The Corner

The Cringing Superpower

Today, across Africa, Araby and Asia, from Nouakchott to Dhaka, the diplomatic facilities of the United States are closed. There’s a Tsarnaev out there, somewhere – could be the Mahgreb, the Levant, the Horn of Africa, the Indian sub-continent – who knows? So, as Richard Fernandez writes, “Shelter in place, this time globally.”

Maybe it will work. Maybe by the end of the day there will be, unlike Benghazi a year on, men in custody. But if not? Daniel Pipes:

Don’t know about you, but I find this pre-emptive cringing unworthy of a great country, even humiliating. Why do we allow a bunch of extremist thugs to close us down, rather than the reverse? For what purpose do we pay for the world’s best military and largest intelligence services if not to protect ourselves from this sort of threat?

He’s right: This is unseemly and, for a supposedly serious power, deeply damaging. You can always tell the US consulate from those of other western governments pretty much anywhere on the planet – from the line of US citizens outside the gates shuffling slowly but patiently along the sidewalk in hopes of penetrating the security perimeter before everybody goes home for the day. It’s not a consulate or embassy as those terms were traditionally understood; it’s a fort. That’s why the municipal authorities prefer new ones to be built out on the edge of town as far away as possible, rather than wrecking and disfiguring everything in the heart of downtown.

So we no longer fly the flag on Main Street, but build ugly, impenetrable fortresses walled off from the communities they’re meant to be part of – the antithesis of “diplomacy”, in many respects. So Daniel’s question deserves an answer: What’s the point of building fortresses if they “pre-emptively cringe” before terrorist threats?

The United States is “sheltering in place” across the entire Muslim world. How is that not a victory for our enemies – and one bought without having to blow up a single thing?

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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