Last week I was flying out to San Diego, and I sat next to a Navy officer who had served in Afghanistan. He struck up a conversation with me during the flight, and at some point we came around to the wars in the Middle East. I asked him, "Is it worth it for us to be in Afghanistan?" His answer, sadly, did not surprise me. It went something like this:
Honestly, there are probably more terrorists on American soil right now than there are in the countries where we're "fighting terrorism."This would not be the first soldier I have heard question U.S. foreign policy.
Ever since I was old enough to be aware of politics, we have been sending troops to Afghanistan and Iraq. Have we achieved our objectives? What objectives? Are we the nation destined to build democracy around the world? And must we sacrifice a continual supply of troops in order to do it? Consider this video (you'll see it above on my blog) outlining some of our history with the Middle East, particularly with Iran. Ever since we began playing political chess with the Soviet Union some 60 years ago, we have invested ourselves in a never-ending cycle of violence from which even now we have no respite. Did not the Soviet Union collapse? Does not empire always tend to crumble? Why are we still fighting? Why did we ever choose to fight? Christianity has shaped a great part of our tradition in America. Yet while the Church has been mobilized by political elites to argue about things like prayer in schools, gay marriage, and abortion, She has been strangely silent on matters of foreign policy. Have we any right to complain that Christianity has been pushed out of the public sphere, when on the issue on which our religion is most clear, we have been most silent? There is no Christian justification, nor has there ever been, for military occupation during times of peace. There is no Christian justification, nor has there ever been, for unprovoked war against other nations. Have we become the empire seeking to bring order through conquest? Have we no king but Caesar? The conservative elite have determined that the only "realistic" thing to do, for the sake of our national security, is to continue fighting. The most basic Christian tenet that human beings were made for peace with one another has been swallowed up by nationalist pride, and words have been twisted so that aggression becomes "defense." Our bloody history is mostly unknown or ignored by the public. All of this would be at least somewhat tolerable (though only to a cynic) if it at least made some rational utilitarian sense. But alas, the truth is, our wars are fought on the same faulty economic grounds upon which our unsustainable welfare state is built. Destruction is not gain. War does not create prosperity. War is always sacrifice, and any society called to fight must be given rigorous justification for such a horrible sacrifice. To put it another way, as Ron Paul did in one of the debates, "It's trillions of dollars...!" Trillions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of dead bodies, more hatred, more anger, more resentment. This is not only immoral, it is impractical. Our foreign policy is every bit as unsustainable as our misguided health care policies. The only difference is that the latter at least have some moral justification, at least if you believe supporting human life is better than killing it! This is the fundamental reason why we ought to elect Ron Paul. Very few other issue matters nearly so much, and on no other issue does the President of the United States have so much direct influence. He is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. There is no more important question that you can ask a presidential candidate than how he thinks we ought to conduct our foreign policy, and on this matter there is no one who can even approach a moral platform than Ron Paul. See this video outlining a policy of friendship and free trade. I did not come to this position easily. Like many people, I was initially swayed by whatever options seemed available at the time I first began to form political opinions. There seemed to me to be the idealist left versus the realist right, and for a time I chose to be a "realist." But I have struggled to make sense of our foreign policy in light of Christian principles, in light of the inherent dignity of human life and the value of liberty, and even in light of sound economic sense, and I simply cannot find anywhere in my body or soul even an ounce of remaining support for the current U.S. foreign policy of global interventionism. Barack Obama, once thought to be the hope for a peaceful American regime, has only furthered many of the same policies implemented by George W. Bush, and this has only deepened my disillusionment. We have become a nation which feeds on destruction, and unless we change our course, this will be our undoing. In this time of economic uncertainty, it is natural that the average voter would be consumed by economic concerns. Tragically, our wars only hurt our long-term economic progress (as if we could ever justify killing even if it did secure our prosperity!) but you will hear almost the opposite in the media. I could cite famous economic thinkers from Adam Smith to Frederic Bastiat to Milton Friedman to justify my position, but I would rather simply appeal to common sense: destruction is not prosperity, death is not prosperity, war is not prosperity. Prosperity can only come through peace; let us therefore pursue peace. For God's sake, and for the sake of everything that is sacred--life, liberty, peace--we need to stop America's destructive foreign policy while we can. Only if our nation has enough moral courage can we ever hope to enjoy the fruits of peace. We owe it to our troops. We owe it to our world. We even owe it to ourselves, and to future generations of Americans to come.