I’m proud of my president, the Nobel Peace Prize winner

Well, I was certainly wrong.

As you’ll recall, I was a bit taken aback when it was announced that President Obama was to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for perceived good intentions.

But after hearing and reading portions of his speech, I am wholeheartedly glad that he got the award. While I thought at first that someone should have to deliver more than speeches to receive the honor, I was reckoning without what a true statesman can do with a speech. He took advantage of the occasion to speak a little truth to the world, whether the world wanted to hear it or not. And that matters.

Rather than showing up and singing Kumbaya with the worldwide George W. Bush Haters Club — and face it, the Nobel committee obviously decided to give him the award for the virtue of Not Being George W. Bush — he said look, folks, sometimes the United States is going to go out and use force, and given our track record, you should be glad. After respectful nods to MLK and Gandhi, he said:

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

I raise this point, I begin with this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter what the cause. And at times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world’s sole military superpower.

But the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions — not just treaties and declarations — that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest — because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.

Wow. You know, Obama keeps doing this. Every time you think, OK, I know Obama’s an impressive guy, but I’m used to him, he comes up with another speech that just blows you away. He did that with his speech on race after the Rev. Wright blew up in his face. He did it with his awesome victory speech here in South Carolina.

And now, he’s done it in Oslo. He could easily have phoned it in (the way Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson did) or just shown up and been sheepish and humble, and kept the fireworks to a minimum. But no, he used it as an extraordinary teachable moment.

The world needs to hear the president of the United States say these things, humbly, plainly, but with no punches pulled. He told them the plain facts of what American power means to the world, as its one best guarantor of collective security and best hope for freedom and justice, without apology. Good for him. And because of this speech, it’s clear that not just some guy named Barack Obama received the prize. The POTUS did. And that’s a point in which all Americans can take pride.

This guy’s just amazing.

49 thoughts on “I’m proud of my president, the Nobel Peace Prize winner

  1. Todd

    I was very impressed with his speech and his demeanor. My other thought was that we do not have a major high ranking political figure in South Carolina that has near Obama’s apparent honesty, openness and sincere committment to making America better. Sanford? Bauer? McMaster? McConnell? Harrell? Toal? Graham? DeMint? Clyburn?

  2. Karen McLeod

    I am very proud of the president we have. And it irritates me that I see pundits on both sides so busy spouting catch phrases and slogans, without bothering to address what he actually said much less to investigate what he is actually proposing, that any hope of understanding, much less actual discourse is lost. I just hope we’re not going to spend this presidency yelling at each other instead of trying to improve this country and the world.

  3. Burl Burlingame

    What amazes ME is the folks who despise Obama — including some banned from this forum — insist that the man cannot speak in public, that he is tongue-tied and stuttering and sputtering and moronic. I’m always blown away whenever anyone says that. Do they not have ears?
    Obama thinks before he speaks, and thinks before he acts, and gathers as much data as possible before doing either. Whether you agree with him or not — and frankly, he never sold himself as anything other than a moderate politician — it’s just so damn refreshing to hear him. The guy’s a leader.

  4. Brad Warthen

    Todd, I would say Graham has the “apparent honesty, openness and sincere committment to making America better.” And I would say Toal has that sort of dedication to South Carolina. And Joe Riley has it with regard to Charleston.

    I’m not saying they are LIKE Obama. He’s unique, and so are they. But they are all talented, smart people who are truly dedicated.

  5. Brad Warthen

    Obama … well, he’s got that Camelot magic. He’s got that JFK thing going on. I keep thinking back to when Ted Sorensen came to see me, and gave his blessing to Obama. He was seeing that magic again…

  6. Kathryn Fenner

    Burl–I never understood the complaints about Obama either. He is a measured, articulate speaker–indeed, an Onion piece showed him using a teleprompter when speaking with his kids (it was a joke, for all y’all not familiar with the Onion). The implication was that he is so smooth, it seems as if he is reading from prepared text all the time, not that he is incapable of formulating thought without it….or at least that was my inference.

  7. Phillip

    Brad, I knew you would go all goo-goo-eyed over this speech. I’m hoping that what Obama meant by praising America’s role in the world was an implication that this role has to be more widely shared, or rather the responsibility has to be more widely shared among the other leading nations and specifically the democracies of the world. But as Glenn Greenwald puts it, Obama “hailed the U.S. for underwriting global security for the last six decades ,without mentioning how our heroic efforts affected, say, the people of Vietnam, or Iraq, or Central America, or Gaza, and so many other places where “security” is not exactly what our wars “underwrote”.

