The Meaning of the Mosque Controversy

The controversy about the ground-zero mosque — which is summarized here — reminds me of an old post of mine, “Losing Sight of the Objective”:

Those who are so keen to bestow constitutional rights on terrorists have lost sight of a key purpose — perhaps the key purpose — of the Constitution: to provide for the common defense. Of Americans. Against their enemies: foreign and domestic, overt and covert.

Whether the mosque will serve as a front for terrorist activity remains to be seen. But there is good reason to suspect that it will. And if it does, it will be further evidence that America’s “leaders” have lost sight of the objective in their rush to display “tolerance” for everyone — well, tolerance for everyone but heterosexual, white Christians and Jews; for example:

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which once sat right across the street from the World Trade Center, was crushed under the weight of the collapse of Tower Two on September 11, 2001. St. Nicholas was the only church to be lost in the attacks, and nine years later, while City of New York officials are busy removing every impediment to the building of the Cordoba mosque two blocks from the site, St. Nicholas’ future remains unclear.

The last bit of hopeful news for St. Nicholas came two years ago, in July 2008, when church officials and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced a deal which would have allowed the church to be rebuilt about two blocks from its original location….

Trouble emerged after St. Nicholas announced its plans to build a traditional Greek Orthodox church building, 24,000 square feet in size, topped with a grand dome. Port Authority officials told the church to cut back the size of the building and the height of the proposed dome, limiting it to rising no higher than the World Trade Center memorial. The deal fell apart for good in March 2009, when the Port Authority abruptly ended the talks after refusing to allow church officials to review plans for the garage and screening area underneath. Sixteen months later, the two sides have still not met to resume negotiations.

St. Nicholas Church’s difficulty in getting approvals to rebuild stands in stark contrast to the treatment that the developers of the proposed Cordoba mosque have received. New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, state Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo, and a raft of city officials have all come out publicly in favor of building the mosque, and the city’s Landmarks and Preservation Commission recently voted unanimously to deny protection to the building currently occupying the site where the mosque is to be built.

The mosque is proposed to rise 13 stories, far above the height of the World Trade Center memorial, with no height restrictions imposed. (Mark Imponemi, “Mosque Moves Forward, Yet Church in Limbo“)

The case of the ground-zero mosque is only a symptom of the larger problem, which is denial and appeasement. Bill Whittle spells it out in a 13-minute video, “Ground Zero Mosque Reality Check.” Denial and appeasement arise from what Thomas Sowell calls one-day-at-a-time rationalism:

One-day-at-a-time rationalism [addresses] the immediate implications of each issue as it arises, missing wider implications of a decision…. A classic example was a French intellectual’s response to the Czechoslovakian crisis that led to the Munich conference of 1938:

…Joseph Barthélemy, who taught constitutional law at the University of Paris and was French representative at the League of Nations, asked in Le Temps the question French leaders had to answer: “Is it worthwhile setting fire to the world in order to save the Czechoslovak state… ? Is it necessary that three million Frenchman …. would be sacrificed to maintain three million Germans under Czech sovereignty?

Since it was not France that was threatening to set fire to the world, but Hitler, the larger question was whether someone who was threatening to set fire to the world if he didn’t get his way was someone who should be appeased in this one-day-at-a time approach, without regard to what this appeasement could do to encourage a never-ending series of escalating demands. By Contrast, Winston Churchill had pointed out, six years earlier, that “every concession which has been made” to Germany “has been followed immediately by a fresh demand.” Churchill clearly rejected one-day-at-a-time rationalism. (Intellectuals and Society, p. 31)

Leftists will embrace the cause of the ground-zero mosque because it is in their nature to embrace anything that undermines civil society. Libertarian purists will embrace it because they embrace one-day-at-a-time rationalism (e.g., this blogger).

As a libertarian realist, I am prepared to say that the mosque should not rise if it is likely to become a front for terrorist activity. I am keeping my eyes on the objective, which is the defense of Americans’ lives, liberty, and property: against their enemies foreign and domestic, overt and covert.