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Apr
19

Militarism and Easter

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On this Good Friday, Christians are focused on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as a propitiation for the sins of the world. But on every other day of the year (expect perhaps Christmas), many Christians are focused on some other people in the Bible.

The Bible on several occasions likens a Christian to a soldier (Philippians 2:25, 2 Timothy 2:3, Philemon 2). As soldiers, Christians are admonished to “put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11). The Apostle Paul, who himself said: “I have fought a good fight” (2 Timothy 4:7), told a young minister to “war a good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18). Read More→

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vance_war_empire_militaryThis talk was given at the Authors Forum at the 2014 Austrian Economics Research Conference at the Mises Institute.

I would like to thank Joe Salerno, Mark Thornton, and the Mises Institute for allowing me to talk about my newest book. I would like to talk about how the book came about, its relation to some of my other books, and the book’s content, theme, audience, reception, cover, and emphasis. I look at the book as an antidote to military exceptionalism.

War, Empire, and the Military: Essays on the Follies of War and U.S. Foreign Policy (hereafter just War, Empire, and the Military), cannot be fully understood without reference to the companion volume I published last year, War, Christianity, and the State: Essays on the Follies of Christian Militarism (hereafter just War, Christianity, and the State). But these books cannot be fully understood without reference to the one book that preceded them: Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State (hereafter just Christianity and War), the second edition of which was published in 2008 and the first in 2005. This is the book I was encouraged to repudiate and shred when I took delivery from my printer. But even that book cannot be fully understood without reference to a single article titled “Christianity and War” that was published on October 29, 2003, on LewRockwell.com. It was at a conference here at the Mises Institute in 2003 that Lew Rockwell asked me to write something for him on war from an evangelical perspective. And the rest, as they say, is history. Read More→

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settje_faith_and_warDavid E. Settje, Faith and War: How Christians Debated the Cold and Vietnam Wars (NYU Press, 2011), xi + 233 pgs., hardcover, $36.

This informative book reminds us that the divide that has existed between Christians over the issues of war and militarism since World War II has usually been a theological one. I mean this in the sense that Christians with a more liberal theological outlook have generally disdained war and militarism even as their conservative Christian counterparts have generally supported these things. As a conservative Christian, I shake my head in amazement that so many of my brethren have been hoodwinked by the state to support its wars, its military, and its foreign policy, whether in the name of fighting communism or terrorism.

Settje is an associate professor of history at Concordia University Chicago. Faith and War: How Christians Debated the Cold and Vietnam Wars (hereafter Faith and War) is not his only book on this subject. His first foray was the more narrowly focused Lutherans and the Longest War: Adrift on a Sea of Doubt about the Cold and Vietnam Wars (2006).

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Mar
01

Pray for Our Troops

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I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
(1 Timothy 2:1)

While driving recently on Maitland Boulevard in central Florida, I came upon a billboard with a simple message: “Pray for Our Troops.”

Although I am often very critical of the actions of U.S. troops, I do believe—in spite of what people may think—in prayer for our troops. This is because, as evidenced above, the Bible exhorts us to pray for all men, which includes U.S. troops.

The problem is not the idea of praying for the troops, but the usual prayers that are offered on their behalf. When the typical church-going, prayer-saying American Christian sees such a billboard or is enjoined in church to pray for our troops, he generally thinks:

  • Pray that our troops be kept out of harm’s way.
  • Pray that our troops defeat our enemies.
  • Pray that our troops defend our freedoms.
  • Pray that our troops keep us safe.
  • Pray that our troops find terrorists who want to do us harm.
  • Pray that our troops eliminate the threat of al Qaeda.
  • Pray that our troops rid the world of weapons of mass destruction.
  • Pray that our troops spread democracy and freedom.
  • Pray that our troops avenge 9/11.

Some Christians, if they were honest, would pray that our troops’ bombs, bullets, grenades, missiles, and mortars hit their targets. Or if they were really honest, a war prayer for the twenty-first century.

