Commentary Magazine


Afghan Apologies Beside the Point

The latest attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan put the ongoing debate about the many apologies made by President Obama and members of our government over the inadvertent burning of Korans by U.S. personnel in new perspective. While I completely agree with the points that Max Boot made on Thursday about the president being right to apologize, it’s clear that it doesn’t matter how many times Obama or Secretary of State Clinton or any American general utter contrite statements. The incident has merely served as the latest excuse for Islamist violence and riots whose purpose is to vent hatred against the West and perhaps also to serve the interests of our al Qaeda and Taliban foes in Afghanistan.

As Max said, the United States is not in Afghanistan as a favor to President Hamid Karzai but to buttress our security needs. Yet as much as Obama is obligated to say what he can to lessen the chances of attacks on U.S. soldiers there, the spectacle of continual apologies from members of the administration does grate on the sensibilities of many Americans. As with previous incidents in which Muslims sensibilities are said to be offended, whatever sympathy we might have for those who are angry about the incident is overwhelmed by disgust at their resort to violence and murder in the name of their faith. The problem here is not so much what Obama said in this instance but a willingness by this administration and much of the mainstream press to buy into a false narrative in which the history of interactions between the United States and the Muslim world is a one-sided story of Western insults to Islam. As Charles Krauthammer said on FOX News, Americans are sick of seeing their government grovel. It is high time to point out that Muslim violence against non-believers far outweighs the few isolated incidents for which a Western apology to Muslims is in order.

The problem here is not that Obama and Clinton continue to apologize in a vain effort to assuage the Afghan mobs. It is the mute acceptance of a situation in which any insult to Islam by any American or European under any circumstance is seen by the Muslim world as a justification for violence and murder while no amount of bloodshed or act of terror or deliberate insult to non-Muslim faiths is considered worthy of any notice by either side.

Throughout the Muslim world, Christian churches are burned and Jews are persecuted, as are Bahais and other minorities. Christians are under siege in Egypt. Jewish shrines have been attacked and desecrated in the West Bank. Synagogues were burned in Gaza. Yet none of this is considered important enough to notice by most in the West let alone to demand an apology from Muslims. Attacks and murder of Israeli Jews in the name of Islam over the years has become such a routine event that such crimes must be of the spectacular variety to attract much attention. The official media of Egypt, Iran and the Palestinian Authority crank out vicious hate speech about Jews and few care.

Yet let a cartoon satirizing the Prophet Muhammad be published or if a crackpot American pastor burns a Koran to get attention and we are told these acts are sufficient to justify mayhem and bloodshed.

It is to this set of unfortunate facts, and not just the president’s statement, that many Americans are reacting this week. This resentment is not so much at an apology that was probably be justified as it was at the entire tenor of this administration’s attitude toward the Muslim world. This is, after all, the same president who went to Cairo in June of 2009 to reach out to Muslims with a speech that symbolized his attempt to appease Islamic sensibilities. Predictably, that effort failed, as did his overtures to the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring protests. The weakness of our posture has only invited more extremist attempts to inflate minor incidents into causes for violence and murder.

America’s dilemma is that it is locked in a life-and-death struggle with Islamist forces. After all, the only reason we are in Afghanistan is that its Taliban government allowed its soil to be used a base for attacks on American citizens such as the 9/11 atrocities. In order to prevail we must seek and win allies within the Muslim world who want nothing to do with the Islamist agenda of unending war. To do that, we must show respect to their faith but so long as we accept a situation where we do not demand or expect respect in return, we are doomed to failure.

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