"We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debt, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our calling and our creeds...[we will] have no time to think, no means of calling our miss-managers to account but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers... And this is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for [another ]... till the bulk of society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery... And the fore-horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression." ~ Thomas Jefferson
Jihad for Jesus: Faith-Based Imperialism
Can fundamentalist Muslims take over the world?
As we enter the Twenty-first Century, are we witnessing an apocalyptic clash of civilizations?
The answer to both questions is NO.
Recently, I was feeling rather wonkish, and I compiled some data on the economic and military might of the United States relative to that of the Arab and Muslim world. The results were astounding.
The United States economy is six times larger than that of the 18 Arab nations combined. (1) When you factor in the economies of the world's four largest Muslim nations ' Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India ' America's GDP is still three-and-one-half times larger than these 22 nations combined. (2)
The United States military budget is almost six times larger than that of the 18 Arab nations combined. When you factor in the economies of the world's four largest Muslim nations, America's military budget is still over four times larger than these 22 nations combined. (3)
And you still think they can 'rise up,' come to America and 'take over'? If so, I have some oceanfront property in North Dakota to sell you.
Iraq has one-thirteenth of our population, one percent of our economy and one-half of one percent of our military budget. In the 11 years between Gulf War I and Gulf War II, American war planes flew 40,000 missions over Iraq. And Iraq never shot down a single one of them. How can Iraq threaten the entire world when they cannot shoot down an airplane? In 1991, Saddam invaded a country -- Kuwait -- smaller than New Jersey and with fewer people than Utah. Kuwait is not in my Rand McNally; it is not part of America.
In early 2001, Dubya said America would be a 'humble nation.' Since 9-11, however, our mission is one of faith-based imperialism. It is hubris run amok. Like the Blues Brothers, we imagine ourselves on a mission from God waging a jihad for Jesus. We act as if America has some divine appointment to rule the world.
I used to say that Dubya talked like Thomas Jefferson and governed like Ted Kennedy. Then I read his inaugural and State of the Union addresses. Jefferson would have reacted in horror to Dubya's imperialist ambition.
Jefferson, in his first inaugural address, exhorted the young republic to pursue 'peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.' The Founders believed America's commercial and economic relations with other countries should be at a maximum and our political ties should be at a minimum. We had just broken free of Europe and wanted no part in her wars.
In the early 1990s, The Washington Post caused quite a furor when it described Christians as 'uneducated and easily led.' Could Pravda on the Potomac have been right about something? If Christians were truly educated in history and Scripture, they would drop their admiration for Dubya like a hot potato.
In the gospel of Matthew, the devil tempts Jesus twice. Jesus rejects both temptations. Then, obviously frustrated, the devil makes Jesus an offer He most definitely cannot refuse: all the kingdoms of the world. Again, Jesus says 'I don't think so.' (Matthew 4:10) His Kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36)
Recognition in God's Kingdom does not come from amassing power and might. (Matthew 20:25-26) There is enormous contrast between Jesus washing the apostles' feet and the security apparatus at the Bush inaugural a few weeks ago. Consider William Norman Grigg's account of this in the New American.
'As thousands gathered to hear Mr. Bush extol 'freedom' in Washington, D.C., security preparations had transformed the Capitol into what the New York Times called 'a steel cocoon.' Missile launchers defended the skies; manhole covers were welded shut to secure the streets. Militarized police, metal detectors, body searches, and other stigmata of the garrison state were on full display. Performers in the inaugural parade were instructed not to do so much as look directly at the president, lest they be regarded as security threats.'
It was in such an environment that Dubya exhorted us to bring freedom to the world. Dubya talks a lot about freedom, but never defines it. He is a Republican and is thereby immune from all biblical and constitutional scrutiny.
If you live by the sword, you die by the sword. (Matthew 26:52) America does not have a terrorism problem because it is free and pure and good. Contrary to neocon spin, we did not go to bed on September 10, 2001 innocently minding our own business.
When you have troops in 130 countries around the world, you will inevitably have a few people hacked off at you. Because those who are hacked off at us lack the wherewithal to conquer us, they settle for making our lives miserable. Terror is a tactic dating back to the French Revolution. To think you can end terror by means of military adventurism is equivalent to thinking you can teach whales to tap dance.
Indeed, Pat Buchanan has pointed out that terror ends when foreign occupiers go home.
'The dynamiting of the King David Hotel convinced the British to accelerate their departure from Palestine. Zionist terror ended. Mau Mau terror ended when the Brits left Kenya. When De Gaulle cut Algeria loose, FLN terror ended. When Reagan withdrew his Marines from Beirut, anti-American terror ended in Lebanon.
'Lesson? The price of empire is terror. The price of occupation is terror. The price of interventionism is terror.'
Which brings me to another question: where do we get this idea that an American empire will be permanent? Not from the Brits, Greeks, Romans or Soviets. Japan got into the empire business in the early 1930s and bowed out on the deck of the USS Missouri in 1945. Hitler's 1,000-year-Reich came up 988 years short. Spain and Portugal were once world powers. Empires simply do not last.
Like any political hack, Dubya never discusses the cost of his proposals. How much will the already overburdened American taxpayers be willing to shell out? And for how long? And how about the ultimate expenditure: blood?
This last question goes out to all the chicken hawks, couch commandoes and sofa SEALS. Most of the Bush foreign policy brain trust as well as most of Bush's amen corner in the media have never lifted a finger to serve one day in the military.
It is no longer only liberal Democrats who dwell on the motives ' hate, racism, homophobia ' of their adversaries. Republicans now make much sport of denouncing those who oppose their plans as treasonous, anti-American, anti-freedom, pro-terror, anti-God and so forth.
Pride goes before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18) America's dominance will not last forever. Our arrogance will backfire. Indeed, it already has. Consider 9-11, the Iraqi insurgency and the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1979. Let us follow the example of the Swiss, who arm themselves to the teeth in the name of national defense and keep their little meat hooks out of everyone else's business. While wars have raged around them for centuries, no one invades them and they have no terrorism problem.
In the aftermath of 9-11, Dubya declared his intent to 'rid the world of evildoers.' This is perhaps the boldest promise ever made by a politician. No ruler will 'rid the world of evildoers' until Christ returns. As of this writing, this has not happened.
Like Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry, George W. Bush is an elected politician. That's it. He has no superhuman capabilities. To vest as much power in one individual as many contemporary Christians would like to is most un-Christian. Yes, we need to pray for those in authority. But we also need to be discerning. We need to examine the fruit on the tree. Or, if you will, on the Bush.
When I was six years old, I would from time to time parade around the house proclaiming, 'I'M THE RULER OF THE WO-O-O-O-O-ORLD.' When I did this, my mother would quickly remind me that I was not the ruler of the world. God was.
On a much grander scale, Dubya needs to be reminded that he is not the ruler of the world. Dubya's legions of Christian followers need to be reminded likewise. Check out Psalm 2, which tells us that God will rebuke him far more severely than my mom rebuked me.
(1) The 18 Arab countries were Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. My methodology, for want of a better word, was unscientific, but it was not random. While the data was not for 2004, it was among the most recent available. I have no doubt that data for 2004 would have yielded the same conclusions.