New Orleans I’m going so far out of my lane, I’m in Afghanistan. Not literally of course, since everyone with a US passport is in line for a helicopter out of Kabul or in line trying to get a visa to decamp.
The top line is clear. The Taliban in a matter of days since the US troop withdrawal, negotiated and scheduled, as some may remember, for May 2021 by the Trump administration, has taken the country by storm. The government has collapsed. The president has hightailed it out of the country. By all accounts, it’s a hot mess. No surprise on any score.
Part of the hot mess is the journalistic and political posturing. My hair caught on fire when I read that former Bush VP Dick Cheney thinks we could have managed almost indefinitely with a force of 2500 to 3000 on the ground. It’s a shame that he has gone from foaming at the mouth to verifiable senility. Reporters and editorialists are no better, as they try to pretend this is baseball where a win or a loss is tallied on the scoreboard, and desperately try to pin it on President Biden. Baseball might be a helpful metaphor, but keep it accurate. Biden was the simply the closer at the end. The war, or the game as they see it, was lost years ago. Other presidents before him had lost this one, although it is unclear that there was ever the ways and means to win. Many just didn’t want to pull the plug and take the loss, if they could drag it out forever.
I find it especially ironic to hear the op-eders whine about American losing our credibility with our allies of all people. This is Cold War thinking for retirees. The USA spent $90 billion over two decades and 2500 US soldiers in blood. Face it. We haven’t won a war in seventy years. No one pretends we didn’t lose in Vietnam, following the French. Iraq is a failed state. Afghanistan is another defeat, as it was for the Russians. Maybe we are finally losing our arrogance, but not our credibility. We held the line, whether we understood it or not, and whether we should have or not.
The critics of Biden now and others before continue to be under the misperception that the US can somehow “win” a civil war within another country. A civil war defines indigenous struggle. Many countries may try to influence the outcome, but at the end of the day, its own people will decide who will be standing at the end.
The critics are neo-colonialists. They won’t say it, but they want the world to be back in the 19th and early 20th century, where a big power can run a country, lock, stock and barrel. Think the Dutch in Indonesia, the British in India, the Belgians in the Congo, the German in the …, you get the point, and so on. The new imperialists can’t cop to their bedrock beliefs and frustrations, because history has not been kind to colonial rule. The natives are always going to be restless with an overseer, and they will always win when all is said and done.
Afghanistan is a tragic situation, but there are many in the world that are as tragic. None of that argues that the US should be there or that President Biden was not right to finally pull the plug, face the people, and do what had to be done, and, likely, should have been done years and years ago.