The US has made massive payments to the victims of a recent shooting massacre in two Afghan villages. The government doled out $50,000 for each Afghan killed in the massacre. They also paid $11,000 for every wounded person. The US typically gives money to the families of innocent victims, but those figures were higher than normal. Normally the families of victims receive $2,000 per death and $1,000 per injured person. The US is trying to cool rising tensions with Afghans over a string of recent incidents.
Tensions flared up dramatically in the past few weeks after it was revealed that the US had disposed of some copies of the Quran by burning them. This led to major backlash against the Americans. Several soldiers were killed in the ensuing violence. Just as it appeared the tension was simmering down, a new and more damning incident occurred.
On the night of March 11, Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales has been accused of sneaking off his military base and killing 16 innocent Afghan civilians in cold blood. The attack came in the middle of the night while the victims were sleeping. Many of the deceased were children. Though the US alleges that Bales acted alone, many Afghans believe it was a coordinated attack by the US. Bales is currently being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and faces 17 counts of murder charges.
Oddly the massacre has drawn smaller outrage than the Quran burning. This is an example of the problem we are dealing with in the region overall. Our lack of knowledge of the customs and beliefs of the people of the middle east have caused us many problems. The Iraq War became a major problem because the three major sects in the country were not properly understood and dealt with. The various tribes and ethnic groups of Afghanistan were poorly understood when that war began. Even after all these years of war we still do not fully understand the people of this region.
I believe these problems may be beyond our ability to fix. We will not be able to transform these middle eastern countries into Western societies over night. Unless we plan on occupying them for decades we must pull back and let the inevitability of progress do that for us. The conflict in Libya gives us a blueprint on how to handle dangerous regimes in the future. Support the overthrow of enemy governments with rebels within the country supported by air power.
Unlike we have in the past, we should narrow down our support of rebels to those that favor democracy. During the Cold War we would support anyone who was against the Soviets. Democracy is our greatest weapon to change the middle east. A freely elected form of government will change as the people in a given country change. That way, as middle eastern society inevitably becomes more tolerant and open, their governments will do so as well. That must be the way forward, as we can not afford to force change upon other countries any longer.