Six Days in June: The War That Redefined the Middle East is a new DVD release from Public Broadcast (PBS) via their Boston affiliate, WGBH. It is an excellent history lesson, well worth seeing, and vividly presents a time when the international political map was altered in a dramatic way that still impacts the entire world down to the present time.
The story is fairly well known. President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt decided, with the approval of the Soviet Union, to move against Israel with aggressive military action in early 1967. Virtually the entire Arab world openly supported him and even Jordan’s King Hussein, who had been more neutral up to that point, turned his army over to the Egyptians. While Egypt amassed tanks in the Sinai Peninsula Israel launched a preemptive air strike against the Egyptian air force and its bases and completely took them out of the military equation in one day. Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, a man of peace, resisted the military buildup to war but when Defense Minister Moshe Dayan came to the fore to lead his nation in battle the whole plan changed. Not only were the Arabs defeated, they were humiliated. The political map was changed as Israel took new territory that had previously belonged to their neighbors. The most significant gain was the city of Old Jerusalem and the famous Temple Mount and the Wailing Wall.
What most Americans now seem to forget is that the forces that shaped this Arab attack have not fundamentally changed since the summer of 1967. Watching this video last evening I realized again how passionately many Arabs feel about the conclusion that Israel has no right to even exist. And the failed efforts of Abdel Nasser eventually led to the terrorist alternatives of the more recent era sine the Arab world is not strong enough to destroy Israel.
Now Iran threatens to lead a new effort to get rid of Israel and the Soviets are again a menacing presence in these tensions! One of President Bush’s biggest international mistakes was his open ‘trust’ of President Putin who has shown anything but good faith in these matters. After all, there is huge money to be made for Russia in selling weapons and nuclear materials to Iran.
This excellent DVD examines how one of the most important wars of the 20th century came about, how it was actually fought, and how it reshaped the entire regional political landscape. No issue is still more important to the security of both the United States and the free world.
So why then is the U. S. so deeply involved in the Gulf region to this day? If you listen to appeasing liberals, and radical libertarians like Ron Paul, we should not be involved in the region at all. Most suggest the sole reason that we are is oil. Some even see a sinister plot by the Bush family guided by their friendship with the oil industry. But only 17% of our oil imports come from the Arab Gulf and less than 0.5% of our natural gas comes from this area. Japan, on the other hand, gets 80% of its oil there and China gets 70%. What is true, however, is that the oil market is global and rising prices there would impact the world, and thus America, very adversely. But this is NOT our major reason for being in the Gulf, not then or not now.
For the past two plus centuries a global economic and political system was formed, first under the leadership of Great Britain and then the United States. This system, or loose network of people, governments and ideas, maintains the security of world trade over the seas and in the air. Without it the world would descend into economic, and correspondingly, social chaos. Because of our presence in the Middle East countries like Germany, Japan, Korea, India and China do not need to defend their own access to Middle Eastern energy. This dampens enthusiasm among these nations for new wars and aggressive military build ups. (China and India have been moderate exceptions but for different reasons that are more regional at this point, involving perceived threats from Russia and Pakistan respectively.)
As foreign relations expert Walter Russell Mead has put it, "For this system to work, the Americans must prevent any power from dominating the Persian Gulf while retaining the ability to protect the safe passage of ships through its waters." This was the very reason the 1967 War broke out. The Egyptians decided to close the sea lanes that needed to remain open in the Gulf. Israel, and the free world, saw this as an attack on the peace of the entire region. America did not directly hep Israel in the 1967 War, contrary to Arab and Soviet propaganda in defeat, but she certainly had her sympathies.
Today the U. S. is again attempting to build a coalition in the Middle East to oppose Iran’s aggressive desires to shape the region and change the world. This is the real political issue in Iraq, regardless of how and why we got there. Says Mead, "The end of America’s ability to safeguard the Gulf and the trade routes around it would be enormously damaging—not just to us. Defense budgets would grow dramatically in every major power center, and Middle Eastern politics would be further destabilized, as every country sought political influence in Middle Eastern countries to ensure access to oil in the resulting free for all."
