A cold war against God?

Boston University professor Andrew J. Bacevich argues in the Washington Post that we should abandon the hot war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, we should move to a cold war against our adversaries, beating them in the same we beat the Soviets, through an ideological victory. The problem is what he thinks the ideological issues are. From To Defeat Terrorism, U.S. Should Wage a Cold War:

Devising a new course requires accurately identifying the problem, which is not “terrorism” and, despite Washington’s current obsession with the place, is certainly not Afghanistan. The essential problem is a dispute about God’s relationship to politics. The proposition that the two occupy separate spheres finds particular favor among the democracies of the liberal, developed West. The proposition that God permeates politics finds particular favor in the Islamic world.

This conviction, which is almost entirely ignored in McChrystal’s report, defines the essence of the way they live in Iraq, Afghanistan and a host of other countries throughout the Middle East.

At its root, this is an argument about what it means to be modern. Power, no matter how imaginatively or ruthlessly wielded, cannot provide a solution. The opposing positions are irreconcilable.

People who assume that all religions are the same sometimes think all religions are equally good. What we are seeing today is the view that all religions are equally bad. In the last cold war we had capitalism vs. communism; democracy vs. totalitarianism. Those ideologies and the consequences of the ideas were highly specific. I might agree with Dr. Bacevich if we would face up to the specific political implications of Islamic jihadism and, perhaps even more importantly, if we Westerners would get in touch with our defining ideology. It’s got to be more than relativism vs. believing in truth; secularism vs. theism. (Why is that?)

Another 9/11

We should always honor the victims and the heroes who gave their lives on this date. And it should remind us to be always vigilant against the threat of terrorism. But, at some point, do we need to put what happened on September 11, 2001, behind us? Can fear of another 9/11 or desire for retribution for 9/11 distort our foreign and domestic policies?

Back then, we were filled with an exhilarating national unity and a righteous desire for revenge. We attacked Afghanistan and we took the country. But that did not slake our thirst for vengeance. We attacked Iraq. 9/11 was the reason for the Iraq war–not weapons of mass destruction or certainly not oil. Nor did it matter that Iraq was not particularly involved with the 9/11 attacks. We needed someone to fight. We had scores to settle with Saddam Hussein, and he was a convenient target. We defeated his army, overthrew his government, and delivered him to the hangman.

Such acts of vengeance when a great nation is enraged may not be just, but the phenomenon is a commonplace of history, and America arguably was more restrained than others. What then complicated our actions was our ideals and our good intentions. We could have gone in, overthrew the existing powers, and left, making it clear that any other aid to jihadists would bring us back. In retrospect, that may have sent the strongest message. But we not only wanted to defeat Muslim extremists, we wanted to make them free, like us. We wanted them to have a democratic republic with inalienable rights like we have. So we stayed in both countries to build up their own nations in our image. We assumed that the desire for political freedom is natural to human beings, thinking that if these people were just released from their shackles they would rejoice in the better life we would give them. We forgot that our own liberties had as their necessary foundation a religious and cultural and historical foundation that these countries lacked. But that didn’t stop us, even though our entanglement inspired resistance in those countries, bloody guerrilla war, and more and more and more terrorism–precisely what we had gotten into these wars to stop.

The left blames the wars on all kinds of American villainy–on big oil, Halliburton, imperialism, and the alleged psychosis of our president. I blame the wars not on American evil. I blame them on American goodness.

Ironically, even a left-leaning president, with high ideals of his own, is unable to extract us from these conflicts and even looks to be escalating the one in Afghanistan. I’m not sure what we should do now. Pulling out would deliver a victory to the jihadists that would only ensure a revival of their movement and ever more terrorism. But all of this is the legacy of 9/11.

Conservatives as the new peaceniks?

The conservative pundit George Will is calling for American troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan:

Military historian Max Hastings says Kabul controls only about a third of the country — “control” is an elastic concept — and “‘our’ Afghans may prove no more viable than were ‘our’ Vietnamese, the Saigon regime.” Just 4,000 Marines are contesting control of Helmand province, which is the size of West Virginia. . . .

