivered at a political science conference at Hofstra University in 1997.

Heimbach was especially qualified to write on the subject, considering it was his memo — drafted while he was deputy executive secretary of the Domestic Policy Council — that prompted Bush to use the historic Judeo-Christian doctrine of just war in his public speeches before the war began.

Why was a domestic policy adviser writing a memo to the president about just war? Heimbach actually took the initiative himself. He had studied just war in his doctoral work in ethics and public policy at Drew University and felt at the time that the president was getting pummeled in the press by leaders of mainline Christian denominations, each claiming that there was no moral justification for removing Saddam Hussein’s troops from Kuwait.

Heimbach got permission to write the memo. After that, the president used it as the basis for a speech to the National Religious Broadcasters’ association, just war doctrine was in the news and the moral questions dissipated.

“I was very conscious at the time of the Lord’s hand and had a very strong sense that I was [at the White House] not to pursue my own career but to make a contribution to the Kingdom of God,” Heimbach said. “The Lord knew what he was doing.”

Heimbach said he is honored to be included in the anthology of essays about Bush’s presidency, all of which originated from the conference at Hofstra. Heimbach said the books will be a primary resource for future documentation and analysis of the Bush presidency.

Heimbach joined the faculty of Southeastern Seminary, in Wake Forest, N.C., in 1993.

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  • Jason Hall