    But I guess suffering only matters depending on what your nationality is.

    American power at times in the past may have occasionally been the “best guarantor of collective security” but it has also been the instrument of death for thousands and thousands of innocent civilians around the world, just so much fodder for, yes Mr. Obama, American self-interest.

    And even if you accept your view that somehow America has been this “guarantor” in the past, if this is the model that continues into the future, then the future for the world holds endless warfare, endless suffering, and the United States can look forward to being the ongoing target of terrorism for years, decades, centuries to come, until it eventually crumbles under the weight of its own imperial (economic imperialism, that is) ambitions and fruitless quest for 100% domestic security.

    No thanks.

  8. Pat

    Brad, I agree with what you said about Graham and Riley, I don’t know as much about Toal, but if you say so…With Obama, I get the feeling that he’s in charge and doing his on thinking. That is not what I felt about Bush. I watched Obama closely after the Rev. Wright situation and felt it was through his own leadership that the decision was made to speak out. Not that I agree with everything he’s for, but I sense a great deal more personal authority, honor, and justice based on what he’s said and acted on. I think he was chosen for the peace prize is because his rhetoric and success in being elected was expected to bring better discorse and more stability to the world.

  9. Brad Warthen

    Phillip, that’s a fine thought, that “the responsibility has to be more widely shared among the other leading nations and specifically the democracies of the world.”

    The trouble is, it is based to a certain extent upon a fallacy. It supposes that the other powers are willing to do their part. For the most part, beyond contributing token numbers of troops encumbered with stipulations that keep them from any real action, they are not. (As the president politely put it in Oslo, “in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter what the cause…”) Yes, we got some help in the Balkans from NATO, and at first there was all sorts of willingness to help us in Afghanistan. But this commitment is very limited, and limited to the point of being ineffective. Aside from Britain and Australia, it’s mostly up to us.

    What must NOT happen, and I worry that you may be implying it should, is that we would be encumbered from acting by the lack of will among our would-be allies. That the most feckless member of the alliance would be able to veto military action. That is simply intolerable, because it is a fact of life in the modern world that most nations have a profound unwillingness to fight. You may be among those who believes that means they are more civilized than we bloodthirsty savages in the states, but I believe that in many societies it has reached the point of decadence, an ennui about national interest and ideals that is the precursor to decline and fall. A healthy society that will survive is one that has the means and the will to preserve itself, and I worry that many “civilized” countries have lost that.

    OK, fine. Well, not really fine, but if we’re the only ones willing to commit, I suppose we can keep on doing that. But the rest of the world needs to appreciate our contribution, and certainly must not look down upon us for what we do for them as well as for ourselves. That’s what the president told the world at Oslo. If you’re not willing to use force when necessary, at least respect the fact that we are.

    By the way, 100 percent domestic security is impossible. It’s astounding that we’ve had as little trouble at home since 9/11. Unfortunately, that vacation may soon be at an end. Read this interesting piece in the WSJ from yesterday.

  10. Karen McLeod

    Did you catch the interview with Pres. Obama on “60 Minutes” tonight? If so, what did you think of it?

  11. Herb B

    Wow, what a speech! And I pretty much agree with Brad, more so than I ever thought I would. After spending some time here in Germany again, I’m uneasy over the way young people here have lost too much of their moral base; being critical of American unilateralism is understandable; but the pendulum has swung too far, methinks.

    Someone has said that there are some basic human sacrifices necessary to preserve a people; one is the sacrifice necessary in order to raise chidren, and another is the defense of one’s country.

  12. bud

    A healthy society that will survive is one that has the means and the will to preserve itself, and I worry that many “civilized” countries have lost that.
    -Brad

    A healthy society is also one that acknowledges the value of all human beings and is willing to accept differences among people without forcing our will on them by use of military force. Sadly much of what is described by pro-war folks as “self-preservation” is really just imperialism masquerading as “self-preservation”.

