Foreign Policy and the Crusader Mentality

A disconcerting element of American public life is the crusading impulse inherent in contemporary humanism. In the realm of foreign policy, the crusader zeal has found its most enthusiastic adherents in the neo-conservative movement, and has a fervent apologist sitting in the Oval Office in the person of George W. Bush, Ideologue-in-Chief.

After 9/11, Mr. Bush stoked the fires of a justifiably angry body politic by creating the Manichean distinction between “us” and “them". Bush and his defenders posit a world where the U.S. and her "coalition partners" are the defenders of freedom and civilization, attempting to thwart the “terrorists” and “homicide bombers” populating the backwaters of the Islamic world.

Aping the words of Christ, Mr. Bush said there is no neutrality: “There is no neutral ground – no neutral ground – in the fight between civilization and terror, because there is no neutral ground between good and evil, freedom and slavery, and life and death. The terrorists are offended not merely by our policies; they’re offended by our existence as free nations. No concession will appease their hatred. No accommodation will satisfy their endless demands.” Hence diplomacy and discussion were consigned to the proverbial dustbin, castigated as appeasement to godless wickedness.

Mr. Bush went on to substitute the realism he espoused in the 2000 campaign with the pabulum and prattle of Democratist ideology. According to Mr. Bush and has neo-con puppeteers, non-democratic states are incubators of terror by virtue of their form of government.

“I believe democracy can take hold in parts of the world that have been condemned to tyranny,” said Mr. Bush. “And I believe when democracies take hold, it leads to peace. That's been the proven example around the world. Democracies equal peace.”

Mr. Bush next enlisted the American nation in a grand crusade to end tyranny in the world via the spread of democracy. In his second inaugural address, Mr. Bush sounded the revolutionary horn saying, "It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

In an earlier speech, the president said, "With the power and resources given to us, the United States seeks to bring peace where there is conflict, hope where there is suffering, and liberty where there is tyranny."

It looks as though we could be busy!

But contra Mr. Bush, terror is not a new tactic, but a weapon of the weak wielded against foreign occupation, perceived or real, and it is a mistake to blindly assume that “free” elections will produce anything other than anti-Americanism and illiberal democracy.

So why the persistence of Democratist mythology? There is something almost idolatrous about it all. It is indeed an aspect of self-worship, and an offspring of the religion of Americanism. As Rushdoony has written: “One of the marks of the crusading temperament is the desire to reform everyone except one’s self. The crusader has a simple solution: to remake the world after his own image. Crusading thus fosters self-righteousness, and self-righteousness feeds on hypocrisy. Modern warfare is a form of crusading, and hence its particularly intense form of horror.”

Another rationale for continuing warfare is that it strengthens the State, and the elite that governs and manipulates the political and cultural apparatus. Moreover, in an age where the State is often seen as the incarnation of God walking among men, wars rapidly evolve into Holy Wars. Rushdoony writes:

Thus, despite all the pious bleatings about a love of peace, ours is an age of warfare, and of holy wars. These wars serve two purposes: first, a war always consolidates greater power over the citizenry in the hands of the state, so that a victorious state emerges not only victorious over its enemies but over its people as well. Thus, whatever losses the Germans, Japanese, North Koreans, and Vietcong or North Vietnamese may have suffered at American hands, this much is certain, that, since 1917, the major and consistent losers have been the American people. By their sinful propensity for the cult of the state, they have seen their freedom diminished and economic slavery emerge: the state has been the consistent winner.

Conservatives and Christians used to believe that ordered liberty was a product of Northern European culture and specifically Protestant Christianity.

Trinitarian Christianity resolves the tension between the one and the many, providing for a social structure balancing order and freedom. Humanism by definition lacks any basis for law and values, and ultimately collapses upon itself. For Christians, that base is God’s written law, revealed in Scripture. The content and the authority of the Law is ultimately grounded upon and rooted in God Himself. Therefore, neither the church nor state is above the Law. The beauty of Reformed Christianity was its return clearly and consistently to the origin and source of Truth.

But what of Islam? Can it produce the ordered liberty that is an off-spring of Christianity?

Mr. Bush thinks so, and rebukes those who beg to differ: “Some skeptics of democracy assert that the traditions of Islam are inhospitable to the representative government. This ‘cultural condescension,’ as Ronald Reagan termed it, has a long history…Time after time, observers have questioned whether this country, or that people, or this group, are ‘ready’ for democracy -- as if freedom were a prize you win for meeting our own Western standards of progress…It should be clear to all that Islam -- the faith of one-fifth of humanity -- is consistent with democratic rule.”

I make no pretense to being an Islamic scholar in the mould of George W. Bush, but let me say that I’m skeptical that Islam can produce a republican form of government because its fundamental presuppositions mitigate against it, and in favor of an externalized, statist polity.

In contradiction to the Apostle Paul’s declaration, “He is a Jew, which is one inwardly,” Mohammed said “he is a Muslim who is one outwardly.” The Muslim conceives of God as an all-powerful sovereign, and yet Mohammed circumscribes the authority of his “God” by defining religion as mere outward conformity, thus barring God from the heart and mind of man. Man is therefore left to think and act as he likes, so long as he adheres to a handful of Koranic prescriptions.

What is the result? Rushdoony writes:

Mohammed ensured the congenital stagnation of the Moslem world as far as true growth was concerned by eliminating from God’s total government the mind and heart of man. The restlessness of the orthodox Christian, and especially the Puritan, with the status quo, and his continual desire to improve himself and his world, and his delight in growth, is lacking in the Moslem, who sees all outward things as fate and is content to leave things inward alone.

One disturbing tendency which I have noted previously is the shilling that conservative evangelicals have done on behalf of Bushism, pre-emptive war, and Democratism. Maybe my evangelical friends should go back and read Francis Schaeffer, who surely would have had little use for the “freedom agenda” of the current administration. Schaeffer understood that liberty was a product of culture, specifically Christian culture, and could not grow in the soil of alien worldviews. He wrote, “When the men of our State Department, especially after World War II, went all over the world trying to implant our form-freedom balance in government downward on cultures whose philosophy would never have produced it, it has, in almost every cases, ended in some form of totalitarianism or authoritarianism.”


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