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Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category

Pence_Pompeo

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence.  Fred Reed rightly criticizes these neo-conservatives for their belligerent foreign policy and tendency to conflate U.S. interests with those of Israel, but misses the mark when recommending an alternative.

“Pence A Christian? POMPEO?: There Are Christians Who Love and Christian Who Hate,” a recent article by veteran journalist and commentator Fred Reed caught my eye this week. Reed, a gifted and independent-minded columnist, takes an approach to politics that can, I think, fairly be described as Libertarian.

As to his religions background, in his biography on his website he writes, “In general my family for many generations were among the most literate, the most productive, and the dullest people in the South. Presbyterians.” That said, in reading him over the years, my sense is that he has rejected the faith of his forebears and now seems rather hostile to the Presbyterianism of his family. Writing about the Catholic churches of Mexico, he commented in one column, “In any of these them (sic), before Protestantism cast its drab cloak of half of the faith, a traveler could enter and understand everything he saw.” In the same column, he has high praise for Russian Orthodox ceremony as well.

All that said, Reed has a wonderful talent for exposing the many nonsensical pieties which in our time are presented to the public as the very height of wisdom. In his article Reed – the author has a penchant for ribald language, which I have edited out as both unnecessary and inappropriate for this blog – makes many spot on observations about the anti-Christian foreign policy espoused by supposedly Christian government officials. On the other hand, some of his statements are wide of the mark. My comments are interspersed.

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MAGA

MAGA’s dead. Long live the empire.

Three years ago, during the last presidential election cycle, many Americans found in Donald Trump a candidate whose ideas resonated with them. Trump was an outsider, we were told. He cared about forgotten Americans. The sort of people who lived in unfashionable places and had unfashionable jobs. Who drove unfashionable cars, wore unfashionable clothes and held unfashionable opinions. He was, we were told, the antidote to the sort of scripted, empire building, establishment politician – the Jeb Bush’s of the world, for example – that many of us had come to loath.

My own take on Trump was that I didn’t know if he was for real of not. Hoping that a politician will keep his word is always a gamble, and generally a losing one. As the Bible warns us, “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.” As Christians, we know where our help comes from. Our help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth. And it is him that we trust.

And yet knowing that, we also know that God not only determine the ends, but he also ordains the means by which he will accomplish those ends. And one of the institutions he has ordained for executing justice in this world and allowing his people to live peaceful lives is civil government. Paul calls the civil magistrate “God’s minister” and tells us he is put in his position to punish evil doers and praise the good. I mention this as a way of saying that, even though Christians look to God as our ultimate defender, there is nothing wrong with their supporting candidates for public office. In fact, one could argue that Christians have a duty before God to be involved in politics to help ensure that justice is done and evil avoided.

It had been my hope that Donald Trump would at least make some headway in restoring sanity to our republic. I didn’t expect him to be perfect. There is only one perfect man, and he wasn’t on the ballot in 2016. But it’s not unreasonable to hold a man accountable for his words. Donald Trump promised, among other things, to end the senseless foreign wars, to restore vitality to a hollowed out middle class and, most famously, to build that wall and to stop the flood of illegal immigrants, migrants and bogus refugees.

And if it’s fair to hold a man accountable for his words, we need to ask, So how is Donald Trump doing on his promises?

I’m afraid the answer is not very well.

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FP-Monroe Doctrine

1896 political cartoon depicting the Monroe Doctrine.

“In this administration, we’re not afraid to use the phrase ‘Monroe Doctrine.’ This [Venezuela] is a country in our hemisphere; it’s been the objective of presidents going back to Ronald Reagan to have a completely democratic hemisphere.”

    – White House national security adviser John Bolton

In at appearance earlier this month on CNN, national security adviser John Bolton expressed to host Jake Tapper the policy justification behind the Trump administration’s open attempt to overthrow Nicholas Maduro, the elected president of Venezuela, whom Bolton had earlier referred to in a Tweet as a “dictator.” Bolton based the argument for his and the administration’s stance on Maduro on the Monroe Doctrine, a historic foreign policy tenet of the United States dating back to the 1820’s.

