With nine more dead Friday following the protests in Afghanistan over the burning of Korans on a U.S. military base, some in Washington are making the argument that the U.S. government stop apologizing for the incident.
In a Fox News article, Hudson Institute senior fellow Nina Shea says that the incident has been exploited for political purposes and therefore the United States should stop apologizing for the desecration of the Korans at the Bagram air base Tuesday — a situation that U.S. officials say was an accident.
“It just feeds the sense of grievance,” Nina Shea, a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute, said of the “constant round of apologies.”
Shea, who sits on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, agreed with the U.S. decision to quickly apologize after the incident late Monday and order an investigation.
But she noted that the subsequent apologies “don’t seem to have any effect.”
The Pentagon, State Department and White House have all apologized for the burning, including a phone call and letter from President Obama to Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai.
Not all conservative think tankers agree with Shea’s assessment that the apologies should come to an end. Ahmad Majidyar of the American Enterprise Institute and Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation disagree with Shea’s assertion and say the U.S. response has been appropriate, given conditions on the ground. However, they also point out that going forward, much of how this plays out is in the hands of the Afghans and Karzai.
In the same Fox News article, they say:
But Ahmad Majidyar, senior research associate with the American Enterprise Institute, said the U.S. is taking the right approach by stressing the sincerity of its remorse. And he suggested the protests are not as widespread as they’re made out to be.
“Many other [Afghans], they accepted the apology by the Americans ... and they’re just moving on with their lives,” he said.
The test, Majidyar said, will be Friday sermons. Fiery sermons, he warned, could lead to more violence — he urged the United States to go beyond apologies and make sure it’s reaching out to all corners of Afghan society to calm down the backlash and avoid that outcome.
Lisa Curtis, a senior research fellow with the Heritage Foundation, also said in an email that the Obama administration dealt with the mistake “appropriately,” and described the president’s letter as a “sincere demonstration of respect for the Afghan people and their religious sentiments.”
Going forward, she called on Karzai to try and calm the protests and “expose” the Taliban’s role in “exploiting the situation.”