Secular Right | Reality & Reason

TAG | neo-con conundrums

A conservative Republican Congressman from North Carolina’s military and Bible belt, Walter B. Jones, opposed the war in Iraq and is now calling for a pull-out from Afghanistan.  For such a courageous stance against party conformity, he should be congratulated.  Among likely presidential contenders (leaving aside Ron Paul), the stance on U.S. war against countries we have no hope of transforming and no stated desire to conquer ranges from “We’re not doing enough invading” to “We’re not doing enough invading or enough shoveling of tax dollars down the gullet of the Pentagon.”  I heard Tim Pawlenty do his tough-guy routine against the Syrian President—“We give him an ultimatum: ‘You’re gone tomorrow’”—several weeks ago to a group of influential New York neo-cons, who rewarded his promise of aggressive militarism with an enthusiastic round of applause.  All the other major Presidential candidates would have said the same thing.

But however much I admire  Rep. Jones’ intrepid individualism, I cannot help puzzling over his understanding of how he arrived at his anti-war stance.  He voted for the authorization of military force in Iraq in 2002, then started having misgivings about the invasion and in 2005 publicly called for troop withdrawal.   The reason he changed his mind, he said, was that God led him to do so: 

“I thank God that he made me feel guilty about my vote on Iraq,”

he told the New York Times.

This statement raises a host of questions.  If, in Jones’ view, God is anti-war and thus led him to that Godly stance, why are there so many equally devout Americans who are just as convinced of  the justice of the Iraq war?  Is Jones uniquely attuned to God’s will?  The implication is unavoidable that those pro-war believers are mistaken about God’s will—why is that?  Does the fault lie in themselves and in their disordered prayer lives?  It must, since presumably God would not send readable messages about the injustice of the war to some people and inscrutable messages to others.    Or perhaps God sends completely different messages to different people—pro-war to some, anti-war to others–just for the sake of spectator sport? George Bush claimed divine mandate for the Iraq invasion, since freedom is God’s gift to humanity, which he, Bush, was assisting with the Freedom Agenda.  Presumably, Jones would say that Bush was mistaken in his reading of God’s will.   But how does Jones know that he, Jones, is right and Bush is wrong?  Both appeal to the identical and sole piece of evidence: Their personal sensation of God speaking to them.  But again, if Bush is wrong, why did he get it wrong?  If you were God, and the unjustified loss of American lives (we won’t even mention Iraqi lives) were important to you, wouldn’t it be equally important to get the message out, clearly and unequivocally?   Either God screwed up in his messaging or your fellow Christian war hawks are screwed up in their ability to receive God’s will, but I have never heard a believer confront this fact explicitly and either berate God for being coy or accuse his fellow Christians of lacking access to God’s message.  Nor have I heard anyone offer a theory as to why there should be disagreement about something so fundamental as God’s will—about war, in this case.  If the problem is that man’s fallen state prevents him from perceiving God’s clear messages in all their unequivocal splendor, Jones is therefore implying that he is less fallen than his fellow Republican religious war supporters.  (more…)

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Nov/10

23

Body scan contortions

It is amusing to hear right-wing media hosts rail about TSA’s body scans as an extension of the Obama socialist agenda and as an environmental health hazard.  It was of course the Bush Administration and its supporters in neo-con think tanks that hyped the idea that the U.S. is under civilizational threat from Islamic terrorism and that created the bureaucracies whose primary function is to respond to the Islamic menace, which therefore can never be deemed to have been exagerrated.  Maybe a Bush Administration adoption of body scans would have provoked the same resistance from the right, but I doubt it.  Nevertheless, any push-back against the idea that we need ever more stringent security measures is welcome.  (I haven’t heard what the right-wing media is offering as an alternative to the body scans, but I would guess that they are calling again for profiling the hell out of Islamic passengers.  That’s a logical idea in theory, the problem is that it is nearly unworkable in practice.)  As for myself, I have yet to encounter an intrusion that breaches my privacy threshold and couldn’t care less about these scans from a privacy perspective.  But I object to the burdens on commerce that they impose and to the “Be Afraid” message that they send out.  It would be nice if the right wing stood up for rationality and true risk assessment.  There have been scores of deaths in American workplaces over the last year from psychopaths and zero deaths anywhere in the U.S. from Islamic terrorists.   Ditto in every of the preceding 9 years.  As for auto fatalities, don’t get me started.  If we went back to pre-9/11 airport security measures, my guess is that flying would still be far safer than driving.

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