Morality and American Foreign Policy
Today I received an email with a column that justifies an amoral approach to American foreign policy. You can read it at http://us4.campaign-archive2.com/?u=74786417f9554984d314d06bd&id=31d24b23ae&e=22cd836b7b
Here is my response..
In order to support our nation’s foreign policy, as it is today, one must support an amoral approach. Kaplan admits as much and then defends it. We should have a problem with that.
While I am quite sure that this country was not founded as a Christian nation or that the Constitution is based on the Bible, it was founded on a moral vision. This is sometimes expressed in the metaphor of a city upon a hill. This expression was coined in a famous sermon by John Winthrop in 1630 and is still used by politicians today. This phrase was derived from the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:14 which says, “You are a light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”) This is the basis of the doctrine of exceptionalism which has become a cornerstone of the political right. I call it hypocrisy. You cannot have a city upon a hill based on amoral principles unless you believe in a doctrine that says we are exceptional in the sense that we can do whatever we want with impunity. This is as unbiblical as you can get. The Bible is consistently hostile to empires and great cities on moral grounds. I know some will deny it but the USA is the current incarnation of a series that started in Sumeria 5000 years ago, each of which saw itself as divinely ordained in one way or another.
Judaism defines the Jewish people as chosen by God, but that is not about being chosen for a lighter moral burden but a heavier one. I recommend the Biblical book of Amos to see this laid out in the 8th century BCE. The book begins with a moral evaluation of Israel’s neighboring nations followed by a moral evaluation of Israel and Judea which basically says that we are held just as accountable for our actions as any other nation. This theme culminates at Amos 9:7 which equates us with Ethiopia. At that time Ethiopia would have been the most distant and exotic of peoples. Every nation must set a high standard of conduct for itself without favoratism or exception. Just to be clear Amos is explicit about part of that being social justice. For that read Amos chapter 5 which includes the verse Martin Luther King is famous for citing – “Let justice flow down like waters and righteousness as an ever-flowing stream.” I could cite plenty more along these lines. Such verses are the Bible I was taught from childhood and which are still the basis of my vision.
When I hear someone saying this nation should be governed by Biblical law and then claims exceptionalism, I see that as nothing but hypocrisy. You cannot have both. Kaplan is among those who say we cannot be guided by morality in our foreign policy so he seems not to be a hypocrite. He has chosen one side of this coin. He is far more honest and honorable than those who claim both faith and exceptionalism. I would also call this pairing of values idolatry because it elevates a nation to divine status.
Lincoln was asked whether God is on our side. His response was that we should worry about being on God’s side. To me that says it all.
From the genocide of the 500 native American nations to the Senate report on torture we have failed to be that city upon a hill. I want my country’s flag to symbolize the highest standards of human and national conduct. It is up to us to work to bring our nation back to that vision. This is what I have been trying to do since I was fourteen years old.