Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
*** Editor’s Note: Being a foreign policy student for over 25 years, is a blessing and a curse. It’s easier to be blissfully ignorant, for your own mental health, than to observe with horror your country’s rotten, decaying foreign policy establishment jump off the cliff, Republican and Democrat, time and again, from an expert vantage point.
Most Americans don’t know much about the world beyond the water’s edge, and probably never will. We are doomed to repeat our mistakes abroad in an endless loop, like watching the same bad horror movie over and over again. People are comparing all this to Vietnam, a dark chapter in the country’s history, but this Afghanistan debacle is much worse. America is so predictable in our ignorant bumbling around the globe, that we have become a parody of ourselves since 1945- a year which some consider to be America’s finest moment since independence (myself included). It’s been a steady spiral of foreign fiascos ever since then, occasionally punctuated by something good happening. The US government has reliably supplied a chain of failures straight through the present day’s horrific headlines out of Kabul. Not to mention how we bungled our COVID response for ourselves as well as for everyone else, as the world’s closest thing to a leader.
How can any human being have been caught by surprise by events in Afghanistan this last week? We have had hundreds of thousands of American public servants on our federal payroll, earnestly and bravely toiling at successive U.S. White Houses, military branches, intelligence services, commercial delegations, and diplomatic missions in Afghanistan. Earnest toil doesn’t mean a damn thing. Nor do good intentions. Results are the only thing that matters when you make the grave decision to travel halfway around the world to topple another government. We have not had a lot of good results in Afghanistan over the last 20 years. In fact, in US history, our failed adventures in colonialism such as Vietnam, Cuba, and the Phillippines outweigh the successes such as Hawaii and Alaska.
Even for a US foreign policy establishment whose luck had been running real low for a real long time, how does such an epic fail happen? There is no other possible explanation besides the simplest one. Americans have just had our heads buried deep in the sand when it came to what was happening on the ground in Afghanistan for 20 years. Yes, that’s 20 YEARS of willful ignorance and a uniquely American brand of stupidity and hubris and lack of basic human empathy for other cultures, especially darker skinned ones. Once again, we have lost another war in spectacular fashion, despite overwhelming advantages in money, weapons, and experience. And we did all of that for WHAT exactly?
20 years, millions of gallons of blood and trillions of dollars of treasure later, we are back to square one: a wildly victorious Taliban strutting through the presidential palace and any part of the territory they so choose, once again. We created a make-believe Afghan government who finally stopped pretending and toppled over in a few days in the face of an outnumbered and unsophisticated guerrilla fighting force. Cue the fierce subjugation of women and girls, Afghans desperately clinging to US Air Force cargo jets as they take off from Kabul airport, the potential of metastasizing bases and training camps for global terrorism, prisoners getting beheaded on camera with blunt butter knives, and other forms of gleeful, vengeful violence on the mountains and through the valleys because of a bunch of 1,000-year blood feuds we hardly care to try and understand.
Shame on all of us Americans, who pay too much in federal taxes only to have so much of it pissed away into the rusty spigots of gushing blood. I’ve had enough. Most to blame of all in this failed effort are the four US Commanders-in-Chief who “captained” this multi-decade ship of fools: George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and now Joe Biden. Shame on them all. Biden deserves every ounce of media skewering he is getting right now. But so do each one of the rest. They all failed us, and most importantly, the Afghan people, for 20 years and counting.
George W. Bush was too busy playing the prince fighting wars, a spoiled little lord Fauntleroy with his toy soldier set, desperate to burnish his draft-dodging, booze-soaked blue-blood frat boy image, especially in his disappointed father’s eyes. The guy became a Born Again bible thumper, born to be the loser who’d fail to keep Americans safe before and during 9/11 and instead launch a modern day Crusades in response, using other people’s sons and daughters and money and spending most of his time on the wrong enemy that had nothing to do with 9/11 at all. Instead of finishing the job well using a little bit of focus in Afghanistan, we invaded Iraq and handled two experiments in American empire very poorly at the same time. (Editor’s note: I lived and worked in NYC the day the towers fell. We will never forget!)
