Yves here. This post by Tom Neuburger mentions the treatment of women in Afghanistan, a pet issue in some circles here. I was remiss in not hoisting this section of a fine piece by Tariq Ali in the New Left Review when we linked to it earlier this month:
As for the status of women, nothing much has changed. There has been little social progress outside the NGO-infested Green Zone. One of the country’s leading feminists in exile remarked that Afghan women had three enemies: the Western occupation, the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. With the departure of the United States, she said, they will have two. (At the time of writing this can perhaps be amended to one, as the Taliban’s advances in the north saw off key factions of the Alliance before Kabul was captured). Despite repeated requests from journalists and campaigners, no reliable figures have been released on the sex-work industry that grew to service the occupying armies. Nor are there credible rape statistics – although US soldiers frequently used sexual violence against ‘terror suspects’, raped Afghan civilians and green-lighted child abuse by allied militias. During the Yugoslav civil war, prostitution multiplied and the region became a centre for sex trafficking. UN involvement in this profitable business was well-documented. In Afghanistan, the full details are yet to emerge.
And as for our treatment of Afghanistan as a country, as opposed to regions controlled by separate warlords, Americans are largely ignorant of what it took to unify Germany and Italy (and the ways it still hasn’t fully taken).
By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at God’s Spies
“At that  wedding I went to, after the men ate off the giant platters of food, dogs and slaves ate, and what was left was brought to the women who had prepared the feast.”
The ‘loss’ of Afghanistan to the Taliban — if you can lose a nation you never controlled in the first place — has stolen the news cycle as pro-war Pentagon-influenced propagandists made sure to excoriate President Biden for his “failure.”
Lurking beneath this story, though, are a number of other, much more important stories involving this debacle and its end. These are a few of them.
First, the U.S. military command, all the way up to President Biden, appeared to have had no idea Afghanistan would collapse this quickly. None. Courtesy of Matt Taibbi and a public post at his Substack site, we find this:
Secretary of State Blinken (July 7th):
“We are not withdrawing, we are staying, the embassy is staying, our programs are staying … If there is a significant deterioration in security … I don’t think it’s going to be something that happens from a Friday to a Monday.” pic.twitter.com/5RGuw4OfZL
— Alex Salvi (@alexsalvinews) August 15, 2021
And Joe Biden had this to say to Jake Tapper on July 8:
Q: Your own intelligence community has assessed that the Afghan government will likely collapse. BIDEN: That is not true, they did not reach that conclusion… There is going to be no circumstance where you see people lifted off the roof of an embassy… The likelihood that you’re going to see the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.
A large part of the responsibility for the events we are witnessing belongs to the military establishment and its inexplicable blindness. Did they really not know that their puppet government would fall as soon as we left? Seems everyone else did.
Second, another reason for the events we are witnessing is that Afghanistan just isn’t a country in any of the traditional senses. Here’s Howie Klein, describing an extended trip he took to Afghanistan in 1969, one of several:
That’s where I learned that Afghanistan wasn’t a country the way we think of a country. The king, one of the prominent citizens told me while I sat around smoking hash with a dozen other prominent citizens, was the king of Kabul. He wasn’t the king of Kandahar. I experienced that sentiment almost everywhere I went in the country, but it was most pronounced in Kandahar. Later Kandahar became the spiritual home of the Taliban. Last night when Yarolslav Trofimov, writing for the Wall Street Journal, reportedthat “the Taliban pressed their rapid advance across Afghanistan with the capture of Kandahar,” he was really just expressing the inevitable, something I hope to God American war planners already understood was going to happen.
The “King of Afghanistan” is just the King of Kabul. This has been true for centuries.
The “nation” of Afghanistan is a 19th century British construct, meaningless lines on a Whitehall map. The Pashtun areas of Afghanistan have more in common with the Pashtun region Pakistan than they do with the rest of their so-called “country.”
Here’s a thought:
Crops failed this year. The country is in chaos. Tens of millions of people in Afghanistan are in danger of starvation this fall and winter.
What if all of those empty planes arriving at Kabul airport every day to evacuate people were full of food and COVID vaccine? What if the US and Europe offered to help the UN coordinate a civilian humanitarian airlift to the spiffy airport at Bagram? What if we walked our talk and acted like we genuinely care about the people of Afghanistan, more than we care about punishing the Taliban?
