Neil Remington Abramson is filling in for me today with some more thoughts on the Middle East:
Truthfully, we must choose who we are and will be, but we generally equivocate. Heartless bastards or followers of Christ – perhaps we should choose and become more effective in what we do. Or perhaps it is a mark of our high civilization that we are always restrained. When we wage either war or peace, it is always with one hand tied behind our backs. Or perhaps like Shiva, we have our weapons clenched in two hands, with aid and succor proffered by two other hands.
I wonder if it’s our English heritage? We can’t believe we could be heartless bastards so we tell ourselves that we are Christians, that forgiveness is important – all we hope for is a little repentance (no matter how insincere) – and then we offer reconciliation and rehabilitation. If forced to fight, we hold back, sending planes to drop ineffectual bombs of limited effect, and soldiers to vie with our enemies using the weapons of our enemies’ choice. If we were really effective heartless bastards, we could try out our tactical nuclear weapons to see if they really work. No one would need go into harm’s way and certainly wouldn’t afterwards till after the half-life. ISIS wouldn’t be beheading one of us if we obliterated a city for each pinprick we received.
The Germans knew how to be heartless bastards, as did the Russians. The Germans were so heartless they’ve been repenting ever since. The Russians seem yet not to have had enough.
When we seek to prove we are not heartless bastards by turning the other cheek and just helping those who see us as their enemies, again we do it half-heartedly. Ebola is a good example. Under funded private agencies were left to cope. Only lately has anyone sent soldiers – the USA mainly, of course – while the rest of us stand around hoping to help but not at too great a cost – please – budgets must be balanced and economic growth stimulated so we can afford later to be more generous. We want to help, and be seen to help, as long as it’s enough to say the right things, and the costs of sending stuff isn’t too high. Often we send money that must be spent buying stuff from us, regardless of what might really be needed.
It’s as if our whole culture is schizophrenic; divided simultaneously by good and evil; neither allowed by the other to come to full fruition. We could easily conquer the whole Middle East if we wanted to. Anyone who made the slightest gesture of approbation could be blown away, stealthily by drone, or with great fanfare in “shock and awe.” All we need do – Americans, British, French, Russians, maybe even Israelis – is press one button and all our Middle Eastern problems would disappear. But we can’t do it; won’t do it. It’s inhuman to think this way. Shame on me! Yet napalm is acceptable, and drones that only kill a few at a time. I guess it’s more ethical to only harm a few at a time many times, than many just a few times.
Or, we could have easily spent the $7 trillion used to wage war on Iraq and Afghanistan alone, to bring both countries firmly into middle class security and comfort. Would they have loved us for it if we’d left the running of their countries to themselves, and not battled them as insurgents? Who knows, but the Marshall Plan did make our most implacable enemy – Germany- one of our best friends for half a century and counting. If Middle Easterners really achieved a middle class life, it would be a more effective threat to blow them back into the Stone Age where they may be – mostly – already.
Paul is right. What we want to do is overcome by what we really do. We wish we were forgiving – followers of Christ – but our sin makes us the heartless (but ineffectual) bastards that others see us as. We have set our wills against that of God – hubristically – seeking to replace God in our inconsistent dispensations of justice and mercy. It is our original sin that haunts us, and reduces us to impotence.