A powder keg

Tensions in Israel are building over Iran’s nuclear weapons program.  The USA has been trying to get Israel to stand down.  Meanwhile, a big fleet comprised of American, British, and other allied naval forces is assembling in the Straits of Hormuz for war games and to be there just in case war breaks out and Iran tries to shut off a major oil route:

Battleships, aircraft carriers, minesweepers and submarines from 25 nations are converging on the strategically important Strait of Hormuz in an unprecedented show of force as Israel and Iran move towards the brink of war.

Western leaders are convinced that Iran will retaliate to any attack by attempting to mine or blockade the shipping lane through which passes around 18 million barrels of oil every day, approximately 35 per cent of the world’s petroleum traded by sea.

A blockade would have a catastrophic effect on the fragile economies of Britain, Europe the United States and Japan, all of which rely heavily on oil and gas supplies from the Gulf.

The Strait of Hormuz is one of the world’s most congested international waterways. It is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point and is bordered by the Iranian coast to the north and the United Arab Emirates to the south.

In preparation for any pre-emptive or retaliatory action by Iran, warships from more than 25 countries, including the United States, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, will today begin an annual 12-day exercise.

They will practise tactics in how to breach an Iranian blockade of the strait and the force will also undertake counter-mining drills.

The multi-national naval force in the Gulf includes three US Nimitz class carrier groups, each of which has more aircraft than the entire complement of the Iranian air force.

via Armada of British naval power massing in the Gulf as Israel prepares an Iran strike – Telegraph.

Should Israel strike at Iran’s nuclear sites?  If they do, won’t that spark a bigger war?  Should the United States try to prevent Israel from taking that step or just stay 0ut of it?  And, to consider another flashpoint, what should America do, if anything, while Syria’s government is slaughtering its citizens who are trying to over the Baathist regime?

A soldier’s vocation

Browsing on the LCMS website and looking for something else, I came across this interview with Gen. John W. Vessey, whose distinguished military career including not only combat in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, but serving as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Reagan.  He reflects very perceptively on the doctrine of vocation and gives some interesting stories of practicing the Christian faith in the military.  It turns out, the interview is from the latest Lutheran Witness.  A sampling:

LW: How does your Lutheran faith play a role in your courageous work, both when you were in active duty as well as now in retirement?

GV: I’ve been a lifelong Lutheran, and for that I am thankful. Martin Luther once wrote a pamphlet called Whether Soldiers Too Can Be Saved. I really took that to heart. Article 16 of the Augsburg Confession–which among other things says that Christians may serve in just wars–well, one can certainly take comfort in that too. Christ goes with us wherever we are. The Lutheran Confessions are blessings to us and make us stronger and help us understand the Word of God even more. . . .

LW: How can we, as Lutherans, properly view military service in light of caring for our neighbor and protecting him in his body?

GV: It first starts with Article 16 of the Augsburg Confession: It is not only right to serve but it is a duty for Christians to serve the civil community. As Luther pointed out, we live in the two kingdoms: the kingdom of God on the right and the civil on the left. We are God’s representatives in both places, but we are also fallible and sinful beings in both places, so we need to carry God’s Word with us as we do His work in the community. Being a soldier is not only okay but is even required by civil authorities for the safety of citizens.

For the young people today, I encourage them to consider a bit of service to the nation, whether it is teaching in schools or in the Armed Forces or what have you. It is an important thing, and you can take your Christian beliefs to that service, making both the service and yourself stronger.

LW: Most of us go through our lives in an occupation that does not require us to make life-altering or life-taking decisions in defense of country or self. How does the Christian soldier deal with the inner conflict that may accompany such an occupation?

GV: Prayer.

LW: In the military, is there a struggle of having to compromise or follow orders that burden the conscience?

GV: There are certain things you just don’t compromise on. According to our Lutheran Confessions, we are to obey the orders of civil authorities–until we are ordered to sin. Then God is in charge.

I never allowed my Christian beliefs to be a secret. I sometimes went out of my way to be sure they weren’t a secret! When traveling to places that were enemies to the U.S., I knew that they would bug our living facilities. So I’d do my daily devotions and prayers under the bug so they could hear loud and clear where my beliefs lie. That led to a number of interesting conversations later in life. At one point during my six years of diplomatic work, I was working with former Soviet Union folks. One day I met with the former Chief Historian of the Soviet Armed Forces and he asked to speak to me privately, so we went out in the hall together. He told me that he knew I was a Christian and he wanted to tell me that he himself had been baptized just the day before.

via 10 Minutes With . . . – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

Knowing you’re being bugged, so reading the Bible and praying out loud to witness to the spy!  Brilliant!