Afghanistan’s $23 billion GDP is the size of Boise’s. Counterinsurgency doctrine teaches, not very helpfully, that development depends on security, and that security depends on development. Three-quarters of Afghanistan’s poppy production for opium comes from Helmand. In what should be called Operation Sisyphus, U.S. officials are urging farmers to grow other crops. Endive, perhaps?

Even though violence exploded across Iraq after, and partly because of, three elections, Afghanistan’s recent elections were called “crucial.” To what? They came, they went, they altered no fundamentals, all of which militate against American “success,” whatever that might mean. Creation of an effective central government? Afghanistan has never had one. U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry hopes for a “renewal of trust” of the Afghan people in the government, but The Economist describes President Hamid Karzai’s government — his vice presidential running mate is a drug trafficker — as so “inept, corrupt and predatory” that people sometimes yearn for restoration of the warlords, “who were less venal and less brutal than Mr. Karzai’s lot.” . . .

U.S. forces are being increased by 21,000 to 68,000, bringing the coalition total to 110,000. About 9,000 are from Britain, where support for the war is waning. Counterinsurgency theory concerning the time and the ratio of forces required to protect the population indicates that, nationwide, Afghanistan would need hundreds of thousands of coalition troops, perhaps for a decade or more. That is inconceivable.

So, instead, forces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent special forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters.

It was the conservatives who originally opposed the use of American troops for “nation building,” who questioned whether democracy can be exported to cultures without the worldview to support it, who believed that America should stick to its own business. It used to be the liberals who believed otherwise. Everything changed, of course, with first Vietnam and then the war on terrorism. But could it be that in their opposition to President Obama and his Afghanistan policy that Republicans will turn into the party of peace?

At any rate, what do you think of Wills’ arguments? Wouldn’t a perceived “defeat” of America–which a withdrawal would be seen as in the Islamic world–embolden jihadist terrorists? Or is this a no-win situation that is not worth the cost in money and lives?

Emerging church leader is observing Ramadan

Bryan McLaren, leading figure of the “emerging church” movement, is observing the Muslim month of dawn-to-dusk fasting known as Ramadan, which began August 21. Here is his statement:

We, as Christians, humbly seek to join Muslims in this observance of Ramadan as a God-honoring expression of peace, fellowship, and neighborliness. Each of us will have at least one Muslim friend who will serve as our partner in the fast. These friends welcome us in the same spirit of peace, fellowship, and neighborliness.

We will seek to avoid being disrespectful or unfaithful to our own faith tradition in our desire to be respectful to the faith tradition of our friends. For example, since the Bible teaches us the importance of fasting and being generous to the poor, we can participate as Christians in fidelity to the Bible as our Muslim friends do so in fidelity to the Quran.

Among the core values of Ramadan are self control, expressing kindness, and resolving conflicts. For this reason, if we are criticized or misunderstood by Christians, Muslims, or others for this endeavor, we will avoid defending ourselves or engaging in arguments. Instead, we will seek to explain ourselves humbly, simply, and briefly when necessary, connecting with empathy to the needs and feelings of others as we express our own.

Our main purpose for participating will be our own spiritual growth, health, learning, and maturity, but we also hope that our experience will inspire others to pray and work for peace and the common good, together with people of other faith traditions.

May God bless all people, and teach us to love God and love one another, and so fulfill our calling as human beings.

McLaren further explains himself at his blog, linked above.

Do you think this is a nice gesture or syncretistic worship?

Yale Univ. Press censors cartoons of Muhammed

. . .even though the book it is publishing is about the cartoons! The author had wanted them in her book, but a panel of 24 consultants told the academic publisher not to print the cartoons, nor the other illustrations of the prophet that are discussed in the book.

If Yale University Press is scared of Muslim reaction, then it should pull the book from publication. But to print the book without the illustrations that the book is discussing is just ridiculous, not to mention a prime example of the politically-correct, anti-intellectual, anti-Western bias that is paralyzing academia.

Mass trials in Iran

Iran is putting the election protesters on trial 100 at a time. The government admits torturing some of them. Employees of foreign embassies are also being tried.

Never take your constitutional rights for granted, as if they were the norm everywhere.