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August 15, 2021

Comments

Twenty years and well nigh unlimited resources to do your job is enough I should think. Our foreign policy establishment needs a new one. Blowing off billions of $/year could really do a place like Haiti a lot of good.

And I generally like Dan Nexon's stuff, but restraint as a first principle does not strike me as something in need of a great deal of justification.

But, hey....have a nice Sunday.

Disagree with the well nigh unlimited resources part. Bush and Rumsfeld made it a back burner project the moment that they decided to go for Iraq. Since that moment it was already doomed to suffer from less of a commitment than it would have required (iffy as the outcome still would have been). The window of opportunity was closed long ago, leaving only sunk cost and a desire to shape the narrative in ways that leave us not losing.

The conclusion that "the Biden administration failed" seems to assume that either a) its resources really were/are unlimited, or b) that Afghanistan deserved to have a higher relative priority than, for example, working on the nation's recovery from the previous administration.

Neither of which I would buy in to. It is always possible to say "my pet cause won't take that much, so we should get it done." But add up all the pet causes, and resources get spread so thin that nothing gets done. So even when it's my pet cause, I recognize that someone who is forced by her position to focus on the big picture may have to prioritize, and will do so differently than I would have. (Or maybe not, if I had access to a lot more information.)

In short, having things go wrong somewhere isn't necessarily a failure so much as a necessary orioritization. Regretable, but unavoidable in the absence of unlimited resources -- financial, human, and of political capital.

But for Afghanistan, restraint as a first principle certainly not an option for Biden. Which I guess is the point? The last part seems like it was being written to specific people with specific opinions.

Here's another timeline:

1842 (Jan): British army withdraws from Afghanistan
1842 (Oct): British army withdraws from Afghanistan
1881: British army withdraws from Afghanistan
2014: British army withdraws from Afghanistan
2021: British army withdraws from Nato mission in Afghanistan

Some withdrawals were better managed than others (see William Elphinstone). But the record suggests that whereas a sufficiently resourced Western army can successfully invade Afghanistan, it cannot create an Afghan army able and willing to maintain in power a government we approve of.

On this occasion, it looks as if the withdrawal could have been handled better. But the underlying choice was, as usual, to stay forever, or to withdraw and the stronger Afghan force prevail.

I don't have much time at the moment, but here's a good twitter thread:

https://twitter.com/ZeeshanAleem/status/1426997164568363010?s=19

9/11, 2019, Trump negotiated a deal with the Taliban for them to leave us alone while we get ready for the pull out that was to happen in May 2021.

Biden inherited that deal, and delays the withdrawal a bit.

and all the time, since 9/11 2019, the Taliban has been planning for this. they knew we weren't going to have the troops to stop them, and they knew the Afghan army was tissue paper. so they patiently waited for us to fulfill our end of Trump's deal, and then went to town - all the towns.

and regardless of who is to 'blame', it's the right thing to do. if 40 Friedman units weren't enough, 45, 50, 60 weren't going to be enough either.

it's over. should never have begun.

Per cleek's timeline, the Trump administration had over a year to put measures in place to deal with what should have been expected...i.e., the need to accommodate a stream of refugees upon our departure.

Was that Trump's fault or due to the fact that our FP establishment could not foresee a failure of this magnitude?

Am I appalled? You bet. But then I have been appalled by our foreign policies since 1967.

nous: Thanks for the correction. But at over two trillion, that's some "back burner". When it comes to domestic spending a "trillion" (over ten years mind you) is enough to get Susan Collins in a snit.

Trump was never going to accept a stream refugees from Afghanistan. his xenophobic moron base wouldn't let that happen.

but Biden has already more than quadrupled the number of refugees allowed. and plans to double that number again by the end of the fiscal year.

https://www.npr.org/2021/05/03/993216680/biden-raises-refugee-cap-to-62-500-after-earlier-criticism

and, he put 100s of $Ms in place to help with Afghan refugees.

https://www.reuters.com/world/us/biden-authorizes-100-million-emergency-funds-afghan-refugees-2021-07-23/

WASHINGTON, July 23 (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday authorized up to $100 million from an emergency fund to meet "unexpected urgent" refugee needs stemming from the situation in Afghanistan, including for Afghan special immigration visa applicants, the White House said.

Biden also authorized the release of $200 million in services and articles from the inventories of U.S. government agencies to meet the same needs, the White House said.


Josh Marshall, who I take as more of a centrist, has a bit of a surprising take (to me)

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/after-sunday-its-even-more-clear-biden-was-right

and Fareed Zakaria
https://twitter.com/fareedzakaria/status/1426965701525389315?s=21&=

what cleek said

I agree with Josh Marshall.

...and Kevin Drum.*

Our Afghan allies, trapped in Kabul's airport, are not the only ones rushing for the exits.

*I still remember that time long ago when he gave a good deal of serious good liberal thought and finally concluded that invading Iraq was "an OK" thing to do.

I am too heartbroken by all of this to read all the links. But I did read Josh Marshall, and think he may be right.

