Friday, November 19, 2004

The Land of the Combat Vet and the $500 house.

Here is something that caught my eye; Bosnian troops are to go Iraq. Two things to note; The unit will be made up of Bosniaks (in other words Muslims) and troops from Republika Srpska (Serbs), which shows things may be working out in that fine country. Secondly, it will be the first time Muslim soldiers will be deployed as part of the coalition.

Their pay should go far when they get back; it seems it's possible to buy a house in Bosnia for $500! I hadn't heard of this town (not as silly as it sounds; I cycled across Bosnia last year) so I checked the map. It is only about ten miles from the adriatic coast and Dubrovnik, which is surely one the most beautiful towns in Europe.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Balancing Acts

It seems I have lit a fire of controversy. Or at least a match of controversy. My original post, Unbalanced Power , raised a few comments.

Brad introduced the concept of 'Manifest Destiny' saying, "This doctrine states that the nation has been called by God to promote certain values."

Commenting on Hey, Someone reads this stuff!, Mark countered that with; "The concept of manifest destiny has, in my opinion at least, been pretty much out of favor for the last 75 years." and; "[Americans] want to be left alone mostly but we also want to do the right thing."

I quoted him in Hey, Someone Thinks about this Stuff! , then Brad parried with "[T]he concept of manifest destiny is like a hidden program that is running in the background. Most people are unaware of it but it is a part of the psyche."

Now a reply from Mark;

  • Manifest Destiny has a fairly set meaning that was tied to a fairly specific time in history.

    In any event, it had to do with the sense in the US in the 1800s that the US should take over North America and instil democracy. At the time it was first conceived, over 1/2 of what is currently the US "belonged" either to other countries (Spain mostly) or was "wild" in the sense that Native Americans possessed it. It was a philosophy of conquest.

    Contra the US actions today. They are defensive in nature and we don't care to stay there. If some concept of Manifest Destiny were behind the actions in Iraq, then we'd keep Iraq. Instead, we hope to leave someday.

    By saying that most Americans want to be left alone, I didn't mean it in the sense that we are isolationist (although there are isolationists here); rather, I meant it in the sense that most Americans would prefer not to get tangled up in international issues, such as war etc. We're no longer naive enough to believe that we can avoid the rest of the world's problems, but we'd like to.

    In any event, we're all in it together and Americans are well aware of this.

    We're not out to conquer the world, though, despite what many would have you believe."
My comment; I don't expect America to suddenly start a series of blatant wars of conquest, and I'm sorry if I gave that impression. Instead, what is concerning me, and many others outside America, is an aggressive projection of American interests. Especially if national interests are seen as being somehow altruistic. I'll refer back to the PNAC's Statement of Principles where it says, "We cannot safely avoid the responsibilities of global leadership" (my emphasis). This something that Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld and a host of other Republican luminaries have put their names to. I'm sure many American people don't want to get entangled with international issues, but their elected representatives seem to think it is their right and duty to interfere. When it is a country with by far the most money and the biggest military, and the country with a voracious appetite for natural resources, alarm bells start to ring.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Tony Bush

Do you think Bush and Blair have the same swaggering coach? They both walk like East End gangsters who are on home tuff. I keep expecting to see a blacked-out Range Rover in the background, loaded with dark suited heavies packing Uzi's.

They are an odd couple, on the surface. Blair, the sophisticated urban lawyer and Bush, the cowboy booted Texan rancher. When you look at Blair's political history, you get some more surprises. Tony Blair claimed to be a Socialist, and the Labour party was far more to the left then the American Democratic party is now. Even now, Blair's voting record is decidedly liberal.

So why the closeness? It may be partly due to Blair's political intentions (whatever they may be!). He has been consistently pragmatic in his political dealings and has always steered away from ideological tendencies. Tony Blair does see himself as a bridge between America and Europe, a rift that the President does seem to want to end. It could be that Blair thinks he will have a stronger position in Europe, and be able to lever out concessions from the EU on behalf of the British people, who are dubious about further EU integration.

But the most intriguing element to their relationship is their shared religious beliefs. Supposedly they are to only two World leaders with a Bible next to their beds. Bush's belief is well known. Tony Blair's is more muted, but almost everyone believes it's there. So what is the truth? Are they simply two believers? Are their stated beliefs just cycnical attempts to win votes? Does one, or both of them, have some sort of heretical theocratic/political ideology, that is being let loose on the World? It's something that I'd like to look into some more.

Friday, November 12, 2004

West Winging It

Just watching The West Wing. Boy, amazing dialogue. I wish I could write dialogue that. But then I suppose that if I could I wouldn't be living in a small flat in Lowestoft, I would be living in... I wonder what sort of home West Wing script writers live in?

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Armistice Day

Today is Armistice Day in the UK. It is a day where Britons remember those who died in the great war of 1914-1918. We also remember all those servicemen who died in active service since then. There is a lot to remember; there is only one year since WW2 , 1968, when a British serviceman has not died in active service.

This year's was poignant. There was a major gesture; a Dakota 'plane dropped millions of poppies on the river thames. But also we remembered those who died, and those who are dying, in the current Gulf situation.

The British people are very aware that their brave soldiers are risking their lives in a situation which is not of their choosing. We are proud of our servicemen, but are dubious as the too the morality of the action they are taking.

Americans should be aware of the sacrifices of professional soldiers like the Black Watch, and how their families view their deployment.


