Presidents and the moral accounting of war

30 May

In the wake of Memorial Day and also a recent speech about winding down U.S. involvement in what Andrew Bacevich prefers to call the War for the Greater Middle East by President Obama, historian Raymond Haberski, Jr. points out how difficult it is for nations to acknowledge the sin of pride.

Haberski recalls how a former president–Carter–tried to call Americans to repent of national pride in the wake of the Vietnam War, but found that that was not good politics:

Obama might consider Jimmy Carter’s attempt at a moral reckoning in the wake of the Vietnam War. Carter took the occasion of his first National Prayer Breakfast to address the kind of sentiments Medea Benjamin expressed to President Obama.

President Carter revealed in the first few minutes of his remarks that he had wanted to include 2 Chronicles 7:14 in his first inaugural address:

If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from Heaven and forgive their sins and heal their land.

He admitted that he had dropped this idea after his staff “rose up in opposition” because it sounded like Carter was condemning Americans as “wicked.” Carter observed that this episode taught him that there wasn’t much chance that the nation would actually understand the significance of being contrite:

We as individuals—and we as a nation—insist that we are the strongest and the bravest and the wisest and the best. And in that attitude, we unconsciously, but in an all-pervasive way, cover up and fail to acknowledge our mistakes and in the process forgo an opportunity constantly to search for a better life or a better country.

He admitted that it was easier for individuals to admit their sin of pride than it was for a nation to do so. And so, he concluded, “in effect, many of us worship our nation.” Carter’s antidote to this problem was to rededicate the United States as a nation “under God”—to remind Americans that they “are not superior . . . and ought constantly to search out national and human individual consciousness and strive to be better.”

Indeed.

Read Haberski’s entire “Then and Now” op-ed here:

Presidents and the moral accounting of war | The Christian Century.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enough Light

"In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't." - Blaise Pascal

Lenten Lamentations

Preparing to Participate in God's Mosaic Kingdom

john pavlovitz

Stuff That Needs To Be Said

Wirelesshogan: Reflections from the Hogan

"History is the record of our loves in all their magnificent and ignoble forms." Eugene McCarraher

The Way of Improvement Leads Home

"History is the record of our loves in all their magnificent and ignoble forms." Eugene McCarraher

the way of improvement leads home

reflections at the intersection of American history, religion, politics, and academic life

The Pietist Schoolman

The website and blog of historian Chris Gehrz

Native News Online

American Indian News

thepracticalhistorian

Your guide to practically true history.

THE TWELVE

Reformed. Done Daily.

i-history

by Alex Scarfe

BlogWest

Thoughtful Conversation about the American West

Northwest History

"History is the record of our loves in all their magnificent and ignoble forms." Eugene McCarraher

Faith and History

Thinking Christianly about the American Past

%d bloggers like this: