Some Questions About Afghanistan

Which only seem to raise other questions…

Explaining his decisions on Afghanistan

Who “owns” it?

Biden. Period. Because he’s President. Now. About 80% of my Twitter feed is literally littered with spin trying to place blame elsewhere. And that blame may lay elsewhere. For me, if you’re looking for the “original sin”, it was in President Bush opening a second war in Iraq after already invading Afghanistan after 9/11, thus forcing the U.S. to fight on several fronts, diluting our presence in the region, vs. negotiating terms of surrender with the Taliban—who at that time would’ve been the ones surrendering—and being done with it. But at this point, that, and anything Obama and Trump or any of his cronies may have subsequently done is no more than a history lesson now, and a waste of breath and a waste of time as some very crucial minutes and seconds and days tick by. And as “success” is measured these days by whether we can help people escape from their own country? Instead of having helped them find a way to be able to remain in their homes? Yet so much breath and time is being wasted. Whatever you though of Biden’s impactful speech at the time the realities of the current situation really started to take hold, one thing he said is absolutely true: “the buck stops with me“. No one else. He’s president as this is happening so whatever happens—bad or good—is his.

Is this an unmitigated political and humanitarian disaster for Biden?

I don’t know. Seemed unequivocally so to me, or at least a tremendous and inexcusable blunder and now irreversible miscalculation of how things would play out. At the same time, and though this is purely anecdotal, many people I’ve spoken to over the past few days and weeks who are not bloggers or politicians, or self-labeled foreign policy experts: for instance nurses, and convenience store clerks, and some guy filling his pickup with gas, seem to firmly believe getting US troops out completely is completely the right thing to do, and that’s all that really counts in this. This really surprises me, and I’m told popularity polls show Biden sliding, but there it is.

Is the US’ somewhat sudden distaste for armed conflict in the interest of spreading or supporting Democracy and to a lesser extent human rights going to resonate in other parts of the world or even create some kind of domino effect?

Why wouldn’t it?

In President Biden’s speech that I referred to earlier he explained what he saw as the US’ role in Afghanistan this way

Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation building. It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy. Our only vital national interest in Afghanistan remains today what it has always been: preventing a terrorist attack on the American homeland. I’ve argued for many years that our mission should be narrowly focused on countertererrorism == not counter-insurgency or nation building.”

But that isn’t exactly true. Whatever it should’ve been about, it also very much became Democracy-building and human rights. So denying that at this point is simply denying a reality, even if you wish it wasn’t. And it’s also something not unusual to expect to have happened: for a long time, America’s foreign policy was almost solely directed at promoting and building Democracies around the world (and at protecting US oil imports and US arms exports). Has that changed?

And if it has, won’t that make it more likely then for an emboldened China, for instance, to invade Taiwan? Just to test out US resolve?

Yes. Because why wouldn’t they?

Part of why China cracked down so hard on Hong Kong is they knew Trump wouldn’t do anything about it, which he didn’t. What can Taiwan expect now that China, which already claims it as sovereign territory, sees the US backing away from any kind of conflict that does not put America and the American homeland directly in harms way?

Is it possible the Taliban is changed to fit a more modern era, and will respect women’s rights, some media freedom, political or ideological opposition as some of its leaders sometimes seem to say they will?

No. By their own definition, they are a bunch of zealots. Zealotry doesn’t leave a lot of room for accommodation of things that do not fit into your world view. Will the Taliban suddenly also become anti-terrorist and “kill terrorists” as Trump said they promised him they would do? Also no. A big part of their zealotry is spreading their zealotry. If you are so sure you are right, why would you not try to force others to do things the “right way” too? Especially—according to you—when it’s God telling you to do so? So would they stop now?

Finally, could something similar happen here? In other words, can a bunch of even moderately well-funded zealous flip an entire system with virtually limitless resources on its head? Allowing a minority and extreme, really medieval dogma dictate the rules of society, possibly for lifetimes to come?

And I don’t mean sharia law coming to US shores, not that at all. What I am talking about is proof that a vast, insane minority can quickly gain massive control over a country. This is something I think is being vastly under-covered in terms of potential impact.

Because the answer in my view is yes, it can happen. And some people I’ve spoken to respond to me by saying it’s already happening/happened. Though I’m more hopeful than that. And while the zealots currently seeking or grabbing power in the US may not yet be as brutal and unyielding as the Taliban, there’s a huge difference that potentially gives zealots in the US a leg up even on the Taliban. How so? Because I don’t think the majority of people in Afghanistan are indifferent to who is running their country and how it’s being run, especially since many of them saw how the Taliban ran it before. They see the inevitability of it now, and really have no choice but to join, suffer. try to get by, or try to get out. A similar system has held now in Iran for decades.

So the problem in Afghanistan was not that the people of the country didn’t really care whether the Taliban or someone else was in power, or didn’t think the Taliban would really have a negative influence on their everyday lives. It was that the politicians propped up as their county’s leaders were unfathomably and openly corrupt, and when push came to shove in the past couple of weeks, they just cut and run. Which should’ve come as a surprise to no one. In the U.S., a lot people I meet at least are far more indifferent about who’s leading the county and don’t see anything or anyone really affecting their lives in any significant ways, because they’re doing well, and that’s never happened, so they don’t see why they should think about that kind of thing at all. Will Afghanistan give them reason to think? Absolutely not. Which is why it could definitely happen here (and if you’re one of those people who’s going to argue it’s happened already, I won’t argue with you, just say in a more and more extreme way), as the product not of corruption so much as extreme indifference about who’s actually running things. Until we wake up one day, and it’s too late.