We’re Supporting What?

Over on the evangelical outpost Joe Carter is blogging about the situation in Afghanistan, where Abdul Rahman is awaiting sentencing for converting to Christianity.  Read the full story from Cybercast News Service here.  You can review the Afghan constitution and see just why this is possible.

This story is bringing to people’s attention just what it is that we have wound up supporting in some countries in the middle east.  But what I’m wondering is just what did we expect?  I don’t care how often they declare adherence to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, fundamenatlist Muslims do not, and cannot support these types of rights.  What’s more, they don’t want to.  I want to make it clear here that I’m not making a general attack on Islam.  I do know of moderate Muslims who believe that their faith supports human rights, and who really mean it.  The problem is that in general those are not the people who are in charge of governments in the Middle East.

I’m a veteran of Desert Shield and Desert Storm.  We were stationed in Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to drive (from the UDHR, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this
Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex . . “), and where it was often impractical for the women in our armed forces to drive in the city of Riyadh.  They could do so in the outlying areas, where generally nobody knew.  We complained about the inhumanity of Saddam Hussein’s regime, and I certain make no excuses for his behavior, but in many ways Iraq was the freer society.

I think that many Americans really don’t comprehend just what type of a society Saudi Arabia is, and what type of a country Afghanistan will be under its own government.  We need to realize that what is happening in these countries is not good.  I’m not interested in the actual numbers of Muslims who take which approach to their religion and to politics based on that.  Whenever and wherever one person’s political views result in someone being imprisoned and threatened with death because of his or her beliefs, that’s too radical for me.  We should be angry simply because someone was imprisoned and tried for such a “crime.”

But again, what could we expect?  We move in to impose democracy on these countries, and the majority vote for the these types of governments on a regular basis.  Since we are so determined that democracy is the right way to go for everyone, we are going to be stuck with such conclusions.  I’ve heard people wonder why we got a majority Shi’ite government in Iraq.  Just look at the demographics!  It was bound to happen.  I guess what we really want is democracy, but a democracy in which people vote for what we want them to vote for.

This is the problem with the “sweetness and light” explanation for our military activities “over there” at least since the first gulf war.  I was certainly in no doubt about our purpose over there at that time.  It was simply unthinkable to have Saddam Hussein in charge of that much oil.  But we don’t have the guts to admit that we expended the lives of patriotic young Americans for oil, so instead we invent humanitarian reasons for the fight.  And in the Middle East, it’s pretty easy to find humanitarian reasons why a government should be removed from office.  The problem is finding good reasons to support the one you want to ally yourself with.

If Americans will really look at this closely, I believe we’ll see that we’ve been led down the garden path by the war propaganda.  If we went into Afghanistan to catch Al-Qaeda terrorists, then fine.  We should judge the result based on how many terrorists we caught, and how much terrorist operations were disrupted.  On the other hand if we went into Afghanistan to create a western style democracy and bring human rights to the people, then we would have to judge our results on that basis–and those results would be miserable.

I think we do need to look at militant, fundamentalist Islam as an enemy movement. They want to make us all Muslims. I am concerned also about Christian reconstructionists, though they have not resorted to violence. It is not the religion itself that concerns me, but the willingness to apply force in order to accomplish those religious goals. We need to view this as a war between freedom and oppression, between a secular society in which we are all free to make spiritual choices, and a religious dictatorship. Whatever your faith, I count you a friend if you support my right to make free choices in spiritual matters. I count you an enemy if you think I must be forced into a particular faith. I honestly don’t know whether that’s liberal, conservative or moderate. But I do think it’s right.

(Personally, I think other countries should be permitted to deal with their own affairs. But in these cases, we’re helping them. I don’t think it’s right that we help people violate our most serious values. Let me just add a hint here: If the war aims include “they all lived happily ever after” then you’re probably dealing with a fairy-tale scenario.)

When we go to war, we need to know why. We need to know what we intend to accomplish. We need to judge the results by whether or not we accomplished what we set out to do. That is the only way we can make the expenditure of lives and resources worthwhile, and the only way we, the American people, can judge whether our leaders have been good stewards of those resources. I fully believe that there can be justification for war. There can be good reasons to expend human life in the pursuit of our national and international goals. But when the commodity expended is human lives, then we need to be all the much more careful and honest in judging the stewardship.

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