Jesus, Politics & The Golden Rule
Bruce Barton preaches non-intervention (June 1951)
“Our big trouble is that we have too many officials talking too loosely, meddling in too many situations, promising and threatening too much.”
As America enters its 58th election year, the topic of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East remains as hot as ever. The latest Republican and Democratic debates earlier this month have featured robust exchanges over the U.S. role in Libya, Iraq and Syria, with ample discussion of how to deal with ISIS and Iran. Recent and distant history was evoked repeatedly.
At the last Democratic debate, the U.S.-assisted overthrow of Premier Mohammad Mossadegh of Iran in 1953 was elicited as a cautionary tale by former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Sanders, who often speaks of the “unintended consequences” of foreign intervention, had already conjured Mossadegh (and Allende) twice in November alone—including the previous Presidential debate viewed by millions of would-be American voters.
The Republican debate on December 15th was more animated, and included these surprising observations:
“[W]e need to learn from history. These same leaders — Obama, Clinton, and far too many Republicans — want to topple Assad. Assad is a bad man, Gaddafi was a bad man, Mubarak had a terrible human rights record. But they were assisting us — at least Gaddafi and Mubarak — in fighting radical Islamic terrorists. And if we topple Assad, the result will be ISIS will take over Syria, and it will worsen U.S. national security interests.” — Ted Cruz
“We have done a tremendous disservice, not only to the Middle East, we’ve done a tremendous disservice to humanity. [in Iraq] The people that have been killed, the people that have been wiped away, and for what? It’s not like we had victory. It’s a mess.” — Donald Trump
“The fact of the matter is, the Middle East has been in turmoil for thousands of years. For us to think that we’re going to in there and fix that with a couple of little bombs and a few little declarations is relatively foolish.”
— Ben Carson
“These are the fundamental questions of our time, these foreign policy questions, whether or not regime change is a good idea or a bad idea. . . . Out of regime change you get chaos. From the chaos you have seen repeatedly the rise of radical Islam. . . . We have to have a more realistic foreign policy and not a utopian one where we say, ‘Oh, we’re going to spread freedom and democracy, and everybody in the Middle East is going to love us’. They’re not going to love us.” — Rand Paul
A Republican figure from yesteryear prominent enough to be considered a Presidential contender himself, Bruce Fairchild Barton (1886–1967) had a lot to say about foreign intervention. Barton was best known as the pioneering advertising tycoon behind one of the biggest ad agencies in the world, but he was also a columnist for King Features and best-selling author of The Man Nobody Knows (a 1925 novel about Jesus Christ, depicting him as the ultimate businessman) and numerous other Bible-based and financial self-help books. From 1937-1940 he represented New York in Congress. A former opponent of FDR, he delivered the keynote address at the Republican State Convention in 1938.
Barton’s version of Christian conservatism seemed to draw upon the Golden Rule, a principle widely attributed to Jesus. On this Day celebrating Christ’s birth, it’s fitting that Barton’s timeless commentary unfolds in the land of reindeer and Santa Claus...
June 23, 1951
Emil Hurja  on his recent trip to Finland said to a wise old statesman: “If you were given just two minutes to talk to President Truman, what would you tell him?”
The Prayer of the Ancient Lapp
By Bruce Barton
The old man tugged at his beard and pondered deeply. I think I should repeat the prayer of the ancient monk of Lapland, he said. “Oh Lord, bless all of the peoples of the earth, and according to their deserts give to each their heart’s desire. But please, Lord, leave Lapland alone.”
Dispatches from foreign correspondents indicate that a large part of the world is beginning to feel like this old monk.
The Canadians, our most important friends, recently served notice that it is time for the U.S. to stop telling them “that until we do one-twelfth or one-sixteenth, or some other fraction as much as they are doing, we are defaulting.” There can easily be “angry waves that may weaken the foundation of our friendship.” U.S. diplomatic efforts were referred to as “hoop-la diplomacy.”
The New York Times correspondent in Hanoi reported that “the French appear to want United States aid, but without Americans...they complain that there are too many Americans (in Indo-China) and wish some of them would go home.” [Many Vietnamese said the same about the French]
Anti-US feeling is high in England, India, Arabia, Egypt—almost everywhere. There must be some reason for this. And, since “foreign policy” has now become everybody’s business, I venture my own suggestion as to a possible remedy.
I should like the State Department to create and appoint me to a new and unpaid position. I would ask for no desk, no telephone, no secretary. I would make no reports, dictate no memoranda, fill out no questionnaires, sit in no conferences, draw no over-all pictures, attend no cocktail parties...
But whenever the secretary, or any other official, felt moved to issue a statement or deliver a speech, the manuscript would be brought to my quiet little room. It would be my job to say: Suppose I were a Russian, a Chinese, an Indian, or a Frenchman, how would this utterance sound to me? What would I be likely to say in reply? And then what would you say?”
Our big trouble is that we have too many officials talking too loosely, meddling in too many situations, promising and threatening too much.
We have the foolish notion that, because we have learned to make automobiles and television sets fast, we can quickly and painlessly remove the tensions and hatreds of centuries, transform Orientals into Occidentals, and achieve a beautiful American-made world with oceans that will be peaceful American lakes.
Older countries that have shed much blood and many tears, that have worn out their land and fallen behind the parade in their industrial production, do not take kindly to our constant flow of counsel, remonstrance and adjuration.
I honestly think that I, or some other fellow who has had to spend his life thinking in terms of the customer’s reaction, could guarantee to reduce by something like 75 per cent the volume of this well-meaning but terribly dangerous irritation.
1 Emil Hurja (1882-1953) was a Finnish American newspaperman, pioneering pollster/statistician, financial analyst and author.
The Tyranny of Words — Bruce Barton on Aggression (1951)
Black Journalist P. L. Prattis on Putting U.S. Foreign Policy on the Right Path (1953)
U.S. Foreign and Domestic Policy Brilliantly Explained By Satirist Henry Gay (1977)
Foreign Intervention “Un-American“ — Conservative Columnist Holmes Alexander (1956)
MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned“