The United Methodist Camp Counselor Approach to Foreign Policy
Culture and Politics – Politics
Written by Douglas Wilson
Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Here are just a few collected observations about U.S. foreign policy and war, particularly war in the Middle East.
We have no business toppling any foreign regime and replacing it with another without a formal declaration of war from Congress. It may be replied (for it usually is) that a regiment of constitutional lawyers in D.C. has determined that this is not necessary anymore in these modern times, and all that is necessary is for Congress to “authorize” the action. This dodge, for that is what it is, is simply a means of perpetuating congressional irresponsibility, an evil we really ought not to be perpetuating. Under cover of this evasive little move, our feckless representatives can vote for military action while reserving for themselves the right to wheel on the president the moment anything goes wrong with the war.
This means that the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya were procedurally out of order, whatever else they may have been.
I happen to believe that military action (had the constitutional procedures been followed) were justified in Afghanistan, and probably Iraq. I do not believe this was true about Libya (the Libya of last year). I do believe Reagan’s attack on Libya was justified, with regard to substance. I also believe that the “one strike, we’re warning you” approach that Reagan took did not require a declaration of war.
I also believe that we could have intelligence operatives working on the ground in places like today’s Syria, or the Iran of a couple years ago, and could do this apart from a declaration of war. We could sell or give arms and provisions apart from such a declaration. Depending on the level of our involvement, there needs to be a commensurate level of congressional accountability.
We have somehow come to believe that if we defeat a nation in war, then we have a responsibility to rebuild that nation afterwards, and then give it back to them, bigger and shinier than it was. This is where the messianic aspect of American foreign policy comes into full view. It is bumbling hubris. It is conceited uplift. It is America wanting to fix everybody and everything with the chirrupy enthusiasm of a 23-year-old United Methodist camp counselor.
The central problem with our modern attempts at nation-building is that we don’t know what it takes to build a nation. As is, haven’t a clue. This self-evident datum can be seen on display in the current melt-down of our Afghan situation. Bombs and aid don’t do anything to the worldview of the people, and it is the worldview of the people that build a culture and a nation. Our pathetic faith in “elections” is seen on display again and again. It turns out that a free election in Gaza, or in Egypt, will get decidedly different results than that same election process would in Houston or Cleveland. Surprise! Whatever shall we do? Hold another election! Keep trying! Too many exclamation points!
While we are discussing the region, the nation of Israel has every right to protect itself, and ought to do so. The United States should not undertake to do Israel’s work on her behalf. But what we should do, if there is to be a community of nations at all, is staunchly defend Israel’s right to defend herself as necessary. That means that we tell Israel beforehand that we will denounce and veto every attempt at the United Nations to condemn Israel’s actions. And we should let Israel do what Israel needs to do. If someone says that unless we participate this will only set back Iran’s nuclear program for two years, that’s all right. Israel can defend herself again two years from now — if we protect her back.
What I am saying here is that we should not participate militarily in an attack on Iran. If it became necessary for us to attack, then the president should present the facts of the case to Congress and ask them for a declaration of war.
When the targets of our military action do not rise to the level of sovereign nations — e.g. Somali pirates, renegade terrorists, Taliban warlords — the president should request letters of marque and reprisal, and then do what has to be done.
So, to cash this out. I am largely with Ron Paul on what is constitutionally required to go to war. I believe he is right. I believe he is wrong about what is causing conflict in the Middle East, and I believe he radically misjudges the threat posed by Islamic radicals. I believe the neo-con nation-builders are right about the nature of the threat posed in that current destabilized situation, but are wrong about everything else.
This brings me to the regrettable but needed conclusion that I am right about these things. I tried coming to a different conclusion, but it kept not working out.