And note that coverage of this situation only begins AFTER the Taliban takeover. As long as it was on our watch it was of no import. And now it’s seen largely in terms of leverage.
Maybe there was never was a chance that Afghanistan could ever be won over as they had their own culture and their own values. And after twenty years, the country is being ruled by Afghans once again. Maybe ones that we do not like but that is up for the Afghans to decide. But the clash came with the money-based culture of western nations when we went in twenty years ago. So what was our solutions to occupying Afghanistan? You solve problems by throwing money at it until it goes away because what other alternative is there? So yeah, we went with corruption. I understand that it is a tenet that if you want to bride a group of people, you bribe the leaders and then they keep their on people in line. What that meant in Afghanistan is bribing the war-lords who were hated and feared by the Afghans as that was the easiest thing to do. So we picked a side that was worse that the Taliban and backed it up with military power. Long term that did not work out but we kept it up because we thought we had the military power to force the Afghans to accept those war-lords.
In a lot of ways this worked out to doing an occupation on the cheap. It was all a big money machine with most money staying in the country of origin and some for bribing the locals. If they wanted to really reform Afghanistan, it would have to have been right down to the local level with the best people that the west had to offer taking up posts all across that territory. And the army. You would have to have western officers right down to the lieutenants and maybe a few sergeants. At that level the companies could be trained which then worked with the battalions and right up to the chain and they would be eventually replaced by Afghan officers after they had been thoroughly trained. Same with civil posts but I doubt that you could find enough honest people to do such jobs. What would have happened was that this would have been outsourced to contractors with bribes being taken right down the chain until at the local level you would have had god knows who recruited with no vetting whatsoever.
But I came across an article which really says what it was all about-
In what way is it the role of the USA to engage in reforming other countries? Imagine if President Maduro of Venezuela declared that it was his country’s historic purpose to bring true democracy, socialism and liberty to the capitalism-oppressed workers of the USA, and that to do this it would start bombing California. That’s what the USA was doing to Afghanistan.
I would like to take issue with one small part of the above:
Actually this quote gets the history a bit wrong. The socialist Taraki government of Afghanistan predated Russian intervention. The Russians intervened only after the Americans (as the author quoted in the above rightfully points out) starting bunging millions to extremist, retrograde Jihadis to make trouble for the government. I feel this is important to point out to counter the impression that Afghans are nothing but primitives- no. They had their own indigenous government (albeit a rather authoritarian one lacking a strong power base outside of Kabul) that was set on pushing forward women’s liberation, universal education and progressive development.
Then the Americans spied an opportunity to make trouble for Russkies by destabilizing a neighbouring client, and the rest is history. Everything we see now is the result of the American military and intelligence making the conscious decision to stamp out a progressive government by supporting brutal, reactionary conservatism.
It was apparently the supposed peacenik President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser the Polish-American Russophobe Zbigniew Brzezinski who was determined to destroy the Soviet Union by dragging it into Afghanistan as its own Vietnam. The well-being of Afghan people was utterly irrelevant to these practitioners of realpolitik and revanchism.
Carter really was a terrible president and retrospect can be seen as the template for the turncoat Dems who succeeded him. Like the current Dems he cloaked a vicious and mostly incompetent foreign policy with a smokescreen of sanctimony. And Yves has pointed out the many ways his economic policies were a disaster.
From the time of the first resistance to the central government: “We discovered they wanted to teach girls how to read. Then we knew…they were Communists. So we killed all of them.” I am reasonably sure that was in the New York Times, but I am not positive as to the decade.
In recent days, I’ve seen some Carter hagiography being spun as a defense of Biden’s Afghanistan “loss”. There were some, probably R, talking points about how this was Biden’s “Jimmy Carter moment”, and this was met with a squad posting historically ignorant comments saying “hey, we’ll take that, Jimmy was the “last honorable president”. I made me nauseous. Don’t these people know that he was the guy that started this all?
Are we not required to keep two things separate in assessing this moment in history: 1. America’s ‘defeat’ in Afghanistan, and 2, the bungled pull-out.
Can Biden be criticised for the first? Is the ‘defeat’ down to him? Seems to me he merely acknowledged reality. He could have avoided being tarred by the association with ‘defeat’ by merely continuing the status quo and leaving it for his successor to deal with. Instead he bit the bullet and did what had to be done.