As I said on another thread, I supported the war in Afghanistan (but not Iraq) because of the laws of war (they were sheltering OBL), and (most of all) because of the situation of Afghan women under the Taliban. I've known for some years that this was a mistake, in my head, but not my heart - because of Afghan women.

Of course, I blame Trump for the appalling mess that was Doha, and perhaps if it had been negotiated by others something better could have been bargained for the eventual pull-out, but it really does look as if Afghanistan is insoluble long-term, at least from any point of view most of us would recognise, at least for the foreseeable future.

The thought of the future of Afghan women, who have been able to believe for twenty years that they had what we would call a future, torments me.

it was lost the moment it became a nation building operation lead by the US military.

60.000 refugees is a joke. Iran has taken in 3.3 million and Pakistan 1.4 million since 2001. Similar amounts during the Soviet war.

Also, the US doesn't seem to want to facilitate refugees actually making the journey to the US, so good luck with that.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/aug/02/us-afghanistan-refugee-admissions-taliban

It makes me sick to the marrow that the second half of my life must be lived out as a witness to this colossal American disgrace, and no one's hands are clean.

At least it was exceptional in its exorbitant expense, much of which dropped to the bottom line of our corrupt, conservative, tax-hating balance sheets, as only America can bid up the cost of a steaming pile of dog shit and refuse to pay for it.

But we have subhuman domestic Taliban, as malignantly and conservatively bent on our genocide as their similarly God-bent Afghan brethren, to wipe off the face of the Earth with what's left of our squandered resources.

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/florida-school-board-chair-osgood-mask-mandates

https://digbysblog.net/2021/08/16/short-memories/

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2021/8/15/2045966/--Lamb-walking-into-a-slaughterhouse-Three-Florida-educators-die-of-COVID-19-complications

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/proud-boys-anti-vaxx-violence-los-angeles_n_6118888de4b01da700f6785c

FOX News is a suicide bomber.

Trump and company, like al Qaeda, continue exhorting America's destruction from their caves and safe houses, including from within the halls of government.

Please continue arming the American population, conservatives, and then stealing elections from us and murdering our American children, teachers, and care-givers with the self-righteous exhalations of your diseased, infected, death-loving fake Christian breath.

At least you aren't hiding behind masks.

Our Afghani allies perhaps are lucky to now be murdered in their home country, rather than arrive here to be hated, maligned, and attacked in our streets by the white-trash, peckerwood confederate zombies now ascendant and exalted by the conservative movement these last 50 years.

Think if those Afghani interpreters dared installing upscale countertops in their new American homes.


cleek, I think you're right about pretty much all of this.

nous: Thanks for the correction. But at over two trillion, that's some "back burner". When it comes to domestic spending a "trillion" (over ten years mind you) is enough to get Susan Collins in a snit.

Agree. The US is more than happy to waste money on military vanity so long as it appeals to the us self-image as being the world's tough guys and doesn't cost enough US lives to erode support.

What I'm talking about, though, is not just wasting revenue on military vanity (foolish as that is). I'm pointing to the sort of resources that are reflected in the chart from this 2011 article: https://www.npr.org/2011/06/10/137102440/q-a-can-the-u-s-find-success-in-afghanistan

When you look at the troop levels for Iraq vs Afghanistan, and start to consider that Iraq had a strong central government before we invaded and Afghanistan did not, then it's pretty clear to me that we never actually committed ourselves to the goal of a stable Afghanistan at the start and all of the resources were spent on keeping up appearances and hoping for a miracle.

O'Hanlon had it right in that NPR article back in 2011 and the last decade was just a series of kick-the-can.

I, too, feel horrible for the people in Afghanistan who's hopes we betrayed. But we never made a serious attempt to do what we claimed. It was all false pretenses and empty promises.

I, too, feel horrible for the people in Afghanistan who's hopes we betrayed. But we never made a serious attempt to do what we claimed. It was all false pretenses and empty promises.

Agreed. With the heaviest of heavy hearts, agreed.

Plane tickets out of Kabul have doubled and tripled as the private sector and its enabling gummints extort their last tribute from these victims.

I don't know who is behind this twitter feed, picked up from Balloon Juice, but it's admirably cracked:

https://twitter.com/SenMiltonYoung?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1427264474227122180%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.balloon-juice.com%2F

Dreher today is showing little sympathy for woke Afghani trans folks facing vivisection by his like-minded haters in Kabul, while of course elevating fascists Orban and Buchanan to Confederate General sainthood.

OK, back to lurking. There is reading to be done under the light of the rising mushroom cloud that is America.

The thought of the future of Afghan women, who have been able to believe for twenty years that they had what we would call a future, torments me.

I would hope, but not at all expect, that we put in place a policy here reminiscent of our policy for Cuba: any Afghan woman who makes it to the US gets automatic instant asylum. (Plus any minor children she gets here as well.)

It would be the right humanitarian gesture. And it has, as a side benefit, the possibility of leaving the Taliban with a similar situation to what China faces as a result of their One Child policy.