Obama the assassin

A withering piece from Charles Krauthhammer on the way President Obama wages the Drone War:

A very strange story, that 6,000-word front-page New York Times piece on how, every Tuesday, Barack Obama shuffles “baseball cards” with the pictures and bios of suspected terrorists from around the world and chooses who shall die by drone strike. He even reserves for himself the decision of whether to proceed when the probability of killing family members or bystanders is significant.

The article could have been titled “Barack Obama: Drone Warrior.” Great detail on how Obama personally runs the assassination campaign. On-the-record quotes from the highest officials. This was no leak. This was a White House press release.

Why? To portray Obama as tough guy. And why now? Because in crisis after recent crisis, Obama has looked particularly weak: standing helplessly by as thousands are massacred in Syria; being played by Iran in nuclear negotiations, now reeling with the collapse of the latest round in Baghdad; being treated with contempt by Vladimir Putin, who blocks any action on Syria or Iran and adds personal insult by standing up Obama at the latter’s G-8 and NATO summits.

The Obama camp thought that any political problem with foreign policy would be cured by the Osama bin Laden operation. But the administration’s attempt to politically exploit the raid’s one-year anniversary backfired, earning ridicule and condemnation for its crude appropriation of the heroic acts of others. . . .

The Osama-slayer card having been vastly overplayed, what to do? A new card: Obama, drone warrior, steely and solitary, delivering death with cool dispatch to the rest of the al-Qaeda depth chart.

So the peacemaker, Nobel laureate, nuclear disarmer, apologizer to the world for America having lost its moral way when it harshly interrogated the very people Obama now kills, has become — just in time for the 2012 campaign — Zeus the Avenger, smiting by lightning strike.

A rather strange ethics. You go around the world preening about how America has turned a new moral page by electing a president profoundly offended by George W. Bush’s belligerence and prisoner maltreatment, and now you’re ostentatiously telling the world that you personally play judge, jury and executioner to unseen combatants of your choosing and whatever innocents happen to be in their company.

This is not to argue against drone attacks. In principle, they are fully justified. No quarter need be given to terrorists who wear civilian clothes, hide among civilians and target civilians indiscriminately. But it is to question the moral amnesia of those whose delicate sensibilities were offended by the Bush methods that kept America safe for a decade — and who now embrace Obama’s campaign of assassination by remote control.

Moreover, there is an acute military problem. Dead terrorists can’t talk.

Drone attacks are cheap — which is good. But the path of least resistance has a cost. It yields no intelligence about terror networks or terror plans.

One capture could potentially make us safer than 10 killings. But because of the moral incoherence of Obama’s war on terror, there are practically no captures anymore. What would be the point? There’s nowhere for the CIA to interrogate. And what would they learn even if they did, Obama having decreed a new regime of kid-gloves, name-rank-and-serial-number interrogation?

This administration came out opposing military tribunals, wanting to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed in New York, reading the Christmas Day bomber his Miranda rights and trying mightily (and unsuccessfully, there being — surprise! — no plausible alternative) to close Guantanamo. Yet alongside this exquisite delicacy about the rights of terrorists is the campaign to kill them in their beds.

You festoon your prisoners with rights — but you take no prisoners. The morality is perverse. Which is why the results are so mixed. We do kill terror operatives, an important part of the war on terror, but we gratuitously forfeit potentially life-saving intelligence.

But that will cost us later. For now, we are to bask in the moral seriousness and cool purpose of our drone warrior president.

via Barack Obama: Drone Warrior – The Washington Post.

Military chaplains must perform gay weddings?

So says the Obama administration.  Rod Dreher  comments:

Remember how no clergy member will be forced to perform same-sex marriages against their will. If the Obama administration has its way, all US military chaplains will have to do so. Excerpt:

“The Obama administration “strongly objects” to provisions in a House defense authorization bill that would prohibit the use of military property for same-sex “marriage or marriage-like” ceremonies, and protect military chaplains from negative repercussions for refusing to perform ceremonies that conflict with their beliefs, according to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).”

If this goes through, the Catholic and the Orthodox chaplains will have to be withdrawn from the US military. Many Evangelical chaplains will choose to leave. If same-sex marriage is constitutionalized by Supreme Court ruling, then I don’t see how even a legislative exemption would be possible. This is another one of the answers to the question, “How does my gay neighbor’s marriage to his partner affect me?”

via Goodbye, Military Chaplains | The American Conservative.

I suppose the large contingent of chaplains who belong to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod would also have to leave.  That would leave liberal  mainline Protestants to minister to the troops, though many of them are anti-war.

“The war on terror is over”

Michael Hirsh, writing in the National Journal, in the course of a discussion of the Obama administration’s new Middle East policy quotes an unnamed State Department official as declaring that “the war on terror is over.”