The problem with these prayers is that no thought is ever given to:

  • Where our troops go.
  • Why our troops go.
  • Whether our troops should go.
  • How long our troops should stay.
  • What our troops do when they are there.
  • How much it costs to keep our troops there.
  • How many innocent foreigners die because our troops went.
  • What physical and mental condition our troops will be in when they return.
  • Whether our troops are really defending our freedom.
  • Whether our troops are creating more terrorists because they went.
  • Whether our troops are actually a global force for good.
  • Whether whatever our troops accomplish is worth one drop of American blood.

None of these things matter. We are continually told to pray for the troops, thank the troops, and support the troops—and to do so unconditionally.

But because I have considered these questions about the activities of our troops, and pay attention to what really goes on in the military, I think we should instead:

  • Pray that our troops come home from overseas.
  • Pray that our troops stop fighting foreign wars.
  • Pray that our troops don’t kill foreign civilians.
  • Pray that our troops don’t rape foreign women.
  • Pray that our troops stop invading countries.
  • Pray that our troops stop occupying countries.
  • Pray that our troops get out of the military as soon as they can.
  • Pray that our troops don’t fire their weapons.
  • Pray that our troops don’t sexually assault military personnel.
  • Pray that our troops don’t frequent brothels.
  • Pray that our troops don’t commit suicide.
  • Pray that our troops don’t get addicted to drugs.
  • Pray that our troops stop helping to carry out an evil U.S. foreign policy.
  • Pray that our troops stop making drone strikes.
  • Pray that our troops stop making widows and orphans.
  • Pray that our troops are only used for genuinely defensive purposes.
  • Pray that our troops stop intervening in other countries.
  • Pray that our troops don’t die for a lie, like those who died fighting in Iraq.
  • Pray that our troops don’t die in vain, like those who died fighting in Afghanistan.
  • Pray that our troops think about the morality of their “service.”
  • Pray that our troops refuse to obey immoral orders.
  • Pray that our troops never become troops by saying no to the military recruiter.

One does not have to be religious to see that these prayers are noticeably different from the previous ones. Think about this the next time you see a billboard or church sign that says “Pray for Our Troops.”

Originally published on LewRockwell.com.

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Feb
14

Dismantling the American Empire

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The WikiLeaks revelations have shined a light on the dark nature of U.S. foreign policy, including, as Eric Margolis recently described it: “Washington’s heavy-handed treatment of friends and foes alike, its bullying, use of diplomats as junior-grade spies, narrow-minded views, and snide remarks about world leaders.”

As much as I, an American, hate to say it, U.S. foreign policy is actually much worse. It is aggressive, reckless, belligerent, and meddling. It sanctions the destabilization and overthrow of governments, the assassination of leaders, the destruction of industry and infrastructure, the backing of military coups, death squads, and drug traffickers, and imperialism under the guise of humanitarianism. It supports corrupt and tyrannical governments and brutal sanctions and embargoes. It results in discord, strife, hatred, and terrorism toward the United States.

The question, then, is simply this: Can U.S. foreign policy be fixed? Although I am not very optimistic that it will be, I am more than confident that it can be.

I propose a four-pronged solution from the following perspectives: Founding Fathers, military, congressional, libertarian. In brief, to fix its foreign policy the United States should implement a Jeffersonian foreign policy, adopt Major General Smedley Butler’s Amendment for Peace, follow the advice of Congressman Ron Paul, and do it all within the libertarian framework of philosopher Murray Rothbard.

Thomas Jefferson, our first secretary of state and third president, favored a foreign policy of “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none.” This policy was basically followed until the Spanish-American War of 1898. Here is the simple but profound wisdom of Jefferson:

  • “No one nation has a right to sit in judgment over another.”
  • “We wish not to meddle with the internal affairs of any country, nor with the general affairs of Europe.”
  • “I am for free commerce with all nations, political connection with none, and little or no diplomatic establishment.”

  • “We have produced proofs, from the most enlightened and approved writers on the subject, that a neutral nation must, in all things relating to the war, observe an exact impartiality towards the parties.”

No judgment, no meddling, no political connection, and no partiality: this is a Jeffersonian foreign policy.

