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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Hair Shirt

This is the sort of thing that really sets The Kid’s teeth on edge. Yesterday it seems that some people at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan may have improperly put some Qurans in the burn bin. Of course, this threw the entire U.S. operation in Afghanistan into a tizzy and earlier today General John Allen, commander of all ISAF forces in theater, released this statement:

To the noble people of Afghanistan –

I have ordered an investigation into a report I received during the night that ISAF personnel at Bagram Airbase improperly disposed of a large number of Islamic religious materials which included Korans.

When we learned of these actions, we immediately intervened and stopped them. The materials recovered will be properly handled by appropriate religious authorities.

We are thoroughly investigating the incident and we are taking steps to ensure this does not ever happen again. I assure you … I promise you … this was NOT intentional in any way. I offer my sincere apologies for any offense this may have caused, to the President of Afghanistan, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and most importantly, to the noble people of Afghanistan.

I would like to thank the local Afghan people who helped us identify the error, and who worked with us to immediately take corrective action.
Manana, Tashakur.

Let us first state that we recognize that there is a line to be danced around here. General Allen and the U.S. government are bending over backwards to soothe Muslim outrage because, short term, to not do so puts U.S. military and civilian personnel at greater risk. However, The Kid maintains that the outsized wailing and gnashing of teeth puts more Americans in danger in the long term.

Ferchrissakes, we apologize more obsequiously for “offending Muslim sensibilities” than for accidentally killing people, and this is a problem. By wearing the hair shirt we are validating the overall Muslim narrative, that being the untouchability of Islam. And with every self-debasement concerning these incidents, we further solidify the image of our submission, and our status as dhimmis.

What we have consistently failed to understand is that this war is about the competing narratives. It’s not about the Taliban threat to the Afghan Government, or other micro-issues. We are saving ourselves grief on the tactical level, while ceding ground strategically. This puts American lives at risk long term. Our ideology, of openness, tolerance and Liberty is the correct one. That is the strategic political goal we should be defending, rather than submitting to the Islamic narrative. Our willingness, our eagerness, to debase ourselves for perfectly understandable mistakes does not make us look tolerant in the eyes of the enemy. It marks us as the “weak horse” ripe for exploitation.

Obviously, we cannot be successful by spitting in the eye of Muslim world, and we are not going to liberalize them overnight (or ever, if our current strategies are to be pursued). When we make mistakes, we should apologize. But there is a line between apology and self-debasement. Where that line is exactly, The Kid cannot tell you. But it’s clear General Allen sailed way over it.