Commentary Magazine


A Defense Riddled with Holes

Over on her blog, Diana West gets a little hysterical about the fallout over the U.S. military sniper who shot up a Qur’an in Bagdhad. She objects to the reprimand the soldier received and the general air of apology from the U.S.:

Let’s play around some more with the story. Imagine if, during the Allied occupation of post-Nazi Germany, a GI had been discovered using “Mein Kampf” for target practice. Would Gen. George S. Patton have kissed a new copy of the Nazi bible as he presented it to a cadre of former Nazis?

That won’t do, Diana. While the Qur’an is sacred to our enemies in Iraq, it is also sacred to our allies in that country. Moreover, it is sacred to the millions of Muslims who are citizens of the United States, to say nothing of the thousands who serve in uniform. True, teasing out Muslim extremists from the larger Muslim population is not always easy. True, the task is made harder still by the near silence of Muslim moderates. But this is a difficulty that demands thoughtful analysis, not crude characterization. Political correctness is a liability in the war on terror, but so too is its reflexive opposite. Whereas the first renders us helpless in the face of the enemy the second leaves us unable to capitalize on alliances.

The shot-up, graffiti-covered Qur’an was found by Sunnis two days after the incident. Any soldier who has been in Iraq will tell you about the importance of engaging the right Muslims in the right way. The whole strategic counterpart of the troop surge was based on building trust in just this manner. Think of the extraordinary progress made by soldiers who left large bases to man posts out among Iraqi civilians, and imagine the damage that could have been done had the U.S. not handled the sniper incident just right. There’s no defense for this sniper’s dangerous folly.