Did he bungle the pull-out? I don’t know. His job is to decide strategy. The tactics of executing that strategy are down to the military general staff and its intelligence resources. Their job was to plan and effect the detail on the ground and either do it competently with what they have in terms of time and resources, or go back to the strategists and say ‘we can’t do that with what we have. This is what we need’. So the three scenarios are that the military chose to do its best with what it had knowing how it would pan out, could have done it effectively but bungled it, or went back to Biden to tell him what they would need in order to pull out with minimal ‘blow-back’ and he refused to give them it. Only in the last case can you legitimately castigate Biden for what actually happened.
He certainly broke the agreement that Trump’s team successfully negotiated with the Taliban, for all US forces to leave by 1 May 2021. For that he had no excuse. Then he bombed them with B52s.
DIdn’t we sponsor and arm the Taliban to fight the Russians? Am I the only one who remembers Najibullah? I had heard that his regime was a lot more liberal than the Taliban. Just Kabul? A girlfriend from 1975 had visited there shortly before we met. And traveled around. By herself. No problems. Enter the mujahaddin Taliban with out support.
Don’t know about feeding the dogs and slaves first, but that’s our Taliban.
No. We sponsored a bunch of mujahideen and warlords to fight the Soviets. When the Soviets gave up and left, we left too, while the various warlords and mujahideens ran amok and fought over which ones would rule a post Najibullah Afghanistan.
ISI Pakistan organized and trained the Talibans, I think. Maybe Saudi Arabia helped finance them. But to the best of my memory, the Taliban was a later invention than the mujahideens and warlords we sponsored.
I agree that:
“This is the first and only act Joe Biden has performed in the whole of his public life that I consider admirable”.
It was an important act. It signifies, acknowledges, and accepts a Major Defeat.
It’s political kryptonite, and Biden embraced it.
Did you remember to provide positive reinforcement for desired behavior?
I can’t tell yet if President Biden did this entirely on his own, or whether it is the product of an emergent consensus among our “elite”.
Apparently there’s quite a bit of the “elite” that are unhappy with the end of the Afghanistan con. (there are several others, of course). Look at the media coverage – never mind the partisan barking, that can be safely ignored.
But the media – our beloved Fourth Estate. Piling on, pretty much across the board. I’m seeing some modest support for Pres. Biden emerging, but it took quite a while.
If it is an emergent consensus, is the consensus that “the Afghanistan con is toast, now let’s find a new one” or “the war profiteering con is toast, let’s find a new one”, or “cons are toast, let’s try to actually build something useful”.
Which one do you think it it is?
Thank you, Yves, for calling it a “con”.
As an aside, some of you may recall that I sent my Congressional reps a note in support of Pres. Biden’s decision to withdraw. I got two replies, and each letter stressed the rep’s concern for the people caught in up in the evacuation, and how the American people deserve to know why things “went awry”.
Not one word about support for Biden’s long-delayed and courageous decision. These reps are in the same party as the President.
I found that rather startling. And that’s one reason I used the word “courageous”. It _might_ be accurate.
Do bear in mind that it was Donald Trump and his team who negotiated the withdrawal agreement, promising to leave Afghanistan by 1st May, an agreement that Biden broke for no reason other than domestic politics. He ought to be pilloried for that, and then arrested and charged for his use of B52 bombers:
So after an admittedly political delay, Biden allowed Trumps withdrawal to proceed…but he should be pilloried and arrested?
I seem to recall several “criminal/murderous” military tantrums under Trumps watch.
Why is it so hard to admit that both sides of the current political coin are largely the same, and equally responsible for this mess?
– pilloried for pointlessly delaying the end
– arrested for killing people. Would you be allowed to walk free after killing people for political reasons?
Trump should be praised when he did something praiseworthy. Most of his time in the Oval Office was a catastrophe, as it was for his predecessors and, so far, his successor.
I have to agree that this is the first admirable thing Joe Biden has ever done in a public life filled with gross, self-serving, offensive, and reactionary behavior. Dude fails on multiple tries for the presidency because he’s basically not presidential timber — finally attains it through intraparty skullduggery and chicanery after he’s, shall we say, well beyond his prime. After a rigged primary in which “our party” was “saved” (according to Bill Clinton), it’s deliciously ironic that Biden is being pilloried for this by the same interests who most backed him against Bernie Sanders (and who, not coincidentally, lied us into the war in the first place).
