Popular author and New Testament scholar N.T. Wright has accused the world of giving America a free pass for violating Pakistan's sovereignty and killing an unarmed man during the recent attack that killed Osama bin Laden.
The former bishop of Durham sent a short statement to The Times' religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill in which he pointed out that Americans would be "furious" if Great Britain's military had staged an unannounced raid against hypothetical Irish Republican Army terrorists and killed them, unarmed, in a Boston suburb.
The only difference, Wright says, is "American exceptionalism."
"America is allowed to do it, but the rest of us are not," said Wright, who is now the research professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. "By what right? Who says?"
President Obama, Wright says, has "enacted one of America’s most powerful myths," the vigilante hero going outside the law to execute "redemptive violence" against an enemy who has rendered the legitimate authorities impotent. "This is the plot of a thousand movies, comic-book strips, and TV shows: Captain America, the Lone Ranger, and (upgraded to hi-tech) Superman. The masked hero saves the world."
While this myth may have been a necessary dimension of life in the Wild West, Wright says, it also "legitimizes a form of vigilantism, of taking the law into one’s own hands, which provides ‘justice’ only of the crudest sort."
Clearly, Dr. Wright despises America. Ordinarily, the mask of politeness prevents his true feelings from showing through but on this occasion his all-too-typical left-wing animus toward America causes the mask to slip.
It is a bit odd, to put it mildly, to accuse the President of the US of acting as a "vigilante." The President takes an oath to defend the Constitution and acts as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the nation. Radical Islam in various amorphous forms, including Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda, has declared war on the Unites States and Israel (and the West in general including the UK) and President Obama's sworn duty is to defend the United States against attack. On 9/11 and numerous other occasions the Islamists have used the methodology of terrorism to try to undermine morale, instill fear and probe for weaknesses in the West. In Europe they find flabby non-resistance, but in the US they find a bit of steel in the way.
The US armed forces have killed Islamist terrorists in various ways: on the battlefield, by missiles, by un-maned drone bombings, and so so. bin Laden was in a command center giving operational direction to his organization just like Hitler in his bunker. He deserved a chance to surrender if that was possible, but he was an enemy combatant. He resisted and he was killed. If they had dropped a precision bomb on the house it would have been the same outcome.
Dr. Wright clearly resents the fact that the United States has the military and intelligence resources to carry out a defensive war against the Islamists. Perhaps it is envy. His own country is weakened by decades of socialism and pretty much in surrender mode and seems unable or unwilling to stand up to the threat of Islamic invasion, occupation and domination. Already parts of some British cities are under de facto Sharia Law and UK laws are increasingly used to silence all criticism of Islam by those who hope to use Islam to destroy the Christian character of the nation.
I do think there is something to Dr. Wright's suggestion that the myth of the lone hero who makes things right by force is attractive to Americans. It illustrates the fact that Americans have not yet made their peace with decline, decay and defeat. Americans know evil exists in the world but they expect to defeat it when it rears its ugly head; they expect justice to triumph. Poor, tired, old Europe seems well past that stage.
The great Winston Churchill would not have reacted like Dr. Wright. He would have reacted with genuine admiration for a nation that has a bunch of terrorists bomb their two greatest cities and does not rest until it finds their leader and puts a bullet between his eyes. He would have done the same to his enemy, Hitler, if he had had the chance. And he would not have fretted and wrung his hands about how it looked to the professional armchair critics abroad. But alas, the days when Britain could produce a Winston Churchill seem to be over for good.
But America is not ready to go gently into that dark night just yet. If that galls Dr. Wright, well basically the bottom line is that few people in America will care about what he thinks. And somewhere, I have to think, a plump old man with a cigar between his teeth is smiling in approval.