Warring Down

June 25, 2013

The last couple of weeks brought bad news to the politicians and pundits hoping for more war(s). Hopefully this trend will continue. Most significantly, a moderate won this month's Iranian presidential election. President-elect Hassan Rouhani should provide a somewhat different approach in both policy and tone than the polarizing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Already Rouhani has expressed hope of reducing tensions between his nation and the U.S. This news - along with other trends like the potential new U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations - suggest a positive opening for more diplomatic efforts. Politicians and pundits who have pushed for more aggressive actions against Iran - like Republican John McCain (who sang "bomb, bomb, Iran" during the 2008 presidential election) - should now struggle to find oxygen for their warring rhetoric. One individual hoping to reframe Rouhani's election in hopes of keeping a potential Iranian war on the table is religious-political activist Ralph Reed. In a tweet last week, Reed claimed:
As for the new preaident [sic], isn't moderate Iranian president an oxymoron given current regime?
Despite the fact that Reed's tweet if factually inaccurate, it raises two ironies. First, the political irony is that Reed and other conservatives supported then-President Ronald Reagan's illegal "Iran-Contra" scheme that involved selling guns to Iran to support the moderate faction in the nation. Yet, now Reed suddenly claims there can be no such moderates, which would further condemn Reagan. Second, the religious irony is that Reed's pro-war tweet shows a real oxymoron: a war-mongering Christian. Fortunately, some conservative Christians voices are rising to challenge the McCain-Reed approach. One even came at a recent event hosted by Reed's religious-political organization (for more on that event, see earlier post here). Senator Rand Paul declared in his speech:
I can recall no utterance of Jesus in favor of war or any acts of aggression. In fact, his message to his disciples was one of non-resistance. I do not believe that means that we don't defend ourselves. I believe individuals and countries can and should defend themselves. But I simply can't imagine Jesus at the head of any army of soldiers and I think as Christians we need to be wary of the doctrine of preemptive war.
This is a witness much needed in conservative evangelical circles. Hopefully Paul's voice will outweigh Reed's (the photo is one I took of Paul in Iowa as he campaigned for his father during the presidential race). In other positive war-and-peace news, the U.S. House of Representatives voted earlier this month to endorse removing the U.S. military from Afghanistan.

Despite these improvements, there is still more that needs to be done. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter joined numerous other humanitarian and religious advocates (including leaders from American Friends Service Committee, Evangelicals for Social Action, and Mennonite Central Committee - U.S. Washington Office) in signing a petition urging U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to exempt peacebuilding efforts from terrorism sanctions. Hopefully the rules will change to encourage more peacebuilding initiatives where they are most needed. Finally, the situation in Syria continues to heat up, with the U.S. moving toward being more militarily involved, even though that is not a good solution. There are non-military ways the U.S. could intervene to help, especially by assisting the growing numbers of refugees.