Here’s Ron Paul earlier today on CNN. He makes some very good points (e.g. it’s congress, not the president, who declares war or does not declare war), but his answers to the questions about interventionism reminded me of my doubts about his foreign policy. I still think his foreign policy is better than anyone else’s in the race, but I’m not sure about his stance that the U.S. should only declare war if our national security is directly threatened.

This is an issue I’ve gone back and forth on. Here’s what I’ve wrestled with:

  1. The only legitimate use of force is for defense. Ever. In the middle of a war, sometimes you need to go on the offensive and attack an enemy in a battle; but the war itself is only just if it’s for defense.
  2. This means that any “pre-emptive strike,” no matter how intimidating a nation’s forces are, even if they have nuclear weapons, is wrong. Doesn’t this principle make the world a more dangerous place for us? In some ways, yes: if we never strike first, there’s always a chance we’ll be taken off guard. But consider the alternative: if pre-emptive strikes are internationally recognized as allowable, then any nation can attack any other on the grounds that they feel threatened. Iran could attack the U.S. because we have nuclear weapons and people in our government have called for an attack on Iran. Besides that, it’s simply morally wrong to attack someone who has not attacked you. Period.
  3. But what if one nation other than the U.S. attacks another nation other than the U.S.? This is where it gets tricky. There are a few points to consider:
    a. Perhaps the primary argument against defending another country from attack is that it is not what our soldiers      signed up to do. And it is completely legitimate for a soldier to sign up for the U.S. military from a love for defending his country and not want to get involved in other areas.
    b. On the other hand, there are certain times when it is clear that one country invading another is completely in the wrong, and it seems that in these situations there should be some kind of military response from the international community.
    c. Still, these situations are hardly ever completely clear. More often than not, war is over a “disputed” territory; and even if we favor one side over the other, I’m leery of the idea that U.S. soldiers should be asked to fight in any conflict that they might disagree with, particularly if it has little to do with defending the U.S.
  4. So what’s the solution? Does the U.S. have an obligation to step in and defend weak nations against attack from stronger nations? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t want to write it off simply because it doesn’t serve our interest. I suppose it’s ludicrous to think you could have “optional” wars, where soldiers don’t have to participate if they don’t want to, but that would at least make it so soldiers who signed up to defend the U.S. wouldn’t have to fight for something they weren’t willing to die for. The only other solution I can think of would be an international “police force” sort of army that people sign up for – but the dangers of this are fairly obvious, aside from the fact that it would be hard to recruit people who would rather police the world than defend their own country, and the fact that it would be impossible to pay for without asking for tax money from many countries.
  5. So, in conclusion, I guess I don’t necessarily disagree with Paul – I really haven’t made up my own mind on the issue yet. There is just something that strikes me as wrong about having the most powerful military in the world stand by as one country flagrantly violates the sovereignty of another. I can’t think of an easy solution, but I think there must be a better one than to ignore anything other than a direct attack on the U.S.

Ron Paul

I posted these entries on livejournal earlier.  I’m posting them here now.  Enjoy.

12:30 am Ron Paul

So, I watched the Republican debates earlier tonight, but I missed what might have been the most important part (at least from my point of view).  Luckily, the post-show talked about it over and over again, and then I found it on youtube.  What I missed was Ron Paul, who is basically a libertarian, saying that our foreign policy and our actions in the middle east were partly responsible for 9/11.  Giuliani immediately jumped on this and demanded a retraction, which the crowd cheered (and the crowd cheered only one or two other times during the debate).  Here’s the clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sk334TbliaY.

Right now I’m really, really frustrated.  I’m partly frustrated because I wish Ron Paul had said something like, “Listen, there’s no excuse for terrorism, and 9/11 was obviously a terrible, terrible thing; all I’m saying is that our presence in the Arab world is something cited time and again by Al Quaeda as the reasons for attacks on Americans.”  I think he meant that, but it did come across a little like he was saying we deserved it, and of course that was twisted and spun to make him sound like an anti-American demon.

And that’s what really bothers me.  That someone cannot even speak the truth about this issue without being implicity accused of hating America and loving terrorists.  I’ve read the Al Qaeda manifestos, I’ve asked Greg Rose what they object to about America, I’ve studied it, and I’ve come to the conclusion that Ron Paul is right: Islamist terrorists attacked us and continue to target Americans because they occupy Arab lands and support governments that they hate.  Now, whether we should support those governments is another issue; but the very clear facts are that all the calls for “jihad” against Americans list their involvement in Arab affairs as the primary reason.

Ron Paul had some really good things to say in his post-debate interview; I’ll put up a link to it as soon as I can find it on youtube.  I don’t agree with him on everything, but Ron Paul seems to be the only candidate in the race whose understanding of foreign affairs is remotely based on reality.  He’ll get my vote in the primary.

 1:24 am Ron Paul: Post-Debate Interview
Here’s the interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEZO7MPxJIs.  I think he expresses his position more clearly here.

Like I said in the last post, I do disagree with him about some things.  For example, his comment about us being in “their” holy land is partly true and partly not: the Saudi government allowed the U.S. to build bases there, and so the U.S. wasn’t forcing itself on Saudi Arabia any more than the Saudi government does.  As much as Islamists would like Saudi Arabia to be under their control, it isn’t, and that’s a good thing.

