Brian McLaren on the Iraq Problem

Over on Sojourner’s Blog,  Brian McLaren has made a good suggestion:

In his July 20 commentary, James W. Skillen of the Center for Public Justice struck a non-partisan note of honesty and balance that I wish I heard more often.

He summarized the basic narrative of the Iraq War that both our president and his party and many Democrats seem to share:

… first, America liberated Iraq from Saddam Hussein; second, we returned sovereignty to the Iraqi people; third, sectarian violence tragically increased; and now, in the fourth phase, we are “deploying reinforcements and launching new operations to help Iraqis bring security to their people.”

The elegant word Skillen chooses to describe this narrative is “delusional.”

He counters:

U.S. forces did not liberate Iraq; they wiped out its government, and the Bush administration then failed to exercise American responsibility to govern the country so it could be rebuilt and eventually governed by Iraqis themselves. We opened the floodgates to chaos, civil war, the death or flight of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, and a continuing influx of terrorists whom our ‘war’ was supposed to destroy. That is not liberation.

He follows with a withering critique of both the “stay the course” proposal of the executive branch and the quick withdrawal plans increasingly popular in Congress. Both lines of reasoning, he says, lay the blame for our dilemma on “the nearly powerless Iraqi government for not climbing out fast enough from the hole we dug for it.” We may well criticize the Iraqi government for taking a long summer vacation in the midst of its crisis, but that doesn’t negate our culpability for them being in this particular crisis in the first place.

He chooses another elegant word to describe a nation that creates a crisis and then blames the victims for it: “immoral.”

Delusional and immoral are strong words. Whether you believe the invasion was an ill-conceived and badly-planned mistake or you believe that the invasion was justifiable but the problems have been in the execution, either way, we’re in a mess. We need a way out.

A friend of mine says that we’re only as sick as our reactivity. If our reactivity to Sept. 11 played a part in getting us into this terrible situation, we will not be well served by reacting to the status quo with still more reactive behavior.

For those of us who supported the war, and for those of us who opposed it but failed to stand up and speak up strongly enough, this is not a time for reactive behavior. It’s an opportunity, as Senator Obama recently said, to be as in careful planning our next steps as we were careless in planning our steps in the past. With more foresight and forethought, with less blame-gaming and partisanship and more deliberate collaboration, we can take the next steps—whatever they will be—with more honor, intelligence, sanity, and responsibility, and less reactivity than we have employed so far. Voices like Skillens’ can slow us down to indulge in second and third thoughts, perhaps breaking the cycle of unwise and destructive reactivity into which we have plunged the Iraqis and ourselves.

Brian McLaren ( serves as board chair for Sojourners/Call to Renewal. His next book, Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope, will be released in October.

  1. #1 by Ambrosia de Milano on August 16, 2007 - 7:06 pm

    And your no Dan Quayle!

  2. #2 by Steve on August 16, 2007 - 9:47 pm

    Because I can spell ‘potatoe.’

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