Putin is an Irrational Man

Crazy PutinThe situation in the Ukraine is the perfect demonstration of one of my guiding principles, “You can’t speak rationally to a person who is irrational.” In this case, throwback Vladimir Putin is the irrational one. He was a leader in the Cold War Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) era that believed, “you won’t kill me if you know I will kill you in return.” The acronym MAD was ironic…and not in a good way. If that isn’t irrational, what is?

There is much bloviating to suggest that if Obama had done this or that or something else this would never have happened. There is plenty of counter-bloviating that if George the Lesser hadn’t started two useless wars we’d have the moral high ground to force Putin out. Some people blame Europe for terminal jellyfish spine. Others think the CIA was asleep at the switch. Some think Ukraine is at fault for overthrowing a democratically elected leader. Others prefer The Big Dick Cheney approach, “Nuke the bastards and let the Big Guy Upstairs sort it out.”

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Mitt Romney: Likable as a Haggis Buffet

The Romney Safety Net

The list of things wrong with the Romney campaign is ignominious and pushing Mitt toward the precipice. He has had innumerable foot-in-mouth episodes, told many hand caught in the cookie jar lies, managed self-inflicted gunshot wounds, and made the worst Veep choice since McCain sent himself well and truly off the rails with the Moose Momma. The reasons for this ineptitude are manifold, from sheer stupidity to being as likable as a haggis buffet, but perhaps that last one might explain it best.

In general, Americans don’t like lawyers. They aren’t too hot on reporters either. And when it comes to politicians Congress can’t get any lower than their 12% approval rating. And right up there in the Pantheon of the Hated are CEOs. Your average citizen thinks they are arrogant, greedy, out of touch, and completely devoid of morals. When a factory worker screws up they find their ass on the street. When a CEO screws up they get a hefty bonus and stock options equal to the combined incomes of Nebraska’s entire middle class. Then, they close the factory, send the work to Chinese reeducation camps, and collect another bonus for how well they handled their own failure. To everyone other than CEOs, and the people who inexplicably love them, it’s easy to see why they don’t give people the warm and fuzzies.

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Religion as a Foreign Concept

RIGHT RELIGION OR RELIGIOUS RIGHT? - Using religion as part of the US foreign policy toolkit is a good idea in a world full of religion as long as we guard against attempts to introduce religion into our own government.

RIGHT RELIGION OR RELIGIOUS RIGHT? - Using indigenous religions as part of the US foreign policy toolkit is necessary as long as we resist attempts to introduce religion into our own government.

A new study from the Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs says US foreign policy is being weakened by a strong focus on, “uncompromising western secularism”. A religion-neutral foreign policy is a tough sell in a secular America, but it’s essential if we are to deal with countries that are, or near, total theocracies. And even as an atheist, I can see they’re right.

Dealing with countries like Iran, Afghanistan, and Israel without accounting for the intertwining of government and religion is a recipe for disaster. The past two administrations have made some headway on beefing up this component of foreign policy and should be commended by the religious and atheists alike. However, foreign policy is supposed to help advance the nation’s goals – goals that according to the US Constitution should be free and open, unlike the goals of a theocracy like Iran.

But as with most things, there’s a slippery slope that must be tread lightly to avoid even worse problems than simply having religion as part of the foreign policy mix. Although the Council is comprised of all major faiths, much of the public, many in Congress, and the administrations themselves focus almost exclusively on Christian religious principles. In essence, they use Christianity as a synonym for religion.

Using religion as a tool to solve global comfilcts involving theocracies doesn't have to be incompatible with our own separation of church and state.

Using religion as a tool to solve global conflicts involving theocracies doesn't have to be incompatible with our own separation of church and state.

For example, Bill Clinton’s nominee for Ambassador to the Netherlands was kiboshed in Congress because he was gay, a frequent Christian strawman and grounds Christians ofttimes use to defeat anything they can reasonably or unreasonably pull into the Christian moral sphere. Even liberals were pleased by the last administration’s efforts to increase AIDS funding to Africa, but not so pleased when the aid went only to countries that promised not to do abortions. That restriction, driven by religious beliefs, deprived many of treatment on a continent rife with the disease and weakened, what was at the core, a good policy?

It’s not as though religions don’t already have some experience with mixing different religions, particularly in dictatorships. Christians work hard to convert the masses, whether they be Islamic, Buddhist, or simply another variation of Christianity than their own. Some of the target flock may go along; others may just rise up and create a Christian martyr. This is the slippery slope in action.

For our foreign policy to best succeed, we all need to understand the role religion plays in many cultures. We need to make sure religion, to the extent it makes sense, is not just a way to transmit Christian ideals to non-Christian nations. We need to understand that not all Muslims are crazies dressed in Brooks Brothers’ suicide suits any more than not all Christians are like the screed screaming Westboro Baptist Church crowd. The issue here is not which religion to use in our policy; it is the freedom for diplomats and the countries they serve in to use the religion at hand to accomplish America’s goals.

Goals like the freedom to practice or not practice religion as you please.

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