President Obama missed a chance to lead this week, as did many others who issued unilateral rebuking of Pastor Terry Jones highly publicized (thank you Main Stream Media) plans to burn a copy of the Quran. All, including Obama buckled to threats against troops. For example, Obama said this:
And as a very practical matter, I just want him [Pastor Terry Jones] to understand that this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women who are in uniform.
The problem, as I see it, is that the condemnation was one-sided. Obama, and everyone else, was correct in condemning the plans to burn the Quran. There’s no doubt about that. Any attempt to spin this blog post into some sort of support for Jones’ plan would be a lie.
However, as a leader, Obama missed a prime opportunity to condemn the other wrong here.
While everybody agreed that Jones was a “nutcase”, including me, only two people I know of expressed any concern about the other wrong here: about a group of people threatening violence against U.S. troops in retaliation for Jones’ actions. That would be myself and Tawfik Hamid writing in yesterday’s Wall Street Opinion Journal, A Muslim Response to Quran Burning and referring to the Quran. Hamid’s first two paragraphs:
It’s unclear whether or not the Rev. Terry Jones will go ahead with his highly publicized Quran burning this evening in Florida. But Muslims can play a major role in preventing a violent response to any burnings of their holy book.
Islamic scholars can emphasize that the Quran clearly teaches that no one can be punished on account of the actions of others (surra 6, verse 164). In other words, it is against the value system of the Quran to punish Americans or Christians because of the acts of a small minority.
If I were President, I might have been inclined to say something like:
I, along with most Americans, condemn what one pastor in Florida plans to do. It’s disgraceful. However, we will hold the appropriate parties accountable for acts of violence against our troops or citizens. To be clear, the appropriate parties will be those who commit such violence. We encourage you to protest the pastor’s actions peacefully.
Instead, Obama continued his enlightened rationalization (from the same news story as the first Obama quote):
Look, this is a recruitment bonanza for Al Qaida. You could have serious violence in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan.” The president also said Jones’ plan, if carried out, could serve as an incentive for terrorist-minded individuals “to blow themselves up” to kill others.
For those threatening violence, this is a victory. They pushed and we folded. Lesson learned. Already the tactic is being employed to justify keeping the plans to build the mosque near Ground Zero. From this story, three days ago:
The imam behind a proposed Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero cautioned Wednesday that moving the facility could cause a violent backlash from Muslim extremists and endanger national security.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf told CNN that the discourse surrounding the center has become so politicized that moving it could strengthen the ability of extremists abroad to recruit and wage attacks against Americans, including troops fighting in the Middle East.
I find the similarities between Obama’s second quote and Imam Rauf’s message striking. It’s as if Imam Rauf had just read Obama’s remarks and they were still fresh in his mind.