Friday, March 23, 2012

Should Obama Apologize to Afghanistan?

Dear Madame L,

I'm really sorry for those poor Afghan people whose family members were killed in a crazy rampage by a single U.S. serviceman last week.

But I don't think the President of the United States should have to apologize for it. I think Pres. Obama is apologizing way too much. 


It Wasn't His Fault

Dear Non-Apologist,

Madame L agrees with you that those killings, and the other horrible things that have been done, whether purposely or accidentally, by American soldiers and contractors in Iraq are not Pres. Obama's fault. 

But Madame L notes that Washington Post fact-checkers discovered that Pres. Obama is NOT going on some "apology tour," as his detractors have claimed. Instead, they found, he "repeatedly extolled America and its ideals. Like his predecessors, Obama has become practiced in conceding error without saying sorry..."

But, more importantly, here's why it's very wise of our President to apologize for in this way---"conceding error without saying 'sorry'"---for such acts as the Koran burning and the more recent massacre, from "The Politics of Sorry," by Karl E. Meyer, in "Foreign Policy":

"Few wounds fester longer than a failure to acknowledge gross abuses, even in times long past. Japan to this day remains tongue-tied regarding treatment of Korean "comfort women" during World War II and is still faulted in Asia for its tardy and awkward apologies for its wartime transgressions. Turkey steadfastly resists to even acknowledge its indiscriminate slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman troops during World War I, prompting the French National Assembly to pass a law criminalizing denial of what is widely regarded as a genocide. Turkey, for its part, accuses France of ignoring its own crimes perpetrated during an Algerian war that claimed more than a million lives (Algeria's count) or at least 300,000 lives (in France's reckoning) -- a discrepancy ironically symmetrical with contested counts of Armenian fatalities in Turkey."

What happens when national leaders do NOT apologize? Here's an example, from that same article:

"Concerning France's undeclared war in Algeria, President Nicolas Sarkozy all but shrugged prior to his sole visit to Algeria in 2007... To date, there has been no official apology for France's violent repression and use of torture in the war, so Algerians have repeatedly complained."

Partial apologies don't work. Neither does blaming someone else, or spreading or sharing the blame. And when denials are later shown to be false as the truth is revealed, the situation is even worse for the country or person responsible.

Madame L suggests that Pres. Obama's method of dealing with such unfortunate incidents, acknowledging the problem and the hurt while pledging to investigate, is the best way to handle them.


Madame L

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