The Buzz

A Stiff Apology is a Second Insult

At some point, you might have written an embarrassing letter to someone who wronged you, demanding an apology. Since most reasonable, remorseful persons apologize of their own volition, these demanded apologies are often directed at the worst offenders: A slovenly boyfriend who wrecked your car and then punched your younger brother. The best friend who sold you out and then took your promotion. The spouse who drained your 401k and then vanished.

In all these instances, trying to extract an apology, like a stubborn tooth that just won’t come loose, is futile. The prospective apologizer simply doesn’t realize the damage they have caused. Moreover, the extent of their transgressions makes it unlikely that they perceive their error or feel remorse—two crucial components to any apology worth its salt. Instead, some demands for an apology simply illustrate how deeply you care for a relationship another does not hold in equal esteem.

Last week, a wholly unfortunate letter of similar embarrassment happened to be published on the Chicago Tribune op-ed page. Malik Siraj Akbar’s “10 Reasons Why Pakistan Should Apologize to the U.S.” reads like a whiny, embittered email to an ex-girlfriend, explaining why Pakistan, the unfaithful lover, “owes the U.S. its deepest apology.” Any apology won’t do. You have to mean it, Pakistan.

Starting with its initial complaint of Pakistan’s likely complicity in hiding Osama bin Laden, Akbar’s list of grievances accomplishes nothing. Even a hollow apology, the value or purpose of which is unclear, seems highly unlikely. Towards the end, it resorts to flat out name-calling that brands Pakistan a “jihad factory,” a moniker that virtually guarantees this opinion piece will end up posted in some Pakistani break room for laughs.

If Pakistan wanted to apologize to the United States, they would. Since they haven’t, perhaps our time is better spent analyzing what parts of the relationship can change to avoid future disappointments. One hopes that Akbar, who the Washington Post dubbed a “soft-spoken but steely man,” has more compelling things to write about than this howler.