An American soldier snapped and killed some Afghan civillians.
This is terrible. Inexcusable. There's no justifying this action.
But, although the man who pulled the trigger must be held responsible-- and it looks like he will be-- the military should look at how they failed. One thing I learned in the Corps is that when one of your people fails, it's your fault. You, as his superior, should have seen the signs, should have tried harder, done better.
This as yet unnamed soldier had done four combat tours between Iraq and Afghanistan. He had suffered a head trauma. He was returned to active duty in a combat zone. None of that excuses what he did, but should we be surprised?
We've been at war for over a decade. A nasty, ugly sort of war without clear objectives. A war where enemies dressed in the uniforms of our Afghan Army allies attack and kill coalition troops. Where the enemy fighters vanish into the population. The lines between soldier and civilian, enemy and friend, are blurred.
We've been fighting too long, with too few troops on the ground. People have been rotated back into the line of fire time and time again. It's only a matter of time before somebody goes off the rails. We've seen it before, and we probably will again if we fail to take a hard look at our procedures.
In this kind of war, we rely on the locals to help us identify the enemy. To spot the booby traps. To support the new civilian government. A year of careful positive work winning hearts and minds can be erased by one atrocity.
We, as electors of the people who send out troops into harms way, have to understand and accept that you can't fight a war on the cheap, and that actions and strategies have consequences. We need to demand that our leaders do a better job, or admit that it's not working and cut our losses.
War is one of those things that should be done right or not at all.