Political Dualism - Mere Christendom
Written by Douglas Wilson
Monday, 17 September 2012
I want to begin by acknowledging what all right-minded observers ought to know by now, which is that Obama's foreign policy approach is a clownfest. And if that is the case, and it is, his Middle East bureau would be the red rubber nose.
It is as if somebody decided to take a mash-up of a Tom Wolfe novel and a Walker Percy novel, get a gifted cartoonist from Marvel or DC, get him on drugs, and then ask him to draw a riveting story of a celebrity president who goes to Vegas in the middle of a Mediterranean meltdown.
In other words, if someone wanted to convince me that the Obama administration is right at the apex of a clueless wickedness, it wouldn't take much convincing. I am pretty much there.
On top of that, it has occurred to me that I have a vested interest in these proceedings. As the author of a book that was burned in Jakarta, as the result of this same kind of blind bigotry, it occurs to me to me that if the Obama administration were ever in need of perp walk photos of me, in order to appease the unappeasable, he would go right ahead and do it anyway. The issue would not be right and wrong. The issue would be what he needed at the moment.
But . . .
Last Friday, Paul Ryan slammed Obama's foreign policy. That's fine. Slam away. We need to be delivered from this serene apotheosis of idiocy. I get that part.
But . . .
A friend put me on to this snippet from Ryan's speech.
"In the days ahead, and in the years ahead, American foreign policy needs moral clarity and firmness of purpose. Only by the confident exercise of American influence are evil and violence overcome. That is how we keep problems from becoming crises. That is what keeps the peace. And that is what we will have in a Romney-Ryan administration."
But I don't think so. The language of those who want to project American power abroad (and not by "leading from behind" or by other means of "soft power") is language that has consistently been messianic. The things that might go without saying in a more righteous generation do not go without saying in ours. America is not the Savior; America is one of the nations of men that must be saved. This kind of language is how political idolatries take root.
Don't get me wrong. I think we should protect our embassies, and I think that our Marines should have actual ammo, and I think that mobs can smell weakness, and I think that what has happened over the course of the last few weeks has been the total collapse of Obama's Cairo speech of a few years back. Moreover, I agree with Ryan that evil and violence should be overcome, and that moral clarity is necessary in order to project that kind of strength.
But moral clarity begins with the recognition that you are not Jesus. Anything else brings in moral obtuseness and the very opposite of "firmness of purpose." When mortal men set themselves up as the lords of earth, things can go swell for a time. When the European powers, at the height of their colonial mojo, walked into the Middle East and drew a bunch of lines on the map that seemed like a good idea at the time, politicians could point at what they had done with pride a few years later, and say that their wisdom was vindicated. The lines were still there. But here we are, a century later, with what might be called an Intractable Problem. Since the men who did it are all dead and gone, we can't vote them out of office.
This is how the gods always fail. They have to fail, and they will do nothing but fail. This is by no stretch of the imagination a sympathetic nod to Obama. Obama is Dagon with the head off. Obama is the crumbling idol. Teddy Roosevelt was the guy with the can and brush when the idol was fresh as new paint.
So the need of the hour is to repent of the hubris that got us here, and not to point with pride to the days when the idol was not quite so teetery.