Many Americans have a vague sense of the Monroe Doctrine, that it has something to do with the US keeping overseas powers out of the Western Hemisphere. There’s truth to this, of course. But is that all the Monroe Doctrine is about? Many think so. Interestingly, Bolton did not assert this aspect of the Monroe Doctrine, instead arguing that the Monroe Doctrine was about US presidents, going back to Ronald Reagan, ensuring that all nations in the Western Hemisphere have democratic governments.

On Friday, Bolton issued a statement concerning Russian military personnel in Venezuela that sounded more like a traditional understanding of the Monroe Doctrine. As Reuters reports, Bolton warned Russia about its military presence in Venezuela, saying the US would consider as a “direct threat” any attempt by Russia to establish or expand its military activities in that country.

No doubt, Russia’s military presence in Venezuela ups the ante in an already tense situation. Further, a European power’s entry into oil-rich, and therefore strategic, Venezuela certainly seems to be a challenge to Washington’s ability to enforce the Monroe Doctrine.

With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the Monroe Doctrine to see if its current use by the Administration is in keeping with its actual terms.

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nicholas maduro

Nicholas Maduro, who at least for today is President of Venezuela.

“…Large protests all across Venezuela today against Maduro. The fight for freedom has begun!”

    – Donald J. Trump

“To end the Maduro regime with the minimum of bloodshed, we need the support of pro-democratic governments, institutions and individuals the world over.”

    – New York Times Editorial, January 30, 2019

Much is made of the current acrimony in American politics. Trump supporters can’t stand Nancy Pelosi, and the SJW’s in the orbit of the Democratic party detest the very mention of Trump’s name.

What is more, the longest government shutdown in American history just ended with a temporary cease fire between the White House and Congressional Democrats over funding for the border wall.

America is a house divided, so we’re told. Quite obviously, the cold American civil war some have written about is ready to explode into a real civil war. Right?

Well, not so fast. It seems there’s more unity, at least among the American establishment, than one would gather from watching the evening news.

Want proof? Just consider the two quotes above, one from a recent Tweet by President Trump, the other from today’s New York Times editorial page.

Some may find the agreement between Trump and the Times surprising. After all, the Donald and the Times have pretty much been locked in a state of verbal warfare ever since the New York billionaire declared his candidacy in the summer of 2015. Trump is the Yin to the Times’ Yang, how is it possible for them to agree on anything?

And yet, they do.

In this case, they both believe in America’s exceptional right to decide who the leader of a foreign country will be.

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Foreign Policy_Syria2

Before and after in Aleppo.

The great law of morality ought to have a national as well as a personal and individual application. We should act toward other nations as we wish them to act toward us.

– Millard Fillmore, 13th President of the United States , 1850 State of the Union Address

Back during the 2012 Presidential campaign, I wrote a post critical of an article by Uri Friedman, who showed his utter disdain for candidate Ron Paul by accusing him of invoking the Millard Fillmore doctrine, which as the quote above indicates, is the application of the Golden Rule to foreign policy. Fillmore, notes Friedman, was “undistinguished” and “uninspiring” and self-evidently not worthy of emulation in any respect. Friedman goes on to write that Paul was both booed an laughed at when he presented his version of the “Golden Rule” approach to foreign policy on the campaign trail.

It is absurd to think that the Golden Rule has anything whatsoever to do with foreign policy, so opines Friedman. And not only is it wrong to suggest that it does, but it’s actually laughable. This we know because Millard Fillmore believed the Golden Rule was the standard for a proper policy and it’s just obvious that Millard Fillmore was a dunce, a boob and a fool. What is more, so are all those, such as Ron Paul, who follow him. That’s the sum of Friedman’s argument, who, as one writing in Foreign Policy, the house organ of the Council on Foreign Relations, could be said to be echoing the views of the American foreign policy establishment.

Perhaps if the accomplishments of America’s foreign policy establishment – dating back to the Spanish American War at the end of the 19th century, America’s leaders have rejected the nation’s original foreign policy of staying out of foreign wars in favor of a policy of interventionism – were more impressive, it would make sense to give ear to Friedman’s snarky dismissal of Fillmore and Paul. But after more than a century of foreign wars that seem only to set the stage for the next conflict, perhaps it’s worth asking just how much the sages at the Council on Foreign Relations actually know about foreign policy. It seems the this author that the answer is, not very much at all.

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