Wednesday, August 21, 2002


The New York Times has an article on Afghan opinion of America’s presence in their country that is relatively surprising in its fairness. Although it seems to return to the issue of "things could go wrong at any moment" repeatedly, Ian Fisher does state clearly that most people interviewed are supportive of us and view America as guaranteeing stability. Most give us the benefit of the doubt despite some accidents because of our past conduct. Still, the author finds a vocal critic of American presence and follows with a quote that belittles the conduct that has earned us some good will:

One Western diplomat in the capital, Kabul, said: "They are trying to be more careful. And why is that? It's not because they are humanitarians. It is in their narrow interest to do so."

Given the brutality and callousness toward civilian casualties when noncombatants get in the way that virtually every other country practices when fighting an enemy, who is this diplomat to complain? I’ll take a leap of faith and assume we’re talking about a French diplomat. But really, it could be virtually any European. Civilians represent upwards of ninety percent of the casualties in modern warfare, and when we take care to avoid civilian casualties, our care is dismissed. It is significant to note that the diplomat could not even deny we take care to avoid civilian casualties. But the diplomat could not give us credit and instead assumed a more sinister motive of just taking care of our "narrow interest." Humanitarianism has nothing to do with it, apparently.

If it is truly just in our narrow interest (which it undeniably is) why are we virtually alone in our degree of care? If it was in the "narrow interest" of Russia to avoid civilian casualties they would not have razed Grozny. This is not just to pick on Russia, for if countries truly avoided killing civilians in their narrow interest, the percentage of civilian casualties would not be so high. Why is it that America thinks fighting clean is in our narrow interest when few others agree? Doesn’t that alone say something good about us? Clearly, most countries do not consider it in their narrow interest to avoid civilian casualties. Let’s give us some credit here. We at least try to avoid civilian casualties. We mostly succeed, too.