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.
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