Sunday, June 15, 2014

No. 000018 On Religious Freedom and Iraq: Do we need to take a deeper examination of our moral capacity for action before acting in Iraq?

A developing bit "Beltway Wisdom" is that Obama should offer assistance to Iraq conditioned upon new management—some replacement of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (a narrative the New York Times has actually been developing more than a year. Why Maliki Must Go).

An extension is Fox which is asserting we should attack ISIL to defend the Homeland.

Is this wisdom disregarding fundamental lessons of the history of our own Revolution and the fundamentals of conflict developed by our best military and political strategist, Colonel John Boyd?

Will it do any good to insist that Iraqi leaders resolve their differences. Or, is this merely a repeat of Vietnam (where the US participated in the murder of its first president Ngo Dinh Diem in our search for "leadership")?

Iraq can work as a nation only if it is lead by people with knowledge of the history of religious warfare and who clearly understood both the dangers of religion being entangled in government and of sectarian conflict.

Are there any such people in Iraq?

Do we have any business being involved in Iraq unless we are sure we have the capacity to install such leadership into full and complete control of Iraq?

And, can we defend the Homeland without elevating the conflict to one over moral values, as opposed to mere self-defense of the Homeland and access to cheap oil?

1. Our Preservation of our Revolution was dependent on the concurrent rise Religious Freedom and exclusion of religion from government by a high wall.

Of the many great myths about American History, perhaps the first is that religious freedom was established in the American colonies before the Revolution. It wasn't. Kenneth C. Davis, America's True History of Religious Tolerance, Smithsonian Magazine (2010). 

Freedom of Religion was developed by Jefferson and Madison during the course of events leading to the adoption of the Constitution as a fundamental pillar for preserving the Revolution by eliminating conflict within and about the new United States Government.
In newly independent America, there was a crazy quilt of state laws regarding religion. In Massachusetts, only Christians were allowed to hold public office, and Catholics were allowed to do so only after renouncing papal authority. In 1777, New York State’s constitution banned Catholics from public office (and would do so until 1806). In Maryland, Catholics had full civil rights, but Jews did not. Delaware required an oath affirming belief in the Trinity. Several states, including Massachusetts and South Carolina, had official, state-supported churches.
In 1779, as Virginia’s governor, Thomas Jefferson had drafted a bill that guaranteed legal equality for citizens of all religions—including those of no religion—in the state. It was around then that Jefferson famously wrote, “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” But Jefferson’s plan did not advance—until after Patrick (“Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”) Henry introduced a bill in 1784 calling for state support for “teachers of the Christian religion.”
Future President James Madison stepped into the breach. In a carefully argued essay titled “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” the soon-to-be father of the Constitution eloquently laid out reasons why the state had no business supporting Christian instruction. Signed by some 2,000 Virginians, Madison’s argument became a fundamental piece of American political philosophy, a ringing endorsement of the secular state that “should be as familiar to students of American history as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution,” as Susan Jacoby has written in Freethinkers, her excellent history of American secularism.
Among Madison’s 15 points was his declaration that “the Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an inalienable right.”
Madison also made a point that any believer of any religion should understand: that the government sanction of a religion was, in essence, a threat to religion. “Who does not see,” he wrote, “that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?” Madison was writing from his memory of Baptist ministers being arrested in his native Virginia.
As a Christian, Madison also noted that Christianity had spread in the face of persecution from worldly powers, not with their help. Christianity, he contended, “disavows a dependence on the powers of this world...for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them.”
Recognizing the idea of America as a refuge for the protester or rebel, Madison also argued that Henry’s proposal was “a departure from that generous policy, which offering an Asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every Nation and Religion, promised a lustre to our country.”After long debate, Patrick Henry’s bill was defeated, with the opposition outnumbering supporters 12 to 1. Instead, the Virginia legislature took up Jefferson’s plan for the separation of church and state. In 1786, the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, modified somewhat from Jefferson’s original draft, became law. The act is one of three accomplishments Jefferson included on his tombstone, along with writing the Declaration and founding the University of Virginia. (He omitted his presidency of the United States.) After the bill was passed, Jefferson proudly wrote that the law “meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew, the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.”
Madison wanted Jefferson’s view to become the law of the land when he went to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. And as framed in Philadelphia that year, the U.S. Constitution clearly stated in Article VI that federal elective and appointed officials “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution, but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
This passage—along with the facts that the Constitution does not mention God or a deity (except for a pro forma “year of our Lord” date) and that its very first amendment forbids Congress from making laws that would infringe of the free exercise of religion—attests to the founders’ resolve that America be a secular republic. The men who fought the Revolution may have thanked Providence and attended church regularly—or not. But they also fought a war against a country in which the head of state was the head of the church. Knowing well the history of religious warfare that led to America’s settlement, they clearly understood both the dangers of that system and of sectarian conflict.
It was the recognition of that divisive past by the founders—notably Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Madison—that secured America as a secular republic. As president, Washington wrote in 1790: “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunity of citizenship. ...For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.”
He was addressing the members of America’s oldest synagogue, the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island (where his letter is read aloud every August). In closing, he wrote specifically to the Jews a phrase that applies to Muslims as well: “May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants, while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
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2. Lessons Applied: Japan after World War II.

Contrary to another America myth—that we can't do nation building—after WWII the United States engaged in very successful nation building in France, Germany, Southern Europe via the Marshall Plan, in South Korea and, importantly here, Japan.

MacArthur insisted that the Japanese Constitution of 1947 include a clause guaranteeing Freedom of Religion. 
Article 20 of the 1947 Constitution states, "Freedom of religion is guaranteed to all. No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor exercise any political authority". Restrictions on the relationship between the government and religion was mandated by the United States during the occupation of Japan because of the role State Shinto played in encouraging the rapid territorial and economic expansion of the Empire of Japan significant enlargement of the Empire's geopolitical sphere of influence by endorsing and promoting the right of conquest in the years just before and during World War II.
The difference between Japan and Iraq is that, after we conquered Japan we acted like conquerors, imposing and applying Article 20. By contrast, Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld had no plan for imposing doctrine like Article 20 on Iraq, not even knowing about or caring about how to go about remaking Iraq.

3.  Boyd's Moral Theory of Conflict.

Amazon and remaining book stores everywhere will expose one to the older classics of thinking about conflict (e.g., Sun Tzu). Unfortunately, Colonel John Boyd, who during his life's work at the Pentagon synthesized all their work together with insights from psychology and science is hardly known at all. In his classic PowerPoint Patterns of Conflict (he never wrote a book) he observed:

In his following PowerPoint, The Strategic Game of ? and ?, Boyd takes the audience through the role of moral principles in conflict, starting with his view of human nature that conflict was a part of life.

Boyd then concludes that moral fibre and order are necessary to successful social order, including battle field operations.

Then is a series of five powerful slides Boyd explains that successful strategy attacks the morality of the opponent:

4. Lack of Religious Freedom in Iraq today means that neither side has the moral capacity for victory.

Iraq's legal documents give some religious freedoms, but if you contrast them with Japan's, for example, you can easily see that we failed to act as conquers after defeating Iraq in the 2003 War. Our own State Department reports the result—there is no real true religious freedom in Iraq—in writing every year. Here is it's 2012 report. Here is the entire website from its Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

Given the lack of religious freedom, we have a religious war destined, according to most seasoned analysts, for stalemate for neither side (Shia or Sunni) has the moral capacity for victory. 

The reason for the stalemate is that neither side can induce moral isolation in the opposition. The Shia want to kill the Sunni on instructions from their God. The Sunni want to kill the Shia on instructions from the same God.

This expectation likely underlies Obama's measured slowness in acting. If the Sunni's are threatening to upset that balance, it increases Obama's leverage and capacity for action viz the Shia government in Baghdad.

This has been the pattern of conflict in the Mid-East for the last 60 years and until there is a moral breakthru there is no reason to expect a different outcome.

5. The lesson to be learned.

I would argue that we have failed at nation building in Iraq due to cognitive dissonance on our own part.

For the same reasons, we have failed at a lasting solution for defending our Homeland. It will not truly be safe until we morally isolate those who insist on religion and government intertwining in the Mid-East.

We have looked at our troops and equipment and reasoned the American taxpayer can take that hill without being morally engaged at a deeper level.

This is a lazy view of conflict, lacking in depth of thought.

Islam rests on a fundamental proposition contrary to our history and experience from the America Revolution: that religion can be entwined into government.

In 1945 the United States had the intellectual capacity to attack the organizing religion in Japan, acting as conqueror to remove Shintoism from the public life of Japan.

By 2003 we no longer had that capacity for action. We conquered Iraq but lacked the capacity to insist that Islam be removed from public life as we did with Shintoism in Japan.

Does that lack of moral capacity for action explain why our actions in the MidEast bear no fruit?

We need to take a long hard deeper look at our capacity to engage in conflict with opponents whose resistant rests upon "religious beliefs" before we venture back into Iraq.