To Westerners, the protests and killings in response to the “inadvertent” burning of multiple copies of the Holy Korans in Bagram Air Base is a tremendous over-reaction. Equally disturbing to me is the criticism of President Obama over his apology for this action. “The Afghans should apologize for the death of our servicemen.” In both cases dichotomous thinking is at the heart of the problem. To devout Muslims, promoting Allah’s Will on earth is their principal goal. Demonstrating to non-Muslims how sacred the Koran is to them is certainly consistent with this goal. That said, is it really Allah’s Will that people die over this? You burned the Koran. You are bad. We must kill you.
The NATO goal in Afghanistan is to promote the modernization. Clearly the burning of the Korans does not help this goal. Whether it was an inadvertent mistake, an example of poor judgment or a blatant act of desecration, it was done under military jurisdiction and so the military is responsible. Most of us consider it reasonable to apologize for a mistake that harms others and as commander and chief of the US military it is totally appropriate for the president to apologize. Yes it is true that, to us killing is worse than desecration, but the idea that we should not apologize for what we did because what they did is worse is small-minded. This type of thinking distracts us from our ultimate goal of modernization.