When her critics point out that Governor Sarah Palin is inexperienced on matters of foreign policy they tend to note what she hasn’t done —she seldom has traveled outside the United States. In fact The New York Times reports that Governor Palin had to apply for a passport before traveling to Kuwait and Germany to visit deployed members of the Alaska National Guard in 2007. She also visited Ireland on that trip—The Wall Street Journal says she was there just long enough to refuel her plane—and it’s fair to assume that she’s seen the parts of Canada between Alaska and Idaho.
Governor Palin never has been to Iraq and she’s never visited any of America’s most important allies. Even though their population is roughly equivalent to that of Memphis, Tennessee, Alaskans must engage in foreign commerce, yet Palin has not visited Alaska’s trading partners. I have no idea if Palin has received foreign delegations to Alaska. I’ll leave it to more astute political observers to decide if what Sarah Palin hasn’t done qualifies her to set our nation’s foreign policy. I am a religious commentator. My job is to point out that, what Sarah Palin has done (or, more precisely what she has said), suggests that this affable hockey mom is theologically ill-prepared to lead on matters of foreign policy; and the American people should be singularly concerned if Sarah Palin ever is in charge of representing the United States in its relationships with the Muslim world.
Here’s the problem: on June 8, 2008, Governor Palin gave a talk at the graduation of a lay ministry training program at her childhood church in Wasilla, Alaska. During her remarks she asked the gathered graduates and guests to “pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending them out on a task that is from God. That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan.” (She also said that it was God’s will that Alaskans come together to build a natural gas pipeline, but that’s another matter.)
Here’s a video clip:
Now, I’ve watched a video of Governor Palin’s remarks several times (thanks to The Huffington Post), and I have to say that I’m not exactly sure what Sarah Palin is talking about. I don’t know if she’s asking folks to pray that national leaders would recognize the war in Iraq as “from God” or if she is praying that the national leaders might discern and follow God’s will as they fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Either way, in her address to the graduates of the Wasilla Assembly of God Master’s Commission Governor Palin touched what should be a third rail in American foreign policy: she mentioned God’s will and America’s wars abroad in the same sentence.
Whatever a person may think of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the broader so-called “War on Terror”, I suspect that we all can agree that the United States needs leaders who will speak cautiously and wisely. Sara Palin’s suggestion that America’s wars in the Muslim world are be a manifestation of God’s will was neither cautious nor wise.
People in the Muslim world want to hear a Vice Presidential candidate suggest that our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a “task that is from God” about as much as Americans want to hear Muslim leaders talk about attacking the West as an act of sacred Jihad.
Sarah Palin either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that in the Middle East we are fighting people who fear a modern day crusade—a return to the days when European Christians mistakenly and disastrously thought God was calling them to conquer the Holy Land. The best way to make sure that more fighters will join the ranks of those who would harm America is to further the notion that Americans believe we have been called by God to wage war in the middle east in the name of Christ.
A person could be excused for confusing Governor Palin with a modern day crusader, and that is an image our nation can ill afford to project. If ever our nation is going to find its way out of war, we’ll be needing leaders who know how to talk about America’s role in the world without scaring those with whom we need to make peace. So far, this is a test that Governor Palin has failed.
Here’s Gov. Palin’s entire speech: