Iraq and Wicked Israelite Kings--A Parallel

Good leaders serve the people.  Bad leaders oppress them.  This concept was reinforced for me today as we read about an oppressive Israelite king in our Sunday School class.  It struck home when I realized that the Israelite king had an unfortunate modern-day parallel--the American oppression of Iraq, a problem which has only recently begun to be fixed.
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When the Israelite Rehoboam became king after his father died, he called his counselors together to help him determine what his administrative policy should be. Those wise veterans of the king's staff felt comfortable advising the new king that his father, Solomon, had been unduly hard on his subjects. They advised that Rehoboam should show more respect to the Israelite people, and that he should be their servant.  The overwhelming sentiment of the people themselves was illustrated when
  3...all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying,
  4 Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.
That, apparently, was not what Rehoboam wanted to hear. Instead, he wanted to be a powerful king.  He therefore, left his court of advisers and instead consulted with the younger generation--those who were about his same age.  They told him something completely different, which was what he had been wanting to hear. His young, inexperienced cohorts advised him that if he gave in to the will of the people by being kinder to them than was his father, that the people would take advantage of him and he would eventually lose his throne.

Taking the advice of the younger and inexperienced generation, Rehoboam became even more of a taskmaster over the people than his father Solomon had been.  Eventually the burden of Rehoboam became impossible for the people to endure. One day, when Adoram, Director of Rehoboam's Internal Revenue Service, appeared before the people, "all Israel stoned him with stones, that he died."

. . .

It occurred to me while pondering this story that the United States military initially suffered from the same delusions of grandeur in Iraq that Rehoboam did in Israel. George W. Bush was like the young whipper-snapper king in that he allowed himself to be dissuaded by immature advisers into believing that beating the Iraqis into submission was the best way to bring democracy to their country.

When I was in training to go to Iraq it surprised me that every time we engaged in training scenarios with Iraqi Americans, it was with the Iraqis playing the part of the enemy.  This didn't make any sense to me. If the US military was going to be in Iraq, I thought to myself, at least we should be Serving the People of Iraq (I have a blog with this title) rather than knocking them down and metaphorically pressing our combat boots to their necks.

After the brief euphoria of having been freed from Saddam Hussein, Iraqis gradually came to hate Americans as badly as the Israelites had hated King Rehoboam.  But whereas the Israelites threw stones to kill the king's representatives, American servicemembers were more and more often being greeted with improvised explosive devices, snipers, and suicide bombers.

In late 2006, someone with enough influence in the US military began promulgating the same things I had been thinking about as a soldier.  General David Petraeus took over management of the American occupation of Iraq.  And things began to change. As American soldiers got out of their tanks and humvees and began to patrol on foot, more Iraqis began to realize that American soldiers are people, too.  As soldiers moved into their neighborhoods and got to know the people and provide consistent protection for them against terrorists, the people began to trust them.

We don't hear much about Iraq in the news anymore, because not much of an exciting and titillating nature is going on there anymore.  This is because the policy of the US military now is to serve the people instead of to oppress them.

False religion is often referred to as Baal worship. King Rehoboam and King George W Bush practiced false religion in that they oppressed the people.  The term "Baal", interestingly enough, connotes a negative relationship between a master and a slave. False religion is exactly what Satan wants, because slaves are miserable, and Satan wants as many people as possible to be as miserable as he is.

Whether you support the American military being in Iraq or not (I didn't, but I think we should rectify the problems we have caused there) we can learn a great lesson from the contrast between King Rehoboam and David Petraeus.  True leaders serve the people rather than seeking to subdue them. People react predictably to both good and bad forms of leadership. Against oppressive leaders they will eventually rebel.  For leaders who serve them and help to better their lives, they are truly thankful.

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