The American dilemma in dealing with the world, and especially the Muslim world, is neatly captured in two recent blogposts. The American people, by and large, espouse values and beliefs that they rightly expect should earn them the goodwill and affection of other peoples. However, many of the policies and actions of their government, ostensibly in furtherance of those same aims, result in creating resentment and dislike abroad, shading into hate and rage at the margins, which sometimes lead to attacks on the US and its people. Or, they lead to wars in which US soldiers fight in other lands, kill and are killed, maim and are maimed.
Chas Freeman in a post yesterday sought, in eloquent and moving terms, to create an awareness among Americans as to how their actions affect other people, and how this, in turn, colours the latter’s attitudes and reactions. He highlights this thesis by quoting an exchange between the judge and Faisal Shahzad at his trial. In it this well educated, upper class Pakistani (his father is a retired two-star air force general) explains what made him end up as the (failed) Times Square bomber.
Freeman concludes: “If you view the world through a bombsight, everything looks like a target. Yet the lesson of 9/11 is that if you drop bombs on enough people – even on people with no air force – the most offended amongst them will do their best to bomb you back.........The lesson of Iraq and Afghanistan is that there are some problems for which invasion and occupation are not appropriate or effective responses........Over-reliance on military instruments of statecraft has become a major problem for us”.
The second post is by a US army helicopter pilot on the blog of a Pakistani newspaper. In it he describes his experiences in Pakistan flying relief missions to aid the flood-affected people of the north. This elicited an outpouring of gratitude and affection (for the US and its people) in emotional posts from numerous Pakistanis, who appear to be exactly the same kind of people as Faisal Shahzad. The blog turns into a veritable lovefest when John Bockman’s family (his mother, father and brother) joined in with their posts.
Maggie Bockman, John’s mother, concludes: “Thus shall it be between Christians and Muslims, your country and mine: despite the heartbreaking fractures, we shall become strong in all the weak places, and no government policies, no misguided violent people shall prevent it, because God wills it, whether we call him Allah or Jehovah, and we will it, with all our hearts. We shall support each other while respecting our differences”.
Finally, in a remarkable twist of irony, these two narratives are linked together when Maggie Bockman ends by expressing exactly the same hurt and grief that Faisal Shahzad said drove him to his desperate act!