Richard Sennott, Dml - Star Tribune
Short take: Afghanistan
- Article by: STEPHEM M. WALT
- Foreign Policy
- March 2, 2012 - 6:55 PM
Imagine that the town or city where you live had a bunch of heavily-armed foreign soldiers living nearby. Imagine that they sent patrols down your street with some frequency, bristling with guns and other instruments of war.
Imagine that these soldiers were from a very different culture and nearly all of them did not speak your native language, although they could occasionally use a local translator to order you around.
You have been told repeatedly that they are there to protect you, but sometimes these protective activities involve entering your neighbors' houses, arresting people and even shooting up the place.
Of course, these well-armed foreign troops have access to lots of sophisticated air power, including helicopters, fighter-bombers and drones, and these sophisticated gadgets fire missiles and drop bombs on suspected bad guys in your town.
Most of the time they get who they were aiming at, but sometimes they make mistakes and kill your friends and neighbors. Maybe even one of your close relatives.
If you had been living in such circumstances for five or 10 years, do you think you and your neighbors might become resentful of those well-intentioned but heavy-handed foreigners?
Do you think you might even begin to hate their intrusive interference, even if it were done with the best of intentions? If you then discovered that some of them were burning Bibles, Torahs or the American flag, might you leave your house and join an angry demonstration, or maybe even try to do something worse?
If the answer to those questions is "yes," then you can probably understand why the United States and its allies are in such deep water in Afghanistan.
You see, the outburst of public rage at the idiotic burning of a bunch of Qur'ans actually tells you something very important about our Afghan campaign. It's not as if the news about this act suddenly swung lots of Afghans from being really fond of the United States to being really mad at us.
Rather, news of the Qur'an burning was just a catalyst -- the proverbial straw on the camel's back -- that ignited resentments that have been building up for a long time.
Nobody likes being ordered around by well-armed foreigners, and no amount of "hearts and minds" feel-good diplomacy can eliminate that fact. That is one of the many reasons why the Obama administration was wrong to escalate the Afghan war in 2009.
The Afghan reaction to the Qur'an burning is one of those moments of clarity where the real landscape is revealed, and it's not a pretty sight.
Now all we need to do is imagine an administration that can face these facts squarely and bring this misguided effort to an end. I can't guarantee that President Obama would do it in his second term, but he's more likely to do it than the people who hope to challenge him in November.
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