Last week in my blog post entitled “Afghanistan exit” I tried to show how the American war in Afghanistan was foolish and unproductive, costing many lives (foreign and domestic) and costing much treasure for no gain, and really, no possible gain.
This week I want to step back several paces and try to examine why we as a nation do the things that we do in our foreign policy.
We choose to do the things that we do in our foreign policy, because we lack understanding of how the world is put together. Along with our lack of understanding, we have an enormous hubris–a pride that we are the best, bravest, most highly principled people in the world. We stand taller and see further, as Madeleine Albright assured us.
Except that we don’t. We are just people, and our behavior is often horrific. A nation which shrugs at the murder of 61,000,000 unborn children in slightly over a generation does not stand taller and see further.
Briefly consider our interventions in WW I, WW II, and Vietnam. We were always certain that our interventions were on the side of the angels. But they really weren’t. If we had stayed out of World War I, there might not have been a World War II.
Consider, just for an example, our humongous fear of communism. Why fear communism? It defeats itself. Instead of understanding that, we got our panties in a wad and tried to fight communism with interventions, and with foreign aid (communistic in principle!). We weakened ourselves. We were fighting fire with fire. We did not understand how the world is put together.
The world is put together in such a manner that minding one’s own business and leaving other people alone is very good for peace and prosperity. I think God put the world together in such a manner. But assume that the God of the Bible does not exist. Still, the universe is put together in such a manner, whether God exists or not.
The Bible tells us that as far as it depends on us, we are to be at peace with all men. (Romans 12:18)
Evil exists, and so do evil men, and the communists are always evil. Look at how they treat people, for proof. So how do we overcome them? “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)
Who is most to blame, the Democrats or the Republicans? This is an easy question to answer. Our foreign policy has been consistently ecumenical. Of course there were minor differences of opinion now and then, but everyone has been in basic agreement. Democrats, Republicans, liberals, mainstream conservatives, neoconservatives, all have been in agreement that we need to try to manipulate how other countries behave. Our secular elite has been in broad agreement on foreign policy issues.
However, there is one other group contributing mightily to our ecumenical consensus. That is the American Christian church. None of our foolish interventions could have happened if the church had not approved. But approve we did. We went along, not reluctantly, but cheerfully and waving flags.
Did a few people speak up in protest, among the secular elite, and among the Christian millions? Of course. But they were few in number, and never gained much traction. They still don’t have traction.
Here is one example of how disastrous our interventions have been.
As disastrous as Afghanistan has been in terms of American lives lost and crippled, Vietnam was far worse. American lives lost in Afghanistan have been about 6,200. We lost almost eight times that many in Vietnam: 47,424. (That leaves aside the crippled, the U.S. treasure spent for no gain, the foreign lives lost.) We lost the war.
Then what do we find in 2021? We have been subsidizing Vietnam to the tune of $1.8 billion over the last 20 years. That is on average about $90,000,000.00 per year. That is only 1,800 American people earning $50,000.00 a year, giving their entire wages to Vietnam, year after year for 20 years. To a communist country. We supposedly fought to keep Vietnam from becoming communist. Yet we take the earnings of our people to subsidize the country we didn’t want to become communist. This, I submit, makes no sense. But it is quite consistent with U.S. foreign policy taken as a whole. We simply do not understand how the world is put together, nor do we understand what is good and what is evil.
If we try to think that U.S. interventions in foreign countries are only big name marquee events, a book like Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA soon sets us straight. John Prados gives us almost 700 pages (counting footnotes) describing the constant foreign interventions carried out by the CIA. With your money and mine, in our name. Doing what very often was despicable things. (Safe for Democracy was only $6.69, shipping included, at AbeBooks this morning.)
We did not understand how the world was put together. We thought it was put together with force and violence and trickery. But God wanted us to act with honesty, and to leave other people alone.
As despicable as our elite has been–and they are getting worse by the minute–they could not have done the evil they have done without the ready, cheerful acquiescence of the American church.
Can the way we conduct foreign policy change for the better? No, probably not. Our elite is committed to manipulation and violence. Our Christianity is pietist, antinomian, dispensational, amillennial, and flag-waving idolatry of the United States. We Christians can’t change, because we think we are doing quite well living and thinking the way we do. Therefore we can’t and won’t encourage our civil government to change.
So we Christians will keep on telling foolish young soldiers, “Thank you for your service,” and we will keep on supporting whatever the U.S. does abroad, because we assume it must be good for the simple reason that we are doing it.
But could we Christians–theoretically–change to a more biblical brand of thinking? I think we could, and I think eventually we will. I think God does not want us to continue the way we have been going, and that He will wake us up. He may have to do it the hard way, bringing much pain upon us in the process of waking us up. (Don’t blame God; we were the ones who refused to think His thoughts after Him.)
We will not change until we have to, but “have to” can be a powerful persuader. A bankrupt and broken up United States may be what it takes for us to begin to try to think biblical thoughts.
I think someday we Christians will wake up to our folly. This likely will not happen until we have undergone disaster, and after preachers become willing to tell us painful truths. It will probably take a combination of the two things. Right now we are unready and unwilling. But history has a long sweep. Good can and does happen because the God of the Bible is in control.
“There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,/On the throne of David and over his kingdom,/To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness/From then on and forevermore./The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:7)
On our own, we don’t care enough about peace, justice, and righteousness to accomplish much. God’s zeal is only what assures that change for the better can happen. He will not let us get away forever with our foolish idolatry. He may have to use a two by four to get our attention. But isn’t it better that we have the two by four, than for us to go on smiling while thousands of people are murdered and crippled simply because we refuse to think and act in a biblical manner?