Leaving Afghanistan Like a Thief in the Night

Well at least it wasn’t like Vietnam, with the left-behind hanging off the helicopter skids. This time we left without telling anyone. Why go through the agony of a public display?

What the hell, we’re gone

Don’t get me wrong. I thought we should have never gone in except for a quick and punishing retaliatory strike, but then I hadn’t the foresight of Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld.

Rumsfeld is recently dead, so he cannot defend himself, but there are facts and the facts do not speak well for America—not then and certainly not now.

Secretaries of Defense (in more honest times we called them Secretaries of War) are largely architects. They dream up, plan and then design the machinery of war. When things go wrong, just as when buildings collapse, they are tasked with responsibility for the faulty plans and lives lost.

In both Iraq and Afghanistan the collateral damage was immense. Functioning nations were left in ruins, no matter how we may have criticized their governance . We came, we saw, we fucked up big-time.

I’m glad we’re out, but there are going to be steep losses for those we left behind. That’s probably why we sneaked out without pinning medals. So much less messy.

20 years behind in the rent, we left Kabul under darkness

Whoever thought America would skip out on the rent with “No forwarding address?” It’s one thing for Joe Biden to declare we are leaving, but quite another to duck out three months ahead of time, with our shoelaces untied and our pants around our ankles.

BAGRAM, Afghanistan (AP) — “The U.S. left Afghanistan’s Bagram Airfield after nearly 20 years by shutting off the electricity and slipping away in the night without notifying the base’s new Afghan commander, who discovered the Americans’ departure more than two hours after they left, Afghan military officials said.”

“We (heard) some rumor that the Americans had left Bagram … and finally by seven o’clock in the morning, we understood that it was confirmed that they had already left Bagram,” Gen. Mir Asadullah Kohistani, Bagram’s new commander said.

But what of the architects and engineers of this collapse?

Well Donald died just before having to comment and from what I know now, Dick is quiet—as he’s been for quite some time since retiring. Twenty years after he predicted American troops would be greeted with flowers in Iraq, he mostly leaves the commentary to daughter Liz:

I understand nobody wants wars to go on forever. At the same time, we know the death and destruction … that was caused on 9/11 and that could be caused again if terrorists establish safe havens. So the question that the commander-in-chief needs to ask, whether he’s a Republican or Democrat, is “What is required to maintain America’s national security?” And if that requires having a number of forces on the ground to conduct the kind of missions we need to help ensure that the terrorists don’t establish control of territory from which they can launch attacks, again, we need to do that.”

Eloquently put, Liz. Actually, all those military-industrial types would be delighted to see wars go on forever and are doing their profitable best to see that happen. As for ‘safe havens,’ terrorists are doing just fine with that, it’s Americans ducking bullets and roadside bombs worldwide. And when you instruct President Biden on ‘what is required,’ does that mean the wreckage your father left behind was a strategic success?

We Americans are warlike, but we’re not very good at it

Originally, we knocked off the Brits because we were talented squirrel hunters and they insisted on facing us in regiments, uniformed in red with white crosses showing just where to aim.

Our greatest military fiasco was our Civil War, squirrel hunters facing squirrel hunters and the carnage was monumental. Our agrarian South was defeated by a manufacturing North, but there really were no winners, just an exhausted armistice we never quite recovered from.

We did okay against our native population, if you can call a genocide a victory. And scattered battles in such places as the Philippines and Cuba seemed satisfying. Two World Wars proved that an ocean on each side and an undamaged manufacturing base were powerful ingredients, but we allowed Eisenhower’s and MacArthur’s success to lull us into hubris.

Hubris is as dangerous to war as alcohol to a recovering drunk

We soon enough came to find we were better at Cold Wars than hot.

Korea gave us MASH, a great television series, but a failed war otherwise.

I have the evidence for that first-hand from a dear friend who was one of only three survivors from his entire company when the Chinese came across the Yalu River. Charlie never spoke of that battle, but it spoke for itself. He sat quietly in his parents’ backyard for three years, looking into the middle-distance until another friend and Korea vet offered him a job in the tree department of his landscape business. Trees saved Charlie and he built a career.

There are hundreds of thousands of Charlies out there, Rep. Cheney. You should make it your business to know them before you speak of what is needed.

And of course there was Vietnam, then Iraq and Afghanistan, all of them disasters, all of them examples of hubris overcoming rational strategic thought. These were wars fought to a standstill as the best-armed, best-trained, best-led fighting force the world has ever witnessed was brought to its knees by hubris and an enemy that would not quit.

And there is yet a price to be paid

What of those Afghan interpreters and those who helped us fight that war? The Taliban knows who they are. They know their families and their children. We talk of providing safe haven, but they are not yet out and we are gone. Multiply their fate by those in Iraq and Syria. There is a legacy attached to being a friend to America and it is not a pretty thing to watch unfold.

Yes, I am happy that we are out, but how much better never to have been in? Is that the hind-sight of history? I hardly think so. It’s Eisenhower’s warning against the military-industrial-complex and Einstein’s caution about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

They both knew we would share that price yet to be paid.






Image Credit: theintercept.com

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