…NRO’s Jim Geraghty has it precisely right in the Morning Jolt today.
Ah, swell: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told CBS’s Bob Schieffer on Sunday that some members of Congress were considering some kind of action in response to the Florida Quran burning that sparked a murderous riot at a United Nations complex in Afghanistan and other mayhem. . . . ‘We’ll take a look at this of course . . . as to whether we need hearings or not, I don’t know,’ he added.”
This pastor, Terry Jones, has a jones for media attention that makes the Kardashians look like J.D. Salinger. He knows that there’s a good chance that tossing the Koran on a pile of charcoal briquettes will make the easily enraged in far-off lands lash out in that time-tested tradition — killing aid workers — and he doesn’t give a damn. He knows there’s a chance that the Muslim tantrums might put our men and women in uniform at greater risk. He still doesn’t give a damn. He has never given a damn. What, he’s gonna get weak-kneed at the thought of a unanimous Senate resolution?
To quote the wise philosopher Alfred, “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.” Or they want to watch Korans burn and see what else catches on fire, too.
Anyway, Reid is bad, but perhaps Lindsey Graham is even worse. He added, “I wish we could find a way to hold people accountable. Free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war. During World War II, we had limits on what you could say if it would inspire the enemy. So, burning a Koran is a terrible thing, but it doesn’t justify killing someone. Burning a Bible would be a terrible thing, but it doesn’t justify murder. Having said that, anytime we can push back here in America against actions like this that put our troops at risk we should do it, and I look forward to working with Senators Kerry and Reid and others to condemn this, condemn violence all over the world based on the name of religion.”
Hey, what did the U.S. government limit that could “inspire the enemy” during World War II? Weren’t we singing off-color parodies of “Whistle While You Work” about the malfunctioning genitalia of the foreign leaders we were fighting? If that and, say, our societal existence in absolute opposition to all of their values wasn’t sufficient to motivate them, wouldn’t say, the Dresden bombing be enough to give them that extra get-up-and-go? Were these guys really that “inspired” by anything we did? Isn’t that like arguing that our forces’ primary motivation in the Pacific War was to go get Tokyo Rose?
Where is this notion coming from that our actions can “motivate” homicidal maniacs? What, if we button up our pyromaniac pastors, the Taliban will stop trying to stir up Afghanis against outsiders? Isn’t that like trying to stop Son of Sam by banning dog food?
Doug Mataconis can’t believe the direction Reid and Graham are headed in: “Here’s your answer Senator. No, you don’t need to hold hearings and you don’t need to be looking into ways to limit the free speech rights of American citizens because of the insane reaction of people thousands of miles away who were obviously ginned up by demagogues. War or not, Terry Jones had every right to do what he did.”
Bruce McQuain, writing at Questions and Observations, urges Reid to dust off his Constitution: “Here, Harry, let me help you out: ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’ The first five words (the fourth one in particular) are all Congress needs to know about this.”
At Red State, Lori Ziganto is exasperated that so much of the blame is being put on the local pastor/arsonist and not the folks who, you know, killed the victims: “Note that once again it is being said that one act — the burning of paper — ‘triggered’ the deadly riots. Not the ideology nor the people who committed the acts, of course. Reid flat-out says that Terry Jones caused the murders — murders committed at the hands of other people. People apparently so simple-minded that they cannot think for themselves and cannot possibly know the difference between right and wrong. . . . You’ll take a look at this? Hey, I have a better idea. Why not take a look at why you constantly make excuses for barbarism and evil acts? Why not take a look at, you know, history and see that murderous rampages and beheadings happen all the time — somehow occurring without some obscure pastor burning a book.
Jim Treacher put this well: “The President of the United States bombs a Muslim country, and some nobody in Florida burns a Koran. Guess which one’s to blame for rioting in Afghanistan?”
Not sure I can add much to this. Or if I could, I’m not sure I could improve on John Hinderaker’s take at Power Line, which draws from this disaster to ask whether maybe we should take into consideration whether Afghanistan isn’t a hopeless cause not worth our blood and treasure…
Afghans are not just living in an earlier century; they are living in an earlier millenium. Their poverty, cultural backwardness and geographic isolation–roads verge on the nonexistent–are hard for us to fathom. They are a tribal society run by pederasts whose main industry is growing poppies. If our security hinges on turning this place into a reasonably modern, functioning country, we are in deep trouble. But I don’t think it does; and, in any event, I don’t think we can do it.
In large part, our effort in Afghanistan has been devoted to protecting normal Afghans against extremists like the Taliban. But, as the current rioting in Kandahar, Mazar-e Sharif and elsewhere reminds us, there there may not be a lot of daylight between the Taliban and more moderate Afghan factions.
President Obama doesn’t believe in our mission in Afghanistan. He has increased our commitment a little, following up on a campaign pledge that he made to avoid coming across to voters as a defeatist. (Weirdly, he doesn’t believe in his own venture in Libya either; he is already trying to scale back our involvement and reportedly has referred to it as a “turd sandwich.”) In this case, his instincts are right, and he should forget about his campaign posturing, which hardly anyone believed anyway, and follow them.
Is there a danger that if we leave, the Taliban will re-take control and, perhaps, invite al Qaeda or other terrorist groups to join them? Yes. However, it it not obvious that, after what happened in 2001, the Taliban will be quick to make its territory, once again, into a launching pad. If they do, one would hope that drones, bombs and perhaps the kind of small-scale insertion of troops that we mounted in 2001 will be an adequate response. In any event, when it comes to harboring terrorists, I am a lot more concerned about Pakistan than Afghanistan.
The war in Iraq is over, and has been for some time. Our mission there has been a success; how important a success depends not on us but on the Iraqis. For a predominantly Arab country, Iraq is doing well. At this point, we have done about all we can do. Our troops are no longer in a combat role, and we should bring them home, and honor their victory, on schedule.
There are new crises in the Middle East, and a bigger crisis than all the rest in Washington, where the Democrats are spending our children’s inheritance like there is no tomorrow. Hanging on in Afghanistan is not helping us to meet these more important challenges, and, while the war there represents a very small part of the federal budget, it is critically important to save where we can. The defense budget inevitably must take a hit, and Afghanistan is the best place for that ax to fall.
Our friend Pete Hegseth will soon deploy to Afghanistan, where he will be a leader in the effort to train Afghans to take over counter-insurgency responsibilities. We look forward to getting his first-hand reports; perhaps his observations will change my mind. But I doubt it. It appears to me that the time has come to disengage from Afghanistan.
I’ll just say that like Hinderaker, I think we won the war in Afghanistan in 2002. I don’t know what we’re still doing there. I do know that Afghanistan is on the same bottom rung of societal evolution that Somalia is; both places are ungovernable and unworthy of the effort to govern. You simply can’t save everybody. And while Terry Jones has shown his only true talent to be the willingness to dive as deep as possible in pursuit of earned media, which is not a praiseworthy trait, the idea that torching a Koran should lead to the death of 20 people half a world away indicates that you can’t save the Afghans; in fact, most of them don’t want to be saved. They’re doomed, whether we’re there or not, and they like it that way.
And we have our own problems.
Let’s get out of there. We can certainly reserve the right to nuke the site from orbit if they harbor Al Qaeda again.