Energion Roundtable Week 11 Libya and the role of the US in the world

Posted By Elgin Hushbeck

This week’s Energion Roundtable question with Bob Cornwall, Arthur Sido, Allan R. Bevere, Joel Watts, and myself is:

One of the major news stories of the last couple of weeks has been the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya and the deaths of the ambassador and three other people there. In response, some have suggested that America is portraying weakness in the Middle East (and elsewhere) and that we need to maintain a strong military, or increase what we now have, and take a stronger stand against regimes and terrorist groups that oppose our policies and/or our interests.

As a Christian and an American, what do you think our approach should be? How does your faith inform your answer to this question?

Related questions: Can a Christian support war in any circumstances? What specific changes in our policy toward various middle eastern countries do you believe would make our diplomatic missions safer? How does our relationship with Israel impact our ability to deal with other issues in the middle east?

While very broad, I will try to address all the parts, though by necessity, only briefly, and thus this may at time be seen somewhat random and disjointed. First off, Libya remains and evolving story, not because of any weakness of the United States or Middle East policy, but because of 1)  the turning down of requests for increased security, and instead the reduction of security in the months leading up to the attack.  2) The repeated attempts of various members of the administration, including Clinton, and the President to blame this on a video long after it was known that there was no demonstration and that this was a terrorist attack.  This even resulted in the film maker being jailed. 3) Now it turns out that requests for assistance during the attack were also denied, an attack that lasted 7 hours, even though help was about 1.5 hours away.  4) The administration’s efforts to cover this up and their failure to answer even the most basic questions with anything but “we are investigating.”  In short the administration failed before, during, and after the attack.  In a best case scenario this was gross incompetence.  It was either that, or it was flat out lying, mostly likely both.  

Who told the administration this was a video?  Why did they push the video for nearly 2 weeks, when it was clear within two hours of the start of the attack that this was a terrorist attack?  Why were the forces in the area who could have provided support told to stand down and who gave the order for them to do so?  When was the President told and what did he do? (Beside fly off to a fund raiser, that is.)

As for this weeks remaining questions, let me take them somewhat in different order.  Concerning a Christian’s support for war in any circumstances, for me it comes down to the question, should we oppose evil if we have the ability to do so?  Long story short, I believe yes.  Not only should we, but we have a duty to do so.

Now of course there is a lot of unpacking to do in the phrase “oppose evil, if we have the ability to do so.”  The standard example would be WWII, but I would also include in this Korea.  When one considers the difference between North and South Korea, I think it is pretty easy to say that saving South Korea from the national concentration camp called North Korea was a war worthy of support.

As for our approach to the world, I think it should be guided by the goals of promoting freedom and resisting evil, again with the caveat, of where we are able.  The choice of freedom here is important.  It is not necessarily democracy.  In fact, I think that a blanket support for democracy can at times lead to less freedom, not more, as we are now seeing in places like Turkey and Egypt.   

Since WWII the United States has been the leader of the free world and dominant force in the world. Before WWII that role was performed by Great Britain.  Like a city with a good police force, we have somewhat forgotten how important this role is.  The common refrain is that we cannot be the police force of the world, but if not us, who? 

If the United States steps back from this role then who will fill the vacuum? The UN?  I don’t think so. In world affairs, there are those who do evil, those who oppose evil, those who oppose those who oppose evil, and those who ignore evil.   At best, the UN has functioned more as a shield for those who do evil than anything else, though at times they have been in the role of doing evil themselves. I would want the US to be in the category of those who oppose evil.

Coming back to the Middle East, the problem is not Israel, which by far has the most freedom of any other country in the Middle East.  The problem in the Middle East is the same as that which confronts the world: a radical [note the adjective] form of Islam that will not rest until it imposes it particular view of Islam on the entire world, and which most significantly believes that using terror is a perfectly acceptable means of achieving this goal.

One of our biggest problems is to simply call it what it is. The root of this problem go back long before reestablishment of the state of Israel, and it is a problem that is growing worse.   As I see it, there are only two ways this is going to get solved.  The first and by far the most preferable is an internal reform within Islam, a reform that respects freedom and rejects coercion in general and terrorism in particular. An Islam where there are far more protests over those who kill in the name of Allah, than supposed videos. The second is armed conflict.  Unfortunately the latter currently seems more likely.

Finally, concerning the military, I do not believe that we go to war because we are too strong.  A strong US military deters aggression in the world the same way that a good police force deters crime.  This goes to the heart of the exchange on the Navy between Obama and Romney during the debate. 

Contrary to the false claims of fact checkers, Romney was actually correct in his claims on the number of ships (yet another reason fact checkers now need fact checkers). As even the fact checkers admitted “It is true that the number of ships in the U.S. fleet is now lower than the 1917 level. But that has been true since 1999.”  

Still the real issue is not 1917, but what is our need today, which was Romney’s main point.  The Quadrennial Defense Review said that we should have 346 ships to do the mission the nation have given the Navy. The Navy, realizing the situation, said they could get by with 313, which has recently been reduced yet again to 300.  Yet we only have about 287 and we look headed to 250.  As Robert Kaplan put it well before the debate, “There is a big difference between a 346-ship US navy and a 250-ship navy – the difference between one kind of world order and another.”

Do we want a stable world that encourages peace, free trade and commerce?  I would say yes, and a strong U.S. military makes this far more likely.

Oct 29th, 2012

Comments are closed.