Just watching the excellent Channel 4 news with dramatic footage of American marines in Fallujah. Whoaa... I think I can understand what those guys are going through. I've sort of been there, I was in a patrol that was fired at by a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG). The RPG missed by such a long way we didn't at first think it was aimed at us. But this was the night when Muqtada Al Sadr incited shi'ites to rise up against the coalition. We went from a happy city, pleased to have us, to a city where the gunfire and RPG's were everywhere. I will never, ever, forget being on the back of that Land-Rover, 60 mph through the pot-holed streets of Basra whilst I somehow kept the sights of my rifle focused on the suddenly threatening roof-tops, ready to drop anybody who could take a pot shot at us.

But this is mild stuff compared to actual combat. Those guys in Fallujah will be have their nerves strung out like piano wires, they will have to control a series of emotions crowding in on them. But they will have to subjugate those emotions to carry out the job. They may allow themselves to feel excitement at doing their jobs at the time, but afterwards, perhaps for years afterwards, they will recollect the weariness, the grief and the fear.

Whatever I say about the politicians, or even the military tactics, I can have nothing but respect for the guys who do it.

Hey, someone thinks about this stuff!

My visits to Statcounter do reveal that whilst not many folks come to this 'site (yet!), those that do stay to read it. Folks also keep coming back and many have left a comment. So it's encouraging to think that I'm stirring the debate a bit.

This from Sidespot on Hey, someone reads this stuff!;

  • "[T]he concept of manifest destiny has, in my opinion at least, been pretty much out of favor for the last 75 years. Yes, it was formative for a time, but it had a short run. I would say WWII put an end to it.The truth about Americans: We want to be left alone mostly but we also want to do the right thing. We can debate about whether we actually do the right thing, but generally our motives for what we do are good motives. Most Americans, though, really just want to go to work and come home and be with their family."

This would be true of anyone from any nation and I have the utmost respect for anyone who works hard to look after their family. The problem is that wealthy countries are not self sufficient. Government and business have to interact with other nations in order to meet the demands of their electorate and consumers. For government, that means a foreign policy and in a democracy it is us, the folks just trying to live our lives, who give a mandate for that foreign policy. I believe as Christians it is our duty to live with consideration for all those for whom our decisions effect, to love our neighbor's. In a wealthy democracy that's hard; our votes and our purchases effect so many people we can't see. This is what I was trying to get at in my first post on this blog.

When it comes to the 'Manifest Destiny' ideology, OK, I'm sure that combination of words is not often used. But surely you can see similarities to it with some of the statements made by president Bush and co? It makes the rest of the World deeply uneasy to see the World's only super-power gear up for an 'aggressive' foreign policy whilst it's population seem much more preoccupied with domestic issues.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Hey, someone reads this stuff!

The last post generated a couple of very intelligent responses. This from Brad;

  • [I]f you want to begin to understand the American psyche you have to familiarize yourself with the concept of "manifest destiny" [my link]-- which played such an important role in the formation of our country. This doctrine states that the nation has been called by God to promote certain values -- and ongoing expansion is the only way it happens (an activism). A related theme can be seen in the English Puritans who settled here in the 16th century. They saw America as the "city on a hill" (Matt. 5:14) which would be a light to the world. There is still some of that thinking embedded in the culture. This is especially the case with the Americans who want to take God seriously.In GB you had a similar concept that drove colonization and the Commonwealth. The difference is that you've abandoned the colonization ideals but WE WERE a colony and we developed a more intense grassroots variation of the theme. It was an idea owned by the people rather than the aristocracy."

I've heard people preach on manifest destiny over here, but only as it applies to the Church. I've come to view patriotism and nationalism as highly dangerous, as I've mentioned before, especially when combined with religious sentiment. The comparison with the British Empire is a good one, but for a different reason. Whilst missionaries were highly active, and many colonialists had more vague notions of bringing God to the heathen, the real driving force behind British colonialism was to annex resources for the Empire. It was business interests that led the way. The builders of the British empire were Cecil Rhodes and the East India Company. Christianity became a means of moralising the conquests, but greed was the driving force. And it looks like the same thing is happening today. Who is representing 'God's Country' in Iraq today? Christian missionaries or Halliburton?

It's about time!

This is probably what we should have been doing instead of invading Iraq. For the saving of life, for the suppression of cruel tyrants and, yes, for the War on Terror. Also see The Passion for the Present.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Unbalanced Power

I've been educating myself about the various strains of thought in America. The Project for the New American Century is probably well known to folks over there, but isn't something that regularly crops up on the media radar this side of the pond. Well, it looks to me that are the people ruling your country. But it doesn't look like that's enough for them, it appears they want to rule the World. The message they give out appears a little confused. They appear to be saying America is the only nation able to act as a global force for good, but put this in their Statement of principles; "we need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles. " (my emphasis). So which is it? America acting in it's own interests, or in those of the World? At the PNAC they appear to think that whatever is in America's interest is the interest of the rest of the World. How on earth do they make this logical leap? History is all about competing interests. In the past imperial power has been able to maintain a kind of order in the World; the people living under the Pax Romana were arguably better off than their barbarian forbears. But the the people who fought and died in the imperial wars of conquest most certainly were not. Exactly this kind of thinking is going on Iraq; OK, we've killed a few thousand folk but the ones who survive will be a lot better off. Oh yes, another thing about successful empires; they write their own histories.

Where do American Christian voters come into this? Well, they seem to have just voted for this ideology. Accept they didn't of course, they voted against abortion and gay marriage. It's just that the party who promised to deal with these issues also has this other agenda. And would I be right in saying that many American Christian voters don't really comprehend the implications of foreign policy? Domestic issues are much more readily understood.

Here is something to think about; does a polititian have to believe in his own policy? If people want to vote for moral issues, yeah, sure, put them on the statute books. What is there to lose? If it means they can implement a more obscure agenda, so be it. It doesn't mean they are at all Godly in their principles. The Project for a New American Century doesn't mention God in it's principles at all.