Yesterday American leaders, including the president, spoke out to condemn a Florida group's plans to burn the Quran. They stressed, and counter-terrorism experts including the FBI agree, that this fringe group's actions present serious national security concerns. Referring to riots and protests in his area of command, General David Petraeus said this past weekend, it "could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan." The FBI predicts real or threatened reprisals "with high confidence." The best thing for America is that unrepresentative fringe radicals not receive the attention they so desperately seek at the expense of the country's well-being - and that this overheated, political discourse be rejected by all sides going forward.
This weekend, America will mark the nine-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Experts agree that much is going right in the struggle against terrorism: extremist groups are under pressure and counterterrorism efforts have "reduced the overall threat from what it was a few years ago." Yet at home our airwaves are flooded with a narrative of overreaction, intolerance and fear that runs counter to America's resilience and undercuts the strength of our society. The recent wave of Islam-bashing not only runs counter to core American principles, but also our security interests. General David Petraeus said this weekend that a planned Koran burning in Florida "put[s] our troopers and civilians in jeopardy and undermine[s] our efforts to accomplish the critical mission here in Afghanistan." The broader issue of Islam-bashing that we have seen in recent weeks - particularly from fringe conservative political leaders - also feeds into the ‘clash of civilizations' meme that al Qaeda promotes and uses as a recruitment tool. Taliban propagandists have called the rhetoric "a gift." We can best serve our security, and honor the memory of those who died, by soberly reflecting upon our strengths and challenges - not giving into the hysteria that terrorists seek to promote.