I hope that the phony criticism of Biden on this issue continues to mount until it becomes a firestorm. If the senile old man can be provoked into some firings, prosecutions, investigations and a binge of wing-clipping against the National Security State, it would be exceptionally salutary for what little remains of the Republic.
And thank you, James Simpson, for pointing out that Trump made the correct call, and that Biden was very late to the bus.
Big River Bandido:
Lest you interpret my saying something positive about President Biden as “I’m a partisan and my team benefits if I say something good about him”…
Here’s the logic that’s animating me. Among many other skills she has, my wife is quite skilled at training animals. Over the past few decades, I’ve noticed that she’s way better than I am getting them to do things they don’t natively want to do.
No doubt you can guess .. but I’ll say it: “positive reinforcement”. Boring and simplistic as it is, it works. Amazingly well.
And to James – indeed I did forget to mention that former President Trump negotiated the withdrawal. Good on him, too.
You would have to have western officers right down to the lieutenants and maybe a few sergeants.
You just described the British Indian, and other British colonies armed forces.
Exactly and glad that you spotted it. It was a system that worked for generations.
Give or take a sepoy mutiny, or the loss of one such army in Afghanistan.
If I recall correctly, the Sepoy rebellion was mostly troops from the East India Company so were corporate troops. The regular Indian formation that were part of the British Army stayed loyal to them and took part in the fight against the rebels.
It’s possible that some people in the US leadership understood more or less what was going to happen, but also that getting out was necessary and that there was no pretty way of doing it. So they lied to get the ball moving. Can’t say I blame them if they did. Would a withdrawal even have been possble if it had been openly stated how fast the Talibans would take over?
From one Thomas P to another, I say “you’ve hit it”. It had to get done, there isn’t a pretty way to do it, and Biden embraced the hag. Good on him.
I haven’t seen this idea i’ve been reasoning out appear anywhere, but to me, part of the calculation for withdrawal almost certainly was that our military is actually not the preeminent war fighting force in the region. By this I mean that it may very well be the case that the Taliban had developed the capability to take on the US military using conventional means, and deliver a true battlefield defeat to US forces. Our policy makers and planners gradually became aware that this was a distinct possibility and would, more than a ‘withdrawal’, actually be a shattering shot of clarity to world, and thus the elites had to put the ANA out front while the CIA/SOF hit squads played whack-a-muslim (killing the children seems like a desperate ploy more than a strategy) not as a low footprint approach but as a literal shield against straight US-Taliban battles. Even our alleged air supremacy might be a myth, as there would be very little stopping a regional power from equipping the Taliban with anti-air manpads or even more advanced gear.
I’m sure those women scoffed as much as they liked before they fed the men. Afghan women may not be allowed in public places but they rule the home with a rod of iron.
Do you have further information on the domestic status of women? The link below presents a mixed view of women’s rights in some respects (evolution of Taliban willingness to accept some degree of education for girls, for example) but certainly not a picture favorable to the status of women. As in past attempts to expand women’s rights in the 1920’s and 1970’s the tensions are complex among proponents of reform, organized resistance, and pervasive conservative attitudes about governance and social norms.
“The  UN study also revealed that 80 percent of Afghan women experience domestic violence. Some 50 percent of women in Afghan prisons and 95 percent of such girls have been jailed for “moral crimes” such as having sex outside of marriage. Others have been prosecuted for killing their brutally abusive husbands, including in self-defense. Distressingly, not only the Taliban but important segments of Afghan society appear to be growing more conservative, embracing doctrinaire versions of sharia that call for reducing women’s rights and freedoms.”
The link is from Brookings, and includes links and footnotes to other sources. It appears to be a work of the establishment and barely touches on the impact on women of the US-inflicted destruction, loss of life, and displacement. Other perspectives would be interesting.
I was there for three deployments totalling 2 years….one in 2005 and one in 2012 and one in 2017. I was south of J Bad, Kandahar, and Bagram and Ghazni among other places.