    I would suggest the Europeans have figured out that constant war only gets people killed and never really enhances security. War in far away lands, regardless of how good our intentions, only triggers deep animosity toward us by the people we purport to be helping. Frankly the current so-called “war on terror” is a sham. We are not facing any real peril from Muslim radicals. Sure we had 9-11. But that was largely the result of our previous imperialism. Even so the 3,000 killed on that horrible day are only about half the number that we’ve lost trying to prevent another 9-11. That’s false economy.

    A better approach would be to withdraw all combat troops from all foreign countries. Then we can forge a lasting peace with the moderate peoples of the region who, for the most part, only want to be left alone. Once we establish ourselves as a benign force for peace then we will achieve a level of security unattainable using the killing machine known as the American military.

    Let’s at least give this a try. Brad’s pro-war approach has been tried for 60 years and it has failed. The proof is the more than 100,000 Americans who have died in foreign wars since 1945. As John Lennon said, let’s give peace a chance. We can’t do any worse.

  13. Herb B

    Hmmmm, Bud. Methinks you place too much faith in the goodness of mankind. But regardless of that, the fact is that those “who want to be left alone” are outdone by those who are angry and want someone to blame it on. I share some of your thoughts, but Brad’s position is a little bit closer to reality.

    And we have to ask ourselves what would have really happened without our military involvement. It could have been done a lot better, and yes, it could and should have been a lot less. But to conclude it should not have happened at all is not a conclusion I think we should make.

  14. bud

    Better faith in the goodness of humanity than to continue a path that has always failed. Take Afghanistan. There’s a place where great military powers from Alexander the Great, to Britain to the Soviet Union and a host of others have tried in vane to tame. Now it’s our turn. After 8 years we’re still fighting with very little to show for it.

    I would suggest that American foreign policy is little more than wack-a-mole since WW II. We club one threat to death and another springs up BECAUSE of our whack-a-mole style meddling. Then we whack that mole. And again another one crops up to take it’s place. Let’s take Iran for instance. We helped put the Shah in power and that ultimately upset the religious folks over there. Eventually they turned a former ally into a bitter enemy. And who did we support to counteract that threat. Iraq, that’s who. So when Saddam used chemical weapons that we provided we were fine with it until he began threatening Kuwait oil fields. Now the Saddam mole we created needs a good whacking. Eventually our meddling in Iraq may result in a whacked mole, but other moles will spring up to take it’s place. And on it goes, whack, whack, whack.

    But I guess one good thing comes out of all of this. We can build new monuments and statues of our heros allegedly trying to defend freedom or some such nonsense. Maybe we could just build a whack-a-mole monument dedicated to all our misguided wars. That would save money. Every time we fight a new useless war we could just add a simple bronze plaque.

  15. Doug Ross

    Bud,

    If we stopped the ‘whack-a-mole’ strategy, then we’d have to spend all that money that goes to defense contractors on silly stuff like healthcare, food for the hungry, education, job programs.

    Who would want to do THAT?

    20 thugs with box cutters hit the lottery when the Twin Towers fell and the defense industry has been collecting on that jackpot ever since.

  16. Kathryn Fenner

    Wow, I agree with bud (per usual) AND Doug.

    Herb–how can we know what would have happened if we had not used military force? It just seems like too chaotic a question–too many variables! we can only argue about it, and remain convinced that we are right because of our prejudices. I am surprised that you have such a low opinion of mankind, a large number of whom are followers of God, no? I guess we don’t know people from their fruits as much as we might wish.

  17. Libb

    Bud(once again) and Doug make extremely salient points on this warmongering situation. War is a businessman’s game, hence our $600 billion military budget of which most is outsourced to defense contractors.

    From a Star Trek perspective we would be the Klingons of the Galatic Federation.

  18. Brad Warthen

    If you want an unflattering sci-fi analogy, I prefer the Sardaukar to the Klingons. Although in truth, the U.S. is far more like the “Alliance” imagined by Joss Whedon. And bud and Doug are our Browncoats.

    Now, to get serious…

    Actually, bud is seriously and profoundly and dangerously wrongheaded on this. If you understand anything about the way the world works, you’d have to hate the world to want the United States to withdraw its troops from every foreign country. Folks, that’s the way people like George Wallace thought, and Pat Buchanan more recently. Very paleo. It’s a natural complement to wanting to put all our troops down on the border to keep all the wicked Mexicans out. The United States would indeed be an evil entity if it abandoned its security obligations around the globe.