Egged on by corporate slave chicken-hawk empire-building wannabes the likes of Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Karl Rove, and Donald Rumsfeld, true evil bastards all, and in a bizarre family psycho-drama, Bush set out to finish the job that his dad’s team wisely didn’t want to finish during 1991’s Desert Storm: an expensive invasion and occupation of Iraq barely one year after we began occupying Afghanistan, long before we had even finished our mission there, on false pretenses of Saddam’s WMDs and fake connections to 9/11 that Dick Cheney treasonously made up out of thin air. Oh, and let’s add to that fool’s errand: spreading democracy down the barrel of a gun, which of course doesn’t always work out so well.
Barack Obama was a president who had been against the Iraq invasion before we even embarked on it, like any person who has half a brain, so we had a ray of hope for winding down two costly, deadly, long, and utterly brain-dead wars. While the pullout from Iraq was initiated, Barry unfortunately got fooled by his foreign policy advisors into the “surge” of more US troops into Afghanistan almost a decade after the debacle started- the polar opposite of what we should have done. Unsurprisingly, EXACTLY as I had predicted before the Iraq invasion in 2003, a new generation of fierce and insane jihadists who hated American neo-colonialism on Muslim lands, sprang up in the void left by Saddam’s removal to form ISIS and its loose network of friends who began a campaign of wholesale slaughterhouse and cutting off people’s necks with butter knives. Just like the Ayatollahs of Iran, the Mullahs of the Taliban, Osama and Al-Qaeda, and Saddam Hussein, the United States is mostly responsible for creating ISIS thanks to our bumbling around the desert as target practice for the bad guys. I never cared for any of these cult militia groups, whether in America or in the Mideast. However, their actions were entirely predictable. They could just hide out and wait indefinitely, biding their time, which is exactly what the Taliban did for 20 years. Everyone pretty much knew that, right? But wait, it gets even worse.
Donald Trump is a traitorous fraud that would once in a while stumble upon a good idea in his foreign policy when he wasn’t using his relationships with world leaders to enrich himself or cheat in the US elections- both of which constituted high treason. For example, Putin successfully got him to lower America’s shield so that he could gouge us and help destroy the very concept of US elections forever. One of those few good ideas was that it was time to end the War in Afghanistan. What a great idea actually. However, the traitor fell flat on his face when it came to negotiating what would come next. He initiated a very public love affair with the Taliban, as he did with North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Un, and he cut the Afghan government out of the US-Taliban talks entirely. Trump cut their legs out from under them. He was looking for the easy PR win, in both Korea and Afghanistan, rather that the hard work of planning for the future at the negotiating table. For Trump the priority wasn’t actually governing but the appearance of governing. All the while, and especially in 2019, the Taliban were running roughshod over the Afghan Army even while smiling for photo ops with Trump and his goons, who were always and still are far more dangerous to America and democracy than the Taliban could ever dream to be. Trump’s Afghan policy would forever doom any hope that the Taliban wouldn’t control Afghanistan again.
Joe Biden was supposed to be this big expert on foreign policy, a guy who had made many trips to Afghanistan and other parts of the world and had a sophisticated and realistic view of Afghanistan. His son had been a warrior in the insane War on Terror. I whole heartedly agreed with his decision to leave “the Graveyard of Empires.” He was right to say our work there would never end, because we would never achieve our mission there- whatever the hell that mission is or ever was. We couldn’t agree on the rationale to stay, nor the rationale to go. Unfortunately, he is surrounded by yes-men who wanted to please their boss and look good, rather than tell him the truth. Therefore the trillions we spent through the Pentagon, State Department, and CIA in Afghanistan had little effect on what was going on in the country. I have a feeling many, many of these folks knew how devastatingly badly the transition out would work, but didn’t wan to say anything to anfer the big boss. As their overall leader and manager, Joe deserves even more of the blame than them.
