MIRWAISPaulaBronstein:Getty

“We are happy to have [the Americans] here now. But if they kill a single civilian, people will turn against them,” - an Afghan villager to a New York Times reporter, in a fascinating dispatch from the front.

And there you have the excruciating dilemma of a neo-imperial presence designed to save nations from their own internal pathologies and the rise and rise of Jihadist, violent, medieval Islam. Even when you make no mistakes, there is no gratitude - because you are still a foreign occupier in a country you have been deployed in for close to a decade - the longest foreign war in US history. But, of course, you cannot not make mistakes. Every civilian these medieval terrorists kill is a point toward intimidation and victory. Every civilian the protecting Coalition kills undermines the legitimacy of the entire thing.

This is not something even the most brilliant general or most talented and courageous soldiers can rectify. It's endemic to empire, whether that empire is constructed out of self-defense, moral responsibility or vainglory.

(Photo: Asan Bibi, 9, sits on a bench as burn cream is applied to her at Mirwais hospital October 13, 2009 Kandahar, Afghanistan. She, her sister and mother were badly burned when a helicopter fired into their tent in the middle of the night on October 3rd, according to their father. Three members of the family were killed in the incident. The family belongs to the Kuchi ethnic tribe, nomads living in tents out in the open desert whom are very vulnerable to a war they have little understanding of. Mirwais hospital in Kandahar city is the largest regional hospital in the area, supported by the ICRC and the Afghan government it caters to most of the war wounded in the most hostile part of the country. By the quite remarkable Paula Bronstein/Getty.)

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