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Monday, February 24, 2003

Prayer and Fasting-Hour 5-The US Leadership-Wisdom, discernment and humility are the things that are the thing that a good leader needs to have at any time, and especially when they are pondering sending people off to war. Their intelligence people will likely be sending them information on what kind of resistance the Iraqis will put up in a fight and what kind of scorched-earth algorithms the Baathist leadership (it's more than just Saddam) will likely put up. They'll need to take that information, information on the likely development of WMD in the present and in the future and the degradation of life that living under a dictatorship will bring. Miscalculation may cost thousands, if not millions, of lives either way; they will need to pray for wisdom and discernment as to whether they are making the right decisions. Humility is needed as well. Before they "play God" with geopolitics, our leaders need to recognize their humanity and how small they are in the bigger scheme of things. Yet such humility need not lead to impotence; I remember reading Truman's feelings of humility upon taking over the Presidency, yet he swallowed hard and authorized Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I think Dubya is a humble man at the core; beneath the West Texas bluster and the Yale arrogance, there's a guy who recognizes that he's far smaller than God. I'm not as sure about his assistants, but I have a hunch that he'll be on his knees before all this is done. Martin Roth makes an interesting point on the sins of America's past
But the message of Jesus involves much more. Humility, for example. And repentance. My friends, not to mention myself and – I suspect – many, many others around the world would be encouraged were we to see America humbly repent: for its past arming of Saddam Hussein; for its profligate use of oil; for paying billions of dollars to Israel as that country expanded its settlements; for unyielding support of despots in the Middle East and elsewhere.
The last one is the hardest to defend; we need to look at the other thugs in the region as well as Saddam, with the Saudis being first on the list. I don't think God is displeased in general with our support of Israel, but we need to remember than while Israel might be God's chosen people, the Palestinians are people, too. Back in the 80s, we were loosely allied with Iraq, even though the USSR was their primary sugar daddy, as the garden-variety dictatorship of Saddam seemed less threatening than the ayatollahs. I'm not sure how to respond to the "profligate use of oil;" moves to other sources of energy wouldn't be cost efficient and regulating what energy use is profligate would create more harm than it would alleviate. We do need to see what we've done wrong in our foreign policy; however, spending too much time in sackcloth and ashes can cause us to overlook what we've done right. We managed to win the Cold War, extend democracy and free markets to Eastern Europe and help nudge China towards a market economy. We need to understand our mistakes, and to the extent that we personally back them (I'll plead guilty on Iraq in the 80s and on many of the Arab thugs before I saw what evil their rules did) repent of them themselves. However, once that time of reflection and repentance is over, we can consider ourselves forgiven (at least by God, if not the international community) and see what the best course of action is now. If we fail to forgive ourselves, we can fall into a moral equivalency trap and not face down evil when it rears its head.

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