Back when I was in Iraq in 2005-06, I heard a story about a soldier in Kirkuk who walked off the premises of FOB Warhorse. He just went outside the wire unarmed like he was back home and wanted some ice cream. Leaving the base itself violated all sorts of orders. But, more importantly, the chances of surviving a trip outside the wire alone were slim and none. My colleagues and I viewed the story as a soldier "freaking out" over the pressure of being far from home, confined to the base and simply feeling overwhelmed by the pressure of living and fighting in a war zone.
So, when I read about a soldier in Afghanistan leaving his base and killing Afghan women and children, I expect the pressure of the war zone and more are behind this heinous act. See CBS news report. Living and working in a war zone presents so much pressure. Everything is vital, everything is important. Nothing is trivial. Nothing is unimportant. On top of that pressure, you add the extreme sense of loss when one of your buddies is killed, it can all just become too much for a person to bear. Nothing excuses taking innocent life. I would like to hear more about what lead up to this incident. But, I know it can be like a pressure cooker. You have to let some of the steam escape before it explodes.
Of course, this act is the very opposite of what it takes to defeat an insurgency. An occupation power succeeds against an insurgency only if it can show that it is more interested in the well-being of the local citizenry than the insurgents. This soldier, other than killing many innocents, has handed an important victory to the Taliban.