Let’s play a game. Who can spot the neo-con on stage during the debate in Boca Raton? Therein is the irony.
The third debate happened tonight and the topic was foreign policy. I want to step away from talking about some of the general critiques or strategies (or lack of concrete plans) offered by the candidates to blog about general over-arching foreign policy philosophy.
The term neo-conservative has, by some accounts, been around since the 1930s. The pejorative “neo-con” seemed to slip into the common political vernacular during George W. Bush’s administration. The term is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “A conservative who advocates the assertive promotion of democracy and United States national interest in international affairs including through military means.” (Source: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/neoconservative)
There is little doubt that George W. Bush is the embodiment of neo-conservatism in regard to foreign policy of modern times. Bush called for the spread of democracy throughout the world and frequently linked this idea with national security for America. In his January 31, 2006 State of the Union Speech, Bush said: “Dictatorships shelter terrorists, and feed resentment and radicalism, and seek weapons of mass destruction. Democracies replace resentment with hope, respect the rights of their citizens and their neighbors, and join the fight against terror. Every step toward freedom in the world makes our country safer, and so we will act boldly in freedom’s cause.”
George W. Bush was assailed by many liberals/progressives (and Ron Paul supporters) for a neo-con approach to international affairs. Specifically, the Iraq war was singled out during most of the Bush years and called illegal by some on the left wing.
As we fast forward to the foreign policy debate tonight, there is no question that Governor Mitt Romney shares many of Bush’s ideals and even has similar foreign policy advisors as the 43rd president.
What about President Barack Obama?
Here is the question: what are the major foreign policy distinctions between George W. Bush and Barack Obama? A recap:
-President Obama ordered more than 30,000 troops into Afghanistan in 2009 escalating the war.
-President Obama has attacked Libya (air war only) with no ground troops to remove a dictator with a shaky record on human rights.
-President Obama is waging war in Pakistan, largely through unmanned drones as well as covert operations.
Obama is continuing a Bush-esque policy that involves attacking other countries that are deemed to pose a national security threat. How is this distinctly different from the Bush doctrine?
Now, people may be able to argue that Obama is waging a smarter war or if they are a detractor, that his policies are not effective. However, in a general sense, the point that Bush and Obama have similar ideologies when it comes to foreign policy is not a stretch.
The irony strikes when widespread elements of the mainstream press are largely silent on critiquing Obama’s foreign policy by the same measure that they did President Bush. Troops are still dying in Afghanistan and in other places around the world yet we hear very little about these tragic losses. To be fair, there have been progressives who have spoken out against President Obama for the continuing mid-east wars. One of them can be found here in the Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/09/why-i-refuse-to-vote-for-barack-obama/262861/ Besides a few commentators and pundits, the left wing has been virtually silent on a Democratic president, who like his predecessor, has attacked two Muslim-dominated countries.
In my view, even more disturbing, is that President Obama has started both wars with Libya and Pakistan without Congressional approval in direct conflict with the War Powers Resolution Act of 1973 (read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Powers_Resolution). Ramifications of this could be disasterous giving a president the ability to wage any war he/she would like with little checks or balances to question or offer a counter perspective. Is a group going to hold up a picket sign calling these “illegal wars”?
Regardless of where a person falls on the partisan spectrum, I believe it is vitally important to offer critique and ask hard questions regarding neo-conservative foreign policy. How helpful is the ability to wage pre-emptive war against a nation that has not attacked us? What are the costs of doing so (here we can examine our ever expanding national debt and more importantly, the human lives involved)?
For the follower of Christ, war should involve extremely difficult questions. Are there just wars? Absolutely and Scripture gives us examples. The Bible says there is a time for war and a time for peace (Ecclesiastes 3:8). However, the Bible also says the human beings are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). The famous imago dei applies to all peoples of all countries…everyone who has ever lived. Balancing these truths is an extraordinary task and involves much reflection and strong conviction.