It's not often a right-wing organization declares war on an active-duty soldier serving in Afghanistan, but that's what WorldNetDaily has done in choosing to attack Maj. Brian L. Stuckert.
Why? Because because Maj. Stuckert has committed the offense of being conservatively incorrect.
In May 2008, Stuckert -- then a student at the Army Command's School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas -- wrote a 61-page monograph titled "Strategic Implications of American Millennialism." In it, Stuckert examines how millennialism, specifically dispensational pre-millennialism -- the branch of Christian eschatology that Jesus will return to take up Christians into heaven by means of a rapture immediately before a seven-year tribulation, then return to Earth to reign for a millennia -- has influenced American military policy. Stuckert supports his claims with copious footnotes and an extensive bibliography. From the abstract of Stuckert's monograph:
Military leaders, planners and strategists require greater understanding of American millennial thought. Millennialism shapes both American culture and U.S. government policy. While most Americans are influenced to some degree by the ideas of pre-millennialism, many are unaware of the philosophical or theological underpinnings. Military leaders charged with interpreting policy into strategy and acting on behalf of the nation on the international stage cannot afford to remain ignorant of the effects of pre-millennialism. Due to a general lack of awareness of millennialism and an uneasy reticence to discuss religious factors, understanding and analysis of our own policies and motives is often deficient. Additionally, the cultural imprint that derives from millennialism impairs our understanding of the words, actions and motives of other actors on the world stage. These factors can be problematic for any military leader or planner attempting to achieve U.S. Government policy objectives through strategy, operations and programs.
As demonstrated by American history, millennialism has predisposed us toward stark absolutes, overly simplified dichotomies and a preference for revolutionary or cataclysmic change as opposed to gradual processes. In other words, American strategists tend to rely too much on broad generalizations, often incorrectly cast in terms of ‘good’ and ‘evil,’ and seek the fastest resolution to any conflict rather than the most thoughtful or patient one.
Not an especially controversial conclusion, is it? It is if you're WorldNetDaily. Here's how a Dec. 19 WND article by Bob Unruh spun this paper -- and thus declared war on an active-duty soldier:
A research paper written by a U.S. Army major for the School of Advanced Military Studies in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., calls for Americans to lose the evangelical Christian belief of pre-millennialism because of the damage it does to the nation's foreign interests.
At no point does Stuckert, whom Unruh notes is "reportedly assigned in Afghanistan," demand that "Americans ... lose" belief in pre-millennialism -- he can't, given that Stuckert's monograph is directed at military strategists and not the American public at large. Nothing Unruh quotes out of the paper supports such a claim; indeed, the closest he comes is Stuckert's statement that "We must come to more fully understand the background of our thinking about the U.N., the E.U., the World Trade Organization, Russia, China and Israel. We must ask similar questions about natural events such as earthquakes or disease." That is clearly not the same thing as a demand that Americans abandon pre-millennialism, as Unruh claims.
Unruh waits until the eighth paragraph to quote thte head of the Fort Leavenworth program saying that Stuckert's monograph "was simply an 'academic paper' like works at any college across the nation, 'which is to say it reflects the author's own opinions.'"
Then, strangely, Unruh appears to give credence to Stuckert's conclusions by quoting a blogger's baseless and paranoid reaction to it:
Others were more blunt in their assessments of Stuckert's work. Blogger John McTernan, for example, called it "the most dangerous document to believers that I have ever read in my entire life."
"After reading this document, it is easy to see the next step would be to eliminate our Constitutional rights and herd us into concentration camps," he said.
"The last third is an interpretation of Bible belief on world events. This report blames all the world evils on believers! World peace would break out if it were not for Bible believers in America," he said.
McTernan said he had contacted Col. Stefan Banack, listed on the monograph as the director of the School of Advanced Military Studies, who defended the writing.
"The conversation was extremely heated between us, and he hid behind the freedom of speech to produce it. He refused to let me write an article to refute this attack on Bible believers. He refused to tell me what this study was used for and who within the military was sent copies. I believe that it represents an official military view of Bible believers as Col. Banack said there was no study or article refuting this one," McTernan said.
Unruh also writes of McTernan, possibly explaining how this came to WND's attention in the first place:
"While God is in control, I believe it's also naive to deny the … stage-setting events happening right before our eyes," he continued. "Read the many articles from WorldNetDaily (www.wnd.com) covering the EXTREME thinking of [President Obama's] core group of advisers."
Unmentioned, of course is the fact many of those articles on Obama's "core group of advisers" are false and misleading.
Other than quoting a ranting blogger and distorting what he wrote, Unruh offers no challenge to Stuckert's views.
Which raises the question: Why does WorldNetDaily hate our troops in Afghanistan? And why is it so afraid of an academic paper?