But selling this idea is extremely difficult in America. We are a short-sighted people, focused on our own ends and pleasures, and seem to care less about world stability. We want peace but we do not understand that it comes at the price of vigilance. We tend to take our eye off the ball unless we are actually being attacked directly, as on 9/11. So most of us do not understand why Iraq and Iran really matter that much to America and the world. The media, and the liberal elites, tell us we are just meddling in a place that we ought to abandon as soon as possible. And now we even have a Republican presidential candidate, Ron Paul, who is just wacky enough to promote such a crazy idea.
Adds Walter Russell Mead, a voice for reason and sanity in foreign relations if there ever was one, "The potential for conflict and chaos is real. A world of insecure and suspicious great powers engaged in military competition over vital interests would bot be a safe or happy place." America is not, at least primarily, trying to expand an empire in the old fashioned sense. That is a hugely mistaken smokescreen. Our Persian Gulf policy is about peace. And it is about political realism in a world that could go into total war at the smallest provocation. That we have managed to avoid massive conflict such since World War II is a grace. We should give thanks and remain vigilant.
Walter Russell Mead rightly concludes: "The next American president, regardless of party and regardless of his or her views about the wisdom of George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, will necessarily make the security of the Persian Gulf states one of America’s very highest international priorities."
I hope he is right. This is, in my estimation, the most important issue before us in the coming presidential election. I think that whoever is chosen will likely be forced to stay this course or face a world that devolves into chaos rather quickly. I just wish more Americans understood these hard realities. The inane perspective of many on this issue is frightening and disturbing, none more so than those who rally around a candidate like Congressman Ron Paul.
So long as we are a nation of free speech we will have people like Ron Paul saying what many apparently want to hear. And so long as we have free speech we will have much confusion. I welcome this since I believe in free speech. But I also believe that this makes it imperative that we better teach people how to think about international political realities if they are to understand why we must protect shipping in the M
iddle East. Most of our
political leaders, including President Bush, have not done an adequate job of explaining this reality to ordinary people and thus I hope we elect a president who can and does this much better in the coming years. Our future may well depend on it. Another world war may hinge on it. Forces of international fascism, mostly promoted by radical Islamic groups, would love to incite chaos around the world. If you doubt this then you are sleeping through a critical era in history.
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Nice, bookmarked it!
“For this system to work, the Americans must prevent any power from dominating the Persian Gulf”
That’s not consistent: if the US can single-handedly prevent any power from dominating the Gulf, then they must be the dominant power.
If you really believe protecting trade routes in the Middle East is the most important issue in the upcoming election and that Ron Paul is popular because he says things people want to hear, then you have missed the whole point of the Ron Paul movement.
We have a contract with our government. It is called the Constitution. Under this contract our government has no right whatsoever to tax the labor of our citizens in order to protect trade routes in the Middle East.
If the Arab world is not strong enough to destroy Israel, as you stated, why do we need to be there?
How exactly is Iran threatening Israel? If you were threatened by someone far weaker than you would you worry much about it? And there is no such thing as a “Soviet.”
Even if Russia were to sell nuclear weapons to Iran what difference would it make? They don’t want to destroy Israel, they want to take it over. Nuking them to the point of total obliteration would make the area uninhabitable for quite some time. They wouldn’t do this even if that weren’t the case, because Israel has nukes as well and firing one would mean massive retaliation and mutual destruction. This is why we never attacked the Soviets during the Cold War. All having nukes would allow Iran to do is protect itself from an Israeli strike. As a sovereign country why do they not have the right to do this?
What’s wrong with other countries spending their money to protect their trade routes instead of having you and me pay for that protection?
The “world would descend into economic, and correspondingly, social chaos” is a blanket statement without any factual evidence to support it.
If we aren’t there for oil, then are we there for low oil prices as you seem to suggest by stating that without our services oil prices would rise? And we’re also there to protect trade routes for other countries to get their oil and energy. So how is it that we aren’t there for oil? Would the resulting cost in the increase of oil not be offset by our not spending money to help every other country get theirs? Would the weakening of their currencies due to their military build up not strengthen our dollar thus further offsetting this cost?
Why do other countries not have a right to have political influence in the Middle East if they so choose?
What business do we have there? If America’s security isn’t threatened or we aren’t attacked, what constitutional right do we have to go to war? You might not care much about the Constitution on issues like this, but I bet if the government shut down your church you would care quite a bit about it.
It is short sighted to not see how policing the world and our mounting debt, weakening dollar, and foreign investments in our country threaten our long term security far more than protecting trade routes. It is also short sighted to not see how the freedoms we are granted by our Constitution are being slowly eroded in order to gain more “security.” The role of our national government is to protect our liberties, not to take them away to give us more security.
Why assume that the rest of the world would settle things militarily? If we set an example of not doing that, would they not be likely to follow? And even if they did go to war, how does this threaten our national security? “Political realism” has brought us to the point we are today. “Political Realism” is the real smokescreen because it allows our government to do things they have no right to do. And who are these “great powers” that would go to war with the “slightest provocation”?
If you believe “radical islamists” or the rest of the world fighting a war are more of a threat to this country than the government eroding the value of our currency, taking more money from its citizens and borrowing money from the Chinese to support our idiotic foreign policy of policing the world then you must have slept through hitory class too. Just to fill you in, it was likely the part called “The Fall of the Roman Empire.”
America will never be defeated from the outside. We will only fall from within. Every great empire fell because of a collapse of the economic system. If you’d like to do some reading on this, I’ll be glad to send you some ideas for books and links.
And to call a man “wacky” and “extreme” who graduated from medical school, has been married to the same woman for 50 years, goes to church, and never broke the Oath he took while placing his hand on the Bible to “Protect the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic” I really don’t know what type of Christianity you claim to follow or what types of ideas you feel a non-crazy person should espouse.
Being “sensible” isn’t nearly as important as having character. It was sensible for the Jews to kill Jesus–he was causing them a lot of trouble. Who was it that took care of that task for the Jews? Oh, that’s right, it was the Romans. Only a cross wasn’t nearly as expensive as fighter jets and aircraft carriers. We are not the United States of the World. We are the United States of America. Wake up.
John, I agree with what the previous poster says. It really is unbecoming of you to call Ron Paul “wacky” and “radical”. He is by far the most forthright and intelligent of any candidate running, and the only one who seems to advocate and follow his principles rather than pandering.
Now IF one-world government is what we really need, then by all means, endorse a candidate who will advance that kind of agenda. But until you decide on one, please take a closer look at Ron Paul. I believe you will find a candidate who loves our God and the nation “under God” far more than the statists who dominate the current political spectrum.
For the last century and a half we Americans have been obsessed with the Huge, the Global, the “United” in “United States”. It means sacrificing individual, local and states’ rights for the sake of greater wealth and security. I think this obsession is that same globalism that began at Babel. You are right to point out the importance of Iraq in world history: Iraq figures heavily in the Revelation. But is joining that Global Economy and dominating it really wise? IMO, THIS path is the one that leads to chaos and confusion, not the sovereign states–all doing their own thing, minding their own business. Just read Genesis 11… or any of the Austrian economists.
The Founding Fathers didn’t intend to replace Great Britain; their goal was independence and freedom, esp. a nation where religion was not repressed by the state. But ultimately religion will define that global economy which you believe is necessary to combat _Islamic_ Fascism.
What Ron Paul advocates isn’t a retreat from free trade, but a return to it. But his approach does appear unrealistic to us very short-sighted Americans, particularly who forget our history.
To me, God only knows what kind of president we need. I pray that it is a man like Ron Paul. But maybe I’m wrong. But in the end, it is still IN GOD WE TRUST. So I’m not too passionate about the election. This is exactly why I’m determined to vote my convictions, rather than just choosing the least offensive candidate, even if I have to write-in Ron Paul come November.
John, for an interesting take on the current attitudes of “radical Islam” and Israel; and it’s potential political implications for the U.S. and the world, check out the book “Salvation is From the Jews” by Roy Schoeman. It’s published by Ignatius press. God bless!
You who protest my words and defend Ron Paul actually illustrate how much you do not understand our long history of national sovereignty and deep interest in the whole world (foreign policy). This is why Paul’s candidacy feeds on conspiracy theories and what makes it so weird. And the argument about the Constitution is based on a simplistic understanding of contract that is seriously flawed as most scholars and historians have understood Constitutionalism. (Sorry, but any candidate who can unite the far right and the far left so effectively is “weird” to my mind. Paul is doing exactly this if you follow who supports him and where he is most popular. He attracts former-Naderites like flies as well as the most radical conservatives who are the libertarian left-overs of the worst of the Barry Goldwater era.)
The conservatism of Ronald Reagan, a principled conservatism built on three primary commitments, is where I land. See my post for January 2 and you will get another thread of it. Withdrawing from the world stage is not a foreign policy, it is a surrender that will wreak havoc in the world far worse than our present foreign policy mistakes, which have been all too numerous under recent presidents.
Ron Paul’s “Christian” principles are not very Christian if they are examined by thoughtful social policy framed by and within Christian tradition, both Catholic and Protestant. The scary thing is that so many of you have been taken in by a man like this who opposes pork but uses it to his own ends, who seems to be a first-rate family man, but in fact wants a libertarian freedom that allows for drugs, illicit sexual expression, etc. Thankfully his appeal will fade away once the early primaries are over.
Remember, Ron Paul ran for president in 1988. His present popularity is more explained by the Iraq War than anything else. His views are not, thankfully, mainstream in this country and I pray they never will be.
While I am at it you might do some checking on who he hangs out with since “bad company corrupts good morals” as a general principle. Michael Medved, on more than one occasion, has asked him to disavow all association with anti-Semitism which Ron Paul seems unwilling to do. Medved is not just any voice on the right but a respected one. Sorry to report it but the evidence for what I wrote is very strong if you read enough and listen carefully enough to the man himself.
Let me see if I understand your reply. Please try to forgive the sarcastic tone:
1st Paragraph: 1) Ron Paul feeds on conspiracy theories. 2) He has a basic misunderstanding of the Constitution that “most” scholars reject. 3) (And parenthetically, he does a good job of uniting people, so he MUST be fishy.)
2nd: Closing down air bases in Turkey, Arabia, Korea, all 700 of them as Paul suggests, would disrupt the wonderful Pax Americana the world now enjoys, particularly the Middle East.
3rd: I’m scared of Paul, because too many people really, really like him. And he’s a hypocrite regarding pork.
4th: He doesn’t fit in with the popular consensus, except that he alone of all the Republicans flatly opposes the war in Iraq.
5th: Michael Medved says Ron Paul is a friend of sinners.
I only objected to the words “wacky” and “radical” because they are mere ad hominem attacks. I try to show a modicum of respect to men who have been ordained by God to serve our country, even when I disagree with them. That’s why I’m not pointing out the faults of all the other candidates. Ron Paul has a very positive message, which is why his supporters are so “fanatical” (i.e. positive—except about the bloated and corrupt Federal Govt and its militarism.)
But I must answer your points, mainly for my own peace of mind. 1) Ron Paul addressed the question of conspiracy theories marvellously in the Youtube/CNN debate last month. It’s still there if you wish to hear his answer. I would add that from our point of view, there IS a giant conspirator out there whose goal is to shackle people to an idolatrous, one-world government.
2) If you’re going to accuse someone of mis-reading the Constitution, to be fair you must provide a reference as to who you mean by “most” scholars and how specifically he errs. Even the likes of John Roberts and Ruth Bader Ginsburg can’t agree on what the Constitution means. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson didn’t always agree. You don’t dismiss these as “wacky”, do you? “Most” of the Sanhedrin rejected Christ. So your point was…?
3) Ron Paul attracts people all across the two-dimensional political spectrum who perceive another dimension. From left to right runs the usual liberal versus conservative. But from top to bottom we have a different measure. Picture a cross with the 4 corners connected to make a square. I take the lower half running from left corner to right to be Statists, who don’t trust the People to be self-governing, who want everyone to speak the same language and have a perfect unity, who want a big, powerful government, sometimes for altruistic reasons, sometimes for selfish. The former USSR and the USA have been dominated by such politicians. Whether liberal or conservative, they both grow their power at the cost of individual liberty. The top of the square is the opposing view, the libertarians, who naturally want to be free and responsible for themselves and who are suspicious of big and powerful governments, big business, powerful church heirarchies. These want to look out for themselves and their communities, worship as they please, be INDEPENDENT, not dependent or interdependent, and they expect others to do the same. These are people like the Pilgrims, the Federalists, the Austrian economists, and a great many Republicans 100 years ago. Paul supporters like this view, and reject the over-reaching Federal government chipping away at both our Constitution and our basic freedoms.
