Afghanistan disaster

President Biden decided that 20 years of commitment to Afghanistan was enough, so he’d pull out our few thousand troops. Never mind that we’ve had tens of thousands in Germany, in South Korea, in Japan, for over 70 years — with far less compelling rationales.

We had invested vastly in Afghanistan. But at this point the mission’s cost there — in manpower, money, and casualties — was comparatively small. Yet had a big payoff. While we weren’t winning the war, we were managing to sustain a status quo with the Taliban contained, thus enabling millions of Afghans to live decently. Pulling out gained very little, with huge risks of the horrible outcome now unfolding.

Even politically it made no sense. American voters were not clamoring for an Afghan pullout. But the result is egg all over Biden’s face. Deservedly.

He blew off the consensus of military and intelligence experts who warned of dire consequences. Which came even faster than foreseen.

Thanks also to the bungled execution. This was no well-planned withdrawal. While only weeks ago Biden swore we’d never see people airlifted from the embassy roof like in Saigon in 1975, that’s exactly what happened in Kabul. Ghastly airport scenes of people frantically trying to get out, some killed in the chaos.

The Afghan army melted away, after all the billions we’d invested in it. Notably in their air force, a key factor against the Taliban. But with us gone, those planes could no longer be maintained and kept flying. Afghan soldiers had already made tremendous sacrifices battling the Taliban, taking huge casualties. With very little in pay and back-up. Then we completely abandon our partnership. Yet Biden cravenly slams them for not throwing away their lives to continue a fight we’d now made futile.

Our rush to the exit is supremely callous toward the whole Afghan people, left to a grim fate. Especially women. The Taliban has long mounted a campaign of targeted assassinations of the intelligentsia — government officials, judges, journalists, etc. Especially women, who had ascended to such roles. Now they won’t even be allowed in school. Nor, apparently, will unmarried females be allowed. Holdouts to be forcibly married to Taliban fighters.

What perverted humanity. I can never fathom vast numbers of people lining up behind such evil. Fighting it was a noble endeavor.

For another perspective on our responsibility to Afghanistan, I highly recommend an essay (https://lizrobinson.squarespace.com/blog/) by my daughter Elizabeth, who has lived there, working in the international engagement.

The Biden administration is trying to blame this disaster on Trump. Who’d negotiated a deal with the Taliban, for a cease-fire and anti-terrorism promise, in exchange for our withdrawal. (They also got 5,000 prisoners released.) Those Taliban pledges were always worthless and immediately violated. Biden had no reason to stick with our side of that phony Trump deal. It’s no excuse for his actions.

This is one more damning signal to the world that today’s America is a weak feckless country that cannot be relied upon. China is laughing at us. After Trump’s brainless shredding of our international credibility, I expected better from Biden. But in every aspect of this Afghan fiasco, he bears an unnerving resemblance to Trump at his worst. Even down to falsely blaming his predecessor.

* * *

After long observing the world I’ve learned to expect disillusionment. I’d hugely supported Biden’s campaign. But what I’ve also come to understand is the world’s complexity. A vast machine with myriads of moving parts, and no master control. Thus bad stuff is inevitable. Yet I remain an optimist because in the (very) big picture, far more is going right than wrong. I supported Biden, most fundamentally, because he is a good person. Far from perfect, but good. I think that’s still true. Whereas Trump was wicked through and through. Good people don’t always do what’s good. But better than bad people.

* * *

Hakainde Hichilema, a businessman, lost five Zambian presidential elections; surely cheated out of victory, and persecuted and imprisoned, by the ruling party. In this sixth try, against President Edgar Lungu, The Economist said Hichilema would win a free and fair election — but saw no chance of that. Lungu, whose corrupt misrule has been wrecking Zambia, did everything possible to rig the poll. When Hichilema nevertheless clearly won, Lungu tried to pull a Trump, claiming the election was not free and fair (!). We’ve seen this movie too often, especially in Africa. But now — surprisingly — Lungu has relented and conceded defeat.

Some optimist sugar for me on the bitter pill of Afghanistan.

