A young Army Major’s masters thesis is making the rounds. Some believe his essay presages the persecution of Christans by the anti-Christ Obama. Others see in his thinking a message that goes beyond the dangers of Christian millennialism and touches upon the perils our country encounters by endorsing or cursing any fundamentalism, without rationally engaging the issues through clear thinking.
Maj. Brian L. Stuckert, U.S. Army, submitted and defended a masters thesis in May 2008, titled Strategic Implications of American Millennialism (pdf). It has begun making the rounds this month, being taken up by a wide array of people discussing, damning or defending it.
Maj. Stuckert ‘s abstract begins:
Since the beginning of the Republic, various forms of millennial religious doctrines, of which dispensational pre-millennialism is the most recent, have shaped U.S. national security strategy. As the dominant form of millennialism in the U.S. evolves, it drives changes in U.S. security policy and subsequent commitment of the instruments of national power. Millennial ideas contribute to a common American understanding of international relations that guide our thinking irrespective of individual religious or political affiliation. Millennialism has great explanatory value, significant policy implications, and creates potential vulnerabilities that adversaries may exploit.
His conclusions and recommendations are prefaced with a well-known quote by Lt. Gen William Boykin, from 2003:
“The enemy is a spiritual enemy. It’s called the principality of darkness. We, ladies and gentlemen, are in a spiritual battle, not a physical battle. Oh, we’ve got soldiers fighting on the battlefields, we’ve got sailors, marines, airmen, coast guardsmen out there fighting against a physical enemy. But the battle this nation is in is a spiritual battle, it’s a battle for our soul. And the enemy is a guy called Satan – Satan wants to destroy this nation. He wants to destroy us as a nation and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army.”
Maj. Stuckert then goes on:
A 2003 survey found that more than two-thirds of evangelical leaders view Islam as a religion of violence bent on world domination. Following the events of September 11, 2001, many Christian opinion leaders began to speak of President Bush’s election and policies as “divinely inspired.” This attitude can present challenges to rational decision-making processes. While some political commentators have theorized that the administration’s unwillingness to admit errors is the result of arrogance or political calculation, it is more likely that the administration believes they are doing the will of God and will be vindicated in the end. In other words, intelligence or analysis that seems to support invasions or other administration policies are interpreted as an affirmation of God’s will, while information is to the contrary is viewed with suspicion – perhaps an effort by Satan to deceive or mislead.
As President Carter explained to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, what people believe as a matter of religion, they will do as a matter of public policy. There is a tendency on the part of Americans to view foreign policy and international affairs as a “clash of moral opposites.” This tendency may make it difficult for U.S. policy makers and strategists to perceive and act upon subtleties that may lie outside our conceptions of moral absolutes. Military leaders have the difficult task translating this religiously tinged policy into successful strategy and operations. War is primarily about politics. While geography and technology play a role, in order to be successful military leaders must be able to see the political goals as clearly as possible. Because of the influence of pre-millennialism, it can be difficult for military leaders to see themselves and their government accurately and state policy goals objectively.
Reading the reactions at blogs like firedoglake, Down with Tyranny!, Huffington Post and mondoweiss to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer’s recent statements on a radio program that sometimes caters to Jewish millennialists (the Zealots where prototypical millennialists. I’m sure Schumer, if asked if he’s a Zionist "Zealot" would answer "Yes!" without giving the term much thought.), I’m struck by how much more push-back Schumer is getting now than he ever has, when indulging in attacks on Israel policy critics who have not only the US’s best interests at heart, but, are showing common sense.
Christian Fundamentalists might have common sense when it comes to washing their clothes or changing their socks, but when it comes to formulating policies involving Israel and weapons of mass destruction and whether or not Iran is really mentioned in Revelations, they never have any common sense. None.
The same holds true for other religions’ fundamentalists. Although our constitution holds that one cannot demand religious tests as part of gaining an office, I really feel uncomfortable with people who believe in the End Times being allowed within a mile of a thermonuclear device or its launch codes.
Thursday, the Pentagon announced that Rev. Franklin Graham has been disinvited from speaking at the Pentagon on the National Day of Prayer:
The U.S. Army rescinded its invitation to evangelist Franklin Graham to speak at the Pentagon on the National Day of Prayer.
Graham, son of Billy Graham and this year’s honorary National Day of Prayer Task Force chairman, is being criticized for comments he has made in the past expressing his belief that Islam is a dangerous religion.
Col. Tom Collins, an Army spokesman cited Graham’s previous comments that he wants Muslims to know that Jesus Christ died for their sins. Collins said the remarks were “not appropriate,” according to the New York Times.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations pressed the Pentagon to rescind Graham’s invitation. Michael Weinstein, founder of MRFF, wrote that the Pentagon choose a more inclusive speaker for the event in a letter to the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on April 19.
In a statement released April 22, Graham said that he regrets that the Army felt it was necessary to rescind their invitation. “I want to express my strong support for the United States military and all our troops. I will continue to pray that God will give them guidance, wisdom and protection as they serve this great country,” Graham said.
My, have things changed. I was honored to have Rev. Franklin Graham speak at my Governor’s Prayer Breakfasts. His good work in Alaska’s Native villages and his charitable efforts all over the world stem from his servant’s heart. In my years of knowing him, I’ve never found his tempered and biblically-based comments to be offensive – in fact his words have been encouraging and full of real hope.
It’s truly a sad day when such a fine patriotic man, whose son is serving on his fourth deployment in Afghanistan to protect our freedom of speech and religion, is dis-invited from speaking at the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer service. His comments in 2001 were aimed at those who are so radical that they would kill innocent people and subjugate women in the name of religion.
Are we really so hyper-politically correct that we can’t abide a Christian minister who expresses his views on matters of faith? What a shame. Yes, things have changed.
– Sarah Palin
Coupled with the recently publicized concerns by senior U.S. military over the dangers of being tied too closely to Israel in our foreign policy decisions regarding broader issues of the Middle East and beyond, maybe we are seeing signs of a Pentagon emerging from the terrible eclipse of rational thinking known as the George W. Bush administration.
As in some of the newest, youngest, major voices in the dialogue over our country’s adherence to Israeli wishes regarding the illegal occupation of the West Bank, Israeli expansion there, and the siege of Gaza, hopefully a new generation of leadership in our military will show more independence, common sense and spine than their predecessors, who are now approaching retirement.
The more U.S. policy is separated from fundamentalist thinking, rhetoric and personalities, the better.