The images from Afghanistan are terrible as is the media coverage. The MSM is venting its pent-up anger at the Biden administration for being dull and not as much fun to cover as the Trump regime. I wish I were making this up, but I am not.
I used a 19th Century map of Afghanistan to illustrate the folly of nation building in such a mountainous and primitive nation. The US is merely the latest foreign power to fail in Afghanistan. The British Empire and Tsarist Russia played the so-called Great Game over it for nearly a century; neither prevailed. In the 20th Century, the Soviet Union destroyed itself in its failed attempt to prop up an unpopular Communist government in Afghanistan.
As a history buff, I was always dubious of the American adventure in Afghanistan. It began as an exercise in revenge against Osama Bin Laden that morphed into nation building. It was mission creep at its creepiest.
History also teaches us that the most passionate side usually wins a Civil War. The late Afghan government resembled that of South Vietnam before the fall. It was corrupt, incompetent, and did not control most of the country. In both cases, American blood, treasure, and wishful thinking propped up feeble regimes. When that support was pulled, collapse was inevitable.
I am shocked that people are so shocked. A happy ending was never possible in Afghanistan. The only alternative was to muddle through as we had for the last 20 years. Were we supposed to keep doing the same thing for another 20 years? 50 years? A century?
President Obama was elected on a pledge to end the endless wars. He delivered in Iraq, but the chances of a Ba’ath Party restoration were slim. He was rolled by the military over an Afghan withdrawal because the Taliban were in the mountains shooting at the government. The Taliban are genuinely evil, BUT there are always rebels in the mountains shooting at the government in Afghanistan.
Joe Biden was among those on Team Obama who wanted to withdraw from Afghanistan early on. He had always doubted the wisdom of nation building in a tribal society, but lost that argument to Bob Gates, Hillary Clinton, and the military.
President Biden made the right decision 6 weeks ago. It was based on the best-case scenario: that the government could at least hold Kabul. Instead, the worst-case scenario, a rapid Taliban takeover has occurred. That illustrates the failure of 20 years of nation building, not an “intelligence failure.” Doing the right thing isn’t always easy. Biden should stick to his guns.
I heard Biden described as “naive” to withdraw from Afghanistan. Wrong. This was a cold-blooded, clear-eyed example of realpolitik. It *may* have served the national interest to be there 20 years ago, but the world has changed. This tragic ending was inevitable. The only way it could have been altered was to continue what Gore Vidal called “perpetual war for perpetual peace.”
Washington insiders are doing what they do best: playing the blame game. There’s a lot of blame to go around, but it was hubris to assume that the United States could succeed at something that every other great power had failed at. That was our approach in Vietnam, but we tried it again in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’re slow learners.
Both the blame game and the great game are exercises in futility, folly, and failure.
The last word goes to Todd Rundgren’s Utopia: