The whole brouhaha in North Africa and now Yemen. The reaction from both sides of my RSS feeds and social media, it’s just pissing me right the hell off. Yeah, sure, the US has no business apologizing for the expressions (no matter how distasteful) of an American. I cannot express my displeasure at this to a sufficient level without using profanity I won’t use in public. (Call me unimaginative if you like, I’m just too tired to come up with exotic euphemistic phrases). Whipping up mobs of angry young men as a cover for attacks on United States diplomatic personnel and facilities disgusts me even more. This is the behavior of barbarians, and we don’t apologize or cater to barbarians. The US Ambassador to Egypt’s statement was rightfully disavowed and deserves to have her career ended by it; and if it was her decision to disarm the Embassy Marines in a country full of angry young men, this goes twice.
But it is no excuse for jingoistic chest-thumping and calls for blockading, invading, or nuking the host countries. There’s damn little evidence that any of this was planned or executed by either the current Libyan or current Egyptian governments. Invading an accredited diplomatic mission is an act of war; but these incidents were not perpetrated by agents of the governments. It’s looking like this was a carefully plotted series of attacks by a group with which we are already in a state of armed conflict with! The dead Ambassador was a good friend of the current Libyan government, by all accounts; and the Egyptian government is in the middle of negotiations to buy additional tanks from the US. It is extraordinarily unlikely that either government had a hand in this. (I don’t know as much about the Yemeni situation, but I was given to understand the government there was co-operating in the War on A Noun, as much to suppress their own rebels as anything else). The plotters are enemies of the host governments, and the attackers their tools – but having fugitive murderers on yur soil is not a casus belli, at least not by itself.
Moving along to internal politics – by all accounts the purported spark for these incidents is an “expose” along the lines of a Jack Chick tract or The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, if with a little more unkind truth than these things usually have. Despite this, the producers are well within their legal rights to have made it, and they are in no way responsible for the actions of barbarians. Nobody has the right to remain unoffended, and any governmental effort to squelch the film or the producers would itself fall afoul of both the right to free speech and the prohibition of respecting an establishment of religion.
Finally, there’s been a certain amount of grousing that the Egyptian mob was “allowed” to take the US flag, destroy it, and replace it with the flag of a group with which we are at war. This is, again, the actions of barbarians, beyond the bounds of civilized behavior, &c. But I want you to put youself at the window of an Embassy, watching an angry mob tear down Old Glory (but without visible arms). for the sake of this example you have an M4 and as much ammo as you can carry. How are you going to stop them from carrying out their plan? Are you going into the courtyard to reason with them? Or are you going to machine-gun them? You’re over a hundred miles from the Mediterranean Sea, and 60-70 from the Red Sea, in a building that’s probabluy rather less defensible than the Peking Legation Quarter, surrounded by a city with abundant supplies of bottles, gasoline, rags and Ronsons, and more than a few people who have heard of Finnish Ingenuity. Sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor. The flag is a symbol of the United States, a tangible representation of the honor of the nation. But it is a symbol, and not the thing. And if your life is so unimportant, consider that of your comrades who will be fighting down the Nile or across the desert from the Red Sea; and the lives of all the rest of the occupants of the Embassy.
I’m no multiculturalist. In my opinion, there is no finer nation or society than the American one. I hope I have made myself clear as to my opinion of barbarians and their apologists. As for the ones who actually attacked and killed the Ambassador and others, let them run far and fast, and it will help them not.
Update: Thank you, Oleg Volk, for expressing what I couldn't about the tools in Libya