Many of us are immensely proud of Maj. Mariam Al Mansouri of the United Arab Emirates Air Force who was the first female pilot from her country to fly combat missions over Syria this week. Prior to becoming a pilot, Maj. Mansouri was a soldier in the UAE Army.
The UAE has long been an important ally of the United States, and I have fond memories of Emirati soldiers welcoming me in for meals once or twice a week at Bagram Airfield back in 2006, when I’d go there with my Egyptian and Korean colleagues to eat the best food to be found on a military installation in Afghanistan–plus they welcomed us to play pool and ping pong in their nicer-than-American-standards recreational building. They were profoundly hospitable, and never once did they make me feel any less valued or welcome because I am a woman. And never once did I value the UAE’s contributions to the military effort in Afghanistan any less because they had a different culture, language, or religion from me. Rather, they expanded my world. And they introduced me to coconut chocolate milk, which is amazing in itself. But that’s just my own personal appreciation of Emirati troops in a combat zone.
The efforts of the UAE’s military against the Islamic State are absolutely crucial, and I proudly voice my thanks and support for the participation of our Arab allies. And to see the story of a highly motivated pioneer like Maj. Mansouri is nothing short of inspiring. She has struggled and sacrificed, and her willingness to be in the public eye is subjecting her to a great deal of criticism and further hardship. I can only admire her for such bravery in what she does and how she chooses to live. She is more than deserving of our steadfast support. Yet–some Fox News commentators said a bunch of stupid crap about how “she can’t park” her fighter jet, and that her bold combat service constitutes “boobs on the ground.”
This isn’t about finding something offensive. This is about American public figures being assholes about critical allies in our military effort against a common enemy who is threatening our safety and national security. The more Americans are assholes about our allies across the world–and in this I mean being assholes about differences in culture, religion, food, beliefs, or whathaveyou, which have nothing to do with a military coalition, by the way–the more we alienate those who would otherwise be glad to work with us, and the more isolated and alone our nation will be as we face challenges to our national security, economic prosperity, and standing in the world. This isn’t about “political correctness.” It’s about not being a dick.
For all of these reasons I was more than happy to sign on to an open letter by the Truman National Security Project’s Executive Director Mike Breen calling these commentators out on what they said. Read it HERE.