[Note: Haveil Havalim is here!]
I am a big fan of the Treppenwitz blog; David Bogner often makes me laugh as well as think.
The other day he commented on Ed Koch's suggestion that Muslims in the US military be exempt from fighting wars against Muslim countries. An excerpt:
I don't see the value in allowing Muslims to serve in the U.S. military if the only place in the whole world that their expensive training can be utilized is along a 155 mile stretch of the 38th Parallel. And even there, with North Korea, Syria and Iran being all chummy... well you see the problem.
I hear his point (which is somewhat exaggerated, of course; there are a few US deployments that relate to conflicts involving non-Muslim entities). Still, it makes me uncomfortable. I am reminded of the Jewish response to Napoleon's sixth question to his Sanhedrin:
Question: Do Jews born in France, and treated by the laws as French citizens, consider France their country? Are they bound to defend it? Are they bound to obey the laws and to conform to the dispositions of the civil code?
And part of the Jewish response:
The love of the country is in the heart of Jews a sentiment so natural, so powerful, and so consonant to their religious opinions, that a French Jew considers himself in England, as among strangers, although he may be among Jews; and the case is the same with English Jews in France.
To such a pitch is this sentiment carried among them, that during the last war, French Jews have been seen fighting desperately against other Jews, the subjects of countries then at war with France.
(For the full text, go here.)
I believe many modern observant Jews would not follow this pseudo-Sanhedrin's formulation, in the absence of a direct threat. So should Jews be banned, publicly declared persona non grata, as well?
In truth, David does distinguish between Jews and Muslims. He notes that the US deploys a significant portion of its forces in conflicts involving Muslim countries, but does not currently deploy forces against Israel - and that even were such a thing to happen, that would still leave many other places a Jew could serve. According to this argument, the issue is not moral philosophy, but military utility; a Muslim will have few places to serve, a Jew will be able to serve more. The Jew would be the equivalent of a Catholic during a conflict against Vatican City; he could avoid this war, and still fight in others.
But I think this still misses a key point; the issue is fundamentally about morality.
I believe that what offends the American mind about Nidal Malik Hasan, even before the horror of his mass murder, is his distinction between Muslim and non-Muslim. Apparently, he is comfortable with the idea of going to war for the US to kill Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus or atheists, but he would not be comfortable killing Muslims. Loyalty to the US can justify killing anyone except a Muslim.
That Muslim/non-Muslim distinction is what brings about the call to exclude Muslims from the US military - the fear that they are Muslim first, and American second.
And in this regard, Jews may be no different - we might have difficulty shooting at a co-religionist over a territorial dispute, too. Therefore, an exclusion of Muslims must also lead to an exclusion of Jews. That's why this idea makes me uncomfortable; I'd rather see an exclusion from this war rather than an exclusion from the military.
One question, though: Why are Protestants and Catholics different in this regard?