Had it been up tu Rummy, they would have skipped Afghanistan ("not enough targets") completely and went straight to Iraq.

It would be a truly cruel irony, if that would have been actually better.
And the 99% self-inflicted disaster in Iraq prevented an even greater one in Iran ("were true men go").

And then there is the invasion of Cuba and Venezuela Jabbabonk dreamt about but proved unable to set in motion.

Count your cursed blessings.

O'Hanlon had it right in that NPR article back in 2011 and the last decade was just a series of kick-the-can.

Scratch this on second read. I alternate between agreeing with O'Hanlon and with Menon in hindsight. Pretty much stick with whomever has the more pessimistic analysis on any individual question.

The whole of the invasion/occupation was run like a dot com startup. Put someone out front who can talk a good line and project a can-do attitude. Find some hopeful metrics that you can wave about to secure funding for another budgetary round. Hope that more of the same thing that is not working eventually builds enough critical mass to become too big to fail, or at least big enough to cash out and let someone else worry about keeping it afloat.

"It was all false pretenses ....."

I'm more in fear of true American pretenses and the post-tenses to follow.

I can't find much above to really disagree with. I supported the Iraq invasion because of WMD in possession of an inherently instable regime that would likely fall to one of Saddam's sons. I agreed that 9/11 required a very clear and unequivocal response in Afghanistan. My view then--and it is essentially unchanged--is that unwanted regime change is untenable and stupid. That said, if a country chooses to host an organization that attacks American citizens, that country can expect a sustained and profoundly unpleasant military visit which will be repeated until it quits hosting organizations that attack Americans. If we leave things worse than they were, that's the fallout from bad decision making by the host country.

I will note the relative benefits for women (and everyone else) of modern western liberal democracy over the benefits of life under these indigenous, non-capitalist, non-white but deeply faithful adherents of a non-Christian faith.

That said, if a country chooses to host an organization that attacks American citizens, that country can expect a sustained and profoundly unpleasant military visit which will be repeated until it quits hosting organizations that attack Americans.

America might have to visit America, depending on how you define "host."

non-white

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The truth will out.


McKinney, your statement of the principles seems largely independent of any lessons to be drawn from the historical context of the last 20 years.

Have we, in your opinion, learned anything in these 20 years that should alter our attitude towards or execution of those principles?

"You mess with the bull, you get the horns" doesn't strike me as having been a very productive approach to our foreign policy, and I can't imagine that you think it all that effective either. You seem to be more grounded than that, at least when pressed to provide a more extended account of your views.

That said, if a country chooses to host an organization that attacks American citizens, that country can expect a sustained and profoundly unpleasant military visit which will be repeated until it quits hosting organizations that attack Americans.

I think "repeated brief and profoundly unpleasant visits" would be a better way to go. But no "sustained" -- all that does is build up expectations for nation building and cultural change which, as we have seen repeatedly, are rarely successful.

Best to get in and out quickly, and with limited casualties. Take out (or at least smash up) the terrorists. Take out the existing government, explicitly including those in charge. And then come home.

McKinney, your statement of the principles seems largely independent of any lessons to be drawn from the historical context of the last 20 years.

Have we, in your opinion, learned anything in these 20 years that should alter our attitude towards or execution of those principles?

I'm not sure what your reference point here is. I am addressing a situation in which a sovereign state knowingly hosts an organization that has attacked, and continues to attack, US citizens.

I think beating the living hell out of a country that does that is the right thing to do. Not occupy, pacify, uplift, convert or any other thing unless we are positioned to compel unconditional surrender at an acceptable (to us) price.

WJ, I intentionally chose "sustained" because prospective adversaries need to believe that the exposure to murdering US citizens is not a finite, performative expression of deep approval. On something of the 9/11 scale, a year to three years of sustained and highly punitive military/infrastructural campaigning would be about right. We set the timetable, we don't negotiate and we make it clear that we can come back if need be.

Getting in and out with limited casualties is a price the Taliban can pay again and again.

The option available to every state actor is to not murder US citizens.

Nous, what do you suggest the lessons of the last 20 years to be and, along these lines, what should we have done immediately post 9/11 re Afghanistan?

"You mess with the bull, you get the horns" doesn't strike me as having been a very productive approach to our foreign policy, and I can't imagine that you think it all that effective either. You seem to be more grounded than that, at least when pressed to provide a more extended account of your views.

It's nice having an afternoon relatively free. I don't subscribe to a "mess with the bull, you get the horns" foreign policy. Many countries "mess" with the US as a matter of daily hygiene. I yawn along with pretty much everyone else. I am speaking directly to murdering--mass murdering in fact--US citizens here and abroad as a byproduct of the tacit approval of a sovereign actor.

IOW, an act of war by proxy, or near enough as to make no difference. I'm open to hearing about non-military responses that would be effective.

I guess we're a little late on bombing Saudi Arabia.

whatever was right, we didn't do it. whatever we should have learned, we didn't. whatever we should have done, wasn't.

it's over.

move on.

with any luck we won't do it again for a while.

