Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

The Same Government Makes Domestic and Foreign Policy

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | May 27, 2014

It’s an odd thing. In the United States, as a broad rule, liberals are certain that US social programs are good and that US military actions are evil. By the same broad rule, conservatives are typically certain that US social programs are evil and US military actions are good. These perspectives very often divide Catholics of the liberal and conservative persuasions as well.

This peculiarity reminds me of the comment by Professor Digory Kirke, who owned the house which contained the magic wardrobe in C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. The four Pevensie children—the main characters in the series—had come to stay with him (he was their uncle) and during the visit the two younger siblings, Lucy and Edmund, inadvertently slipped into Narnia through the wardrobe.

Lucy told her older brother and sister, Peter and Susan, the truth about the experience, but Edmund—for selfish reasons of his own—denied it. Because Lucy’s story seemed fantastic, Peter and Susan chose to believe Edmund. Lucy was devastated, and this led to what we might call a certain dislocation from reality within the family. So eventually Peter and Susan put the matter before Professor Kirke.

Kirke’s solution was simple. He wondered why they decided to trust Edmund. Which of the two, he asked, had they found honest in the past? The answer was Lucy, and so they suddenly wondered whether she might have been telling the truth after all. The scene continues:

“Nothing is more probable,” said the Professor, taking off his spectacles and beginning to polish them, while he muttered to himself, “I wonder what they do teach them at these schools.”

By the same sort of logic—again as a general rule—I would say that we cannot have it both ways in our reflexive evaluations of government policy. The same government, run by the same people, possessing the same moral values, makes decisions in both domestic and foreign policy. If we have good reason to distrust the domestic social policies of the United States government, applied to problems of our own which we surely understand a good deal better than foreign problems, then why would we instinctively judge otherwise in matters of foreign and military policy?

The logic cuts both ways, but for the bulk of’s audience, which tends toward conservatism, I would put the matter this way. If we sometimes or frequently or usually find our domestic policies confused, based on false values, and/or pressed forward for ignoble political and personal motives, then it would seem logical to assume that the same factors color decisions affecting those beyond our shores, including our military operations. Surely, nothing is more probable.

Each case, of course, ought to be evaluated as much as possible on its merits. But it is exactly such predispositions which make this impossible. When we reflexively baptize American military policy, we both mute the witness of true patriotism and unnecessarily divide the Body of Christ throughout the world.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Thomas429 - May. 29, 2014 9:03 PM ET USA

    Not guilty, I find our foreign policy and our domestic policy flawed. This has been true for a very long time. It has intensified over the last seven years as the flaws at home and abroad have gotten more egregious.

  • Posted by: koinonia - May. 28, 2014 9:46 AM ET USA

    Regardless if pre-Constantine Rome, medieval Europe, the Age of Exploration, the mission work in the Orient, or 21st century transnational militaries and economies, the Church is the institution charged to teach, govern and sanctify the hearts and souls of men. The history of the USA is remarkable, and it must be acknowledged that American heroes saved the world in WWII and Americans have led great achievements in many fields. But the Church is charged uniquely to testify to truth, not the USA.

  • Posted by: bruno.cicconi7491 - May. 27, 2014 11:59 PM ET USA

    As a non-American, and thus with what I believe to be the benefit of perspective, Dr. Mirus' opinions on this and the memorial day piece are of a very rare balance compared to most commentators, left and right. Alas, that's true not only regarding politics but religion as well.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - May. 27, 2014 11:46 PM ET USA

    How did American "military policy" get into this mix? We were just celebrating Memorial Day and you somehow find that as an excuse to let loose with respect to what I feel are your own personal, dare I say liberal, prejudices with respect to American history? Poor timing Jeff... When I went to Rome for the beatification of Padre Pio I DID NOT see that as an opportunity to discuss the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.

  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - May. 27, 2014 11:28 PM ET USA

    I don't know about your other readers but I don't trust anything this evil administration does. On those rare occasions when they do something that I agree with I immediately review my position to see if I have erred.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - May. 27, 2014 8:14 PM ET USA

    Quite right, and the problem you pose here doesn't concern only the American state now. Catholics in Europe in the late 30s had every reason to condemn the actions of their respective states (e.g. Germany, Vichy France, Italy, post-Anschlus Austria, Spain), but generally they did not. For the most part, with honorable exceptions like Franz J├Ągerst├Ątter, they acquiesced to despicable policies. Like their American cousins of today, they often papered over immoral policies with high-minded blather.

  • Posted by: Edward I. - May. 27, 2014 5:31 PM ET USA

    Dr. Mirus, thank you for being more loyal to the everlasting Catholic Church than to a nation which like all other nations will eventually fade and crumble. Even many Catholic bloggers, whom I otherwise admire, seem unable to clearly distinguish between the two.