It’s Time for a ‘Persecuted Christians First’ Foreign Policy
A debate is raging right now among Republicans about the appropriate foreign policy for that party. Should we continue the movement to promote majority rule across the world that George W. Bush announced in his Second Inaugural Address, and tried to implement in Iraq? His successor, Barack Obama, may have cut and run from Iraq, but he carried Bush’s democracy torch during the crucial Arab Spring, supporting rebel Islamist movements in Egypt, Libya, and Syria. To do less, advocates of this policy argue, would be to insult the peoples of other countries, suggesting that they somehow don’t deserve the blessings of American liberal democracy. That is roughly the position of Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush. It is broadly referred to as “neoconservatism.”
Or should we admit that democracy apparently isn’t for everyone, or at least for everyone everywhere all the time right at the moment, and instead support regimes that repress political Islam, protect religious minorities (especially Christians), and are willing to cut deals that favor U.S. interests? That’s the position favored by Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul. The common name for such a policy is “realism.”
The stakes are high. We are currently faced with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, which is using military power to prop up the minority regime of Bashar Assad in Syria. Several Republican candidates, including Christie and Rubio, want to use the U.S. Air Force to confront the Russian air force with a “no-fly zone,” including the threat to shoot down Russian planes that attack Syria’s “moderate” Islamist rebels. Rand Paul was moved during the last GOP debate to call this proposal an occasion for “World War III.”
It is customary at this point to insert a long, ritual denunciation of Bashar Assad, as a brutal dictator fully as wicked as Idi Amin or Pol Pot, which is meant to settle the question. The man is EVIL. We Americans strive to be GOOD. So of course we must help to remove that awful man from power, regardless of what it costs, what it risks, or what result it actually produces for the people who have to live in the real, existing country of Syria.
And it’s true that Assad’s regime has used brutal means to stay in power. It’s also true that it currently stands as the protector of millions of religious minorities, Christians and Alawites, who rightly fear genocide and ethnic cleansing at the hands of any Islamist regime that would come to power. The Christian leaders of Syria are terrified by every rebel faction fighting Assad, however “moderate” Senator John McCain believes them to be. Likewise the Alawite minority, the core constituency for Assad’s regime. Based on the ethnic cleansing of more than a million Christians from Iraq in the wake of the U.S. invasion that toppled another secular dictator, each group believes that they face imminent death, or expulsion to miserable refugee camps — controlled, as such camps are, by intolerant Sunni Muslims.
So the Alawites and Christians are fighting for their lives, and their leader, Assad, is using whatever means come to hand to stop the Islamist takeover — including, some say, chemical weapons. Does this make him “genocidal,” as some assert? Or is he using desperate means to prevent a genocide, means not nearly as harsh as President Harry Truman used against the Japanese Empire? As citizens of a country that answered Pearl Harbor and the Holocaust by nuking two Japanese cities, after fire-bombing most of the others, and leveling massively populated cities in Europe, perhaps we ought not to be throwing stones at Assad, as he fights to save his Alawite people and Christian allies from ending up like the desperate Christians of Iraq.
Jewish Americans are rightly concerned about the safety of Jews in Israel, and all around the world. Thank God, given the callousness or outright hatred of Jews that pervades so many countries. In Iran and throughout the Arab world it’s official government policy (except in Egypt and Jordan — not democracies), to favor Hamas’s goal of “driving the Jews into the sea,” which means exactly what it sounds like: mass genocide. To guarantee its survival, Israel stockpiles nuclear weapons, which it would use as a last means of self-defense, and the results would be even uglier than what Assad is up to in Syria, faced with the very same threat. (In a bitter irony, Assad is allied with Iran, which hopes to develop nuclear weapons to threaten Israel — which we should absolutely stop Iran from obtaining. However, Assad’s regime in Syria contributes nothing to Iran’s nuclear program.)
Because of the gravity and urgency of the ongoing threat to Jews, many patriotic American Jews also act as a potent special interest group, advocating the U.S. alliance with Israel in support of the safety of Jews, and good for them. No one else is looking out for the safety of Jews, and as Rabbi Hillel once said, “If I am not for me, who is for me?”
We Christian Americans should do the same, for our persecuted brethren around the world. We must love our enemies, but not at the cost of letting them murder our friends. Within the legitimate bounds of American patriotism, we should act as a potent special interest group. We should adopt the slogan “Persecuted Christians First.” We must serve as the defense attorneys of the most abandoned, neglected people on earth (apart from the unborn): our brothers in Christ, the persecuted Christians around the world — especially those threatened by political Islam, which also endangers America and Israel. It’s the Christian thing to do.