A perspective on recent events in Afghanistan

March 19th, 2012

International relations professor Michael Corgan is a specialist in international security with extensive government service in political & military planning, especially with NATO. He offers the following perspective on recent events in Afghanistan, including the burning of the Quran by American soldiers and the shootings of Afghan civilians in Kandahar Province allegedly by Staff Sgt. Robert Bales:

“I wonder if we don’t have two turning points in this war within the space of a couple of weeks.

“First, the Quran burning incident inflamed the Afghan people against the foreigners who, whatever good they had done, ultimately were irretrievably alien. Then the massacre by Sgt. Bales illustrated to the American people, as perhaps nothing else, the costs of redeploying the same small group of Americans to carry the water for the country’s somewhat unraveled policies in that part of the world.

“In the case of the Quran burning, the fact that it was unintentional is almost worse than if it had been an act of pure hostility. For what that shows is that we don’t bother to understand the people whose country we are trying to help rebuild – they aren’t worth paying attention to.

“I suspect the Afghan people might be more forgiving of the killings by Sgt. Bales since that sort of thing occurs in all long wars (see Thucydides on this). But the American people have been largely sheltered from the reality of war on their soil – except for some Southerners who still talk about the cause and condone what was essentially a fight to preserve slavery.

“Now the American people cannot avoid knowing what long wars and prolonged exposure to combat do. In the Vietnam War, My Lai was not an aberration of a long war, it was an inevitability.”

Contact Corgan at 617-353-3553; mcorgan@bu.edu

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