Hindsight can be 20/20. In that case, what credit can we give to foresight? Many people, not just me, wanted to end the war in Afghanistan when Osama Bin Laden was located and assassinated not in Afghanistan, but in the loving arms of Pakistan’s military establishment. After all he was the one who attacked us. Those of us paying attention knew the Afghan government was corrupt and did not represent a united national identity, or much else of what the people wanted. Only a small fraction of adults even voted in the so-called elections. Government did not extend into most of the country. Tribal and religious affiliation are stronger than national pride in Afghanistan. It has been that way for centuries and will be that way for centuries. Most Afghans don’t rally around their national flag. Let’s be honest, we never really had a chance. Neither did the British, the Russians, or any others who were fool enough to try and occupy Afghanistan from afar in the last few centuries.
The police and military of Afghanistan’s government were never going to stand up to the Taliban once US troops left- whether it happened now or in 10 years, no matter how sophisticated the weapons we gave them. They were underpaid and often paid late. There was no discipline in their ranks. They were high on drugs while on duty, for an inordinate amount of the time. Dozens of easily available documentaries and news segments showed this clearly for anyone to see. That they immediately surrendered rather than fight back should surprise no one. That the “leaders” of the Afghan government including “president” Ashraf Ghani fled the country rather than standing to spearhead the fight on their own soil, was predictable. There was a leadership vacuum and the Taliban simply came and filled it. Without American training wheels, the Afghan government fell off the bike completely.
The solution to our problem with Muslim terrorists has always existed, and has always been a super easy one. Repeat after me. Pull our troops out of their countries. Stop buying their oil. Period. Biden was right in mostly accomplishing the former, if handling it badly. It’s time to initiate the latter, Joe! We prop up the monarchs and dictators and their oil fields using our vast network of U.S. Middle Eastern bases, one of which I went to school in during Desert Storm. These guys are hardly much better than the Taliban, and our cozy relationship with them is almost entirely based on long-term fossil fuel business contracts which are roasting our planet and threatening humanity itself. America’s spiral of stupidity in leading the world is complete when on top of protecting the air and sea lanes at massive expense to get Mideast oil to our shores and destroy our climate, we then on top of that subsidize the bloody oil industry’s companies as they suck out whatever reserves of un-renewable fuel remain. You couldn’t possibly make this up! We are stuck in a lubed-up loop of death and need to get out.
Remember how this all started with Islamic terrorists crashing planes on 9/11? By the way, that wasn’t the Afghans nor was it the Iraqis. It was mostly Saudis, largely financed by Arab magnates and their oil money. Somehow this got lost in the shuffle. We turned the region upside down to respond to the murder of less than 3,000 Americans- meanwhile, COVID has taken over 1 million Americans and counting. Environmental destruction is killing people every day in various ways, such as flooding, poisoned water, heat stroke, and poor air quality. We have much bigger problems than Islamic terrorism.
Many are wringing their hands about how this makes the United States look weak to China, especially because China is eyeing a takeover of Taiwan in the next few years. I wouldn’t worry about this so much. Again, we, and also China itself, have bigger problems than sweating about each other. Plus, Taiwan is an actual prosperous democracy with a functional government and would, with US assistance, exact a heavy toll on any Chinese adventurism by Xi Jinping, who is no doubt drawing up the plans for it. The US military is as dominant as it has ever been. Our failure was not a military one, but a governing one. Ironically, it was the British who ran the most successful empire over the last few centuries, including America and India and other places, yet Afghanistan kicked their asses twice in the 1800s- before this time, where they fought and attempted to administer Afghanistan side by side with us; triple folly for them.
I feel horrible for the Afghan people. At this terrible stage in their history, they are going to have to take matters into their own hands. Their destiny and any impending fights rightly belong to them, and not us. At least that process can start now. I would love to see all of the interpreters and other courageous Afghans who helped the US government along the way get safe asylum, but we all know that is not how this will end for some. That’s just not how war works, happy endings for everyone. War is difficult, and sad. Wars are Hell. I’m no pacifist. But it’s better not to engage in them unless we REALLY have to, in order to defend our homeland or treaty allies, and our backs are against the wall. Of course, this is the lesson America will fail to learn, again. Till next time!