Barbarism in Afghanistan

With Sunday's news that a US soldier massacred 16 Afghan civilians, mostly women and children, in their sleep and then burned the bodies, the little that the US can claim to have achieved in Afghanistan, at great cost over a decade, is now likely to be lost.

No American, and probably no westerner, will be safe in Afghanistan for a decade after the soldier's murderous rampage. Really, if they're willing to murder people over burned books, imagine the intensity of Afghan hatred for a truly heinous crime against sleeping civilians, with one man losing all 11 members of his family.

Although speculation is pointless, the first thing that comes to mind, especially with reports that this soldier is a sergeant (rather than a lower-ranked soldier) is revenge against Afghanistan for the murder of multiple US soldiers by Afghans following the recent burning of a few Korans by American soldiers.

Although I understand a soldier's desire for vengeance against a nation which demands apologies for singed books but offers none for murder, this soldier's actions are obviously beyond sanction and deserving of the death penalty -- even if he claims insanity.

As is his wont, President Obama has already apologized to the president of Afghanistan, who has said that the murders "cannot be forgiven." While I understand Karzai's feelings, and would likely share them, it is a distinctly unhelpful line of rhetoric from the nation's leader if he actually cared about maintaining any even superficially friendly relationship with the United States.

The fact that he said what he said means he is more concerned with domestic politics than with his "alliance" with the United States. That focus is all the easier when dealing with a US president who projects weakness and fecklessness at every opportunity, and can't even make a statement in support of Israel without contradicting himself within hours.

Historians can debate whether the war in Afghanistan was worth it at all, whether we should have left after just a couple of years, or whether we should not have pulled back at all until the Afghan army and police were more prepared to secure the country. But since that goal may not even be desired by the government, and may not be attainable even it it were desired by the government, it's hard to argue at this point that we should do anything other than take Newt Gingrich's latest approach, getting our soldiers out while telling Karzai "You know, you’re going to have to figure out how to live your own miserable life because I'm not here - you clearly don’t want to hear from me how to be unmiserable."

My view, which I've maintained for several years, is that we should leave Afghanistan to the Afghans, but tell their central government and each of the nation's powerful warlords that should any harm befall American interests anywhere in the world due to people whom we can trace back, in an operational sense, to areas under their control, we will turn those areas into glass, making sure to target the areas' rulers and their families, and we will then douse every body we can find with pig blood, so they cannot enter the Muslim version of heaven.

Harsh, you say? I think that nothing less will impact the mindset of tribesman who understand nothing but power. Unfortunately, even if such a threat were made, no Afghan warlord or government figure would believe it as long as Barack "I'm sorry for American power" Obama remains in office. Just as the Iranians were not afraid of Jimmy Carter I, the Afghans (and the Iranians for that matter) have no fear of Jimmy Carter II.

  • jbc
    Comment from: jbc
    03/13/12 @ 10:18:29 am

    This post is at war with itself. You say in the first part that the recent killings constitute "barbarism," a "murderous outrage", and a "truly heinous crime." In the wake of this incident, you write, "no American...will be safe in Afghanistan for a decade." Yet in the second part, you appear to be advocating a policy that basically sounds indistinguishable from that act (well, except for being much, much greater in magnitude). You propose a policy in which "should any harm befall American interests anywhere in the world due to people whom we can trace back, in an operational sense, to areas under their control, we will turn those areas into glass, making sure to target the areas' rulers and their families." The "turn those areas into glass" language is reminiscent of Rich Lowry's writings in the wake of 9/11 that in the event of a hypothetical detonation of a "dirty bomb" in a US city by Islamic terrorists, that we should "nuke Mecca." So, if you're going to nuke part of Afghanistan, how are you going to avoid killing not dozens, but many thousands, of innocent women and children? How will you avoid creating the same sort of blowback you describe following the recent killings, in which no American or Westerner is going to be safe in Afghanistan, or probably anywhere else in the Islamic world, for generations? How do you distinguish such a policy by the US government from the sort of collective punishment that is banned by the Geneva Conventions? As near as I can make out, the policy you propose is motivated by exactly the same emotion that you speculate may have motivated the killer in the recent incident. So again, I don't quite understand how the first part of your post (in which you appear to find the recent killings both morally reprehensible and undesirable in terms of their pragmatic effects on US interests) can be reconciled with the second part of your post (in which you voice a desire to elevate such behavior to an explicit national policy). What am I missing?

  • Comment from: Rossputin
    03/13/12 @ 10:27:36 am

    JBC, What I would suggest you are missing is that I am calling for leaving Afghanistan to the Afghans but making sure they understand that we will avenge harm that comes to us from them. This is vastly different from having troops on the ground there every day, even if nominally only in a training role. For the record, I actually wasn't thinking of nuclear weapons, but rather large but precise weapons which would devastate a warlord's home and property. Perhaps the use of "glass" overly implies nukes, for which I apologize for the lack of clarity. My suggestion is nothing like Lowry's suggestion (for which he apologized) which is indeed the worst sort of collective punishment. Thanks for the comment.

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