This post originally appeared as a guest post by Parker Hudson at MichaelYoussef.com on December 16, 2013. It is particularly relevant to the fictional story told in Enemy In The Room.
Since I am occasionally critical of our President’s foreign policies, I have recently been asked whether I think that the world was somehow more pristine before 2008. Wasn’t the U.S. actually a worse actor in previous years, caroming around the globe and interfering in other nations’ internal affairs?
My answer is that unfortunately the world is filled with violent people who want to prey on the rest of us.
They are thugs: evil people who use violence or economic punishment to take what is not theirs, or to force others to go along with their actions, no matter how morally abhorrent they may be.
Thugs transcend regional, racial, economic and religious groups. They must be defeated whenever possible, or at least contained.
Domestically, gangs and organized crime syndicates are the two most obvious examples.
But thugs come in all sizes, and sometimes they run large organizations, cities, and even countries. The latter are particularly worrisome, because they add a nation’s police power, the courts, and control of communications to their methods of enforcement.
Thugs don’t care what you think, and they don’t care about rules. Their goal is to take all that they can for their gang, group, tribe, or nation. If you are not a member of the identified group, then you are the target. In extreme cases, thugs believe that non-members are also sub-human, and therefore are targeted for destruction even if no other benefit is to be gained.
The only force which seems to contain thugs is reciprocal violence, or at least the threat of it. I take no joy in this. I wish that it were not so, but it is human reality. If you take a short review of relatively recent history, including Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, the Ku Klux Klan, the IRA, Brezhnev, Rwanda, Kosovo, drug lords, Basher Assad and Islamic jihadists, there is always violence until it is met by an equal or larger violence—or threat of violence—pushing back.
The key here is how much better it is to have the threat of credible violence succeed than it is to actually resort to reciprocal violence itself. It took the latter to defeat the Axis after Chamberlain tried logic and reason with Hitler at Munich in 1938. Much better that the threat of violence alone, maintained at large cost over a long time, ultimately defeated the Soviet Union, with relatively low loss of life and property on both sides.
So, the world was not wonderful before 2008. It has always been and always will be faced with how to contain evil. The method that seems best is to have a very large, potentially quite violent force which can be credibly deployed with great range and flexibility. Rather than expecting to reason with evil, one must walk softly and carry a big stick, which unfortunately has to be deployed occasionally to maintain credibility.
So I am in favor of a strong external defense, rationally thought out to respond to evil threats as they arise, as they always will, in the coming months and years. And, where it appears to help us, arms sales and assistance to those in other countries who are actually doing the hard work.
We should, for example, be assisting and shoring up the generals in Egypt who ousted the radical Islamic president before he could do more harm. How many Germans prayed in Hitler’s early days for their leaders to do the same to him, even though he, too, was elected? Instead we remain aloof in Egypt, demanding perfection from men with the courage to confront the greater evil.
The potential downside with this approach, and the tragedy of George Bush, is deploying this power imperially, simply because it is there. But as terrible as this can be—and it is—the alternate downside of the Chamberlain-at-Munich approach is ultimately much worse. Evil when unchecked grows stronger and in the end does much more damage before it is finally defeated.
My concerns today are the twin problems of a steadily reduced ability to employ power overseas, combined with a lightweight President who lacks credibility as someone who will deploy force if necessary. Every signal he gives is of weakness, intellectual Chamberlain-speak, and hand-holding Kumbaya. His policies flip-flop and wind up making our friends as angry as our foes.
The last months of domestic disaster and disarray point to his complete lack of leadership, as well as his lack of people and management skills. Those weaknesses translate internationally to someone who tends to walk loudly and carry no stick at all, which is a recipe for disaster. With Egypt, Iran, Syria, Germany, Russia, England, Iraq, and Afghanistan, to name a few examples.
Evil loves to move into and fill any vacuum. It is a terrible tragedy if you or your loved ones live in that vacuum.
If in doubt, read Eric Metaxas’ great book on Dietrich Bonheoffer, and the steady rise of the Nazis.
They did not arrive with all of their evil in place on their first day.
They pushed, domestically and internationally, with violence, and no one pushed back. So they kept pushing. Thugs. Today’s thugs have different names, but they are pushing with violence. Sadly, but as importantly as in 1938, we must push back with the same.