The Futility of Apology

No amount of contrition from the West will ever stop Muslim slaughter over "offenses."

Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. By this standard, our foreign policy in the Middle East has been managed by crazy people since 1979. In fact, so consistent are the mistakes and delusions characterizing our responses to the jihadists that anything one can say has already been written.

The riots and violence in Afghanistan over some accidentally burned Korans are following a script that by now is all too drearily familiar. As we have seen over the years with the riots over the Mohammed cartoons, Pope Benedict’s comments about violence in Islam, or false rumors of Korans flushed down toilets, violent Muslim overreactions to slights are immediately followed by anxious apologies from American leaders. Rather than defusing the anger, however, such groveling merely encourages more contempt and violence.

I wrote that on FrontPage back in February, but change the first sentence and it applies perfectly to the murders of our ambassador and three other Americans in Libya and the continuing violent demonstrations against our embassies in Yemen and Egypt. The violence in Cairo and Libya happened on the anniversary of 9/11, and was clearly intended to demonstrate approval of those attacks, with the rioters in Cairo chanting, “We are all Osama!” Despite that provocation, now, like back in February, foreign policy officials offer groveling apologies that do nothing to stop the violence, but in fact encourage more by projecting weakness. Worse yet, the chauvinistic and intolerant sensibilities of Muslims that lead to violence are made as important as the murders of our citizens and the fundamental right of free speech. The embassy in Cairo said it condemned “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims,” and exhibited a profound ignorance of the First Amendment by adding, “We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton essentially concurred: “The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation.”

This validation of the specious motives of the murderers and protesters drained the rote condemnations of the violence of any force, not to mention throwing under the bus our own First Amendment. Worse yet, it validated the blasphemy laws of Islamic shari’a, thus finding common ground with the jihadist Muslim Brothers, who thundered, “Hurting the feelings of one and a half billion Muslims cannot be tolerated, and the people's anger and fury for their faith is invariably predictable, often unstoppable,” the statement threatened, going on to demand that “assaults on the sanctities of all heavenly religions” be criminalized. “Otherwise, such acts will continue to cause devout Muslims across the world to suspect and even loathe the West, especially the USA, for allowing their citizens to violate the sanctity of what they hold dear and holy. Hence, we demand that all those involved in such crimes be urgently brought to trial.” In other words, trash your own cherished rights like free speech or face more violence from Muslims. That’s the way you bully those you think are weaker than you.

Of course, forget about any reciprocity for the “respect” demanded of us. This delusional repetition of history evident in the current situation makes the comment of then presidential primary candidate Newt Gingrich about the violence in Afghanistan just as relevant today: “There seems to be nothing that radical Islamists can do to get Barack Obama’s attention in a negative way and he is consistently apologizing to people who do not deserve the apology of the President of the United States period,” Gingrich said. “It is Hamid Karzai who owes the American people an apology, not the other way around. This destructive double standard whereby the United States and its democratic allies refuse to hold accountable leaders who tolerate systematic violence and oppression in their borders must come to an end.”

So too today. One faction of what passes for a government in Libya has apologized, but what have we heard from Egyptian president Mohammad al-Morsi? Even the Islamophilic New York Times noted, “Egyptian leaders, inexplicably, have not followed that lead.” Morsi––his country the recipient of billions in U.S. foreign aid, his own path to power greased by Obama’s abandonment of the reliable Hosni Mubarak––instead offered not an apology, or heart-felt regret and condolences, but merely a generic condemnation of violence sharing equal time with a condemnation of the obscure film insulting Mohammed:  “I see in Egypt and the Arab and Islamic world a severe anger toward the violations made by a very small number of individuals. They have insulted the prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him. We stand very strongly against this. We don’t agree with or approve this, and we stand against anyone who tries to raise such false slogans and create these disturbances, tension and hatred between populations. . . . Those [people] are not accepted, not by people in Egypt nor other Arab and Islamic countries, nor by their own people. I affirm that the American people reject this and I’ve called on them to declare their rejection of them, at the same time with our rejection of those bad practices that bring harm and not benefit.” And to add insult to injury, Morsi instructed Obama to “put an end to such behavior” like the exercising of the right to free speech.

Likewise, the futility of apology and the lack of reciprocity is as obvious today, when apologies have been followed by more violence, as it was in February: “Indeed, over the past few decades, no amount of apologies for alleged ‘insults’ to Muslims has stopped Islamists form attacking us. Nor have the good deeds benefiting Muslims, from rescuing Bosnians from genocide to liberating Libyans from Gaddafi, stopped jihadists from wanting to kill Americans for an endless list of reasons. The past decades of such incidents have shown instead that apologies are useless, and merely confirm the impression among Muslims that we are spiritually inferior, and so endorse the perverse logic that accidentally burning a book is worse than murdering our soldiers and citizens. Why else would we publicly flagellate ourselves over such ‘insults’ even as we say nothing about the Muslim murders of Christians in Egypt and Nigeria, or the Muslim laws prescribing capital punishment for converts to Christianity, or the Muslim vandalizing and destruction of 300 churches in Cyprus, or the Muslim slow-motion extermination of Christians in lands that worshipped Christ for 6 centuries before Islam even existed?” And let us emphasize the ongoing persecution and murder of Christian Copts in Egypt, all taking place with the collusion of government authorities, who either ignore such incidents, respond slowly, or participate in them. Yet no one challenges Morsi when he says with a straight face, “Muslims and Christians in Egypt are equal citizens and have the same rights.”

This double standard today, as in previous such episodes, has the same source: a willful refusal to acknowledge the true nature of Islam: “What we refuse to accept is the intolerant chauvinism inherent in Islam, the belief that Muslims are the ‘best of nations’ and destined to rule the world. Accepting the double standard merely confirms their superiority and our inferiority. After all, to let someone behave according to one set of principles or standards while demanding that you be subjected to others is to validate a claim of superiority that justifies the disproportionate and unjust behavior. It’s acting like a battered wife, who accepts a beat-down from her husband as justified punishment for burning his dinner. This double standard also reflects incoherent thinking, a failure to apply consistently a principle that presumably has universal validity. Hence we celebrate and practice ‘tolerance’ at the same time we enable, ignore, excuse, and rationalize intolerance. In the West’s struggle with Islamic jihad, our doubts about the superiority of Western beliefs have coupled with this breakdown in ethical reasoning. The result is the appeasement of jihadist aggression and the confirmation of the jihadist estimation of the West’s weakness and corruption.”

Finally, the concluding paragraphs of the earlier essay suit the current crisis just as well: "This record of appeasement, then, has encouraged many Muslims to demand from Westerners a hypersensitivity to Islam, all the while that Christians and Jews in Muslim countries are subjected to harassment, assault, vicious insult, and murder. In the West, respect for Muslim holy books and practices is supposed to be granted as a self-evident right beyond argument or debate. Yet Western ideals and principles, such as tolerance for different creeds, are derided, disrespected, and rejected as self-evident evils. Worse yet, we pretend that our appeasement of jihadist violence is an expression of tolerance, the liberal-democratic virtue that simply has little meaning in Islamic theology. Why would any pious Muslim ‘tolerate’ an infidel culture that jeopardizes the eternal souls of Muslims, and that stands in the way of others’ converting to Islam? As the Ayatollah Khomeini said, ‘Those who study jihad will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world. All the countries conquered by Islam or to be conquered in the future will be marked for everlasting salvation.’ Such confidence is reinforced when we acquiesce in a standard whereby burning a Koran or insulting Mohammed with a cartoon [or a short Internet film] is worse than killing people.

"We know why many of our leaders accept this double standard. They have bought into John Lennon’s juvenile utopia in which there is ‘nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too.’ Shorn of their transcendent, non-negotiable foundations, all our beliefs are now contingent and negotiable, easily traded away for security or comfort. At the same time, multiculturalism bestows on the non-Western ‘other’ a finely calibrated sensitivity to his culture and religion, no matter how dysfunctional or oppressive, all the while the West refuses to extend such consideration to its own. Why would it? Haven’t generations of Western intellectuals and artists told the world how corrupt and evil the West is? Haven’t they asserted, as Pascal Bruckner put it, ‘every Westerner is presumed guilty until proven innocent’?

"Having culturally internalized this self-loathing and lack of conviction, we are vulnerable to those who are filled with passionate intensity about the rightness of their beliefs and the payback due to us for our alleged historical sins such as colonialism or imperialism or globalization. And then we wonder why the jihadist considers us ripe for conquest, and destined to be subjected to the superior values of Islam.”

And so the insanity goes on.

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