Foreign Policy

Never mind our bloated military budget. Never mind that we are still licking our wounded pride and arrogance post 9-11 and thus are unable to learn anything from it (maybe terrorists hate how we’ve surrounded their land (especially their Holy Land, Arabia) with our military forces. Never mind our national debt.

Let us consider on ethical/moral grounds why interventionist foreign policy is a bad idea. To resurrect an old link, see Gary Johnson’s scathing (and warranted) critique of Obama and Romney’s Foreign Policy.

In a collegial discussion on Facebook concerning Iran and whether or not America step in, I commented that I would rather have Iran with Nuclear capability (and no, that’s not a good thing … I am possibly willing to turn a blind eye to another cyber-attack like stuxnet … but I digress). The original poster, Ben, posted this, no doubt to incite more discussion (a good thing, mind you!):

The question is: who has rights and to what? If there is really a universal right of countries to self-rule, then we can talk about criticizing imperialism. But if there is no such thing, then the one with the best resources and the freer people would be right to want to share what they have with the world for its own good–for the good of the people who are not free. Discuss!

I will now in essence cannibalize my own argument below. (Side note: Did you know that you can too? See the Creative Commons license at the top of the page. I cannot limit your freedom to use my ideas. There is no such thing as “intellectual property.” There is privacy, but I am sharing on a public blog.)

My response (I will actually cannibalize my own argument. I will edit minimally, but am too lazy to do substantive editing and revision. So my thoughts will be barely organized and succinct. Warning: I may bring up pet grudges and may or may not be entirely fair, even, and “balanced.”)

If the country being shared to is voluntary. (Granted, I am not talking about a nation whose corrupt leaders don’t want something, but everyone else wants freedom, for example…). I don’t mind being ethnocentric (in that I think as an enculturated person). But it is one thing to recognize that and be sensitive to that (without being relativist … i.e. honor killings are not “ok for you”; they are NOT OK period). Another thing to suggest that every person must exercise Western individualism and must vote democratically. It may be that democracy is a legitimate thing to push for (and the US is okay with that as long as you are pro-Israel and not Muslim Brotherhood …), but we must not automatically assume every country can operate on Western principals…

Any universal principals can be applied (even forcefully, possibly?) universally. But, because we think as a Western person in a Western context (and nothing to be ashamed of … ie no white man guilt, etc), we naturally sometimes confuse the universal standards with Western culture. And so anyone who, say, thinks religion is good or think hijabs are oppressive (in ALL circumstances) must obviously be backward and messed up … ?

There’s one thing to engage in forceful debate and dialogue and call each other out. It’s another thing to unilaterally impose “universal” values without listening to how the other side views things and whether or not one’s own approach is applicable and/or appropriate to another context. At best, this makes the imposer uncritical of flaws and assumptions inherent to the imposer’s own limited cultural horizon. At worst, this is downright tyranny and oppression.

And to lay my cards on the table – I am pro-Palestine and I despise interventionist foreign policy. I am not isolationist, but I would rather vote for an isolationist like Ron Paul (or Gary Johnson). On a side note [see, I go off on pet tangents!], I am appalled by torture and indefinite detention without trial… (no, real life is not like Jack Bauer and 24, sorry FOX).

However, if a country asks for our aid militarily, no problem (provided we find the need legitimate). So, technically, the US is not world police. It’s a tyrannical, self-righteous vigilante. So scary. The fact that we don’t hesitate to enter wars and invade and intervene in other countries’ business means we assume we are always right. And no country is. The ones that make good, wise decisions are the ones that assume they will be an ass and thus deliberately consider their actions and whether or not they have a moral foundation/right to do what they want to do.

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6 thoughts on “Foreign Policy

  1. Comrade,
    I had no idea. This explains that “little red book” you carry around. It’s not the ESV.
    How did you slip by admissions? 🙂
    Isaac

    • What are you talking about? I seem to be advocating for a small government, the opposite of communism. And, aren’t Christians supposed to be prophetic and challenge culture from the margins of society instead of intermarrying with/whoring after the two central (and corrupt) political parties? 😛

      • Agree… but how you work this out concretely takes wisdom. Also, how you challenge and yet not lose the Church’s call to preach/teach/make disciples can be tricky. It’s a hard issue when you come face to face with it.

      • It is very easy, on one level. I don’t confuse the Church with the State. It is a lot easier to preach the Gospel and make disciples for American missionaries, if they have less American imperialism to apologize for and distance from. The Gospel cannot be forced. And so when the US backs off, this is easier for US missionaries…less hate in between the local populace and the nation of US. Whether or not missionaries actually identify political allegiance to the US is besides the point. They will be identified and perceived as linked with the US. I find myself needing to apologize or distancing myself from our politics when I go to other countries.

  2. I understand your point, but let me push a little. Following your thought, take imperialism for example. If Christians are “supposed to be prophetic and challenge culture from the margins of society”, which I agree with (it was in our Prophets reading), does this mean the Church needs to be prophetic and challenge imperialism? If so, what’s the Church’s role? Is it to actively engage in community organizing, or something else? (I would have said “yes” to this last question a decade ago, and I was involved, but now I’m not so sure.) The answer is more complex. Especially when you get down to concrete situations. I do believe the church has to be prophetic, but how? E.g. when there was a casino planned for close-to Chinatown, what should the local church do? I’m not disagreeing with you. I also think on some level the question is more easily answered. On other levels, it is harder … it’s always hard to implement good theology. 🙂 But we should do it and I appreciate your thoughts. Orthodoxy-orthopraxy-doxology.

    • Christians/the Church should challenge imperialism, but as citizens of this world who ultimately owe allegiance to another world and kingdom, and not as “the Church.” So I still want a two-kingdom approach that respects the spirituality of the church, without allowing Christians to be lax and to withdraw from this-world duties as salt and light. The Church should encourage her members to cry out for justice and righteousness here and now. But Christians can legitimately (though everything requires wisdom, sure) join non-Christian groups to fulfill this prophetic mandate. Also, anyone who does real mercy ministry knows that you have to empower and listen to the people you serve. It is most unbecoming of Christ’s image-bearers to look down paternalistically upon others and impossible to “help” the poor and needy without listening to them (this imperialism, even for the “good” of others, is naive at best and sinister at worst). And I see mercy ministry and social justice advocacy as a missional mandate as well. I think it may be unnecessary and quite foolish to insist that Jesus is mentioned every second, but I agree that to share the Gospel is an ultimate (if not proximate) goal of such social advocacy for justice. So what are the difficult questions? (I agree, ministry/orthopraxy is easier said than done.) And yes, orthodox orthopraxy has at its center doxology: we praise God through our actions, and we show others how praiseworthy our God is, so that they too might praise Him.

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