August 21, 2012
The New York Times
Your editorial (of August 21, 2012) recognizes, with many others, that “American troops [in Afghanistan] are increasingly at risk from attacks from their supposed Afghan allies.” Yet to be generally recognized, however, is the folly of any Western attempt to reconstitute political institutions in a long-troubled country such as Afghanistan.
It should now be obvious worldwide that any “government” that tolerates the development on its soil of clandestine attacks upon the United States will be promptly subjected to a devastating reta1iatory response. It should also be obvious that a sense of proportion can be difficult to maintain in such circumstances. Thus, it is not healthy, for either “them” or “us,” for the United States to undertake to reform the institutions of a distant people with whom we have little in common.
Vigorous “police action” in Afghanistan, of a few months duration, was probably inevitable in September 2001, but not a decade-long “war on terror.” Salutary reminders of the limitations upon usefully projecting our immense power abroad should be provided us by the difficulties we routinely confront in dealing constructively with provocative disturbances emanating even from a neighbor such as Mexico.
Professor of Law,
Loyola University of Chicago.