Tooley: Hello this is Mark Tooley with another episode of Marksism, with fellow Providence editors and fellow Mark(c)s, Marc LiVecche and Mark Melton. We’re reviewing several pieces from Providence this past week, including a post that appeared just minutes ago from contributor Rebeccah Heinrichs on the possibility of drafting women in wartime, in terms of requiring them to sign up for selective service. Rebeccah rejects this possibility. There’s a piece by our own Marc LiVecche on US withdrawal from Afghanistan, a typically insightful Christian realist overview. We have a piece from our spiritual godfather Reinhold Niebuhr, reflecting on the possibilities of inflation in post-World War II America with possible application today. And then finally I’ll say a few words about my own article, not in Providence but in IRD’s Juicy Ecumenism, about churches and how they have related to the dictatorship of Cuba over the last 50 years. But first, starting out with Rebeccah Heinrichs’ piece on potentially drafting women, legislation in Congress that would require women to enroll for selective service, which currently is limited only to 18-year-old males. Marc LiVecche, your views on potentially drafting women into the military?
LiVecche: I like the bird soundtrack that is going on much more than I like the idea of drafting our girls. So, I think there are a couple things going on. There are at least three that I will list off quickly. The first is to recognize something that probably ought to preface any conversation about women in combat in general, and that’s to be sure that we’re not trying to, those of us who disagree with the notion of women in direct combat or women in the draft, are not, of course, trying to discount the enormous acts of courage and commitment to comrade and nation that women in the military have already displayed. Upwards of 10,000 women I think have earned the CAB, the Combat Action Badge, which means they have been in direct fire with the enemy. Hundreds have earned valor citations, including Silver Stars and all the rest. They acquitted themselves with incredible courage and capacity in our armed services, and no argument that I make would ever go against something like that. And it’s also not to suggest that women don’t have a role in the military. They have very often proved themselves more efficient human intelligence gatherers. There are all sorts of evidence to suggest there’s different things that women simply do better in the military than men. All that sort of leads to the second point, which is all of the good arguments against the idea of assigning women into direct combat stem from facts and not opinion. Women and men, as unpopular as it might be to say, especially in an Olympic year, are different. There are biological differences. Thomas Aquinas would argue that the differences go all the way down into the soul, that the soul itself is sex, which means that there are certain functions that follow from these two different forms. So, we’ve made the arguments in Providence before, and Rebeccah makes them again, about body composition, and physicality, and the ability to endure continual stress, and the effect that has on the ability to shoot straight. All sorts of things. So, there are biological and I think spiritual, the body-soul complex arguments to be made against the assignment of women into direct combat, and this leads into questions about the draft. I also recognize that these are different things; that simply because a woman might be drafted doesn’t mean she’s going to be shunted into combat. I understand that. But for the same reasons that I’m opposed to women in combat, and we should probably post some of those articles maybe on the website, tell me that I don’t want to live in a nation that chooses to subject our women to a draft. Which would be to send them into harm’s way, one way or another, before we send our sons. And some find that inequitable; some find that unconstitutional. I don’t care. I’m old enough, I suppose, to believe in gallantry and that, by and large, the body-soul complex means that men shield women with their bodies in the first case. And that doesn’t discount that there are many women out there who can kick my butt. But when it comes to a life-threatening situation, I think I have a God given natural responsibility to put my body between theirs in danger first. And I just don’t want to live in a nation, and I don’t think we should be a nation, that finds it appropriate to send our daughters into combat against their will potentially before we send our sons. So, that has more to do with the draft and not an all-volunteer force, but there are many of the same arguments at play in the volunteer force. That’s a big way of saying I like what Rebeccah says, and I don’t like the idea of sending our daughters through the draft.
Tooley: Mark Melton, shifting to Reinhold Niebuhr and his 1946 reflection on the resurgence of inflation in post-World War II America, he was writing for Christianity & Crisis, our model publication, and is skeptical of the claims of businessmen and industrialists that if price controls were removed, they could increase production to the extent that it would ameliorate inflation. Niebuhr, of course, was always skeptical of allotting too much power to any segment of society, and was especially skeptical of big business and industry. So, your thoughts?
Melton: Yeah. So, I thought this was interesting. First off, you know my degrees are in international relations and international trade, and so, it was interesting kind of reading this piece in Christianity & Crisis dealing with an episode that I honestly didn’t know that a lot about. And so, I picked it originally because there’s inflation going on now, the fastest in decades, and it’s an odd type of inflation. Though it’s not across the entire economy. There are specific items that are becoming more expensive right now. Used cars is a commonly cited one. Timber, or lumber, was an issue a few months ago that has come back down. And houses have increased dramatically. These are all consequences of what has happened over the past year, especially with the pandemic and then also stimulus that people are citing. There are also a lot of political overtones here, where if it’s pinned on the latest round of stimulus spending then Republicans will use that to attack Democrats. So, that’s a big thing that people are talking about a lot in the publications I read. So, finding this piece from 75 years ago, I found it interesting and did some research into what Niebuhr was talking about. For instance, he mentions, but he doesn’t even explain what the acronym is, he just says the OPA. I didn’t even know what the OPA was, so after doing some research and finding out, this is an organization that basically set the rationing and the price controls. I knew those things happened, but I didn’t know the name of the organization that did it. And so, he’s mentioning and talking about the OPA and reinstating it, and basically when he wrote this article inflation was increasing at a 100% annualized rate. It didn’t go that high for the whole year, but it was a very sharp increase in the price of food and other items that everyone was buying. And so, this was a big enough crisis that it actually influenced the election later on that year. And his overall point is that Christians don’t really have much to say on this issue, in that they can’t say anything with unity, the same way that Christianity & Crisis and other publications were saying stuff on foreign policy issues. Because everyone has their own interests at heart, and that they will make arguments that basically prosper them. Some will be consumers who want the price controls reinstated, so that they can keep buying bread on the cheap. Whereas producers want to do away with the control so that they can make more money. It’s interesting because at that time they were dealing with the idea that they can do price controls, whereas nowadays we don’t do that. We use the Federal Reserve interest rate to try to control inflation or to promote economic growth, but we’re not going to say well, the price of bread should not rise above $3. We’re not going to do that; we can associate that more with the crisis of Venezuela than we do with a sound economic policy in the United States. And we learned that over decades of economic pain, which is actually going on at this moment when Reinhold Niebuhr is writing his article. But his overall point is that Christians should reexamine, are they promoting an idea or a policy because it benefits them or because it’s best for the country? And I would probably counter that with we can’t really separate ourselves from that. We have to present our own views, even if they are biased. Just because they’re biased doesn’t mean they’re wrong; and when everyone does this and we have an honest debate, then we’re able to come to a better policy decision on what should be done.
