Saturday, November 25, 2006

Iraq is a mess, part XXVI

Rosa Brooks gets it right in the LA Times. The Iraq invasion is a "national transgression," a corporate sin, though she doesn't bring herself to use that word. Of course, neither will most of my Christian brethren. Brooks makes the case that Iraq is broken and there is no way that Humpty Dumpty can be put back together again. She also cites interesting poll results from Iraq that I had not seen: "In a poll released this week, 78% of Iraqis told researchers that the U.S. military presence is 'provoking more conflict than it is preventing'; 71% said they want U.S. troops out within a year; 58% said they think inter-ethnic violence will diminish if the U.S. withdraws; and 61% think that a U.S. withdrawal will improve day-to-day security for average Iraqis. We should listen to them, this time."

Alexander Cockburn on ending the slaughter: "The way you end a slaughter is by no longer feeding it. Every general, either American or British, with the guts to speak honestly over the past couple of years has said the same thing: the foreign occupation of Iraq by American and British troops is feeding the violence."

The Pentagon keeps telling the gullible sheeple that the rise in American casualties in Iraq is driven by operations in and around Baghdad. In fact, more than two-thirds of casualties reported between August and November were in the Anbar province, in western Iraq.

The war is lost in the Anbar province: "'The social and political situation has deteriorated to a point' that US and Iraqi troops 'are no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency in al-Anbar'".

Warmongering presidential wannabe Newt Gingrich says the war in Iraq is a "failure."

The military is preparing for an upsurge in violence.

Do you remember the vaunted Iraq oil industry that Cheney, Wolfie and Rummy said would pay for the war? Well, things don't look so good these days.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Middle East Morass

Iraqi health officials swear that the findings on the number of dead Iraqi civilians published in Lancet is erroneous. It turns out that ONLY 150,000 Iraqis have died. Remember the words of Maddy Albright? "If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future." Are you ashamed yet?

Meanwhile, Henry Kissinger says that a military victory in Iraq is impossible...but we still can't get out.

Another moral imbecile, Charles Krauthammer, says that though Iraq is crumbling, it surely is not our fault. "Is this America's fault? No. It is a result of Iraq's first democratic election. The United States was not going to replace Saddam Hussein with another tyrant. We were trying to plant democracy in the heart of the Middle East as the one conceivable antidote to extremism and terror -- and, in a country that is nearly two-thirds Shiite, that inevitably meant Shiite domination. It was never certain whether the long-oppressed Shiites would have enough sense of nation and sense of compromise to govern rather than rule. The answer is now clear: United in a dominating coalition, they do not." In other words, merely because American power toppled the existing state, disbanded the army, and compelled "democratic" elections in no way implicates us in the mess that has been created. In fact, it's all Saddam's fault.

Neocons like Perle, Krauthammer, Adelman, and Frum have turned on Dubya. At least Joshua Muravchik admits complicity in the bloodletting, "All of us who supported the war have to share some of the blame for that."

Will the Democratic victory bring about a change of policy in Iraq? Not bloody likely! In fact, the sellout is coming. William Lind explains why: "Neither party wants to enable the other to blame it in 2008 for 'losing Iraq.' The Democrats are especially fearful of anything that would seem to make them look 'weak on defense.'" Politicos, a cowardly lot to be sure, are unable and unwilling to admit defeat and withdraw, the best of a series of very bad options. So instead "politicians of both parties in Washington, not wanting to hold the bag for the inevitable failure, will be able to agree only on a series of half-measures. We will train still more Iraqi troops or police, ignoring that both are mostly militiamen for one or another faction. We will pull our troops back into remote bases, where most already stay, remaining in Iraq while the civil war boils up around us. We will try to get the regional powers to help us out, despite the fact that those who would can't and those who can have no reason to do so. We will steam in circles, scream and shout, hoping desperately for a deus ex machina rescue that is unlikely to appear."

Ron Paul explains why things won't change. "Not a whole lot will change because the leadership on the Democratic side, even if they had their way, don't have a different foreign policy. They have been supportive of an interventionist foreign policy in the middle east, and they are not about to back away from that... They are willing to criticize the policy but only as a means to get power." Paul is going to push for a repeal of the Military Commissions Act. Think he'll get Nancy Pelosi's support?

It appears that virtually the whole of the political establishment has abdicated its duty and is waiting for some miracle to be produced by the Baker Commission. Michael Kinsley is a bit more realistic: "The chance that this group of ageing Brahmins will come up with something original is not enormous. It's a nutty, and not very attractive, idea to turn an urgent issue of war and peace over to a commission. Commissions have usually been trotted out for long-running social problems; going to war is something that ought to be decided by the people we elect. In recent decades Congress has virtually abandoned its duty to make the decisions about when US soldiers are sent to kill and die - presidents have foolishly claimed that authority. And now we have a president who is stuck with a war he insisted on and a citizenry that has no interest in it."

Seymour Hersh says that the CIA doubts that Iran is producing nuclear weapons.

Record numbers of dead in Iraq this month.

Rick Warren welcomes pro-aborts to his pulpit.

More and more depressing news about Ligonier.

Some good work is being done over at Chalcedon--especially by Chris Ortiz. Ortiz is hitting the Haggard/New Life debacle from every conceivable angle. Chris has also written a nice piece on muscular postmillennialism. And Tom Rose makes a Christian case against imperialism.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Liberationist Heresy

The most recent issue of The American Conservative contains an excellent essay by Daniel Larison, formerly of Polemics fame, who now blogs at Eunomia.

Larison unmasks the heresy of liberationist theology now infecting many quarters of conservative Christianity, but particularly its evangelical wing. Elsewhere, in the same issue of TAC, Jeffrey Hart says that Bushian foreign policy should be stamped "Brought to you by orthodox Christian believers," by which he means Protestant evangelicals.

Regrettably, there is truth to the charge, as I have discussed numerous times.

Throughout his presidency, Mr. Bush has snatched the mantle of divine authority. As Larison comments, the president’s rhetoric has often risen "to the level of the revelatory and prophetic, freeing it from the burdens of proof and deliberation." One staple of Bush’s rhetoric, perhaps inserted by his Wheaton educated Svengali Mike Gerson, is that political freedom, presumably under the guise of "democracy," is "God’s gift to every man and woman in this world."

But this confuses the spiritual liberation one finds through faith in Christ with the messianic political liberation of nations. Surely bible-toting evangelicals would have the discernment to see through such hermeneutical contortions, don’t you think? Well, perhaps not.

In any case, Larison touches on numerous shortcomings in the pseudo-Christianity on display here. First, it blurs "the lines between the sacred and the profane, investing the 'freedom agenda' with a divine mandate and the presumption to represent God’s will in a shockingly impious manner." Moreover, if it is "God’s will" that every man women and child in the Middle East live under democratic governance, what shall we think of God's providence and sovereignty when that house of cards collapses and we turn tale, and those nations revert to some form of autocracy?

More importantly, Larison writes, "Political freedom is a product of culture and habit, the fruit of the discipline of civilization. As beings created in the image and likeness of God, it might be said that all men have the potential to acquire these habits and learn this discipline over a great length of time, but to believe that this discipline is more or less automatically inherent in all people right now is to dismiss both the effects of the fall and the contingencies of history."

Political culture, economics, art, etc. are ultimately grounded in the religion of a people. To bear the fruit of political liberty and economic growth, a people must first ingest principles of thrift and work based upon a future-orientation, a legal system grounded in the rule of law and not the whims of man, and so much more that is integral to a Christian understanding of God and man.

In short, political and economic freedom are products of culture, and culture is a product of the religious presuppositions that under gird the culture. It is thus no accident that free-markets, capitalism and freedom constrained by law are largely confined to those parts of the world still borrowing off the spiritual capital accumulated by Christian ancestors.