    I don’t suppose it occurs to any of y’all how blessed the world is that the overwhelmingly superior military force in the world today is the United States. Think about it — please. And I mean think, not just feel. Somebody is going to be the most powerful nation in the world. And in previous times it was Rome, Napoleon, the British Empire, Nazi Germany (until we got our butts in gear and outstripped them), the Soviet Union (for a large portion of the world, anyway), and on and on.

    Y’all want to condemn this country for not being perfect. But compared to all previous dominant powers, the United States has far and away the best motives, and a truly unique track record of spending blood and treasure for the liberation and salvation of other nations. That’s because we are at our core defined by a set of ideals that are not bound by language or ethnicity or geography.

    Listen to the president, people. He explains it well: “We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest — because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.”

    To try to overlay upon this truth an alternative vision in which the US is some sort of global bully… how does bud put it? — a ruffian that doesn’t acknowledge “the value of all human beings” and that doesn’t “accept differences among people” and chooses to FORCE “our will on them by use of military force” — is to propagate a profoundly malicious lie. Not just a misconception, but a distortion of the truth that has real consequences if it is not corrected.

    I’m very fond of bud, and I know he writes from the purest motives, but the United States of America absolutely does not deserve that sort of false condemnation.

  19. Doug Ross

    Brad,

    Do you believe the Pentagon is full of people who would love to see a peace-filled world?

    How about all the defense contractors in the Beltway? Do you think they are driven by profit or patriotism?

    You assume everyone is pure and good when it comes to the military. Maybe some are… but there’s too much emphasis on war versus peace.

  20. Kathryn Fenner

    I’m definitely glad we are the big dogs on the military front, sure, but that’s not the same thing as saying our foreign policy has been anything other than wack-a-mole all too often.

    C’mon, you have to acknowledge the extremely large number of times we have been fighting against forces we previously funded or otherwise supported. We have battles we only fight because we have volunteer troops–these would surely not be supported by a draft. We have volunteer troops because we don’t offer a lot of other choices to a lot of them. As agribusiness pushes out any sense of community in our rural lands, for example….

    …and if you have a big hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.

  21. Doug Ross

    Here’s the current reality of the U.S. military. Front page story of today’s USA Today regarding a retired general who acts as a “mentor” at the rate of $1600 per day PLUS works for six different defense contractors PLUS earns a pension of $220K per year.

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/2009-12-14-bedard-military-mentor_N.htm

    And he spent a good portion of his time pushing monitoring systems for one defense contractor to his former peers.

    It’s always about the Benjamins. Or, in this case, the Grants.

    Wonder if Senator Graham will make a stand against those who profit from war? Wait, he can’t. He’d have to look at his own multi-million dollar campaign war chest.

  22. bud

    Brad, you cherry pick the virtues of America and it’s military without acknowledging the many, many, many horrors we’ve inflicted on the world. Take the whole agent orange catastrophe. How many Vietnamese civilians were subjected to this horrible chemical simply because we couldn’t accept a Communist Vietnam? And now Communist Vietnam is a pretty friendly place. Heck the Amazing Race contestants travel there just about every season. So why did we try to prevent this natural unification from occurring? To suggest that monstrocity of a war was a good cause is simply to ignore reality.

    Iraq is the same. We provided chemical weapons to Saddam and look what he did. Gased his own people, that’s what. And the list goes on and on.

    Brad and others can go on pretending the U.S. and it’s $600 billion military are 100% virtuous and good but in order to do so you have to igore a very checkered history replete with numerous acts of cruelty (Mi-Lia, Abhu-Ghraib). Only with a complete withdrawal of military forces can we hope to become a force for good. Otherwise we’re just another imperialist state.

  23. Brad Warthen

    Actually, I don’t cherry-pick anything. Not my cognitive style. I describe the whole thing. I perceive things holistically. It’s you, bud, who search for the warts to describe.

    If I were so inclined, I could describe the horrors inflicted on the world by capitalism. But on the whole, it has made the world materially better off. You can argue the meaning of “better off” of course, and we could bemoan the tawdriness of commercialization of EVERYTHING. In fact, I would say that the blessings of capitalism are actually more debatable than the benefits of the United States being the strongest power in the world.

    bud supposes that I praise war. I do not. I celebrate the fact that in a world that will never escape the horrors of war, it’s an extremely good thing that the most powerful military force, by far, is the one that serves this nation and its aims and values.

