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The mule and the lamb

"The mule and the lamb" Continued...

Issue: "Realities: 2011-2020," Jan. 15, 2011

And, lest we think that it's wrong for a U.S. president to be a posing actor, Friedman stipulates that leaders of other countries regularly lie. For example, Friedman argues that drug money is crucial to the Mexican economy, and drug violence is concentrated along the border, not in the populated heartland of Mexico. On balance, Mexico benefits from the drug traffic, so Mexican leaders "give the appearance of trying to stop the drug trade while making certain that all significant efforts fail. This keeps the U.S. mollified while making certain that the money continues to pour in."

Theater, theater, theater. Friedman's revision of morality presents a profound challenge to a Christian view of the world: If the Christian understanding is that our lives are both worse and better than we normally suspect-we're both more sinful and more loved than we imagine-then Friedman has the sinful part right. With many of his relatives killed in the Holocaust, he does not see any reason to be honest when Nazis come to the door asking if Jews are hiding inside. He wants to kill them before they kill the relatives-or better yet, maneuver evildoers (and that's much of the world) into killing each other.

Friedman, in his single New Testament reference within The Next Decade, quotes part of the famous chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians: "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways." He does not quote another part: "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends."

What does that mean, applied to international relations? It doesn't mean nonviolence: Another chapter 13, of the book of Romans, gives rulers a sword to carry out God's "wrath on the wrongdoer." But it also doesn't mean that patience and kindness are childish things, with love to be treated as one four-letter word among others: Granted, evil dictators deserve their comeuppance, yet their wars kill many who are innocent. It's not easy to say how Christian presidents should act-Friedman rightly notes that "two presidents who attempted to pursue virtue directly, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush, failed spectacularly"-but they will be aware of a deeper drama.

Friedman and I both grew up reading Isaac Asimov's Foundation novels, frequently named the best science fiction series ever. In it the prognostications of a brilliant social scientist are torn asunder by the emergence of the Mule, a telepathic freak with the ability to reach into the minds of others and "adjust" their emotions: The Mule, emerging from a miserable childhood and out to take revenge on humanity, conquers much of the galaxy.

Friedman is right to think of the world as a theater, but he does not understand that it is a theater of God. Throughout the Old Testament God regularly raises up kings and smashes empires, sometimes using evil rulers-such as the Syrian king Hazael-to do His bidding. In the New Testament someone far greater than the Mule takes center stage: The Lamb, Jesus, is able to "turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers."

The coming of Christ means that the world is not a Hobbesian struggle of all against all with no supernatural intervention possible, war without end, amen. Friedman does not mention the way that Christ has turned tens of millions of Chinese hearts toward their Father in heaven: If more and more Chinese turn to Christ, they will change that country and the future of the world. Perhaps our official foreign policy should ignore Africa, but another foreign policy is going on simultaneously, led by missionaries, evangelists, entrepreneurs, and compassionate helpers-and that, within God's plan, may tell us more about the long-range future.

Friedman's sensational work takes us part of the way to understanding the theater of international politics and letting us see the harsh reality behind honeyed words. In Isaac Asimov's fiction the Mule dies in his 30s, and his empire disintegrates. In God's reality the Lamb dies in his 30s and lives forever, creating a different and deeper reality.

A simplified (sometimes oversimplified) version of Friedman's analysis:


Afghanistan: The Taliban will rule it once again.
Africa: Ignore.
Baltic countries: Use them as bargaining chips with Russia.
Brazil & Argentina: Ideally, they are counterweights to each other.
China & Japan: Ditto.
Germany & Russia: Ditto.
India & Pakistan: Ditto.
Iraq & Iran: Ditto, but for now develop a détente with Iran.
Israel: Disengage (Israel no longer needs U.S. aid, anyway).
Jordan, Egypt: They function in effect as allies of Israel.
Most of Latin America: Largely ignore.
Poland: Support it as "a bone in the throat of both Germany and Russia."
Saudi Arabia: Use Iran to scare its rulers.
Turkey: Make sure it and Iran do not form an alliance.
Georgia: Throw it under the Russian train.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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