February 24th, 2012
05:13 PM ET

Lindsay: Quran burning and the end of the Afghan War

Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.

By James M. LindsayCFR.org

The protests that have erupted across Afghanistan this week in the wake of the news that coalition forces burned several Qurans have laid bare the gulf that continues to exist, and may even be widening, between many Afghans and the U.S. troops there to protect them. Allegations that Iranian and Pakistani agents have helped fan the flames of Afghan anger probably have merit, though the Taliban’s initial response to the Quran burnings was surprisingly muted. But when Afghan parliamentarians urge their countrymen “to wage jihad against Americans” and NATO-trained Afghan police tell reporters “we should burn those foreigners,” Washington is almost certainly confronting a genuine rather than an artificial sentiment. And that sentiment looks pretty straight forward: Afghans want Americans to go home.

Most Americans would be happy to oblige them. Efforts by Republican presidential candidates not named Ron Paul to build support among the American public for continuing the Obama surge in Afghanistan have won few converts. Only one in seven Americans looks favorably on Afghanistan, and a solid majority of Americans opposes keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan until the situation stabilizes. Indeed, most Americans probably would applaud if President Obama followed Sen. George Aiken’sadvice to LBJ during the Vietnam War to declare victory and bring the boys home.

President Obama isn’t likely to take that advice, or at least not implement it at the speed that Aiken’s words suggest. It’s not just that Washington never finds it easy to accept unpleasant truths (it does), or that government officials have the all-too-human tendency to hope that if they hold on just a bit longer that the breaks will turn their way (they do). It’s the recognition that what has been accomplished in Afghanistan over the last decade at a great cost in terms of blood and treasure could easily be swept away after U.S. troops depart. No one looks forward to that potential ugliness, hence the search for ways to avoid it. But the U.S. presence in Afghanistan is going to end, and that will likely be sooner rather than later if the Quran protests escalate. And what follows will not likely give us reason to cheer.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of James M. Lindsay. 

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Topics: Afghanistan

soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. almahdi is lusefer

    iran must be attacked, iran is not a muslim country, all the muslims 1 billion are sunni and the shiia are only 150 milions iran 65 millions are not all muslims , they have 10 million sunni and 5 million kurds, and 3 million christeans and jews etc...iran is evil and we dont consider them muslims. teh shiia cult is a devil worship called almahdi he the son of lusefer the devil

    February 24, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Reply
    • Deryk Houston

      Were does this hate come from? Iranians are like everyone else on this planet. They want to live in peace and raise their children. Stop squeezing them unmercifully and you will see them respond in a positive way. It is as simple as that. They have nothing to gain by having a nuclear bomb and they recognize that. But that idea only holds true if we stop crucifying them at every turn. The carrot and stick is not the way to peace. All it will do is create slaves who will try to find a way out of their shackles. Obama is wrong on this one. And I say that as one of his supporters in general.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Reply
  2. j. von hettlingen

    Forget Afghanistan! This country has always been a hornet's nest. There's nothing we can do about it. As a crossroad for military campaigns of the regional powers, the land had seen occupiers from east and west. The tribal culture dominates daily life there. In today's Afghanistan, a man identifies himself more with its tribe. It would take decades for the people there to develope a sense of nationalism, to overcome their grievances and get out of poverty.

    February 24, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Reply
    • George Patton

      Instead of apologizing for the burning of the Koran, j. von hettlingen, Barack Obama needs to apologize to the Afghan people for occupying their country and make arrangements to pull the troops out as soon as possible. It's as simple as that!!!

      February 24, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Reply
      • Marine5484

        You nailed it, George. Thank you. It's just too bad that a lot of people here are so ignorant that they just can't see things your way!

