Thus far I haven’t weighed in on the Koran-burning kerfuffle.
1. This is one of those intrinsically unimportant events that only assumes an artificial importance because some people act as if it’s truly important. Like celebrity scandals. The significance of the event feeds on itself–like the fabled Uroborus.
2. I don’t think we should go out of our way to be offensive for the sake of offensiveness. So I don’t approve of what the pastor is doing.
Of course, there’s a difference between giving offense and taking offense. Some offended parties have no right to be offended. There’s no doubt, though, that this pastor is trying to give offense. And, for him, that seems to be the only goal.
3. That said, there’s a long tradition of “protest art” in the US. This usually takes the form of radical “artists” who deliberately create sacrilegious “art” for the express purpose of dishonoring the Christian faith–as they see it. Yet we don’t hear high-ranking gov’t official denounce these calculated impieties when Christianity is the target.
Likewise, for the last few weeks we’ve been hectored and lectured by the chattering classes on how anybody who opposes the Ground Zero mosque is a racist or bigot or both. They rush to defend the right of Muslims to thumb their nose at the victims and the survivors of 9/11–only to feign indignation at a guy who is doing the same thing in reverse.
4. Gen. Petraeus expresses a valid concern. Certainly the gratuity and triviality of this affront doesn’t justify the risk to our soldiers abroad.
At the same time, his concern also exposes the dilemma of our counterterrorism strategy. We’re trying to recruit Muslims to defeat Muslims. Forge political and military alliances with “moderate” Muslims to help us defeat the militant Muslims.
Yet warnings like his remind us that the distinction between Muslim allies and Muslim enemies is exceedingly tenuous. Our Muslim “allies” will turn on us in the blink of an eye if a small-time pastor of a small-time church in a nation of 300 million inhabitants does something to inflame the hypersensitive feelings of the Muslim world.
Our counterterrorism strategy consists of cultivating a (hopefully) lesser enemy to defeat a greater enemy. But such allies are inherently fickle and treacherous. Perhaps that’s the best you can do under the circumstances. But you don’t dare turn your back on “allies” like that. For they can revert at a moment’s notice.