The Obama administration is taking a new view of Islamist radicalism. The president realizes he has no choice but to cultivate the Muslim Brotherhood and other relatively “moderate” Islamist groups emerging as lead political players out of the Arab Spring in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere. The Muslim Brotherhood officially renounced violence decades ago, leading then-dissident radicals such as Ayman al-Zawahiri to join al Qaida.

It is no longer the case, in other words, that every Islamist is seen as a potential accessory to terrorists. “The war on terror is over,” one senior State Department official who works on Mideast issues told me. “Now that we have killed most of al Qaida, now that people have come to see legitimate means of expression, people who once might have gone into al Qaida see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism.” In a Tuesday night update to this post, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor clarified that while the “war on terror” concept has been dropped, “we absolutely have never said our war against al Qaida is over. We are prosecuting that war at an unprecedented pace.”

The new approach is made possible by the double impact of the Arab Spring, which supplies a new means of empowerment to young Arabs other than violent jihad, and Obama’s savagely successful military drone campaign against the worst of the violent jihadists, al Qaida.

Some of the smarter hardliners on the Right, like Reuel Marc Gerecht, are coming to realize that the Arab world may find another route to democracy–through Islamism. The question is, how will this play politically at a time when Obama’s GOP rival, Mitt Romney, is painting the president as a weak accommodationist?

via Can Obama Safely Embrace Islamists? – 2012 Decoded.

Thus, the end of the war on terrorism does not mean that we can have a big celebration in Times Square, much less that we can stop getting strip searched at airports.  It means that the administration wants to cozy up to at least some jihadists, without considering them our enemies.

Wise or unwise?

 

Enough with the “war” metaphor

Charles Lane is sick of the “war” metaphor in political discourse, something all sides are doing:

The Democratic National Committee accuses the GOP of a “Republican War on Women,” to go along with its “war on working families” (according to the Progressive Change Campaign Committee) and “Paul Ryan’s war on seniors” (Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky).

Various Republicans accuse President Obama of waging “war on religious freedom” or even, in the words of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, “a war on religion.” According to the Republican National Committee, the president is also waging “war on energy,” the sequel, apparently, to what the House Republican Leadership has called “Democrats’ war on American jobs.”

Progressive author Chris Mooney called his book “The Republican War on Science”; not to be outdone, conservatives Grover Norquist and John R. Lott Jr. have published “Debacle: Obama’s War on Jobs and Growth.”

A Washington Times editorial warned Wisconsin taxpayers that “President Obama and the Democratic National Committee have declared war on you.” “Doonesbury” cartoonist Garry Trudeau observes that “[Rick] Santorum, [Rush] Limbaugh, et al. thought this would be a good time to declare war on half the electorate.”

And on and on and on — until you could almost lose sight of the fact that not one of these institutions or individuals is describing a physical conflict in which people fight, bleed and die.

There are, of course, plenty of real wars raging around the world; in some of them, Americans are dying. But the folks back home, busy with their election-year quarrels, have little interest in discussing such matters.

No, what the metaphor-mongers are referring to is political disagreement among citizens of the same democracy. And the last time I checked, most of those disagreements were being expressed through peaceful means — and neither side in any of these debates had a monopoly on the truth.

To be sure, we have been waging “war on” this or that for decades. America is such a diverse and disputatious country that war, actual or metaphorical, has been one of the few causes capable of bringing together its various factions, regions and races. That is why we had Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty, Richard Nixon’s war on drugs and a series of presidents’ war on cancer. Heck, even Jimmy Carter tried to convince us that saving energy was “the moral equivalent of war.”

These metaphors attempted to recast an abstract threat as a particular enemy, thereby rallying the country to a common effort.

That is totally different from what the professional polarizers who dominate today’s politics, and their respective media allies, are trying to achieve. . . .

For both parties, the goal is to encourage Americans to think of one another as enemies and, eventually, to hate and fear one another. Today’s “wars on” are all civil wars. . . .

Multiplied across the entire electorate, however, the effect may be more corrosive. To the extent that sensible citizens tune out politics, they abandon the field to people who are receptive to constant cries of war, war, war — people who are prepared to think of their opponents as enemies.

When you think of someone as an enemy, it’s harder to contemplate trusting, respecting or cooperating with him or her. Indeed, those behaviors start to look like treason, instead of what they really are: the minimum requirements of democratic life.

via In the war of words, we are all losing – The Washington Post.

War imagery is a staple of today’s Christian discourse too.  We have “worship wars,” “the battle for the Bible,” and, of course, the “culture wars.”   I’ve sometimes used that kind of language myself.

Is it appropriate sometimes?  Or does it short-circuit thought, riling people up and creating “enemies” while doing more harm than good?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X