Getting in and out with limited casualties is a price the Taliban can pay again and again.

If those limited casualties are, in essence, "troops in the trenches" then sure. But if it's the leadership getting taken out? Much bigger disincentive.

Sure, some of them may be willing to be what amounts to a suicide bomber. Or, at least the first couple times, willing to take the chance they can evade paying the price personally. But mostly you don't see a bin Laden personally flying a plane into a building; they leave the actual risks and bleeding to others.

I guess we're a little late on bombing Saudi Arabia.

Fair point. The Saudi's have a lot to answer for. I lack the detailed insight to offer an informed opinion on 'how to deal with the Saudi's'. Their support for Al Qaeda was not as open and obvious as the Taliban's, but it is fair to ask why we keep those assholes as allies, if that's what we think they are.

That said, the Taliban hosted Al Qaeda which ran the 9/11 operation from Afghanistan. That's undisputed. The Taliban had *something* coming for that support. My preference is just a crap ton of bombs and bullets with a really high bad guy body count to make it clear that doing so has a high price. I'm open to alternatives.

Poisoned daggers in the night maybe?

(not a serious proposal. Less collateral damage maybe but also some nasty side effects longterm).

But if it's the leadership getting taken out? Much bigger disincentive.

I don't think we had the leadership's address. I still don't think we have it. Even then, if a lot of Taliban rank and file are killed along with a lot of bridges and stuff getting blown up, the next Taliban gov't will have more to worry about before bringing in another Al Qaeda.

“I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped, and more competent in terms of conducting war.” “There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of a embassy in the — of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable.”

Four Administrations have spun their own, semi-unique BS about "what's going on in Afghanistan and here's what the plan is", and so it's probably the case that Biden got stuck holding the bag and tried to put the best face on it he could. For whatever reason, he now has a lot of egg on his face.

What gives me a rash is that either he just blew a lot of smoke or someone gave him a crap ton of bad info. I sense it's the latter, and if that's correct--this is something I'd think we would all want to know--who the hell is analyzing intelligence from that region and are they still employed? Biden was unnecessarily optimistic and declarative about future events. Did someone set him up (that's what I think) or did his capacity for extemporaneous BS get away from him again (a possibility that I raise but will not, until I see evidence, endorse).

I sense it's the latter, and if that's correct--this is something I'd think we would all want to know--who the hell is analyzing intelligence from that region and are they still employed

it's the same people who have fucked this thing up from day 0.

A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.

The documents were generated by a federal project examining the root failures of the longest armed conflict in U.S. history. They include more than 2,000 pages of previously unpublished notes of interviews with people who played a direct role in the war, from generals and diplomats to aid workers and Afghan officials.

it was military officials who couldn't admit they couldn't "win" it. it was Afghanis who weren't about to send away their protectors. it was faceless office drones who weren't going to tell their bosses what they didn't want to hear.

blaming any of this on Biden is absurd. he made the only smart move in the whole misbegotten shitshow: to quit.

what we're seeing was Trump's deal, which he and Pompeo put into motion. the only way to turn it around would have been for Biden to send in tens of thousands of more troops to push the Taliban back and start the whole fucking war all over again - as Bush tried multiple times, and as Obama tried. and for what? what would be gained?

it's over.

blame is shared by every chowderheaded dipshit who wanted this pre-doomed nation-building fiasco to start in the first place.

For the record, Afghans who have settled in America are considered by the U.S. Census Bureau to be white caucasians.

Given the multi-century history of Afghanistan's tribal on-the-ground success against all military and non-military foreign interventionist actions, magical thinking is all we have left.

Ask the Russians.

Perhaps we should drop another 7.5 million tons of ordnance on North Vietnam and learn if we can be twice as successful.

bin Laden and the mullahs' long term military strategies were accurate. Evil, but accurate.

And, by the way, those radical conservatives in America who characterized the 2016 election as the Flight 93 election and all liberals and Democrats as the murderous hijacking mortal enemies of American conservatives' pretentions are due a visit from serious killers as well.

"My preference is just a crap ton of bombs and bullets with a really high bad guy body count to make it clear that doing so has a high price."

and

"if a lot of Taliban rank and file are killed along with a lot of bridges and stuff getting blown up,"

But, you got that in spades. The only alternative is nuclear.

That will be up next with China, should some (radical nationalist conservatives in the CCP and their radical nationalist American cohorts) get their way.

Good luck to all of us.


wj,
Your point about giving asylum to any Afghan woman who reaches US is almost meaningless. There is very few ways for an Afghan to reach American soil without the US government's say-so. Cubans can cross the strait to Florida, but there is no way for an Afghan too cross the Atlantic. No airline or ship is going to accept them as passangers without a visa, and the human smugglers at the Southern US border know what is good for them. Getting involved in trafficking Middle Eastern refugees would be a surefire way to get the shop closed down, as that would attract very unwelcome authority attention.