Tooley: Let me share my thoughts about my own piece about Cuba and churches, provoked by a full-page ad in the New York Times by a group of people in organizations on the Left, deriving and denouncing US policies towards Cuba and encouraging lifting of all sanctions and full diplomatic relations with the communist regime. Also, while saying not a word of solidarity with the protests in Cuba for greater human rights and for freedom of speech. A not surprising, but still sad and tragic omission. The signers include some old predictables from the distant past: Jane Fonda, Daniel Ellsberg, Susan Sarandon, CODEPINK, Black Lives Matter’s international division. It’s rather interesting in that apparently black Cubans have led the way in many of these protests in the sense that they have been the special target of ongoing discrimination under the dictatorship. But finally, the signers included the general secretary of the National Council of Churches, which includes as members and claims to represent 35 communions in American Christianity, including all mainline Protestant denominations, historic black denominations, and several Eastern Orthodox communions. The chief of the National Council is Jim Winkler, who formerly headed the United Methodist Church’s Capitol Hill lobby office for many years, and this is significant in that the mainline churches and the ecumenical movement have for most of the last 50 years refused, or at very best minimized, the human rights situation in Cuba, and at times even fondly expressed admiration for the revolution in Cuba for its supposedly effective health care for all people and for ameliorating the effects of poverty. Meanwhile, ignoring the suppression of freedom of speech, the frequent persecution of the church and the imprisonment often tens of thousands of dissidents, or so-called counterrevolutionaries, by the regime in Cuba. At this point in history, it would be a wonderful opportunity if the mainline churches and ecumenical movement were to turn over a new page and, finally, to express their solidarity with those desiring democracy, human rights, freedom of speech, and religious freedom in Cuba. That’s not happening yet. There was a letter from an official of the Presbyterian Church (USA) effectively echoing the New York Times full-page ad, denouncing the US and silent about the crimes and sins of the Cuban dictatorship. So, a new page is not likely to be turned but miracles do happen, and we can pray and hope that there will be an acknowledgement that Cuba merits human freedom as much as any other country. On that note, Marc LiVecche, any final words from you on your piece from last week about US withdrawal from Afghanistan, which includes its own unfolding tragedy in terms of the advancement of the Taliban, with all the consequential implications for the people of Afghanistan?
LiVecche: Yeah. I just try to make a realist argument for, or at least against the withdrawals happening. I think very often the arguments being cast is a realist versus maybe idealist, or bleeding heart, globalist position, and I don’t think that sort of dichotomy is helpful. I don’t think that dichotomy is at play. We had a realist argument for going into Afghanistan, to punish those who perpetrated 9/11 against us, to go after the Taliban, to try to catch Osama bin Laden, all of that. There was a valid and very clear national interest going in. I think that the mission had to shift as we recognized that to be a reasonably secure nation that had any hope of preventing Taliban resurgence and hosting terrorist organizations that mean us harm, Afghanistan had to be at least a minimally stable nation. It doesn’t argue for democratic nation building, but it does argue for certain democratic principles to be in place to try to make it reasonably stable so that they could provide for their own security. That forms kind of an outer perimeter of US security, there was an interest there in that. So, I just argue what I think is a common-sense argument, that those conditions are not in place. Those conditions ought to be in place before a complete withdrawal makes sense. That’s hard to say. There’s been a lot of American lives, a lot of American treasures spent there; but there’s also been Afghan lives and Afghan treasure lost there. And I’m not trying to make the kind of Pottery Barn rule that says that if we break something we have to fix it. I complicate that argument. But I do suggest that if there are conditions on the ground that would suggest a humanitarian intervention, then if those conditions on the ground are in existence now, then a complete withdrawal is probably not the prudent nor the charitable thing to do. And I tried to make the case for why something else other than a complete withdrawal is a realist argument. I don’t pretend it’s an easy argument; I think there’s a rule at play here, that if you make a series of wrong decisions over the course of 20 years, the ability to make any single right decision is hopelessly compromised. And that’s at play. So, it’s a matter of trying to figure out what the least bad thing to do is.
Tooley: On that gray note, gentlemen, Marc and Mark, thank you for another episode of Marksism. Until next week, bye-bye.