Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Letter to the Editor: A Real One!

In the past I have been known to publish letters to the editor of this blog; what I omitted was that those letters were written by me. It's true that my mail bag, unlike Letterman's, is virtually nonexistent. Oh, I guess I'll stop with the attempts at grandeur--I've never gotten a letter to the editor. But I did finally get one the other day, so without hesitation I will print it here below. It's true that I basically had to solicit it (as you'll see from the opening line), and he was kind enough to oblige.

It is a response to my musings on American foreign policy as it relates to the current upheaval in Egypt. Perhaps you'd like to refer back to it before pressing on. Anyway, I know that two or three of you were somewhat interested in the topic, so perhaps you'll enjoy this very thoughtful response. At the end of it, please comment on who is more right or wrong, so that I can then adjust my opinions based on majority rule/peer pressure, just like the rest of you:

Jason - I said I'd try to respond to your blog that you wanted me to "affix to my craw" - and so I'm giving it a try. But I do think that in it you are trying to be the provocateur - so I am not naive about swallowing the bait you threw out there. As provocateur, there can still be a part of you that is serious, or means seriously what you said, and I believe that is the case here. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Anyway, you always make me go through these kind of hoops when responding to things you write because of your evil propensity to toy with people. I'm never quite sure if you're serious ... but we've had this conversation before - I'm only bemoaning the effect of your humor on honest communication. You can be a lizard in this area. But I love you either way. :)

Now to the point. (I'm not really sure that I have one, but we'll see.)

Firstly, I agree with your two premises. Most Americans do want freedom and human rights to abound to everyone around the world. And our support of Mubarak for the sake of security is - to a degree - at the expense of that freedom and those human rights. But I pretty much disagree with the rest of what you asserted.

1. I don't think its hypocritical to exist within the tension of those two premises. I think it is simply the nature of life in a fallen world that our most altruistic aspirations must be compromised in order to get at least a modicum of those aspirations to come to pass. So with Egypt, we have supported a heavy-handed dictator who has abused human rights, but with the object in mind that in supporting him we have had an Egypt that has more freedom, and a vastly better human rights record than most middle eastern countries. Under Mubarak, women in Egypt can wear high heels, or not; they can wear a burkah, or not; they can have a career, or not; they can get an education, or not; they have some rights within a marriage; they can own property; etc., etc. Under the Muslim Brotherhood - the only other legitimate player in the game right now - none of those things would be true. The goal of the Brotherhood is to establish an Islamic caliphate in Egypt and impose Sharia law on the entire populace - which would result in an Afghanistan-under-al kaida-type government, or an Iran-under-Achmawhat's his face - type government ... if not worse. So for America to support the former rather than the latter is not hypocritical at all in my thinking. We are simply supporting the government that is more in line with American (not to mention Christian) values, rather the government that is hostile to those values. Would we like something better. Certainly. Should we work for something better. Yes. But it is, after all, not our country, so we can only encourage and support and cajole diplomatically what we view to be virtuous government - one that is more careful about human rights and freedom. We can't enforce it. It is therefore my view that to label us as hypocritical in our support of Mubarak is naive and kind of silly. Especially when we have the relatively recent series of events in Iran to learn from. There we supported a Mubarak-like Shah, for the same reasons. He was by far the lesser of two evils when it was a choice between him and Khomeini. And yet our beloved Jimmy Carter withdrew that support because of his "moral scruples", the Shah fell, Khomeini and his Islamic thugs took over, and we now have an Iran that is becoming one of the biggest threats to peace, security, prosperity, freedom, and human rights in the Middle East in decades. And this includes the very real threat of nuclear proliferation in a country run by a fanatical anti-Semite, and a fanatical anti American, whose eschatology includes the necessity of a nuclear type Armageddon. The present leader of Iran has a theology that demands the destruction of the West in blood and fire, in order for the Islamic version of the Millennium to come to pass. This leads me to my second point.
2. It is not morally wrong to put American interests first within this context. American interests include not only a peaceful and prosperous and secure America, but also a peaceful and prosperous and secure world where people can live self-directed and free lives, and pursue their own goals, faith, betterment, etc. Is it a selfish thing for America to want a peaceful and secure world so that America can be peaceful and secure. Yes. But it is a kind of altruistic selfishness isn't it? The kind that leads to the most freedom and prosperity for the most people. It's not morally wrong for Americans to seek their own interests if those interests include not being blown to bits by Islamic radicals, or enslaved by Sharia law. American interests as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence are interests that are for everyone's benefit.

It was in American interests to win the Cold War and defeat Soviet Communism - but those interests also redounded positively for all of Soviet-enslaved Eastern Europe and the Soviet Empire. It is in American interests to have a free and stable Iraq, Afghanistan, and Middle East in general - but co-incidentally those interests are of immense benefit to the people of the Middle East as well. Do we ever pursue our own interests to the detriment of other nations? Of course. We are certainly not perfect. But historically the case has usually been that our interaction with other nations has been for their benefit as well as ours. America has never had imperial designs. We don't gobble up nations. We don't enslave people. We usually have given our blood and treasure for our own security, but for the security of other nations as well. We have never wanted to rule Germany, Japan, Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. We have simply wanted to stop aggression, and create a context for peace and freedom to develop - and at the cost of countless American lives and American dollars.

3. Therefore I don't view Americans as having "blood on our hands." Can we do better? Sure. Are we perfect? No. Have we made mistakes? Of course. But do we have "blood on our hands" - with regard to Egypt or the Middle East or anywhere else for that matter? Emphatically not. America spends hundreds of millions of dollars to reduce the spread of aids in Africa because of an initiative by George W Bush. I don't see blood on our hands. We spend more hundreds of millions on countries around the world to help feed the hungry and restore those devastated by earthquakes and tsunamis. I don't see blood on our hands. We spent millions to restore Germany and Japan after WWII - the very nations who wantonly slaughtered millions of innocent people including the flower of American and European youth, but who we forgave and rebuilt FOR FREE.

I don't see blood on our hands. Many thousands of American lives and many billions and trillions of American dollars have been sacrificed for other nations and other needs that have very little to do with American interests, but illustrate American compassion and generosity and altruism. In fact never in the history of man has there been such a nation - that has been willing to give so much, for so little in return. Did the nations of Babylon, or Egypt, or Rome, or Persia, or China, or India, or Spain, or Germany, or the Soviets, or even England? No. They all had empires to build, and coffers to fill, and people to subdue and rule over. But not so the United States of America. We have never desired to rule over another nation or people. We have only wanted to influence the world with the values we hold dear - freedom, human dignity, prosperity and peace. I don't see blood on our hands. I see a complicated and fallen world where sometimes, of necessity, the enemy of my enemy is my friend - in order that a worse fate might not befall us all.

I had more to write, but Becky says that if I say more it'll be like one of my sermons that went too long.
So, I'll end here, let you consider what I'm sayin', and shoot me some kinda response.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i sum up better than mike does.