On August 22, Breitbart News published Part I of an exclusive interview with Dr. Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, about the importance of destroying the Islamic State terror group. In Part 2 of the interview, Dr. George further discusses the persecution of Christians, anti-Semitism, conservatives on college campuses, and great “thinkers” who have influenced his own thinking.
Breitbart News: Is Pope Francis doing enough to speak out against the persecution of fellow Christians?
Dr. Robert P. George: The Pope is doing his part, and I applaud him for it. I also applaud the Pope for articulating the legitimacy for the use of force to defend the persecuted minorities. As the Pope has implied, we are in the case where it is not possible to negotiate with IS. It is not possible to simply push them back, or disarm them. They must be defeated and destroyed as a fighting force. Neither the Pope nor I glorifies war. War is what General Sherman said it was: Hell. We should do everything we can to avoid war, and the Pope is clear about that. But sometimes war is the only means available to protect innocent people from genocidal slaughter.
Breitbart News: Why is worldwide anti-Semitism getting worse?
Dr. Robert P. George: Great minds and great scholars have tried to understand the horrible phenomenon of hatred of Jews. As my great friend Rabbi Jonathan Sachs points out, anti-Semitism, which has always been with us, invariably justifies itself in the prevailing discourse of the day. In the period of medieval times, opposition to Jews was expressed in Christian theological thought. In the period of nationalism in the 19th and 20th century, the Jews were regarded as an alien cosmopolitan group that was corrupting the nation. Today, the dominant discourse is a human rights discourse. Today, we find anti-Semitism being depicted in the language of human rights. Israel is depicted as a uniquely evil violator of human rights, as an apartheid state, as an oppressor, as a modern manifestation of fascism. Anti-Semitism is festering in Europe among recent immigrant population, and also among the native populations. It’s not simply the Neo-Nazi extremists, it’s also the cultured and sophisticated who abhor the Jewish religion. I’m very concerned about the situation in Europe. What a terrible tragedy in France, where the Jewish community which has been a great asset, and has been proud of its French heritage, now fear for their own safety.
Breitbart News: As Princeton’s McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, what would your advice be to conservative students who feel outnumbered and who sometimes feel their opinions are not welcome on college campuses?
Robert P. George: Stand up for what you believe in. Seek the truth with dedication and single-mindedness. Speak up for what you understand the truth to be. Listen respectfully to counter-arguments, and engage those making the counter-arguments with civility in a serious way. Don’t be afraid to criticize what you are hearing from your peers and your professors. Don’t be afraid to make the counter-argument–to force them to give intellectually credible justifications for politically correct beliefs. Conservative students should press the case, demand to know what the arguments are in support of the campus dogmas. When it turns out that the emperor has no clothes, as it often will, the conservative student should not hesitate to say so. People may say that conservatives may risk a bad great [sic], risk a letter of recommendation. All those things are true, and there are risks involved. But the one thing that you do not want to put at risk is your integrity. Conservative students must speak out on issues that revolve around right and wrong, justice and injustice, good and bad. Conservative students have a moral obligation to themselves, and to their own integrity, to speak out and stand up for what’s right.
Breitbart News: Give us two thinkers–one modern and one ancient–who have had a profound effect on your philosophical and moral sentiments.
Dr. Robert P. George: The ancient thinker who turned my own life around was Plato. The most important intellectual event of my life was encountering Plato’s Gorgias in an intro to political theory class when I was an undergrad [at] Swarthmore. Plato tells us to value the truth above all else, and to refuse to compromise on truth for the sake of anything else. In other words, don’t worry about your career, whether [it’s] going to cost you friends, whether you’re going to lose your prestige and status. Speaking the truth is more important.
Among modern thinkers, I’ve had many wonderful mentors who have influenced me in a positive way. One that I may particularly mention because of the analytical rigor of her thinking–and her courage–was the Philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe, who was a professor of philosophy at Cambridge. Anscombe was a role model for me in two respects: the rigor of her thinking and fearlessness in speaking the truth as she knew it.