Mass murders are shocking no matter who commits them, or where they happen. In the United States, shock and outrage are typically followed by several days or weeks of mass media attention, and the country rallies behind the victims and their families.
After the mass murder in Kandahar on 11 March, there has been comparatively little talk in the States about the tragic event, or the fallout that is sure to follow. On a major news network this morning, more airtime was devoted to how the Republican presidential candidates handled the topic of grits during their campaigning efforts in the southern states.
So what does it matter? This event took place in Afghanistan, a place most Americans know little about, and where no Americans were killed in the process. Some might even consider it something that just happens in war from time to time. So should the American public really concern themselves with lengthy conversation about this mass murder, or should the news networks devote valuable airtime to the story?
There are those in the world who have taken great interest in this event. The Afghan population is talking about it. The Taliban is talking about it. The Afghan government and our allies are talking about. A mass murder of women and children committed by an American Soldier is the equivalent of an information operations JDAM for the insurgents we have been fighting for more than ten years.
So now I pose these questions. Does the apparent apathy on the part of the American public have an impact on operations in Afghanistan? If yes, what is that impact? Dose the US counterinsurgent, in context of the whole of government approach to include the DoD, DoS, USAID, etc., have a responsibility to shape the perceptions of the US population in regards to counterinsurgency operations?
Dan Lawrence, The Counterinsurgency Center. This statement is my own and does not constitute an endorsement by or opinion of the Department of Defense.