Bombers without Borders
Here's more than five lines, because it's hard to do this justice (though you'll see I tried, below):
Most of us reacted viscerally to the events of September 11th. That afternoon, my wife and I bought an American flag and hung it on the house we had bought a few weeks earlier. When I analyze our response, I realize how strong the need for order, for logic, for security – for home is among humans. Patriotism, in many ways, is that same need for home writ large: Homes equal community; communities equal nation.
A few weeks later, we took down the flag, in disgust at our strafing of Afghanistan. Subsequent events have not prompted us to restore the flag, as you may well imagine. The collection of communities – our nation – had let us down.
We in the United States are no different in this respect than most other humans. Take those in Pakistan, for example. The protests at the news that we had attacked in an attempt to kill Ayman al-Zawahri are substantially about the violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.
While I do not equate the 9/11 attacks with this action, the fact remains that we have indeed ignored the wishes of a sovereign nation within its own borders. We only win the Global War on Terror when we take away the terrorist’s means of support. It’s an asymmetrical war; the support comes from the hearts and minds of like-minded Muslims. We are obliged, whether we like it or not, to conduct ourselves on a higher plane than our enemy. Each and every time we prosecute the war using tactics that appear no better than those of our opponents, we lose another battle in the war.
Nixon’s incursion into Cambodia was a similar moment in our history, and for the same reasons. This is, of course, likely to pass as a minor incident in the overall war, compared to Nixon’s folly. Still, we are on thin ice where Muslim public opinion is concerned, following our Iraqi follies. The very least we should do is cooperate with one of the few unambiguous allies we have in the Muslim world. Apparently we are too arrogant to do even that. And it’s hard to see how Muslims can miss the hypocrisy that our respect for a nation’s borders seems to stop at our own.