    I don’t expect to move those who simply refuse to see this. I’ve heard enough since Vietnam to persuade me of that. I just thank God that the president of the United States sees it, and will stand up and say so. That is essential.

    What this does is reassure me that I was right in my judgment that the presidential election of 2008 was the one and only such election in my lifetime in which the nation could not lose. Yes, I preferred McCain, but I also believed it would be all right if Obama were elected (and mind you, in some ways I preferred Obama to McCain; it’s just that in the aggregate, when you totaled it up, I preferred McCain). If Obama were the mindless appeaser that the right likes to claim he is, I would have been wrong in that assessment, because it would be a great tragedy for the nation and the world for the POTUS to be ashamed of his country or hesitant about the role it needs to play. (That’s why, if you go back and view the video of our interview with Obama, you’ll see that was the very first thing I asked him about.)

  24. Kathryn Fenner

    “What this does is reassure me that I was right in my judgment that the presidential election of 2008 was the one and only such election in my lifetime in which the nation could not lose.”

    unless, of course, McCain should be unable to serve his full term and we ended up with Sarah Palin….

  25. Doug Ross

    I read the latest issue of Esquire on a flight today. The cover story is a collection of quotes from the Kennedy brothers (JFK, Robert, Teddy). Some interesting quotes regarding America’s military mission.

    JFK 1961:

    “I must say, in defense of our own country, if the United States had not emphasized the military since 1945, the shape of the globe would be very different than it is today. So that those who feel that we overemphasize it might consider the fate of freedom if we
    had not emphasized it.”

    (this is seems to reflect Brad’s position)

    Robert Kennedy, 1968, on Vietnam:

    “I’d get out of there in any way possible. I think it’s an absolute disaster. I think it is much worse to be there than any other shame or difficulty that one would engender internationally by moving out.

    And so, with whatever kind of apologies and whatever kind of grace I could conjure up, I’d get out of there in six months with all the troops the United States has.”

    (this seems to be Bud’s position)

    Ted Kennedy, 1975

    “The tragedy of 30 years of war and bloodshed is over. Saigon has fallen. The American Embassy is empty and silent. There was never a light at the end of the tunnel.
    There was only a long tunnel,
    made longer by our presence.”

    (ditto)

    Robert McNamamara, Sec’y of Defense, in 2002

    “Vietnam we saw as a function of the cold war. The CIA appraisal
    was and Eisenhower’s appraisal was, that the loss of Vietnam and
    Laos would trigger an extension of communist hegemony across much
    of Southeast Asia. This would weaken the security of the West
    across the world. Therefore, it was necessary to prevent that.
    That’s why we were in Vietnam. It was an incorrect appraisal.

    (Case closed. Will Colin Powell make a similar statement in 2022?)

  26. Brad Warthen

    Yes, you’ve just described why I often think that, had I spent my adulthood in the years prior to JFK’s assassination, I would have been a Democrat rather than an Unpartisan.

    Then, before the party was spoiled by its (late, as in 68 on) Vietnam stance, identity politics and abortion, I could have worn the label. Actually, I could have stuck with it proudly through the Civil Rights Act and such. I think 68 would have been the beginning of the rupture for me, and it would have been complete by 72. In fact, that’s sort of what happened, but since I couldn’t vote until 72, my judgments in that period prior to that were not mature ones, and in any case, I wasn’t paying that much attention then.

    But the Democratic Party of Roosevelt, Truman and JFK — vigorous defenders of democracy and its allies around the world — was one I would have felt at home in.

    I thought it interesting, when I interviewed Ted Sorensen, that he now wants to identify JFK with the much later antiwar movement, insisting that he was intending to pull out of Vietnam — in other words, making him fit the standards of latter-day Democrats. Perhaps he remembers rightly. Or perhaps its his way of protecting the legend, and at the same time remaining loyal to the modern party. I don’t know.

  27. Doug Ross

    FYI, I won’t relay some of the other quotes attributed to Kennedy in some personal letters and conversations — look in Esquire yourself – but let’s just say had we had an Internet and Fox News in 1961, Kennedy never would have been elected. A graphic letter to an Army buddy about time spent with a prostitute would have torpedoed his campaign. As would his dismay expressed in 1960 that his carousing days were over. Made Slick Willie look like Saint Nick.