But we still shouldn’t be building bases and trying to prop up regimes that we think may be friendly to us.  Maybe in extreme circumstances when it was obvious that international law had been broken – when one country is attacking another, for example, as with Iraq and Kuwait – it’s ok for us to send troops; but beyond these cases I don’t think we have any right to try to run the governments of other nations.  Again, I think I disagree with Ron Paul on this – I think he might say we should NEVER get in any war other than to defend ourselves – but his position is much, much closer to mine than any of the other candidates.

In chapel yesterday, Dean Carswell talked a little bit about the killer at Virginia Tech.  He talked about the ways that letting resentment and anger boil inside of you can take you to a point where you explode, and about the desire to control other people and to “fix” what’s wrong with them.  It got me thinking about how a person could get to that point.

 First, a caveat: it’s possible that the killer, Cho Seung-Hui, had severe mental illnesses that he could not control.  No one can judge whether he will go to heaven or hell, as tempting as that might be.  But even if he was acting from a natural insanity, his natural insanity gives a saddening reflection spiritual insanity – i.e. evil.

 In his insanity, Cho seems to have believed that he was exercising justice.  He believed he was taking “just revenge” on the rich kids for their expensive and hedonistic lives.  Evil thinks that revenge and hatred are synonymous with justice.  Arcana Coelestia n. 1079 says,

Where there is no charity, there is the love of self, and therefore hatred against all who do not favor self.  Consequently such persons see in the neighbor only what is evil, and if they see anything good, they either perceive it as nothing, or put a bad interpretation upon it.  It is just the other way with those who are in charity.  By this difference these two kinds of people are distinguished from one another, especially when they come into the other life; for then with those who are in no charity, the feeling of hatred shines forth from every single thing; they desire to examine everyone, and even to judge him; nor do they desire anything more than to find out what is evil, constantly cherishing the disposition to condemn, punish, and torment. But they who are in charity scarcely see the evil of another, but observe all his goods and truths, and put a good interpretation on what is evil and false. Such are all the angels, which they have from the Lord, who bends all evil into good.

I don’t think many of us are where the angels are; but it isn’t until you see something like what happened at Virginia Tech that you really see how heinous the other point of view is.

 And although it certainly wasn’t his intention, it’s fascinating to me that Cho wrote “Ismail Ax” on his arm and “A. Ishmael” on the package he sent to NBC in light of what Arcana Coelestia says about the spiritual meaning of Ishmael in n. 1949:

[Ishmael signifies rational truth apart from good]. It seems incredible that rational truth when separated from good should be of such a character, neither should I have known this to be the case unless I had been instructed by living experience. Whether you say rational truth; or the man whose rational is of this kind, amounts to the same. The man whose rational is of such a character that he is solely in truth – even though it be the truth of faith – and who is not at the same time in the good of charity, is altogether of such a character. He is a morose man, will bear nothing, is against all, regards everybody as being in falsity, is ready to rebuke, to chastise, and to punish; has no pity, and does not apply or adapt himself to others and study to bend their minds; for he looks at everything from truth, and at nothing from good. Hence it is that Ishmael was driven out, and afterwards dwelt in the wilderness, and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt (Gen. 21:9-21); all of which things are representative of one who is endowed with such a rational.

Cho seems to have been in this state to the extreme.  He spent all his time alone, not talking to anyone; perhaps he spent lots of time studying or reading – he certainly wrote a lot.  I don’t know whether his insanity was a result of this or its cause or some of both; but its clear to me that it is related.

The really frightening thing, a thing that’s hard to admit, is that to a small extent I can relate to him.  I’ve been in states before where I spent most of my time alone, reading the Word and the Writings, writing a lot, trying to shut people out because I thought everyone was evil.  It wasn’t nearly to the same extent, but it was insanity.  And I think one of the good things we can draw out of a tragedy like this is to see what happens when this insanity is taken to its extreme and shows itself for what it really is – hell on earth.

 Finally, and I think this is important to notice, Cho compared himself to Jesus.  It shouldn’t come as any surprise that someone so possessed of evil spirits as Cho seems to have been would profane something so holy.  This isn’t going to convince anyone who doesn’t believe in the Lord that evil and profanity are connected; but to those who do, it’s an illustration of the truth so often mentioned in the Word and the Writings that evil spirits love nothing more than to attack what is from the Lord.  Not that Cho knew that, and maybe he wasn’t even conscious that it was happening; but the evil spirits that were infesting him, whether it was in a physical malady or spiritual insanity, clearly showed their faces in his profanity.

My natural inclination is to want to feel anger at Cho; but I think the right thing to try to do is feel pity.  Maybe that seems wrong when there are so many families and friends suffering from his actions.  But his actions didn’t spring from himself.  He was attacked and waylaid by evil spirits, poisoned with revenge and hatred, his connection to other human beings completely cut off.  His life was miserable, and it may continue to be miserable to eternity.  Why would anyone choose that?  I don’t know.  I can only hope that there was something wrong with his brain, that when he wakes up in the other world he will open up his eyes and be able to see and think clearly for the first time, that he will learn what it is to be human, that he will learn to love the Lord, and that he will leave his demented physical brain behind and live a life in heaven as a blessing to others instead of a curse.  It’s hard for me to hope that, but to wish him any evil would be to fall prey to a lesser degree of the same insanity that led him to do what he did.

About Me

Welcome to my new blog, A Theolog’s Tale.  My name is Coleman.  I’m a student at the Academy of the New Church Theological School – a theolog.  I hope one day to be a minister and teacher in the New Church.  This blog will contain my reflections on religion, school, and life in general.  Enjoy!