Power corrupts. All History bears it witness. Our Federal Government has become so much more powerful than the Founding Fathers ever intended, far more powerful than any other government in the world. And also corrupted. Folks of the libertarian mind, whether they are for or against marijuana, want to govern their own community, not have the Federal government micromanage everything. Rome, Great Britain, the USSR—all collapsed trying to do so. Libertarians want to scatter and speak their own language as God ordained, not be forced to speak one language and live in one great city.
2nd: Our increased presence in Israel, Arabia and Turkey hasn’t stopped the havoc in the Middle East, but rather exacerbated it. Why are do we maintain bases in Italy and Germany instead of the Sudan or Myanmar, where there really is havoc?
3rd: Paul’s pork never passes because he usually votes against the bills containing it. He doesn’t preach against pork; he preaches against big government and consistently votes his principles. That isn’t hypocritical in the least.
4th: The fact that he opposes the war IS the popular consensus (if polls are meaningful). In fact, I believe Paul is the one and only Republican who can soundly win the election. Any of the other Republicans might barely squeak by. Then as in ’00 and ’04, it will be choosing the less mediocre of two chameleons, and the vote will be evenly split, thus fulfilling the prophecy “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
5th: ‘Nuf said.
Dr. Paul strikes me as a very intellectual man who gets carried away by his ideas, even when they become far fetched. Heard him interviewed on the radio a couple of days ago. He literally said that (a) America caused 9/11 by putting troops in Saudi Arabia, and (b) if we withdraw from Iraq then we will cease to be the target of Islamic extremists. He just doesn’t seem to understand the depths of the hatred that Islamic extremists have toward Israel and America, fomented by jihadists since the 1970’s, which is now deeply ingrained in the psyche of many who live in that region. In hindsight, we may regret some policy decisions that brought us to where we are today, but it’s not entirely (or even primarily) America fault. Even if it were, history can’t be rewritten, and we need to deal with the situation as it stands. In this fallen world, there really are no easy solutions to some of these messy policy dilemmas. Sorry, but I just don’t believe that massive American pullout worldwide will solve anything, and it would certainly have many unintended economic, political and military consequences that none of us fully understand. Ron Paul’s proposals are interesting as a thought experiment, but implementing them on a large scale is just too risky. We can only guess what other countries would do in response to drastic changes in American foreign policy, and many of our best guesses will almost certainly be wrong. No political, social or economic theory, however attractive, can predict what world leaders and nations are actually going to do. Like it or not, billions of lives throughout the world depend on American policy (or lack thereof), so we need to tread cautiously. I admire Ron Paul’s guts and convictions, but he is not an oracle. What if he is simply wrong?
Chris, my friend, I am not sure how far I wish to “debate” these points but I will respond to you.
1.Ron Paul does have an extremely literalist (libertarian) view of the Constitution. Views of how to read it have varied widely from the days of the Founding Fathers to the present. This is simple historical fact which I first learned in Constitutional Law class in college under the late S. Richey Kamm, a Christian scholar who understood the document and “how” it had been interpreted for good and ill. I could cite hundreds of similar scholars but this is not blog productive. Honestly, a solid course in the Constitution would be useful, not populist Ron Paul argumentation.
Further, who does Ron Paul unite? 10% of Republicans in Iowa? Chris we are talking about a few thousand people and the Internet has driven his donations and the frenzy about him as well as the “conspiracy” elements if you read his followers. He may not promote all the theories but almost all of them find him. Why? His whackiness is real, not imagined.
2. We truly disagree about what you call Pax Americana. I believe the world to be far better for our involvement, not far worse. This is a matter of foreign policy and of how to frame it in the 21st century, not how to promote Empire, which is how both the left and Ron Paul see America. Should we close military bases? Of course we should. But Ron Paul would retreat from the world, period.
3. I never said I was scared of Ron Paul. He is not electable. He is a political nusisance really and he is not being forthright about the pork he accepts and opposes at the same time.