        February 25, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  3. Arvind R K

    This entire episode of the burning of the Korans and the subsequent appeasement of the Muslims is causing nothing but fervent hatred towards them amongst all the other people in the world.
    While it is certainly true that the Muslim religion has borne what is ostensibly an affront, it is equally – if not more – true that the incident was accidental. It is also true that the soldiers who were responsible for this incident were just ordinary folks who, not being able to read Arabic, were unable to distinguish the Koran from other other Arabic texts or books. If the entire incident is looked at from this point of view, it is wholly understandable. A rational and level-headed people – completely unlike those who are currently busily protesting – would understand this, acccept the round of apologies being issued by all and sundry and move on.
    However, Afghans, and now Pakistanis, appear to be mostly comprised of people who have little or nothing to do with their lives. Their sole purpose then, is to carve out a purpose at someone else's expense. In almost every known case of such people from these countries, unfortunately, the purpose is not one revolving around industry or enterprise or the betterment of their lot; instead it is an attempt to further entrench their country in mindless conflict, poverty and hopelessness, moving it further and further away from the civilized world into a morass of religious fanaticism, controlled by a vicious clergy whose sole means of holding onto power is to continue this trend.
    There is a wonderful saying amongst the common folks here – you can cure many things but you can't cure stupid. If the people of these Islamic countries are hell-bent on continuing along on this path of self-destruction, then I don't see why we should be spending our hard-earned money in preventing them from doing so. If, on the other hand, they try to export this madness to our world, I do want to spend all our might in crushing this madness and crushing it hard. If this involves a few accidents like the burning of a few Korans, then so be it. No war has been fought without a casualty and a book – in spite of all that it represents – is small change compared to human life. We in the civilized world understand and respect this concept of life. If these people don't, it further confirms our dim view of their society – yes, even those who aren't necessarily like them but haven't been able to change them – and justifies the collateral damage that war inflicts in those countries.

    February 24, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Reply
    • Imran

      @Arvind R K You could not hide your Indianess by bringing Pakistan into the discussion. That shows how enlightened you are. The words you have written are just words

      February 26, 2012 at 8:37 am | Reply
  4. 100% Ethio-Nostradamus

    In this World, Is there anyone who do obey 100% all the Rules that is written:-
    A) In the Qura'an?
    B) In the Bible? and
    C) In the Law Books for any
    Country, by its own people?
    Do anyone of US, including the
    American President does follow
    and abide by American Laws,
    that consists more than a
    Thousand Pages???? Hmmm...
    So....., why do you pick-up or chooses only, some parts of Laws that you are comfortable for some advantages only????

    My suggestion, either do follow all the Rules/Laws or don't!!!!!!

    February 24, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Reply

    So what! Qur'an was burnet many times, at the past Centuries. During the Arab and Muslim Countries civil wars and currently in the Middle-East countries, Qur'an and other irrepressible articles has been destroyed and burnt. Even in Syria and Afghanistan, Civilians Women and Children keep getting killed by sucide bombers and stupid Governments, like Assad.

    Why don't Afghanistan protest the women and children getting murdered by sucide bombers?? Is it allowed by Qur'an to kill young babies and women by sucide bombers?? These human lives can not be replaced, but the Qur'an could be republished.

    Only the Mad people are protesting for replaceable scripture. Even those who are protesting, they are not perfect Muslims, means they don't follow or obeyed everything that is written in Qur'an. IT IS JUST THE HEAT PASSION THAT MAKES THEM TO GO OUT AND DANCING OR PROTESTING.

    Dancing for Money? Eh...!
    Do some Dog fighting too? Eh...!

    February 25, 2012 at 5:27 am | Reply
  6. grenadaboy

    How come we don't hear much about the defacement by terrorist writings in the margins of these Qur'an's?? When their holy book is defaced aren't they supposed to be destroyed? The American flag is!

    February 25, 2012 at 8:18 am | Reply
  7. ma & pa

    grenadaboy...Good comment. Reasonable comment. Good to see your comment. If we had a clue where you are...

    February 25, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Reply
  8. ma & pa

    We are seeing the face of evil that looks only for something to kill, because evil celebrates and exalts over how much innocence it can ruin. If those who live this would self-destruct, the innocent among them could walk free, wiyhout a shot fired. Wishful thinking.

    February 25, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Reply
  9. len

    its a jerked off religion anyway,,it does not have the credibility,,that older religions do,,it never makes sense,,it is riddled with oxymoron's,,its not relevant to anything worth while religiously speaking..

    February 28, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Reply

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