“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
The promise in this quote from Jesus is also the challenge – what is the truth?
Freedom in this context may be a little easier to understand. It is freedom from all that isn’t true. So if we know the truth of our existence as a perfect child of God, made in His image and likeness, we are free from any claim that we are weak, flawed, or vulnerable. This growth in knowledge of what is true about us is how we learn more about our Creator. The freedom is correcting misconceptions about any limits of our capability.
This exercise of seeking to understand the truth works for just about anything. Evidence of success should be a degree of freedom from the limitations imposed by previous incorrect ideas.
Let’s try it on Iraq.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently announced a massive withdrawal of troops from southern Iraq. Vice President Dick Cheney told ABC News that this is good news and a sign that the current plan is working. What Mr. Cheney didn’t explain, however, is why the British are redeploying their troops to Afghanistan rather than other parts of Iraq where the US is increasing troop levels.
Many Iraq experts view the British exit very differently. In a comment entitled “The British Defeat in Iraq” the well-known American analyst on Iraq, Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington, asserts that British forces lost control of the situation in and around Basra by the second half of 2005.
Mr Cordesman says that while the British won some tactical clashes in Basra and Maysan province in 2004, that “did not stop Islamists from taking more local political power and controlling security at the neighborhood level when British troops were not present”. As a result, southern Iraq has, in effect, long been under the control of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the so-called “Sadrist” factions.” The implications of strong regional and weak national control of this area are significant because this is where the oil is. As a result, rather than sectarian fighting the leaders here are fighting each other for control of the oil and perhaps, ultimately, control of the country.
The truth may actually be in the carefully worded statement from Prime Minister Blair. “What all of this means is not that Basra is how we want it to be, but it does mean that the next chapter in Basra’s history can be written by Iraqis,”
In other words, the British recognized that the original mission in Iraq of establishing a strong national democratic government friendly to the west that could fund its own rebuilding from oil revenue was not achievable. Instead the British found themselves in the middle of a conflict between Iraqi factions that they couldn’t suppress or control. So they decided to leave and let those factions fight it out among themselves.
The truth in the British withdrawal from Iraq is the admission that the conflict with radical Islamism is not going to be won (or lost) on the battlefield.
The freedom that comes from that truth is that we may be finally entering the next phase of our understanding of what is required to overcome the evil philosophy of bin Ladist Islam.
Much like the cold war, this is a conflict for hearts, minds, and history. It is a conflict that will be won by the moral, cultural, and economic influence western democracies can develop in Muslim leadership (both religious and political). We gain this influence by setting a higher standard for ourselves as a leader in the world.
We are not fighting people. We are engaged in a conflict of images and ideas. Those images portray the west as corrupt, weak, decadent, self-interested, and untrustworthy. Those ideas say that we are taking advantage of our ill-gotten economic and military might by attempting to impose our will on Muslim countries through our proxy state of Israel and our invasion of Iraq. But our weakness is also obvious. We are perceived as the infidel army propping up the Saudi’s to satisfy our self-indulgent addiction to oil. We are seen as arrogant bullies, barbarians, rapists, and torturers. Muslims are not alone in this perception, by the way.
The good news is that we have an opportunity to change that perception. We can change it through leadership at home that understands that our common values have the power to overcome individual differences. We have the power to elect leaders who renew our commitment both here and abroad to the American goal of promoting the general welfare. We can achieve that by rejecting the politics of fear and endorsing the politics of hope.
The process of overcoming small-mindedness, anti-intellectualism, sectarianism, and religious radicalism in the world begins by rejecting those policies in our own house. Our current poor international standing is a reaction to that current hypocrisy.
The west failed to defeat communism on the battlefield in Korea and Viet Nam. It finally defeated communism because the people under communist control lost faith in their government’s ability to deliver the same freedoms, goods, and services that they saw those in the west enjoying.
The same opportunity exists in this ideological conflict. We have to deliver on the truths that this country was founded on. As we begin to deliver on that promise worldwide, perceptions will change. We will learn to embrace those that we thought were enemies. Those that feared us will be freed from their false beliefs and the fear of radical Islam will eventually become the same memory for our children as the fear of “godless” communism is for us.
“Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish. Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought.” Isa 41:11-12