Attacks in Egypt, Libya Reveal An American Sickness
The United States is under attack. The attacks have taken place in both Egypt and Libya. The Egyptian attack, where a mob stormed the US Embassy in Cairo, tore down the US flag and replaced it with a black flag with the phrase ‘There is no god but God and Muhammad is his prophet,’ was believed to be in response to a film that portrayed Muhammad in an unflattering light. Prior to the violence, the US Embassy in Cairo preemptively apologized for the speech of a private US citizen with the following outrageously obsequious statement:
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others
That this statement was made by an official representative of the US government is an embarrassment. How dare they apologize for the speech of a US citizen, as if hurt feelings are somehow to be avoided at all costs. To do so in this manner on 9/11 just adds insult to injury.The Embassy then took to twitter to defend its obnoxious statement, while also issuing more, only to later memory hole the entire episode.
The Embassy is clearly confused about American values. Respect for religious beliefs is required by our government, which is not supposed to choose sides on the topic, but not at all of the people. Our people are free to express themselves about religion as they are any other topic, and that includes the ability to criticize - as many frequently do in the US about every major religion – and the appropriate response if you are offended is more speech of your own. That’s what sensible, emotionally stable people do in the US every day, because the real cornerstones of our democracy are respect for the rights of others, such as that to life, liberty and property. The Egyptian mob reflected no such respect, and an American embassy that thought it more important to immediately condemn private US citizens for the hurt sensibilities of a violent and explosive mob culture is an utter embarrassment.
Freedom, the single most important cornerstone of American democracy, means tolerating the ideas of others even when you find them offensive. If we really believed in aiding freedom’s spread throughout the world, we’d be vigorously defending it in the face of those who neither understand nor respect it.
Yet it’s hard to defend something when your intellectual class does not respect it. Immediately following the thuggish reaction in Egypt, articles casting blame on the filmmaker emerged, and a college professor of “Religious Studies” called for the jailing of its producer. How are we so incapable of placing the moral responsibility for violence on those who commit violence?
The sickness and cultural backwardness witnessed in Egypt and Libya is easy to see and call out. There is something fundamentally wrong with a culture that erupts so easily into violent furor over every minor slight or insult. But we already knew this. What is striking is how the events reveal our own culture sickness – a debilitating self-doubt that makes it impossible for our representatives and intellectual class to condemn the easily condemnable.
Now there’s a second angle to the story, and it’s why I haven’t yet brought up the more violent nature of the attacks in Libya on a US consulate, which included the death of a American ambassador. Signs point in this case to a preplanned, terrorist attack, which seized upon the mob response to the film as a cover. If true, this attack demonstrates the ongoing danger posed by Islamists, and it draws into question the entire approach our government has taken to the “Arab spring,” once thought to be a democratic revolution but now looking like just a radical Islamist resurgence.
The US response to such an attack on our sovereign territory and the murder of our citizens must be sensible, but it also cannot afford to be weak. The preemptive apology to Egyptian thugs did not prevent their riot, and bending over backwards now to respond to these attacks will not prevent future attacks – it will likely encourage more of them. I don’t envy the President for having to navigate these waters, of needing to respond strongly but not excessively, but so far the actions of this government – and of the President who skips more than half of his daily intelligence briefings – have utterly failed to demonstrate the leadership necessary to quell this growing crisis.