Saturday, September 11, 2010

Burn before reading

9/11 has nearly passed without the Quran-burning by Rev. Terry Jones, but it made for some great spectacle while he was still planning it. Among the number of distinguished voices that tried to dissuade him were those of President Obama and Senator McCain.

Obama:
I want him to understand that this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women who are in uniform. . . . Look, this is a recruitment bonanza for al-Qaeda.
McCain:
Pastor Jones' threats to burn the Koran will put American service men/women in danger - for their sake please don't do it!
Note that both gentlemen have invoked the safety of US' occupying forces as an argument against the burning. Isn't there something patently wrong with weighing the wisdom of an act based on the consequences, rather than its inherent morality?

Not to mention that the argument rests on a fat bed of irony. As of March 31, 2010, there were 1.4 million active duty US military personnel posted abroad. These deployments are a cause of major resentment among unfriendly populations, indeed one that has been used very effectively in anti-American propaganda for decades now. Really, how worse can the Quran-burning make it?

Along a different line, a fiercely pacifist friend commented that using safety of troops as an argument against free speech is going down a slippery slope. The same logic can be used to muffle anti-war demonstrations - that the display of lack of political support at home for wars encourages enemies abroad. One cannot disagree.

***

That said, this episode has been a great unintended exposition of America's commitment to free speech (and reassuringly so). Throughout, there has been little or no talk of preventing the act by force. The president beseeching the fellow to change his mind is one thing; him sending federal agents over to Gainesville is another.

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