In practice, no European country has been able to return Aghan asylum seekers to Afghanistan, as the country is not willing to accept forcible returns. In fact, if the Taliban can keep their Sharia to a somewhat moderate level, will not conduct random executions, and will accept returned asylum seekers back, they have a good chance of being in the receiving end of EU development aid also in the future.

What was to be expected with absolute certainty was the 180° turn Jabbabonk and the GOPsters (who will play at the next presidential inauguration, be sure of that) would make.
Just a few days ago they blasted Biden for trying to stay there longer than DJT wanted out of pure spite, and now it's (I kid you not) critical race theory and climate change at home that got Biden to recklessly abandon Afghanistan (again just to make The Orange One look bad).

Whatever one thinks of Biden's actions concerning the case, this was inevitable.
Personally, I think he should have started the rescue operations for Afghanis (and their families) that helped the US earlier than he did (he got flak for that months ago including offers from the Marianas to take the refugees (like after Vietnam), so there would be enough time to deal with their final relocation to the US or elsewhere (knowing well that the US Right would demagogue against that with all their might, so a safe space outside the mainland US would be necessary).

But, you got that in spades. The only alternative is nuclear.

Not really, not as a matter of stated policy. It was a byproduct, cumulatively, over the longest US war in history.

My proposal, going in: we are going to wreck as much as we can and kill as many bad guys as we can until we think we've done enough and we'll be back if you do something stupid again.

The above is the lessons I've learned from 60 years of asymmetrical, non-total war: don't fight them except as a matter of tactical, finite necessity.

That will be up next with China, should some (radical nationalist conservatives in the CCP and their radical nationalist American cohorts) get their way.

Another kettle of fish entirely. If Biden wants to lead, he can start building an effective pro-Taiwan coalition. This is definitely a case where a war deferred is a war won.

For the record, Afghans who have settled in America are considered by the U.S. Census Bureau to be white caucasians.

If I remember my Anthropology course info correctly, "Caucasian" includes not only people in Europe but also those in a) Northern Africa (the bit north of the Sahara) and across southwest as far as (and including) India. So Afghans would naturally meet that criteria.

Your point about giving asylum to any Afghan woman who reaches US is almost meaningless. There is very few ways for an Afghan to reach American soil without the US government's say-so. Cubans can cross the strait to Florida, but there is no way for an Afghan too cross the Atlantic. No airline or ship is going to accept them as passangers without a visa

Except that, if everybody knows they have automatic asylum, that's as good as a visa.

Or we could do the same with any Afghan woman reaching a US embassy. Might actually be a better way to go, now that I think on it.

Hartmut, two points:

Sure, it's never a bad bet to bet on DT and his crowd taking whatever cheap shot comes to hand. Not that this makes him unique. However, in this instance, it's just talk. Biden is making the policy and whatever static comes from the peanut gallery is just that: static.

Second, yes, Biden or someone in the decision making process, should have started getting "our" Afghan supporters out of the country some time ago. That failure is fairly laid at this administration's feet, not that any prior administration would likely have done differently.

Some German conservative assholes (many of whom are likely to end up in the very next elected government in less than two months) are currently quite angry that they CAN'T freely deport Afghanis 'back home' and rant against the courts deciding that Afghanistan is not a 'safe country of origin'.
Btw a young Afghan woman was recently murdered over here by her brothers because she divorced her husband (and kept the kids). There is a hot debate among candidates for Merkel's job about whether the terms 'honor killing' or 'femizide' are proper to describe this crime (the first term was criticised because there is nothing honorable about this and thus adopts the frame of the perpetrators, the latter for being too unspecific and putting a different kind of spin on it).

Biden ripped the bandaid off:

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/08/afghanistan-your-fault/619769/

A message from resident domestic American Evil, our mortal enemy right in front of our eyes:

https://twitter.com/AndrewSolender/status/1427021089541087232?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1427024275467276290%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es3_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fdigbysblog.net%2F

"My proposal, going in: we are going to wreck as much as we can and kill as many bad guys as we can until we think we've done enough and we'll be back if you do something stupid again."

That was a TV show broadcast from Iraq. I watched it.

That war broke this other rule: "don't fight them except as a matter of tactical, finite necessity."

Second, yes, Biden or someone in the decision making process, should have started getting "our" Afghan supporters out of the country some time ago.

we did. thousands are in the US right now.

Nous, what do you suggest the lessons of the last 20 years to be and, along these lines, what should we have done immediately post 9/11 re Afghanistan?

Well, for starters it seems like the best way to deal with the Taliban giving shelter to a terrorist leader would be to capture or kill that leader and thus discrediting the Taliban and making it look weak and ineffective. On that account, having fewer than 10,000 troops committed and allowing OBL to slip through your fingers is a massive FUBAR.

To then take attention from that clear and well defined military goal that is well supported by the international community and commit fifteen times as many troops to invading a country that had no relation whatsoever to 9/11 on the weakest of unverified intelligence?

Nope.

Keep focus on OBL. Keep focus on Afghanistan.

Iraq flushed the whole thing.

If you've been telling the international community that you are there for human rights reasons (antiquities, treatment of women) then you have to implement and support policies that can achieve those goals. That is not a military operation. War is only politics by other means if the policy you are supporting can be implemented by force. Economic and cultural transformation would require soft power and be slow, expensive, and not very spectacular.

The US doesn't do any one of those three well. We have a two year attention span for anything. Longer than that and it has to involve explosions that look impressive on TV or the public will turn on the project and vote people out if they support it.

What we should learn from all of that is that more of our FP budget and effort should go to soft power and multilateral agreements that we mostly keep out of the spotlight and we should avoid flashy military flexes that have no clear outcome and no clear benefit.

Never trust a militarist, be they a Bush, Clinton, or Blair. It doesn't matter how they dress up their flex, it's just a flex for domestic political gain. They want to look strong for the camera. Military force should only be used in much more dire and immediate circumstances, or in clear and limited circumstances. I'm not a big fan of Powell, but the Powell doctrine would have helped us a lot here.

McKT, nothing specific for DJT. I remember the GOP and their allies in the media to recycle actual Nazi propaganda under the younger Bush in trying to create a stab-in-the-back legend against the Democrats for the Iraq disaster.
And when I say 'actual' I mean e.g. detailed recreations of certain images that over here any child knows from history books at school (the commie replaced by the DEM donkey and the uniform of the soldier americanized. The helmet shape has stayed the same, so no change necessary there. Otherwise nearly a carbon copy).
After every less than successful war the US conducts (under presidents of both parties) the same game replays (under Bush the lesser it was simply a wee bit more blatant and shameless).
Not likely to change in the future or, as you said, essentially 'static' (or brown noise, which would be my term for it)

Also, I think now is a good time for me to re-read Bacevich's The New American Militarism to see how it stands up in hindsight as Afghanistan crumbles. He seemed like a sane voice on the center right when I read it back in the Iraq War days and I'm interested to see if my views of his arguments have changed based on current views and circumstances.

In my very humble and limited opinion, a strong military response to the Al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan and their Taliban sponsors was reasonable after 9/11.

I'm at a loss to say what we should have done after that.

Just leaving would have left a vacuum that would probably have been filled by... the Taliban. Them, or some other crew of warlords.

Trying to create a fresh new polity on the liberal western model was, IMO, naive and wrong-headed. The Afghans aren't us, and don't need to be us.

Afghanistan has been involved in some kind of internal civil war continuously for almost the last 50 years, with various foreign actors feeding all of that for their own purposes. I'm not sure it was within our power to fix all of that, even if we had been acting without self-interest and purely for the benefit of the Afghan people. Which we were not, and had not been at least since the Soviet invasion in '79.

I hope the Afghan people find a way to the other side of all of this. I don't think our presence there has been all that helpful.

No doubt our departure could have been handled better. No doubt our mistakes are getting a lot of people killed. Maybe this will be an occasion for us to think realistically about the limits of power.

Shorter me: this is a horrible mess, following on 50 years of horrible mess, and I have no idea what we ought to have done instead of what we did do, with the exception of making better provision for protecting people whose association with us is going to get them killed.

Well, for starters it seems like the best way to deal with the Taliban giving shelter to a terrorist leader would be to capture or kill that leader and thus discrediting the Taliban and making it look weak and ineffective. On that account, having fewer than 10,000 troops committed and allowing OBL to slip through your fingers is a massive FUBAR.

There is a bit of question-begging here that, ISTM, is somewhat off point. Just killing OBL as a reprisal for 9/11 falls way short of what a country owes to its citizens. Second guessing a military operation in rural Afghanistan with a plainly partisan formulation ("allowing OBL to slip through your fingers") is not a useful description of a plan or a strategy, unless your strategy is "never fail", which no one has yet successfully employed.

The Powell Doctrine calls for overwhelming force and a stated objective. How is that different from my proposal?

If Taiwan is a free democracy in 20 years, I'll grant your point on soft power. Otherwise, not so much.

I think beating the living hell out of a country that does that is the right thing to do.

You can't beat up a country. All you can do is kill and maim people. The people you kill and maim in war are seldom the people responsible for the actions of their country's government. And their loved ones will hate you for it.

Yes, the US and its allies were justified in invading Afghanistan. But Bush and his accomplices made a complete mess of it.

I remember the GOP and their allies in the media to recycle actual Nazi propaganda under the younger Bush in trying to create a stab-in-the-back legend against the Democrats for the Iraq disaster.
And when I say 'actual' I mean e.g. detailed recreations of certain images that over here any child knows from history books at school (the commie replaced by the DEM donkey and the uniform of the soldier americanized. The helmet shape has stayed the same, so no change necessary there. Otherwise nearly a carbon copy).

I know a bit about Nazi Germany. Can you provide a cite? Thanks.

Iraq flushed the whole thing.

yeah, that too.