11 Responses to “Afghanistan disaster”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Your judgment re host of matters? 99% correct. In this case, respondent urges considering how tuff it is to defeat a native insurgency [e.g., Sendero Luminoso, Peru, 1970-1992; Mau-Mau, Kenya, 1952-60]. A-stan, soi-disant, is not a nation, but a cladistic madhouse of homicidal tribes since 2nd millennium BPE…When, in his 329 BPE Achaemenid campagne, Alexander showed up at the Khawak Pass, the Afghan vizier said, “Welcome great general. We have heard of your brilliant victories. Enjoy your stay in the Kush, but be gone by sundown”. Noting the guerillas on the hillsides, ATG w/drew promptly post-prandium [Diodorus Siculus]. We should stop trying to govern the world, dismantle the mil-industry complex,
    abandon claims of Empire & lead in detherming Earth. Meanwhile, prep das folk for syntels, quant, CRISPR, Musk-Mars & provolution to new species & genera amongst the stars. Viz. Kaku, Bostrom, Alcubierre et alia].

  2. David Lettau Says:

    This is the third war we have lost in my lifetime,Thiis one we have lost to an evil death cult that will impose a reign of theocratic barbarism upon our abadoned allies,all of whom are now in mortal peril.Meanwhile the finest military in the history of the planet is stampeding out of the country as if the bearded bushwhackers of the taliban where the mongol horde.Perhaps most shameful of all is Biden’s blameing the Afghan army for all this.The Afghans lost more KIA in every single year of the war than we lost in twenty.Where is our Zola to tell the story of this debacle?

  3. Anonymous Says:

    “21 imperial powers have come-a-cropper owing to hybris” [5th-grade essay, OC 1941, re Nazi invasion of USSR].

  4. David Lettau Says:

    Thucydides and the 5th grader: two accurate assessors of timeless human folly

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Anon, aka Don Bronkema: potentiated by inhaling a library, but mere speculation before Winter debacle. Peers, parents & teachers hooted down my N tek & political prophecies [all one needs is a contrarian vue]. But, failed to anticipate the 9 social revolutions of the 60s–they seem even now quasi-miraculous…Latest forecast: races will merge in heterosis; blockchain will polish off capitalism; thermolysis wilbi circumvented; Earth will cool back to 1768 mean over 300 years [faster w/geosynchronous graphene orbisol to block insolation]. Re-glaciation awaits Milankovich cycles. Craig Venter’s digital DNA d/load to Mars kood bild a cohort of 250K by 2150. Alcubierre’s spacetime-compression, if feasible, kood launch exploration of galaxy c. 2400…Main risk: H. Machinensis. Can we merge w/syntels & retain hominin sikodinamix? Viz. MIT, IEEE, Kaku, Bostrom et alia. Watadu meanwhile? DCA into broad stock indices, per Kiplinger’s [June, 1941].

  6. Adam (Neko Random) Says:

    Trump came up with this plan and no matter which president, the end result was going to be the same with withdrawal.

    Afghanistan isn’t worth American lives, it was Vietnam all over again but with a much higher price tag to satisfy the conservative war machine

  7. Don Bronkema Says:

    Dismantle the empire; consolidate at home; equitize on the tek-Scando model. Not things, but relations. Silence, simplicity, compassion. Demise w/honor.

  8. Lee Says:

    War is hell. It kills civilians left and right and destroys infrastructure, history, and sanity among those who survive it. Even after the shooting stops, there are hostile factions that will be unable to work together to rebuild society … for decades. Despite that one gang of politicians wants to blame another gang of politicians for some particular aspect or phase of this war, it is nonetheless the case that pretty much all phases of war bring unfathomable devastation.

    The focus on the destruction brought on by this particular phase is missing the forest for the trees. The cause is war itself, not some set of current or recent politicians.

  9. Don Bronkema Says:

    Few can rise above clad & clan to admit the claims of competing tribes.

  10. Lee Says:

    I recommend Ezra Klein’s column Let’s Not Pretend That the Way We Withdrew From Afghanistan Was the Problem for more background information.

  11. Don Bronkema Says:

    Stans of the styeppi could be conquered, not the montane tribes, then or now. Terrain isolates; nourishes fanaticism. Absence of potable water at wetbulbs of 125F will drive some out; those who hunker in situ will perish. Behold a wasteland emptier of life than the one cursed by Newton Minow in 1960. Same fate pending along Mediterranean Littoral, ME, W/Africa, E/Africa, S/SE/E Asia, Western Northamerica, Caribbean. Collapse of AMOC means only weeds will grow in Europe [500M flee to Canada & US north of Mason-Dixon]. Most of us nonagenarian risk analysts think cohorts will survive above 60th parallel, but resources mite not suffice to establish Colonia Martialis. Once above 2500 fertile pairs, tho, could be viable, esp. w/CRISPR, miraterials, quant-blockchain, UBIs & syntel-informatic management. H. semper unsapiens is not kaput yet!

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