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The historic wisdom tradition played a vital role in the nations of the Ancient Near East, helping diplomats and ambassadors in their efforts to seek peaceable resolutions to adversarial relations, approaching hostilities, conflict, or war. Unfortunately, the wisdom tradition’s connection to diplomacy has pretty much been lost to us today. It is a missing dimension in our contemporary understanding of the resources the tradition provides. Instead, world leaders and their foreign policy advisers often rely on rigid adherence to political ideologies for analyzing international events and responding to them.
Here are a few thoughts about the importance of recovering the wisdom tradition for international relations today.
Several months ago I spent an evening with a dozen Christian friends in a home near Knoxville, Tennessee for dinner and conversation. We spent part of the time talking about the plight of the two-thousand-year-old Christian communities in Iraq and Syria that have been deliberately devastated by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS militants), who are trying to eradicate the presence of Christians and other religious groups who do not submit to them.
As we talked about the staggering changes of life that have been forced on literally millions of families – many our Christian brothers and sisters – we realized we should help them. But then we got stuck. While trying to think of practical ways to reach out to them we were overwhelmed by a great sense of helplessness. “I even feel helpless in my prayers for them,” one guy admitted.
That got to me, and for weeks afterward I talked with others about how what NPR has called “the biggest humanitarian crisis of our era.” But everyone was at a loss about how to help these distressed brothers and sisters in Christ. We were here. They were there. And there was no bridge that we knew of. Read more
Surprised? Friday night (June 13) on the Charlie Rose television program, Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, laid out a case for the United States and Iran to work together to fight back ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) in Iraq. Saturday, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani publicly announced that Iran would consider joining forces with the United States to combat ISIS in Iraq. Today (June 16), Secretary of State John Kerry said that the United States is open to “any constructive process here that could minimize the violence, hold Iraq together.” Despite the core ideological differences between the two governments and their heated polemics toward each other in recent times this should not be happening, right? Frenemies? Iran and America? But this is not the first time in recent years that the two have worked together. Let me tell you a story.
Click here for the story and to leave a comment.
I recently ran across a biblical truth about peace from the book of Isaiah powerfully imagined via art. I offer it as a visual aid to invite us into Christmas meditations about the incarnation and ministry of Jesus Christ as Prince of Peace. Read more
US military intervention in Syria is wrong, but President Obama has a rare moment to become an historic statesman. It’s now or never. Here’s why.
Originally published in the U.S. (CrossPoint) and the U.K. (Third Way) on the first anniversary of 9/11, this is a moving essay of my days as a guest of Canada, which began the morning of 9/11, when I was flying from London to Atlanta and ended up in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Today, August 20, 2013, nearly six years after the murder of Benazir Bhutto (twice Pakistan’s Prime Minister), General Pervez Musharraf (Pakistan’s military dictator at the time of Mrs. Bhutto’s death), has been indicted for her murder. If like me you feel her life is worth remembering…, Read more
Wise U.S. Foreign Policy Begins at Home
It’s no secret that the United States faces critical policy choices at home and abroad and that a disabled political process in Washington lacks the skill to find wise ways ahead in either area. In addition, a widespread lack of understanding exists among the American public about the place of domestic life in foreign policy.
Perhaps this is because of a perceived dualism between the two areas (excepting rare moments of truth for the nation sent from afar). Or perhaps it is because foreign policy decision making is not particularly democratic; it is superintended by the President, Congressional activism, and a relatively small community of elite analysts and advisors, none of whom submit their policies to a direct popular vote. Only afterward, do we the people get to decide.
Lack of public understanding about the importance of the domestic to the foreign, and vice-versa, diminishes the ability of an American citizenry from recognizing when US foreign policy is not furthering the good of the international commons. Historically, when scholars have looked critically at this, their views have been cast as controversial. I’m thinking, here, of when Charles Beard and, after him, William Appleman Williams evaluated the Open Door Policy.
It’s unlikely that any serious controversy will arise with the new book by the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, even though Richard Haass argues for a new American foreign policy that is zealous about domestic policy. Foreign Policy Begins at Home: The Case for Putting America’s House in Order recommends a Doctrine of Restoration, which rests on what Haass calls three pillars: it insists on a rebalancing of US foreign policy abroad, one that eschews a focus on the greater Middle East and pivots to Asia; it places less emphasis on military instruments and more on economic and diplomatic tools and capabilities for implementing US foreign policy; and it judges that the world for the foreseeable future is relatively unthreatening to the United States.