As violent anti-U.S. protests spread in Afghanistan this week, President Obama sent a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai apologizing for the unintentional burning of Korans by the U.S. military at Bagram Air Base. The Taliban argued that any U.S. expressions of regret were "mere slogans," and the Islamist militants urged Afghans to attack foreign military installations in "defense of our holy book." Angry crowds hurled rocks at several NATO bases, and a man in an Afghan military uniform reportedly shot and killed two U.S. soldiers. Will Obama's apology quell the uproar?
Groveling only makes matters worse: Burning Korans is certainly "regrettable," but Afghanistan's Muslims "are in no position to lecture us on religious tolerance," says Aaron Goldstein at The American Spectator. If anything, Karzai owes the U.S. an apology for the killing of two American soldiers, a "far more serious transgression" than the accidental burning of holy books. When we "refuse to stand up for ourselves," it only feeds the sense that we're the bad guys.
"Another Obama apology"
Obama's apology certainly can't hurt: The Right always accuses Obama of running "around the world apologizing for America, an assertion that is demonstrably false," says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. But in this case, an apology was precisely what the situation called for. "The Koran burning was clearly a mistake, but it has obviously inflamed an already tense situation and, now, it is endangering Americans." If saying "sorry" helps calm things down, "then it will have been worth it."
"Obama sends apology to Afghan president over Koran burning"
Let's not forget who the real bad guys are: Jihadist prisoners were reportedly scribbling notes to each other in the Korans, says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, turning the holy books into vehicles for "extremist communications." Afghan protesters should direct their anger toward the terrorists who defaced the holy books in the first place. "It's probably a smart and cost-free move for Obama to apologize" — but this episode is hardly the fault of the U.S. military.
"Obama apologizes for Koran burning incident in Afghanistan"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- America created the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria? Meet the ISIS 'truthers'
- The Obama era is over. The presidency continues.
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- How American businessmen are ruining American business — and the U.S. economy
- What is Molly? Everything you need to know about the party drug
- How Harry Houdini escaped death
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- Why the West should let Russia have eastern Ukraine
- On ISIS, neocons and liberal hawks have a 'boy who cried wolf' problem
Subscribe to the Week