A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Moral Limits and Foreign Policy

There's been talk on the left on how how it is that we have a narrative of the GOP which speaks of strength and power while the narrative for the Dems is one of weakness.

Especially when you pit a war hero like Kerry vs. Bush, or war heroes like McGovern and Carter who both served in the 2nd World War. The speculation usually is that GOP voters are easily cowed, needing a daddy figure who can rescue them from their fears.

Here's a different thesis. There is something that connects Kerry and McGovern, besides their military record, and there is something that connects Reagan and Bush, besides skipping out of such service. And that something is what the GOP uses for its narrative.

Often democratic candidates speak of limits to US power, whether practical or moral limits. They speak of consideration for the concerns of other nations, for treaty obligations, and for law. The concern for law breaking that attended the spying story is an example.

Often republican candidates revel in the defying of such things as laws, treaties, concern for other nations, the United Nations. Strength is defined to do what one wants without reference to any other concern. Weakness is the willingness to be hemmed in by such things.

Every GOP candidate can sound strong when they laugh at the French or UN resolutions. And every democrat candidate can sound "weak", despite their personal acts of bravery because they want to act in reference to some limit from congress to treaties.

Reinhold Niebuhr wrote a book Children of Light, Children of Darkness. What distinguished the two? The first sees actions; individual as well as national ones with reference to some higher moral ideal that regulates one's individual interests and desires.

Children of Darkness are folks where individual interest and will is sufficient to justify any and all actions. "What can mixture can light have with darkness?" the apostle Paul asks? I'm not sure, but I think it's defining the foreign policy debate today.

Does that mean that the children of light always gets it right? Not for Niebuhr, in fact he thinks that the children of darkness is more likely to have a better sense of human nature and work it for their own ends. There can be a naivety among the children of light.

Does this mean that lightness and darkness depends on party? No. It means that often strength is treated as being free from obligation. When you see a foreign policy that talks this way, it's one which is not moral. When there are limits, a place for morality comes in.


At 6:51 PM , Blogger Bill Baar said...

Carter graduated from the Navel academy 5 June 1946 and never served in WWII unless you count his time as a cadet.

McGovern never spoke much of his service that I recall and I think in part because he was troubled by the morality of paticipating in the city-busting bombing tactics.

The problem with today's Democrats is they think only of the United States. That United States can end a War unilaterally by simply redeploying away from combat. It's an oddly imperialistic view implying far more power than we have in the world.

PM Maliki nailed the moral question facing all of us today.

via Slogger,

"The terrorism that is claiming the lives of Iraqi citizens in Baghdad, Hilla, Mosul and Anbar is the same terrorism that intimidated citizens in Saudi Arabia, targeted the people of Egypt, and blew up the twin towers in New York and subways in Madrid and London."

We can't run from it.

At 6:53 PM , Blogger Bill Baar said...

sorry, the full quote from Maliki that lays out the moral challange,

"We put everyone before their moral responsibility to take a clear and strong stand in the face of terrorism in Iraq and we expect cooperation to dry up resources for terrorism," stressed Maliki. He added, "The terrorism that is claiming the lives of Iraqi citizens in Baghdad, Hilla, Mosul and Anbar is the same terrorism that intimidated citizens in Saudi Arabia, targeted the people of Egypt, and blew up the twin towers in New York and subways in Madrid and London."

At 10:35 AM , Blogger Dwight said...

I don't think there's a question of whether or not we must confront terrorism. The question is what methods we use.

At 10:27 AM , Blogger Bill Baar said...

The anti war movement thinks where we confront terrorism the issue.

Most of the time it's out-of-Iraq and silence about every where else.

They'd send Maliki to the butcher.

Stop the War Coalition's Robert Taylor looked to the partition of India as a model for pulling out of Iraq,

"It will be argued an Anglo-American evacuation from Iraq could not be done overnight. But a strict timetable of June or July next year could be set for the process to end. There is a precedent, although admittedly not one that suggests such a departure would be trouble-free. The exit from India and that country's partition in 1947 cost the lives of millions but it was a cruel necessity. The same can be said for Iraq."

A lot of Muslims paid the butcher's bill then and Taylor's STWOC seems pretty indifferent to Maliki and his followers paying it now. It's the cruel necessity for them.


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