First of all, I will admit that my image choice for this post is probably unfair. Even though Biden changing the withdrawal date and refusing to keep a token presence of US troops in Kabul showed bad faith to both the government and the Taliban, it only sped up the inevitable outcome and made for worse optics in the process.
But how do I feel about withdrawing from Afghanistan? Quite good, really. It was long overdue and I think my last post on this topic four years ago held up beautifully.
Given that the President just criticized Pakistan and has vowed to cut aid while more closely aligning with its sworn enemy, how successful do you think we’re likely to be in Afghanistan now? It’s all the more reason to GTFO while the G’ing is good.
What we shouldn’t be doing is continuing a fruitless military campaign on the other side of the world that we not only can’t conclude, but from which we stand to gain nothing. We don’t really know what we want, have no idea how to get what we want, and wouldn’t be willing to do what it takes to get what we want in Afghanistan.
In some of our past arguments about America’s role in the world, I emphasized a few times that Trump’s isolationism wasn’t going to go away even when Trump eventually did. It was a permanent shift born out of a desire to see to our own problems and let the world cope as it can. Biden is confirming that and I find no fault with him for it. Sometimes, a Band-Aid has to be torn off quickly.
The fact is that the US-propped Afghan government was too corrupt and weak to ever succeed. The ANA soldiers were never going to seriously fight for it, when it couldn’t even pay or supply them. And when they realize that they were being asked to die, they let their feelings be known.
This is a profoundly important moment in modern history. You hardly need me to tell you that. It represents the end of a fierce and ugly phase that began out of our rage unleashed by 9/11. It’s what led us to where we are, as the paranoid and crazed people we’ve become. Covid-19 has only magnified it. 20 years into a state of permanent crisis, and we can’t handle the latest crisis with sanity and solidarity. That sense died a few months after 9/11 and I doubt there’s anything that will alter that anytime soon.
An optimistic person could say that remorselessly withdrawing from a stupid and unwinnable war is rational and an action that Americans should–and I think do–agree upon. This is what’s best for us. And in spite of the horror for the Afghan people, they are at least free of our manipulation. The Taliban may be an evil government but at least it will truly be theirs, I suppose.
I can’t help now but reflect on how this war has shaped us and guided our discussions. Influenced our values and attitudes. Many of us here have argued about such things as America’s foreign policy, its perception in the world, its conduct in war and treatment of prisoners, the erosion of civil rights, the migration of refugees fleeing chaos, and more. All of it began on 9/11 and I (maybe naively) believe that we can now begin examining where we went wrong as a nation and change course. For better or for worse, the USA is seeing to its own needs and putting aside empire.
It’s like a blend of “America First” and “America’s Back”.