Friday, December 2, 2011

Post #99 - Getting Our Minds -- and Our Facts -- Right

"Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?" (Job 38:2)

We must each learn to question the conventional wisdom; it is that so-called wisdom that has gotten us to where we are now. We each need to find reliable primary sources and trusted analysts who will allow us to evaluate policy options that are proposed. We must pray individually for discernment and make sure that our congregations, our church hierarchies, our communities and our nation are not operating on the basis of flawed – or intentionally slanted – information

James Madison once said (it is inscribed in the Library of Congress building that bears his name): "What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary."

Chuck Hagel
Contrast the rhetoric of toughness, intransigence and threat that has been emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and from Foggy Bottom -- even under Obama/Clinton -- with this nuanced and measured statement from Republican then-congressman Chuck Hagel (he now heads the Atlantic Council) at a University of Nebraska conference on world affairs in February 2007:

"The swirl of Middle East history creates layers upon layers of complexity…That is a reality that is inescapable and cannot be assumed away. To ignore this reality is to risk being trapped by false choices – false choices such as the question, “which is worse – Iran with nuclear weapons or war with Iran?”
"These are not our only choices...Diplomatic initiatives, UN mandates, regional cooperation, security frameworks and economic incentives are part of the mix of international possibilities that must be employed to comprehensively address the challenges of the Middle East.
"We will fail to protect and advance America’s interests – in the Middle East and around the world – if we allow ourselves to be trapped in a self-constructed world based not on reality but on flawed assumptions and flawed judgment…
"Our understanding of Iran is limited and incomplete. We have not had formal diplomatic relations with Iran for nearly three decades. Diplomatic contact at all levels is severely limited...Economic ties remain essentially severed as well. There is deep distrust and suspicion on both sides regarding intentions and motivations.

Dr. Robert Michael Gates
Hagel went to quote a report on Iran (Council on Foreign Relations, 2004) co-authored by former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and the current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, (who was arguably the most knowledgeable member of this re-tooled administration regarding Iran), which concluded: “It is in the interests of the United States to engage selectively with Iran to promote regional stability, dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons, preserve reliable energy supplies, reduce the threat of terror, and address the ‘democracy deficit’ that pervades the Middle East as a whole.”  When he said "engage selectively," Hagel did NOT mean military engagement.

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