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Commentary from Allison Stanger, the Chair of the Political Science Department at Middlebury College on the situation in Afghanistan that arose after American servicemen were found to have burned Qurans.
Book burning is not something typically associated with freedom-of-speech-loving America. When books are burned in a country desperately in need of more books, where only 43% of men and 12% of women are literate, it should prompt questions.
I want to believe that the burning of Qurans was an unintended mistake. But surely any soldier based in Afghanistan after a decade-long American intervention knows that the desecration of the Koran is an inflammatory and offensive act in a Muslim country.
President Obama’s apology has done little to contain the mounting rage in Afghanistan that led to a march on the presidential palace after Friday prayers, the Saturday killings of two U.S. officers on the job in Afghan ministries and the subsequent withdrawal of NATO advisors from Afghanistan. But this latest incident provides further evidence that our armed forces have begun to lose touch with why we are fighting in the first place.
Their frustration is understandable, but we should never implicitly condone American soldiers burning books as a means to defending freedom. We should not attack those who apologize for such an act. The cost of losing what we are fighting to uphold is far too high. Thankfully, President Obama understands that.