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Maybe There's a Better Way?

Come September - at the latest - Hosni Mubarak will no longer be President of Egypt.

So whose pockets will we have to start lining next?

I know that foreign policy is a sticky wicket. But ever since the Cold War, American foreign policy has contained a large component of paying people to like us. Egypt gets about $1.5 billion a year, second only to Israel, whom we pay not so that they will like us, but in order to keep them alive. Do you think Mr. Mubarak is concerned that his 401 (k) might not be sufficient for him to retire in September?

I almost wrote right here that the situation in Egypt might afford the United States an opportunity to try foreign policy on principle, rather than payola. But, in fact, payola is a principle, just not a very seemly one. How many countries all over the world, that is to say, how many "public officials" in countries all around the world are benefiting financially from your tax dollars and mine, the disbursing of which our government has concluded is the best way to keep friends abroad?

Why don't we try something like: Look this is what we stand for: democratic elections; freedom of speech, press, and religion; equality of opportunity. We think this is what accords best with human dignity and aspirations, and we invite you to consider such principles as the best way to, you know, have a country. But we're not going to pay you to do it. Either such ideas are right and true in and of themselves, and, therefore, are their own best justification, or they're not. If you believe they are, as we do, then you'll have to work as hard and sacrifice as much as we have in order to secure them for yourself and your people. We stand ready to defend your right to do so. If, on the other hand, you choose to repress your people, well, that's your business. If you make a mess of things and the whole shebang blows up in your face, well, we told you so.

There has to be some foreign aid, I know that. We have to help undeveloped and developing countries in some ways. But we shouldn't help anyone who represses his own people and denies the most fundamental principles of the American experiment. Nor should we encourage our business leaders to partner with such nations. Let's put a stop to bribery in the name of foreign policy, and let's see if we can make a different set of principles sufficiently compelling to lead other national leaders to seek the wellbeing of their people first.

Yeah, I know. It'll never work. Corruption and bribes, er, foreign aid, has become the expected norm in foreign policy, yet another emblem of the pervasive presence of sin in the institutions of government.

Still, the principles for which this country stands - Biblical principles, first and foremost - will not perpetuate themselves. If we believe them, then we must stand for them, and we must demand that our government stand for them as policies that define the way we invest in foreign countries, and not just as policies we hope one day some time in the far off maybe future, corrupt leaders might be willing to implement if only we keep paying them enough year after year.

As Christians we must not miss the opportunity this current crisis affords us to challenge secular, materialist, and pragmatic thinking in such areas as foreign policy. It is part of our prophetic responsibility in the public square to recommend more Biblical policies and procedures.

Additional related texts: Romans 13.1-4; 1 Peter 2.13-17; Psalm 72

A conversation starter: "Is it possible that there might be a better way to conduct American foreign policy than by paying nations to like us?"

T. M. Moore


T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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