There was polygamy among the better off. Professionals and business people and government officials commonly had three or four wives since they were well paid. Translators were well paid by the Army and often they had two or three wives. Even laborers that were working under Army contractors on our bases would have multiple wives. I remember one in particular since I had to deal with one of his four wives. She was in Ghazni and he was working in Kandahar. They generally bring a new one in after the first one has had children and on and on. There was something in the Koran or something about sex every day or something. That means that large numbers of Afghan men had no women and no chance of marriage. Yet the average woman has five children. Obviously that includes those that don’t have any and those that have many more. Desptie that what struck me over the close to 15 years of follow up was the massive increase in population. Back when we invaded the population was 20 million. Now it is 40 million and the masses are now dependent on imported everything. The country is largely desert and with that sort of population it cannot be self sufficient. I see no comments by the experts here on the polygamy. I saw it with professionals as well as in the villages. But the polygamy leads to very unstable societies since there is a large sexually frustrated high testosterone cohort of poorer young men who then are ripe for recruitment for warlords etc. The results of this are seen in northern Europe in a dramatic manner with sexual aggression towards European women…..often leading to rape, violence and fatalities…..and I see no discussion of this issue in the press. Again marym seems informed. I wonder what women’s rights people thing of this situation. It is curious that it is never discussed. Aghanistan without birth control will be a continuing and worsening disaster. Biden’s and the world bank’s current plan to starve them into submission by cutting off the money is a recipe for unending disaster. And had we simply given every Afghan man woman and child a check for 300000 back in 2001 combined with a tubal ligation after two babies the country would have thrived and we would be far better off and it would have cost the same. A typical family of a man, three wives and 12 children would get about 5 million dollars back then. Invested in the SPY I would guess it would be in the range of 20 to 30 million today. Afghanistan would be as rich as countries like Norway. Instead the money will go into high end real estate in New York, London, Hope Ranch and Rancho Santa Fe, Atherton etc.as the refugees spend their US taxpayer money. We treat Afghan kleptocrats better than our own children in the US. And unlike the author here I cannot compliment Biden on this. We went in and made the mess. All we had to do was hold Bagram…..which was easy since it always had been supplied from the outside. Even chain link fence was flown in from the US. We would just pay the lease to the Taliban and leave tham alone. Simply the fact we were there with a few thousand troops would put the lid on the excesses that Taliban might contemplate because the threat was always that we could come back. The generals told Biden the truth which was that we were locked in at least with some sort of low level garrison for a long long time unless we wanted to just blow the whole thing up. And Biden could not accept the truth and he blamed the messengers. As a senile old man he did not have the patience or capacity to understand. We often see very old men make impatient poorly thought out decisions and they can be stubborn and self righteous. This mess sits on Biden’s plate……and he has been in it for decades as head of the Senate foreign relations committee for years, vice president for eight years and on and on. He voted for this mess. He could have joined Barbara Lee in opposition and there were hundreds of other decision points where he could have stood up and been a mensch…..sorry….did not happen. And this decision was senile frustration.
It is an indictment of my own society here in the UK that anyone who knowingly works for a weapons company is not stigmatised to the ultimate degree. The former singer Gary Glitter is in prison for sexually abusing some girls who are, at least, still living, and he is probably the most hated man in Britain. Yet workers for arms companies supplying Saudi Arabia are assisting in the deliberate killing of vast numbers of poor Yemeni children and their families. In August 2018, a laser-guided missile was used by the Saudis to target a school bus carrying children on a school outing. 40 boys were killed. Few in the UK cared.
UK readers should support https://caat.org.uk/
I don’t see how Middle East Eye, or anyone else, can reasonably call the Saudi and UAE war on Yemen, armed and backed by the US, UK and France, a civil war.
Its definitely an uncivil war.
Whenever conditions for women are brought out you can be sure a number is being run on you. Funnily enough it can be worked both ways. We need to invade to make things better for women, we need to stay to keep things better for women, etc. it rarely has even a passing resemblance to truth and priorities.
It is however a pretty effective heart tugging propaganda operation which elicits a significant level of public support.
Yup. It’s always trotted out as the prime reason in each war. These crooks don’t care about the women or their rights in the country that they invade let alone in their home country. Another smokescreen.
Krystal Ball had an interesting take on Biden’s motives and state of mind in getting us out of Afghanistan. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4h4NgVub_8
Brief: Biden was treated poorly by the Obama admin. Even then, he argued for less involvement and for getting out but was ignored and treated as naive; the duffer. This doesn’t explain why he didn’t take a more cautious approach in his public address about “getting out,” (why, for instance, he wasn’t more leery of military positivist intel – which he already didn’t trust during the Obama administration – regarding evacuation), but it is, on the human side, a rather plausible theory of one-upmanship, explaining why he has been willing to do what no other President, even the “great Obama,” dared.
Adding, fwiw, that Crystal, correctly I think, still gives enormous credit to Biden for the courage to stick it out.
” The Afghans were “pretty primitive” already. Not stupid, of course, but ruled by customs largely unmodified by what we in the West call “civilized life.”
And we brought them civilization, flying in Burger King trailer trucks! (Check out the photo of one such, debarking from the belly of a C-17 at Bagram airbase, at the Michael Moore article in today’s links.)
Readers fonder than I am of finding sources may be able to locate the very recent article by a senior military officer asserting that the Afghan army was not a military force, it was a welfare/public works project to bribe people to behave themselves.
6.5 trillion? I believe that number does not include interest on the public debt, which cranks the total up to ten trillion or so. Recall the ancient Athenians, who randomly went to war with Syracuse when then were already at war with Sparta. They lost everything they threw into that war, and paid the price.
Naturally, the source immediately fell into my lap: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2021/8/23/2047624/-KC-Star-I-served-in-Afghanistan-as-a-US-Marine-twice-Here-s-the-truth-in-two-sentences
Here’s a theory that’s not getting much play (forgot where I heard it, but it seems plausible to me, but I haven’t researched any of this):
The Taliban is supported by Pakistan, especially the Pakistan ISI. The CIA funds the Paki ISI. Therefore, none of this is a surprise to those actually in charge, and somebody(s) in the West decided this result is fine as all money comes with strings attached. Why? To provide cover for Pfizer as the vaccines aren’t working out? (perhaps the military industrial complex and the pharma industrial complex are now working toward common goals?) To take out Biden? (Kamala was made VP for a reason) To create chaos to clean up some of the damning evidence of our involvement in the drug trade? To sow chaos in the region to?
Who knows, but there’s so much evidence (years and years) about the crap-show in Afghanistan that the “Who could’a knowned?” line is really weak.
I think the last two are the most likely options. The pandemic theory is too weak, and Kamala’s people were pushing stories in the press about how she was heavily involved in the decision-making to pull out, so they’re not trying to distance her from the mess.
The chaos factor makes sense, as the Taliban isn’t looking to pick a fight with the US right now, and even if they did try to claim some dirt on the US operations, the Western press would dismiss it as jihadi libel. And it wouldn’t surprise me if some bureaucrats in the Pentagon and the CIA see this as a 5D chess move to potentially undermine certain interests in the region (China, Russia) while bolstering others (India).
There’s another loss compounding our loss in the ‘stanbox, in that the hero worship for our military in the MSM pretty much ended when Covid came calling, as if somebody turned off a switch and the lights went out on the charade of every enlisted person in our vaunted military being a hero.
A couple years ago an English friend told me he was gobsmacked when the domestic flight he was about to embark on in Atlanta, it was announced over the P.A. that military in uniform would be boarded first.
We take our leads from the MSM, and its as if they were preparing us to not care anymore, with a huge assist from the pandemic.
But we did manage to get the first graduates in gender studies from the university of Kabul last year and organize pride month in Kabul. That should be worth a trillion in itself.
I don’t believe for a moment that Biden and Blinken were unaware of what was going to go down once the US pulled out. At best, they may have underestimated the speed of the Taliban takeover. They looked at the options of either, say everything will be fine in Afghanistan and then look flat-footed when the Taliban takes over, or admit it outright before the withdrawal started and look like they’re throwing the occupation-era government under the bus, and decided to gamble on the former doing less PR damage.
Afghan women’s right before president Carter chose to support a rural/religious conservative rebellion against the Communist government i Kabul and after. You Americans decided to put the yoke on Afghan women.
The same with Iraq. Iraqi women are the biggest losers in the new regime you installed in Baghdad. Religion and sectarian background once again rule supreme. Don’t forget the role of socialist, for all they many, many flaws, in creating equal rights for women around the world (at least on paper).