There is a bit of question-begging here that, ISTM, is somewhat off point. Just killing OBL as a reprisal for 9/11 falls way short of what a country owes to its citizens. Second guessing a military operation in rural Afghanistan with a plainly partisan formulation ("allowing OBL to slip through your fingers") is not a useful description of a plan or a strategy, unless your strategy is "never fail", which no one has yet successfully employed.

That's a very shallow reading of what I actually said there. And how is stating a logistical fact a partisan formulation?

Too few troops. Too great a policy of force protection. We were spread too thin and our positions were too fixed. At least that is what I have gathered from having watched a number of documentaries and talked to people who were embedded there. We did not match the scale of the challenge.

Bush used 150,000 troops to gain control of Iraq and to narrowly transfer power in a country that had a history of successful governance. If we owe our citizens more than just eliminating the person who planned 9/11 (by which I assume you mean extracting some cost from the Taliban for their aid that goes beyond removing them from power and discrediting their ability to protect an ally) it seems to me that your plan requires occupation. If Iraq took almost a decade and in excess of 150,000 troops, then saying that relying on 10,000 troops to both apprehend OBL and punish the Taliban seems like it's an odd assumption on your part.

If you are going to commit to doing a thing in Afghanistan, then actually put resources in place to be able to do those things. To do less is to show that you were either incompetent or not actually serious about your stated goals.

And what is it that this country owed to its citizens following 9/11? How is it that the plan as actually implemented, with the resources it had, actually supported in any way accomplishing whatever it is you mean by "what this country owed to its citizens."

I was referring to this specific poster
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:1924_(D)_Archives_1924_00_00_Deutschnationalen_Reichstag_1924_Wahlplakat_der_Deutsch-Nationalen_Deutschnationalen_Volkspartei_DNVP_Berlin_Dolchsto%C3%9Fl%C3%BCge_Dolchsto%C3%9Flegende_gegen_SPD_Low_res.jpg
I just noticed that this one was from the DNVP not the NSDAP but the motive itself was used by both extensivly (this one is just the most 'popular').

Unfortunately, I cannot find the US adaptations with a quick google search, so I cannot prove my claim there. I can only say that when I first saw them my jaw dropped down. That the idea itself got recycled was one thing but from what I saw several 'artists' clearly used the image linked above as a direct template.

(later it became a cottage indistry to put Obama into Nazi images like 'Hitler as a condottiere' or 'drumming SA man' but imo that was more ridiculous than perfidious, while the above clearly was the latter).

A Bacevich quote:

"The key point, however, is this: Somewhere right around the end of the Cold War, Americans said yes to military power. If you wanted to pick a specific moment, that moment might be in early 1991, back when Operation Desert Storm ended in what appeared to be a historic victory. Right then, the skepticism about arms and armies that had informed the American experiment from its founding vanished. Political leaders—as Joanne suggested, liberals and conservatives alike—became enamored with military might. And American military leaders, who ought to have known better, became complicit in marketing alluring visions of future warfare that had no basis in history and that events soon revealed as fraudulent."

His premise is incomplete and mistaken. Beginning with the Civil War, the majority of US wars began with an unexpected if not a surprise attack at a time when we were militarily unprepared for war, to our cost militarily and in lives. South Carolina fired on Ft Sumpter and the the North experienced a series of losses before it could arm sufficiently and get the necessary leadership.

The Spanish American war began with what was widely thought to be a surprise attack on the USS Maine (I'm not a student of whether this was a hoax, so I'm leaving that aside).

WWI was a war of choice, more or less.

WWII began with Pearl Harbor.

The Korean War began with a surprise attack, a very successful surprise attack, by N Korea and well armed by the Soviets and the PRC.

We were grossly underprepared for both wars.

Vietnam supposedly began with the Gulf of Tonkin attack (again, not here to debate "what happened", just noting that the causus belli was touted as a "surprise attack").

The Cold War ebbed and flowed. Ultimately, the Soviet Union imploded and *we* began unilateral disarmament.

The next surprise was the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

The most recent was 9/11.

The lesson of history is that war comes when it is least expected and often when we are least prepared for it. Except for Vietnam, no one started a fight with the US during the Cold War when we had the horsepower to not only fight but to win decisively, and even then, it's hard to say that N Vietnam "started" a war.

Our history is not one of military skepticism--Bacevich is pulling that out of thin air--it is one of unpreparedness.

Our last two wars--Kuwait and Iraq/Afghanistan--are lessons in dichotomy. In Kuwait, we had overwhelming force and a limited goal, notwithstanding all of the post hoc bitching about not finishing the job. We won but left the bad guys standing (like the Korean War)and so the open wound remained. But, there was no doubt as to whether our goal was accomplished and because we had the infrastructure in place, getting from Point A to Point B was mostly a matter of planning and execution.


Iraq/Afghanistan were different. Even if Iraq featured overwhelming force, there was no follow-on strategy other than hostile occupation, which is stupid on too many levels to count. Afghanistan was hostile occupation without overwhelming force. The fundamental lesson: in non-existential warfare and absent national mobilization, only fight when and where you have to and only for the limited purpose of making whatever point needs to be made and only with overwhelming force.