  28. bud

    In an earlier post we discussed various organizations and how they rated on a morality scale of 1-10. The Nazis were the gold standard for an imoral organization. Brad rated the American military a 9 with nothing else above a 7. The only way to reach such an outrageous conclusion is to cherry pick. I gave it a 5. That is an average score and reflects a balanced view.

    The American military is a mixed blessing or perhaps even a necessary evil. The biggest problem I have with the military today is that it is simply far too big. It’s a bloated, egotistical monster that is far too large for any legitimate mission it may have to deal with. The damn thing is larger than the next 20+ nations COMBINED. The result of this bloated monstrocity is an ongoing need to find wars to fight. This inevetably results in the wacka mole strategy that we have suffered with for 60+ years.

    My solution to this military-industrial complex problem is to shrink the beast to a sensible level that is capable of dealing with legitimate security concerns. Once this is done it will no longer need to scour the world for false threats. Once we do this we can concentrate on bonafide threats to our health and welfare at home. Europe and Japan get along fine with tiny militaries and they have far longer life-expectancies and a better standard of living than we do. I suggest, for starters, a 50% cut in the military budget. Perhaps then we can begin to create a military all of us can be proud of, not just those who walk through the world with blinders on.

    They remind me of the Star Trek episode where the crew of the enterprise went to a planet where everyone blindly followed this character named Landrew. These folks would normally walk around in a type of trance but would occassionaly go on a wild frenzy to let off steam. It’s time for rational thinking when it comes to the military. Otherwise we will forever be condemned to repeating our past mistakes.

  29. Herb B.

    Kathryn,

    I presume you are tongue-in-cheek with your “followers of God” remark? At least you have said that you are familiar with evangelical (or, as I would prefer to call it, Jesus-based) thought, which holds that mankind is not good at its core, but is need of a radical salvation. Calvinist teaching calls it “total depravity,” a term which has been much misunderstood. It does not means that everything a person is or does is as bad as it can be. It does mean that all we are is permeated by a basic godlessness/selfishness that leaves us in need of constant grace.

    Which is why I react, hopefully with plenty of humor, at today’s generation’s use of the expression, “I’m good,” when referring to not being in need of seconds at the food table.

    Humor aside, we need to take seriously Jesus statement that “no one is good but God alone.”

    As for the many “followers of God,” I’m sure you realize that putting faith in some of the “gods” out there is worse than having faith in no god at all. If such a faith exists, which I doubt–I think we all have our idols.

    There is an elephant out in the room that nobody will touch, but I’ll dare to do it, and take the fall for it. One of the main reasons that U.S. influence has been more on the benevolent side is ultimately due to its Christian and Puritan past; a good example of that stream flowing in the American psyche is Abraham Lincoln’s speeches, laced with biblical quotes and thought as they are. The New Testament authors gave us a Gospel that does not support violence, and yet acknowledges the right and necessity of human government, and by extension, the use of force, i.e., the military and capital punishment (in certain cases). Luther got the basic directions right, sort of, in his teaching on the two kingdoms.

    Notice I did not say that the U.S. is, or ever was, a Christian country. This is surely not true, no matter what kind of measurement stick is applied. But it has been profoundly influenced by Christian thinking, moreover by Protestant (sorry, Brad) thinking that has given it, to some extent, a willingness to sacrifice for the good of others, while at the same time a hesitancy to establish an American empire. The pax Americana that followed WWII was not something we sought, but was de facto thrust on us.

    Bud and Doug advocate neo-isolationism. So does Ron Paul, I believe. Nice try, but it won’t work. We can ignore the rest of the world, but the favor will not be returned. For example, we will absolutely need to steer toward some solution in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan is a nuclear power on the verge of melt-down. Humanitarian aid is needed, but it won’t work by itself.

    Yes, we must fight, but fight smart, and fight selectively. It is easier now that Obama is president, because for whatever reasons, the rest of the world hated Bush with a passion. I hope that Obama does not miss the opportunity; he seems to be getting it right.

  30. Doug Ross

    Herb says:

    “Bud and Doug advocate neo-isolationism.”

