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No Left Turns

Religion and American politics

There’s a lot of interest in the subject on the Left. An entire issue of Mother Jones is devoted to examining various aspects of conservative religion. (I’ll comment on some of the articles in the coming days.) Then there are these two websites.

Finally, John Judis has an article in Dissent focusing on religion and U.S. foreign policy. One of the interesting elements in the article is the shift from blaming U.S. foreign policy on (Jewish) neoconservatives to attributing it to Christian millenialism. Turns out that Paul Wolfowitz has drunk deeply from the same well that has refreshed Protestant millenialists through the ages. The conclusion also is interesting:

Americans who want to influence our foreign policy have to recognize the existence of a guiding framework inherited from Protestant millennialism. And that certainly includes critics of George W. Bush. Bush’s belief that America has a “mission” or a “calling” from the “Maker of Heaven” to spread freedom around the world puts him in a mainstream of American foreign policy. Yet the critics who point to the influence of the role of religion in Bush’s foreign policy still have a point. What sets this president off from some of his more illustrious predecessors is that in making foreign policy—a task that requires an empirical assessment of means and ends—he has been guided both by the objectives of Protestant millennialism and by the mentality it has spawned. That has made for some stirring oratory, but it has detracted from a clear understanding of the challenges facing the United States. Indeed, it has laid the basis for the greatest American foreign policy disaster since the war in Vietnam.

Earlier, Judis compares and contrasts American millenial foreign policy with earlier European counterparts, who were chastened by failure and subsequently became realistic in a way that he approves of. Does he wish for similar failures on our part? Indeed, whatever the merits of his historical analysis, it’s very clear that his account of the present situation is marked by a kind of death wish for American policy. Everything is bleak; nothing good has happened. This strikes me as at least as unrealistic as the position he attributes to his adversaries.

Hat tip:
Real Clear Politics.

Discussions - 9 Comments

"...blaming U.S. foreign policy on (Jewish) neoconservatives..."

Alright, enough already with that tired, ridiculous claim that when anyone critiques neocons they are actually speaking in anti-semitic code!

It’s nothing more than a cheap and easy rhetorical tool to smear neocons’ opponents. This is the best short demolition of the neocon = Jewish line. There are many other non-Jewish neocons that he could’ve added to the list, but his point holds regardless.

O.K., fair enough. Not all opponents of neo-conservatism make the mistake of assuming that all neo-conservatives are Jews. But my larger point remains: Judis has shifted the ground of the critique from complaining about a certain kind of neo-conservative imperialist Realpolitik to criticizing a certain kind of Christian or pseudo-Christian millenarianism. Wolfowitz was taken as a representative of the one; now he’s taken as a representative of the other. Is the Bush Administration too coldly calculating--the original critique--or not coldly calculating enough--the new critique?

Will that be pre- or post-millennialism? It affects the meaning of all that follows. Avoiding that confusion might reveal a dearth of all millennialism. Oops!

Not sure where to make this tributte so I’ll just do it on this thread but I felt it had to be said. A great actor has passed away and acsended to Heaven today and that man is Noricyuchi "PAT" Morita. Or as you might probably konw him Mr. Miyahgi. I can still remember the first time I saw the Karate Kid part I in the movietheater. I was in the 8th grade and it just made the bigest impression upon me and I signed up for Karate that very week. So I say Wax on, wax off old freind. And God Bless you.

Vietnam gives it all away. Vietnam became a "disaster" thanks to leftwing defeatism--the heavily Democratic "Watergate" Congress elected in 1974 (something for which Nixon is of course partly to blame), acting out of spite against the war effort, pulled the rug out from under the South Vietnamese, denying them the US aid and supports which they needed to defend themselves from the North Vietnamese Army’s armored onslaught. In his heart, I think Judis speaks for a similar kind of leftist defeatism that almost, inchoately wants to see us fail in Iraq, essentially so the left can spite its "real" enemies: American conservatives and the Republican Party. I’m not sure I’d go as far as saying that Judis and his ilk positively and consciously wish for American defeat, it’s more like they’re just culpably indifferent to our success, think in the back of their minds that they stand to benefit politically from our failure (this deep-seated assumption helps to explain why Leftists remain so bemused by Vietnam), and have an overwhelming impulse to endlessly badmouth the whole enterprise. There are some constructive critics on the left, I admit, but they are few on the ground. The overwhelming majority are just bleating defeatists, nothing more.

You know what would make this blog one of the best political blogs on the web?

It would be great if you guys could come up with a list of definitions/detailed explanations for political terms. For example: Define Neocon, define: Originialist, define: positivist, Define: Liberal Democracy...Constitutional Republic...millennialism....Capitalism....socialism...basically there is hardly a term that could be used that isn’t so overused/underused that it doesn’t deserve, nay require a definition for clarification sake. Otherwise one is left with the overwhelming feeling that ranting occurs much too frequently over strawmen.

John - there are a multitude of good reference sources to check for definitions of these terms. Why should No Left Turns give us redundancy?

Fat Mike - Your tribute was well put. He was a great actor and a great man. I think he even became an American citizen, much to his credit. Indeed - wax on, wax off!

John Lewis:

Please provide precise definitions to help us understand exactly what you mean when you use words such as "ranting," "overwhelming," "feeling," "frequently," and "strawmen."

You might tell me these terms are easily looked up, but don’t I have the right to be at least as lazy as you? So c’mon, spoon-feed us those definitions already! Or if you want to take the position that it’s "just obvious" what you mean--well, there’s your answer!

John Lewis’s suggestion was perfectly valid for a blog on government and public affairs. Your criticism is misplaced and rude.

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