Friday, February 8, 2008

A Reflection on the "War on Terror"

I find myself increasingly being asked to explain my disapproval of the current war to friends and family.

It's simple really. I'm against war. I know for a fact that war brings with it attendant murder, lies, and intractable problems. The very act of "declaring war" [or in this case "claiming" war without a Constitutional declaration . . . but I digress] . . . the very act of "declaring war" should be so detestable, so debatable, so far from desirable that Christian people ought to treat it like late, third-trimester abortion or the dropping of an atomic bomb on a civilian population.

Abortion, in fact, is the example that I most recently cited in a comment to a friend here on my blog. I share the Church's stance on abortion, but one of the reasons we have pro-life protesters at LDS General Conference is because official Mormon doctrine is not 100% anti-abortion. I suppose you could even call it pro-"choice" but not in any conventional use of the term. The official stance [as I understand it] is that abortion is strongly counseled against - even considered a heinous sin in most cases - but in certain cases such as rape, incest, and where the mother's life is seriously endangered then the counsel is to consider it prayerfully on an specific basis.

I do not believe a declaration of war should be undertaken with any less consideration. Generally in the abortion debates every individual life is given consideration by the kind of people I find at Church . . . but somehow when the topic of war gets debated the whole idea of "the worth of souls" too often gets sidelined, shunned, and forgotten. Worse, it seems that if we find any legitimate-seeming reason for U.S. military action in a foreign country we seem to act as if it means that conventional morality no longer applies to that entire region of the world from that moment and into the forseeable future.

We are not – by any stretch of the imagination – under imminent attack way back here in the U.S. by the specific Iraqi and Afghani rebels who want us out of their countries. Furthermore, however you might feel about our original missions in those two countries, we have long ago abandoned them and replaced them with far-less-respectable, brazenly imperialist goals. In Iraq when Bush declared "Mission Accomplished," the best information I can gather indicates that we should have been honest about it and left. We didn't even have "Al Queda" copycats in the country at that point. In Afghanistan it is increasingly unclear why we should not have followed bin Laden and his enterprise into Pakistan instead of continuing the strange dual objectives of occupying Ahghanistan and propping up the dictator Musharrif who promptly allowed bin Laden what has effectively been permanent sanctuary.

I am greatly troubled that many tenets of our current foreign policy only make sense from the point of view that American Corporate interests (oil, shipping, military-industrial, World Bank investments, etc.) and American Empire (our power, prestige, and control in the world) are the actual driving forces behind our actions and not - as too often claimed by pundits and politicians - the evil boogiemen of 'global jihad'. Our own intelligence services issued a non-classified report this very month citing the great strengthening of Al Queda in particular (in its new stronghold in Pakistan) – and global terrorism generally – precisely because of our current foreign policy. I worry sometimes that the problem isn't that we're not smart enough to fight terrorists any more intelligently; the problem is that for many of the policymakers and politicians [whether they realize it or not – and I opine that the great majority do not realize this] fighting terror isn't even really the goal. And that, to me, is pretty terrifying.

I believe that as citizens we can be more engaged in learning about the 'big picture' of our foreign policy and our decisions to engage conflicts using our military might. I believe that there have never been more opportunities for an informed or an involved electorate. My outlook on these things is anything but bleak, but I do fear that we are not exactly headed the right direction. If anybody has good suggestions for being productively involved I'm very interested.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Some of the Reasons I'm Voting Ron Paul on Super Tuesday

Well, tomorrow's the day. Utah is one of the 24 states voting on "Super Tuesday". I'm voting for Ron Paul despite the fact that Romney is at 84% in Utah in the poll I heard about on the radio this morning. It's too bad the polls become such self-fulfilling prophecies – numbers like that make me wonder if I might as well just give up on the Republican primary altogether but I'm registering my vote for Paul tomorrow regardless.

Paul got less than 8 minutes of the two-hour debate in the last pre-Super-Tuesday Republican debate on CNN but the upside of that is you can hear a lot of Paul condensed to very little time.

Here's the tape [If you really want to get right to the good stuff drag the slider to about 3minutes and 10seconds]:


0-1:20 Paul says our economy is in bad shape. Says we're bankrupting the country and the standard of living is going down especially for the middle class. Talks about fiscal policy and monetary policy and throws out terms that cause people's eyes to glaze which is really too bad since Paul understands these things far better than any other candidate in the running.

1:20-2:00 Paul answers the question about whether it is OK for Schwarzenegger to implement his plan for "greenhouse gasses" by saying that CA should be free to do whatever they like. In typical Paul fashion, however, he overestimates how informed his audience is and mentions in passing that he thinks it's too bad that nobody ever discusses property rights when they talk about pollution. This is an area Paul could really shine since his discussion of pollution is really unorthodox and pragmatic. He believes allowing big corporations to pollute public water, air, and land violates the property rights of those whose land or water gets polluted. This is simple truth, regardless of your political persuasion and yet you don't hear many politicians talking about it. It avoids simply siding with big business (all-too-typical Republican stance) against public health or siding with some indefinable "global village" against the property rights of big businesses (all-too-typical Democratic stance).

At any rate, Paul pushes right past this opportunity to press for what he correctly identifies as a topic that really needs addressing: talking about how silly the "mainstream conventional wisdom" is about conservative or liberal. Even most talk-radio extremists agree that those words get overgeneralized and abused [and apart from this strange notion where it's considered "conservative" now to police the world, Paul is the only traditional "conservative" on the stage]. But Anderson Cooper shuts him down with a lie about a question that addresses "exactly that" "in like 2 minutes or 2 questions." Big surprise -- the question and opportunity to speak on the topic never comes.

2:00-3:00 Paul is glad Huckabee is also making the point that it is absolutely ludicrous that we are borrowing from the Chinese to fund our government largesse. He notes that nobody else is talking about cutting spending (which I think is strange too because I would expect Romney to talk more about it . . . only he can't since he has signed onto this idea of pre-emptive worldwide military strikes which are unimaginably expensive). Paul notes our military expeditions are hitting $1trillion a year (with a lot of it being unbudgeted "emergency" addons during the year each year). He points out that our official foreign policy calls for taxing our people to blow up bridges overseas, then taxing our people to rebuild bridges overseas while all along we're falling behind on checking the aging infrastructure and bridges in our own country because there is simply not enough money to do both.

3:00-3:10 Paul starts a short answer about why he feels Sandra Day O'Connor was not a strict enough Constitutionalist but the CNN moderator Anderson Cooper frankly doesn't care and cuts him off at an awkward point (after less than 5 seconds) to simply turn it over to McCain.

3:10-5:10 Paul's best question and answer of the night. Paul is asked if he agrees with McCain's quote about keeping troops in Iraq for "100 years or more". Paul's answer is the reason I'm praying he's still in the media after tomorrow.

5:10-7:15 Paul's other best answer of the night. Even if you don't agree with him on foreign policy, this is the right answer on the economy. The fact that none of the other Republican candidates is willing to talk about these things is remarkable in my opinion.

7:15-7:55 Paul notes that though he doesn't pretend to know what Ronald Reagan would do that Reagan and he often campaigned for each other from before Reagan finally gained traction within the party. Furthermore, Reagan solidly agreed with [perhaps Paul's most infamous "crazy idea"] Paul that the U.S. needs to return to the gold standard to save the dollar. He backed that claim up with a great Reagan quote about it.