    Herb, I favor the American GOVERNMENT doing what it was designed to do by the U.S. Constitution. What individual Americans choose to do on a global basis to assist others is perfectly fine.

    It is just as valid to state that the primary motivating factor that drives our recent foreign policy is greed rather than your belief that America is motivated by Christian values. The evidence is there.

    In the debate between “guns or butter”, guns is the winner these days. That doesn’t seem to be a very Christian attitude.

  31. Doug Ross

    And the vast majority of the world’s population falls into two camps:

    “Don’t care what the U.S. does”
    and
    “Don’t like the U.S. for what it does”

    Many Americans have a false sense of global superiority based on the fact that we have nuclear weapons and have a track record of proving we’re willing to use them. My religious beliefs lead me to believe that no Christian God would support dropping massive atomic bombs on innocent people. But that’s just me.

  32. Herb B.

    Hmmm. I can’t find where the U.S. Constitution prohibits the protection of the American people in advancing it’s interests abroad.

    Doug, your statements are chocked full of unhelpful generalizations. The bottom line is that force is sometimes needed. And nowhere did I advocate dropping nuclear weapons on anybody. What I did write was the necessity of dealing with the Pakistan-Afghanistan situation. Believe me, it will not go away just because some of us would like to hide in our homes and SUVs. I never mentioned global superiority based on nuclear weapons, but I did mention the fact that Pakistan is a nuclear power, with all the implications of that if let go unchecked.

    My basic thesis is that man has very evil tendencies, and if unchecked, will cause all manner of destruction. Watchfulness and firmness, while attempting to act with some degeree of humility, would be most helpful.

    I did not say that America is motivated entirely by Christian values. I wrote that this was one stream in the whole, and that America has been influenced by Christian values. There are many other streams that enter, one major one of which is greed, of course (since we are fallen people). But that does not negate the fact that there are some positions that have a better moral basis than others. We don’t have to be perfect in order to undertake some sort of action that results in the betterment of most people.

    And characterizing the “vast majority of the world’s population” into two categories is unhelpful generalizing as well. The actual truth is much more complicated than that. People often have a love-hate relationship with leaders. That is understandable, given the fallen world in which we live. But the ironic thing is that they still want them to lead.

    I want to believe that you are capable of better writing than this.

  33. Herb B.

    Here’s an interesting thread with regard to Dave Brook’s writing on the theology that lies at the basis of Obama’s policy making, including the use of force. Very insightful. Even more insightful is the knee-jerk reaction of many of my fellow evangelicals who are very similar to Doug in their thinking. It is sad that Terry Mattingly had to shut the thread down.

  34. Doug Ross

    They are not mutually exclusive. Shrinking one will shrink the other.

    I’d settle for cutting the military spending by 25% and putting half of that into domestic funding for hunger, jobs, special education and giving the other half back to the people via tax cuts. One less aircraft carrier would feed all the kids who go to bed hungry in this country for a year.

    Then we could do the same thing for useless government programs like the IRS, TSA, SEC, Dept. Of Ed, Farm Subsidies, etc.

  35. Kathryn Fenner

    Burl–Keep your government hands off my military!

    Herb– I am confused–we are not good–only God is good, yet somehow America is better than the rest because it is Christian? Are not Christian Americans ostensibly the reason a Christian America is supposed to be better–i.e., more good?

    “Ye shall know them by their fruits”–I don’t know the modern language versions of it….

  36. Herb B.

    “Better than the rest?” I don’t know, but more benevolent with power than has been the case in world history. It’s all relative, of course.

    The reason for the benevolence? I meant that the one stream of Puritan-Calvinist-revivalist thinking that, with all of its faults, has influenced American behavior with some degree of grace. Grace, as C.S. Lewis noted with great insight, is the one thing that really separates biblical Christianity (not necessarily the aberrations thereof) from all other religious thought.

  37. Herb B.

    Of course, we don’t really need grace if we are good already. It’s only the sick who need a doctor, or as Jesus put it, he didn’t come to call the [self-]righteous to repentance.

  38. Kathryn Fenner

    As a good Lutheran, I was taught that if you have faith (by grace, etc.), it prompts you to do good works–the fruits by which ye shall be known….

    Let’s don’t get into the research that fails to turn up any difference in occurrence of “good behavior” between believers and non-believers—or did we just do that?

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