While describing the full-scale violence between Israel and Lebanon, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attempted to put a positive spin on things. She said what we were witnessing were the “birth pangs of a new Middle East.” If so, eventually, one would assume, everything will “come out” alright.
This is not the first time the Bush administration has used the term “birth pangs” to explain horrible violence and chaos from Somalia to Afghanistan. They’ve taken a page out of Jesus’ playbook (Matthew 24). Many will be misled, wars and rumors of wars, nation against nation, there will be famines and earthquakes—these, according to Jesus, were just the beginning of birth pangs—the signs for the end of time.
It’s a nice way of saying, “Apocalypse is messy.” Or, if you’re in the Bush Administration, “Creation is messy.” It must be an incredibly scary thing to be in labor. It’s at least reassuring to have a doctor tell you those contractions are perfectly normal. But what about when it’s proclaimed by someone who has never done this before? Would you be reassured? The new Middle East is being birthed not by doctors, but by people who play them on TV. I hear them saying “I…I read this in a book somewhere…this is supposed to happen.” Not reassuring if you’re one of the ones caught in the violent contractions.
In Jesus' case, the process was the delivery of tribulation to believers. To the Bush administration the pangs are the harbinger of a new Middle East, flowering with Democracy. Dr. Rice utters the phrase with a gleam in her eye, like a mad scientist watching the wondrous birth of a lab-created monster. It’s not ugly. It’s life. This seems to be like a science experiment gone terribly wrong, unleashed by arm-chair politicians and would-be world shakers.
And, to spin it, the administration has arrested both messianic terminology and the birthing process. Jesus may be flattered. (I don’t know, he’s not returning my calls.) but women should be outraged. Any comparison of this inept and ill conceived mess to the awe inspiring miracle of birth should be insulting. The people of the Middle East should also be violently upset. Oh, wait, many of them are. Theirs is the land claimed for this birthing process. Congratulations, you’re going to be parents of freedom. Here’s a flyer.
The actions of the administration have unleashed terrible violence and chaos and increased tensions across the region. Every day Iran moves closer to nuclear capability, recently attending North Korea’s latest test missile launch. Iran works through Syria which is funneling arms to Hezbollah which is firing rockets into Israel which is leveling Lebanon. And Secretary Rice proclaims that this is all part of the process, a wonderful Genesis, a flood of fire and brimstone that will bring about a new geo-political map in the Middle East. The statements are at best ripe with hubris, and at worst incredibly insulting.
I never thought I’d say it but I find Jesus’ version the more prosaic of the two. He may have spoke in parables and imagery about the end times, but he was not nearly as obtuse and ethereal as the current leadership scuttling in and out of the White House.
It’s been a wild ride for the administration. It started with a bold idea: what if a Democracy were planted in the center of the Arab world. What would happen? You can see the concept unfolding like the Genesis planet in “Star Trek III”—A projectile of democracy is lobbed into Baghdad, an explosion begins fiery political terra-forming emitting out in a widening circle, spreading all across the decrepit region, where eventually hope and freedom bloom like so many spring saplings.
A sci-fi reference in a political essay might seem misaligned, but I think that’s about where we’ve gotten to. We fund a foreign policy that appears to be one part messianic and one part Hollywood blue screen screen, and if you can tell the difference anymore you’re more adept than I am.
Of course, to explain it that way would sound crazy. So, we’ll just talk about Saddam’s WMDs and rape chambers. But what we’re really there to do is transform the whole damn thing in one bold move. It’s the love child any case study political scientist, arrogant industrialist, aggravated old man, or hell-bent Christian would love to have.