4. You are right about the War in Iraq and Ron Paul being the only Republican to want us out a.s.a.p. I disagree with this simplistic solution strongly. Last evening I watched a powerful film now on DVD, Journey from the Fall. It is the story of the Vietnamese refugees (“boat-people”) and what happened when we cut and ran when we lost the will to do what was right. Do you realize what will happen if we abandon Iraq to militant Muslims? Perhaps we should never have entered Iraq but that is history. Leaving, as Paul wants, is dangerous to millions and the entire region.
5. Michael Medved never said anything of the sort. He asked Ron Paul to “distance” himself from any open anti-Semitism. Come on Chris, this is serious stuff and Christians should know it more than anyone since in the name of Christ (falsely used) a lot of the anti-Semitism of the past has been advanced. All Michael Medvid, as a Jew, asked him to do was personally disown this identity. Other politicians would do so in a heartbeat, and rightly so. The problem is that Ron Paul welcomes nuts of all sorts and thus builds his coalition on them very openly, thus his strong and diverse appeal in liberal Santa Cruz and conservative southeast Texas. I will say what I have already said, “He is the Ralph Nader of the far right.”
The rest of your letter would require a whole class in history and political theory to respond as a teacher would like. This is not the place.
But . . . .
The statement you reference is “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It was made by Lord Acton in the late 19th century and was made in the context of his concern, as a Roman Catholic, for his own Church. It is grossly misused all over the place to say governmental power is always bad and thus we should want a less powerful government. The Civil War, like it not, changed this forever in America. Should we oppose unjust and misused power? Yes, for sure. But power, per se, is not the problem.
Your comparison of the former USSR and the USA, regarding similarities among the powerful, is staggering. Is Bush the moral equivalent of Putin? Was Reagan the moral equivalent of the Russian leaders he opposed in the 1980s? Please think more about this. This is the kind of thinking that typifies Ron Paul supporters and what makes me talk about “whacky” ideas. I will not publicly take this further because I love you as a friend and brother.
You also invoke the Austrian economists. I applaud much of their defense of the market and the principles of the economy they advance, but not all. What has always fascinated me, however, is how Christians jump on this ideological bandwagon and never mention that these thinkers were fiercely anti-Christian.
Chris, to be honest I would advise you as my friend to read more widely, read less Internet conspiracy stuff, and get a much broader grasp of the broader and bigger issues that make our society diverse and great.
As a minister of the Word your best contribution will always be to lead men and women to Jesus and to teach them how to live well and to be fully involved in this world while they prepare for the next. This is a balanced Christian conservatism that avoids the conspiracies and the stuff we are being flooded with on the Internet by Ron Paul followers who see this man as the leader of a “Christian” movement.
Someone please tell me what Dr. Paul practices as to personal faith in Christ? I know he is moral but what does he confess really and truly? This doesn’t matter to me in terms of voting but I see so many writers telling people he is a Christian. I’d just like to see the evidence.
I have friends who are libertarians, ranging all across a spectrum of such thinking, but Ron Paul doesn’t even speak for many of them either. Libertarianism will survive and always play a role in our thinking. I hope Ron Paul just goes away. He is a nuisance!
John, I’m truly thankful for your friendship and the lively debate. At this point, it is probably more fruitful to merely quote Ron Paul.
He recently said: “I have never been one who is comfortable talking about my faith in the political arena. In fact, the pandering that typically occurs in the election season I find to be distasteful. But for those who have asked, I freely confess that Jesus Christ is my personal Savior, and that I seek His guidance in all that I do. I know, as you do, that our freedoms come not from man, but from God. My record of public service reflects my reverence for the Natural Rights with which we have been endowed by a loving Creator.” He is a Southern Baptist, as both you and I have been.
Quite a few ministers whom I have read endorse him unhesitatingly, from the Baptist Chuck Baldwin to the Orthodox Clark Carlton. See http://www.ronpaul2008.com/endorsements#pastors for more.
I will continue reading and studying the candidates, as I have been doing for some time now. As I said earlier, I’m not that passionate about RP or any election, for it is still IN GOD WE TRUST. Our citizenship is in heaven, and even if the most wacko, liberal heathen is elected, neither my confidence nor hope will be shaken in the least.
Thanks for the lively debate. We’ve both said our piece. But I’ve met my match! I wouldn’t have responded at all if I hadn’t been seriously challenged.