On the “nation” thing, it has significant failings even in Western Europe, the heart of nationalism. I watched a French TV series that changed locale in every episode; none of which were located in a major city. As I watched, I began to realize that the actors weren’t always speaking French. Then, in one episode set in Brittany, a character complained, “We’re not French. We’re Bretons!”
My amazement led me to do a little research. I discovered that whole regions of France use French for official purposes, as required by the national laws, while at home and in day-to-day conversations, they often speak a variety of romance and even pre-romance languages. Breton, Alsatian, Basque, Occitan and others are not dialects of French; they are separate languages surviving in a putatively French-speaking nation. See, for instance, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_France.
Languages are rooted in cultures, so it doesn’t take much imagination to intuit that nations are less cohesive, less unified, than the mainstream idée of “nation” would have us believe. If we look, we can see the weakness of the national idea everywhere, including in France, Afghanistan, and here, where it is surely a core component of Trumpism.
Now that we have “withdrawn” from Afghanistan and from Iraq, there’s plenty of money for M4A, and if not, then it’s time to lower income taxes.
The war never stopped the political parties from giving massive tax cuts for the rich.
A few random observations:
1. Amazing how few of the Western invaders “went native” during such a long occupation, how few “war brides” there were, and how few Westerners became fluent in any of Afghanistan’s languages. Strange to say, it does seem that the Western imperialists of the 19th cent., for all their racial, religious, and cultural bigotries, nevertheless showed more examples of genuine curiosity about other tongues, other faiths, other ways.
2. Amazing how after 20 years of Western occupation, even the Northern Alliance, who had long fought the Taliban on their own, seem to have given up. i.e. the Westerners not only failed to make good allies in Afghanistan, we even lost the ones we had.
Many expected the Taliban to out-last their foreign enemies. But how many expected them to out-negotiate us? We in the contemporary West pride ourselves on our inclusiveness, creativity, and flexibility. But in the result, it was the religious fundamentalist rural militias who proved to be the more resourceful and dynamic diplomats.
Truly, War is Politics. Politically, the West got skunked in Afghanistan. The enemy not only beat us at the things we knew they were good at, they beat us at the things we thought we were good at!
3. I alluded to Clausewitz above. Turning to Sun Tzu, the emphasis is on spies, spies, spies. “Know the enemy, know yourself.” We knew neither! It is astonishing just how little idea we had of the fighting power of Afghan forces we ourselves had trained and equipped, and whose leaders we had chosen. And how can a side that spends that much money suborn so few of their opponents? Ask yourself: is Afghanistan really all that corrupt a country?
4. It is worth bearing in mind that, at least in the first five years of the war, the Pakistanis took heavier losses than all of the Western forces put together. What the West was asking the Pakistani gov’t to do was to start a serious civil war in their own country, all for the sake of easing our occupation of Afghanistan. Was that a reasonable or honourable request on our part? Is it surprising that they ducked the assignment we gave them?
5. Regarding the Taliban’s dramatic sweep in ’21, what impresses is the logistics, and command-and-control. Military history is full of examples of offensives that, even when facing negligible opposition, nevertheless ground to a halt, or fell apart in confusion. But not this one!
6. It has long been thought that that Western troops in Afghanistan would be vulnerable in the event of war with RF or PRC. Does the speedy withdrawal from Afghanistan betoken a more confrontational policy elsewhere? Even the mere signal has its uses.
The borders of Afghanistan were drawn after WW!, like the borders of many mideast Countries.
And they were drawn very carefully.
That ethnic mix is not an accident.
I first really noticed this about 30 years ago in regard to the Kurds, they do not have a homeland, instead they became a large minority in several countries…
ISTM they were too likely to become a regional force to be allowed a homeland.
Overlay an ethnic map over a map showing national boundaries and it becomes crystal clear why those boundaries are where they are.
Worth pointing out that in ten years the whole of Southern Russia will
be a Muslim population. What interests me is-who’s next? Afghanistan has
pretty good copper reserves. Don’t believe the Chinese will go in.
They’re hell bent for leather over Taiwan, and whatever else they can take
over in that part of the world. Wouldn’t be surprised to see a power struggle
-hearts and minds, you know, between radical muslim groups in Pakistan