Having several conversations online with multiple people of differing perspectives and ideologies, regarding Afghanistan….one theme has struck me as consistent: Most Americans don’t really understand the factors of our involvement [from invasion to regime change to nation building to peace negotiations to withdrawal]. Most have no knowledge of Divestment and Foreign Military Sales [much of the reason behind the boon of armaments that the Taliban found in their lap]; or the tribal/clan culture in the region [not necessarily the nation] of Afghanistan; or the tactical and operational considerations behind our actions, for better or for worse.
Part of this can be easily explained away…..our media [both Left and Right oriented] do a consistently abysmal job of education our society on that which our government and military does in it’s name. But the blame shouldn’t just lie there. There are plenty of sources to dive into, to gain a comprehensive understanding, from the layman’s point of view. And plenty of Veterans to query. It takes a bare modicum of effort to increase one’s knowledge on a given topic these days.
But, as to be expected, political narratives usually win the day….exemplified in the photo meme I posted the other day. Sad, but not unexpected.
Over at the Unz Report, there’s a long comparative article, illustrating both Saigon and Kabul, and our social view of overseas military engagements. I’ve left out the Vietnam analysis as not being strictly germane to the current issue, but am posting the following, as I think it’s pretty insightful.
America invaded a country of another race, utterly different culture, practicing religions GIs had never heard of, speaking a language virtually no Americans spoke, a country exceedingly sick of being invaded by foreigners, most of them white. in Afghanistan the designated evil was terrorism, in in Viet Nam communism, but the choice of evils doesn’t matter. You have to tell the rubes at home something noble sounding.
Then the Americans did as they always do, training the ARVN, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, to fight the communists to impose democracy, which the Viets had not asked them to do. But when you ask some Viets (Bodes, Laos, Iraqis, Afghans) to fight other Viets (Bodes, etc.) to kill their own people for the benefit of the invaders, they are not greatly charmed. With a predictability that makes sunrise seem chancy, they desert, fight lackadaisically, with officers charging the US pay for soldiers who do not exist, and probably go over to the other side en masse when the collapse comes. Which latter the Afghan army just did. Duh, as the kids say.
The speed of the Taliban advance took Americans by surprise because officers are liars and had been hiding the deplorable state of the “Afghan” army, its numbers, morale, degree of training, and phenomenal rates of desertion. Often the American officer corps thinks that if it can just have a little more time, they can win, so lying is a part of the war effort. Biden bought into this, announcing that the Afghan army vastly outnumbered the Taliban and was better armed and trained and the insurgents couldn’t possibly do what they proceeded to do.
Another reason is that the American style of war recruits its enemies. Soldiers are not the Boy Scout defenders of civilization that so many like to imagine. They kill a lot of civilians, many tens of thousands in the bombing of cities such as Baghdad and Hanoi. Ground troops come to detest the natives whom they designate gooks, zipperheads, sand niggers, camel jockeys, and the like. They commit war crimes that, when discovered, are called “isolated incidents,” when in fact they are common.
Fragmentation bombs produce such things as a little girl crying with her belly torn open and intestines falling out while her mother goes stark raving bugfuck mad watching her daughter bleed to death and she can do nothing about it. But it is for democracy and American values, and anyway the ragheads breed like flies, and besides, CNN won’t air it. Today drone strikes hit weddings and other gatherings. When you kill people in a village, the young men join the insurgents, wanting revenge. When a few thousands were killed in Nine-Eleven, Americans exploded in rage. Three thousand is a small fraction of the numbers killed in, say, the attack on Baghdad. The Iraqi soldiers killed in a hopeless attempt to defeat the Americans were sons, fathers, husbands, brothers of other Iraqis. How much love do we think it engendered in Iraqis? This seems not to occur to Washington.
Militaries at bottom are amoral. Afghans know of the torture operations at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. Americans seem to dismiss such things as minor. They are not. Afghans seeing Moslems lying in pools of blood at Abu Ghraib, or being paraded around naked in hoods, are going to want to kill someone. Guess who.
American wars last a long time because no one has an incentive to end them. American casualties are low, especially now with the killing mostly done from the air against peasants with no defenses. No important American ever gets killed. American wars are all class wars, with the dying being done by blue-collar suckers from Kansas or the deep South, not by Bush II, Hillary, the other Clinton, Bolton, Bannon, Obama, Blinken, Biden, Cheney, Kamala, Trump, and the rest of those not required to fight. The US public has little idea of what goes on in its wars because the corporate media hide them. the Pentagon having learned that the media are their worst enemy, not the Taliban. It would not surprise me if one unfettered camera crew, filming the corpses and mutilated children and devastation, could force an end to such a war.
Americans are not heartless but calculatedly uninformed. Wars are also extremely profitable for those who provide the bombs, fuel, vehicles, and so on. If the US loses a war, the contracts stop, and equally if it wins. Keeping it going for decades provides a steady revenue stream. What’s not to like?
Finally, or as much as I am going to worry about, there is the 1955 Syndrome, the engrained belief that America is all powerful. This is arrogance and self-delusion. In the Pentagon you encounter a mandatory can-do attitude a belief that the US military is indomitable, the best trained, armed, and led force in this or any nearby galaxy. In one sense this is necessary: You can’t tell the Marines that they are mediocre light infantry or sailors that their aircraft are rapidly obsolescing, their ships sitting ducks in a changing military world, and that the whole military enterprise is rotted by social engineering, profiteering, and careerism.
But look around: The US has failed to intimidate North Korea, chase the Chinese out of its islands in the South China Sea, retrieve the Crimea from Russia, can’t intimidate Iran, just got run out of Afghanistan, remains mired in Iraq and Syria, failed to block Nordstream II despite a desperate effort, and couldn’t keep Turkey from buying the S-400. The Pentagon plans for the wars it wants to fight, not the wars it does fight. The most dangerous weapons of the modern world are not nukes, but the Ak-47, the RPG, and the IED. Figure it out.
And now the US comes home, leaving Afghanistan in ruins for decades. Use and discard.
*Post title from the sub-title of the linked article