Monday, March 12, 2012

Do Afghans Understand Principal-Agency Theory Better Than Us?

Some ruminations on twitter about the disparate reactions to Koran burning vs. the shootings of this weekend have pondered the mystery of why folks would seem to react far more to symbolic violence than the killing of kids.  That this speaks to a cultural divide that we cannot possibly overcome.

Well, let me ruthlessly speculate without any information about what is actually going on in Afghanistan right now.

An alternative interpretation of the difference between the two events would be that the Afghans, after decades of violence, understand intuitively the distinction between an event caused by one person versus an event caused by a set of processes.  They may understand that any one individual can run amok, that no political system, no military, no nothing can make sure that 100% of the folks will not break and do something utterly horrible.  They may find it more problematic that a military that has been operating in Afghanistan for ten years would burn Korans.  The difference is between the difficulties of controlling all individuals and an organization that made so many mistakes that all had to happen in order for the holy books to be burned. 

I am too busy with lapsed deadlines to check, but I am wondering about the Kunduz bombing in 2009, which was when German forces on the ground called in an air strike (by Americans) to destroy two captured tankers full of fuel, killing over a hundred civilians who were grabbing the fuel for their own uses.  On the one hand, this was a devastating attack that caused heaps of "collateral damage."  The organizational machine was broken since the German officers did not follow procedures.  So, was Kunduz more like the Koran burning--broken machine--or more like the shooting spree--bad individual? 

Anyhow, I have no clue, but I do think there are more instructive lessons to learn than my initial reaction of: what #@$# priorities these folks have.

No comments: