NYT summarizes why our Afghanistan campaign will end in failure…

And it’s not because of a Ron Paul-ist “intervention breeds an equal amount of resistance” matter, either. Comparing the violent, uproarious response of the accidental burning of Qurans with the relatively muted reaction to the murder of 16 Afghan civilians:

After more than 10 years, many deaths and billions of dollars invested, Americans still fail to grasp the Afghans’ basic values. Faith is paramount and a death can be compensated with blood money.

“To Muslims, and especially to Afghans, religion is much higher a concern than civilian or human casualties,” said Hafez Abdul Qayoom, a member of Afghanistan’s highest clerical body, the Ulema Council. “When something happens to their religion, they are much more sensitive and have much stronger reaction to it.”

This is a phenomenon that the modern, urbane, and secular American liberal would have a hard time grasping. They spend their time bashing the supposedly backwards, unreformable, religious bigots of America, but fail to understand that religion is an even larger motivation in the Middle East (and our Islamist enemies in particular).

Libertarians often fall into this conceptual trap, being largely secular themselves, and have trouble imagining religion being the prime motivation for violence. Hence the appeal of Ron Paul’s foreign policy, never mentioning religion in general or Islamism in particular, which only amounts to “if U.S. troops are stationed anywhere outside America, it will cause someone to compulsively attack us.”

This quote underscores the point that we should not be nation building–moreso than it is difficult enough to do so domestically–in that the culture and society of Afghanistan do not value the things that we Americans value.

We Americans value religious liberty and understand religion’s place in the hierarchy of freedoms: we do not riot and kill when someone burns a Bible because we respect property and have a private sense of religion. Americans place importance in personal achievement and few see “total religious devotion” as the single, primary concern of human existence. “Winning hearts and minds” by guarding schools won’t have a great impact if the local population feels that destruction is an acceptable response to the accidental burning of a book.


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