U.S. Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler was the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. After leaving the military, he authored the classic work War Is a Racket. Butler proposed an Amendment for Peace to provide an “absolute guarantee to the women of America that their loved ones never would be sent overseas to be needlessly shot down in European or Asiatic or African wars that are no concern of our people.” Here are its three planks:

    1. The removal of members of the land armed forces from within the continental limits of the United States and the Panama Canal Zone for any cause whatsoever is hereby prohibited.

    2. The vessels of the United States Navy, or of the other branches of the armed services, are hereby prohibited from steaming, for any reason whatsoever except on an errand of mercy, more than five hundred miles from our coast.

    3. Aircraft of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps is hereby prohibited from flying, for any reason whatsoever, more than seven hundred and fifty miles beyond the coast of the United States.

Butler also reasoned that because of “our geographical position, it is all but impossible for any foreign power to muster, transport and land sufficient troops on our shores for a successful invasion.” In this he was echoing Jefferson, who recognized that geography was one of the great advantages of the United States: “At such a distance from Europe and with such an ocean between us, we hope to meddle little in its quarrels or combinations. Its peace and its commerce are what we shall court.”

And then there is our modern Jeffersonian in Congress, Rep. Ron Paul, the only consistent voice in Congress from either party for a foreign policy of peace and nonintervention. In a speech on the House floor several months before the invasion of Iraq, Ron Paul made the case for a foreign policy of peace through commerce and nonintervention:

A proper foreign policy of non-intervention is built on friendship with other nations, free trade, and open travel, maximizing the exchanges of goods and services and ideas.

We should avoid entangling alliances and stop meddling in the internal affairs of other nations — no matter how many special interests demand otherwise. The entangling alliances that we should avoid include the complex alliances in the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO.

The basic moral principle underpinning a non-interventionist foreign policy is that of rejecting the initiation of force against others. It is based on non-violence and friendship unless attacked, self-determination, and self-defense while avoiding confrontation, even when we disagree with the way other countries run their affairs. It simply means that we should mind our own business and not be influenced by special interests that have an ax to grind or benefits to gain by controlling our foreign policy. Manipulating our country into conflicts that are none of our business and unrelated to national security provides no benefits to us, while exposing us to great risks financially and militarily.

For the libertarian framework necessary to ensure a foreign policy of peace and nonintervention, we can turn to libertarian political philosopher and theoretician Murray Rothbard:

The primary plank of a libertarian foreign policy program for America must be to call upon the United States to abandon its policy of global interventionism: to withdraw immediately and completely, militarily and politically, from Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, from everywhere. The cry among American libertarians should be for the United States to withdraw now, in every way that involves the U.S. government. The United States should dismantle its bases, withdraw its troops, stop its incessant political meddling, and abolish the CIA. It should also end all foreign aid — which is simply a device to coerce the American taxpayer into subsidizing American exports and favored foreign States, all in the name of “helping the starving peoples of the world.” In short, the United States government should withdraw totally to within its own boundaries and maintain a policy of strict political “isolation” or neutrality everywhere.

The U.S. global empire with its 1,000 foreign military bases and half a million troops and mercenary contractors in three-fourths of the world’s countries must be dismantled. This along with the empire’s spies, covert operations, foreign aid, gargantuan military budgets, abuse and misuse of the military, prison camps, torture, extraordinary renditions, assassinations, nation building, spreading democracy at the point of a gun, jingoism, regime changes, military alliances, security guarantees, and meddling in the affairs of other countries.

U.S. foreign policy can be fixed. The United States would never tolerate another country building a string of bases around North America, stationing thousands of its troops on our soil, enforcing a no-fly zone over American territory, or sending their fleets to patrol off our coasts. How much longer will other countries tolerate these actions by the United States? We have already experienced blowback from the Muslim world for our foreign policy. And how much longer can the United States afford to maintain its empire? It is time for the world’s policeman, fireman, security guard, social worker, and busybody to announce its retirement.

This article is from chapter 7 of Laurence Vance’s War, Empire, and the Military: Essays on the Follies of War and U.S. Foreign Policy, and was originally published at the Future of Freedom Foundation.

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