Editor's note: Richard L. Eubank, a retired Marine and Vietnam combat veteran from Eugene, Oregon, is the national commander of the 2.1 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its auxiliaries.
(CNN) -- There is little argument that America's respect in the Muslim world has lessened as we enter our 10th year of war against a deadly shadow enemy of religious extremists who wear no uniform, wave no flag and who use their holy book as sword and shield against fellow Muslims as well as all things American.
So what does Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, hope to accomplish by calling for a "Burn a Quran Day" this Saturday, September 11, the ninth anniversary of the worst sneak attack on American soil in our 234-year history?
The answers are as obvious as they are ominous: He will bring total contempt from the world's fastest-growing religion against the world's oldest democracy.
He will destroy the goodwill generations of Americans have worked to create in almost every nation. He will -- in just a few seconds of self-proclaimed glory and protest -- paint a target on the backs of U.S. troops, diplomats, foreign service employees, humanitarian relief workers and American tourists.
Worse, still, Jones and his followers will provide our enemies with a propaganda tool that will outlast our lives and those of our children and their children.
Burning a Quran will instantly undo everything good that America has done in the world. America's top general in Afghanistan, David H. Petraeus, recognizes the consequences of such an act.
"Images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan -- and around the world -- to inflame public opinion and incite violence," he said in a statement released from his headquarters in Kabul.
No one will remember when a half-dozen Muslim nations joined a multinational coalition that included the U.S. to free Kuwait back in 1991.
No one will remember America's huge humanitarian response in Indonesia after the devastating 2004 tsunami or in Pakistan after this year's disastrous flooding.
No one will remember countless other projects to build schools and roadways and efforts to bring clean drinking water to people.
No one outside the United States will recognize or even care that burning a Quran was the act of a single or small group of individuals.
The only thing the Muslim world will remember and our enemies will exploit is that the U.S. government allowed Americans to burn the Islamic holy book in protest without consequence.
The First Amendment may protect the pastor's right to protest, but nothing is to be gained and everything is to lose from this self-serving act.
Our nation was founded on religious freedom and tolerance, yet a man of the cloth wants to invoke memories of a not-so-proud history when a developing America didn't want Catholics or Jews but did want slaves.
If the good pastor wants to protest something on the side of the righteous, I would suggest he divert his energies against the Rev. Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas.
For the better part of this decade, Phelps and his followers have been protesting around the country at the funerals of fallen military members, carrying signs that say "Thank God for Dead Soldiers." He is now the subject of a First Amendment case scheduled before the U.S. Supreme Court next month. [Snyder v. Phelps]
Religion has been the rallying cry of almost every war in recorded history, and there are those in our country as well as in Muslim countries who truly believe that this is the start of a war between Islam and nonbelievers.
"America is not at war with Islam" is a statement that has been repeated publicly and repeated often by presidents and members of Congress from all political persuasions, not because it is politically correct but because it is true.
America is at war, however, against a small number of religious extremists who hide behind women and children and kill indiscriminately without remorse. We must not allow an equally small number of religious extremists in America to widen the war by burning the Quran ... or Torah or Bible.
America is far better than that.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Richard L. Eubank.