We think our military is invincible because it really does its job--fighting--pretty well. At least, so far. The PRC, should that come to pass, may be more than our much-reduced navy and air force can handle.

We have a political class that revels in basking in the reflected glory of a cool military operation gone well, e.g. killing OBL. That's a fairly recent phenomena, that began with Clinton, continued with "Mission Accomplished" and has yet to end. Maybe that is Bacevich's message, but he missed the part about being the biggest kid in the room--that's what keeps everyone else from picking a fight.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/russia-says-afghan-president-escaped-with-four-cars-and-helicopter-full-of-cash?via=newsletter&source=CSAMedition

He's headed for Mar-a-Lago.

If you are going to commit to doing a thing in Afghanistan, then actually put resources in place to be able to do those things. To do less is to show that you were either incompetent or not actually serious about your stated goals.

Then we may be saying the same thing differently. OBL knew he was a wanted man within 24 hours of 9/11. He was on the run in some of the most hostile, desolate country on the planet. The idea that he would be caught fleeing the scene is naive. He *might* have been caught, but it was a long shot, even with five times the troops we had which I suspect was in excess of our near term transport capability to that corner of the earth.

Protection from future attacks by prophylactic alertness/deployment/operational intervention and pounding the bejesus out of the perpetrators and their accomplices to send the clear message that copious amounts of death and destruction are the price one pays for killing Americans.

How is it that the plan as actually implemented, with the resources it had, actually supported in any way accomplishing whatever it is you mean by "what this country owed to its citizens."

It wasn't. That's my point. We fiddle-fucked around in both places, clueless as to goal or how to get out and bled our military resources white. It was a failure of leadership and imagination. In this formulation, leadership = judgment.

So, McKinneyTexas, are you saying you have read Bacevich's book to see the grounds on which he built that summary from a talk he gave about that book, or are you saying that you haven't seen his evidence, but the claim strikes you as off based on your own reading and opinion?

It's fun to cherry pick a fight, but it's work actually trying to come to terms with someone's book-length argument.

You can't beat up a country. All you can do is kill and maim people. The people you kill and maim in war are seldom the people responsible for the actions of their country's government. And their loved ones will hate you for it.

Sorry ProB, did not mean to overlook your comment. I think you understand that (1) I was using "country" in context, meaning the guilty parties and (2) my references to the "bad guys", in context, means focusing on military targets with the understanding that the Taliban will hide among civilians creating undesired but unavoidable civilian casualties (I don't like collateral damage as a phrase or as a concept). That, unfortunately, is the product, or result, of starting a fight in the first place. It is to be hoped that enough bad stuff happening as a consequence will deter future bad conduct.

We have a two year attention span for anything. Longer than that and it has to involve explosions that look impressive on TV or the public will turn on the project and vote people out if they support it.

And yet, we have been successfully nation-building, in a completely unspectacular fashion, with the Peace Corps for decades. Even Trump didn't bother to shut it down. It doesn't involve explosions, but it doesn't seem to get people voted out of office either.

https://twitter.com/NoLieWithBTC?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1427022022618624004%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.balloon-juice.com%2F

Two groups of killers are producing selfies right now .... murderous Afghan Taliban released by Trump and Pompeo now taking the reins of that gummint, and Trump, Pompeo and murderous stop the steal, pandemic-loving American Taliban filth planning the same thing for our gummint.

Just killing OBL as a reprisal for 9/11 falls way short of what a country owes to its citizens.

IMO - had we been able to actually capture or kill Bin Laden and the leadership of Al Qaeda and neutralize their training operation, it seems to me like that would have been a sufficient response to 9/11. Whether we ousted the Taliban from political power or not.

Whether we like them or not, the Taliban actually represent a constituency in Afghanistan, I'm not sure it was or is our job to restructure the Afghan government.

Just my opinion.

As far as military preparedness, we spend more on the military than the next 11 biggest spenders combined. I understand that "spending" does not automatically equal "preparedness", but seriously, what the hell.

If we're not prepared, we're doing something seriously wrong.

If you are going to commit to doing a thing in Afghanistan, then actually put resources in place to be able to do those things.

we spent $2,600,000,000,000 in Afghanistan.

what we lacked was the support of the people we were trying to change.

And yet, we have been successfully nation-building, in a completely unspectacular fashion, with the Peace Corps for decades. Even Trump didn't bother to shut it down. It doesn't involve explosions, but it doesn't seem to get people voted out of office either.

Thank goodness the Peace Corps doesn't require our attention or affirmation, and only costs $400m or so a year.

If it did require our attention, or if some media pinhead became fixated on it as an arm of the Deep State, it would probably be borked.

Our history is not one of military skepticism--Bacevich is pulling that out of thin air--it is one of unpreparedness.

As for the unpreparedness, well, that's been a theme, for sure, but you overstate a very weak case. As for the skepticism I give you the War of 1812 (dumb), The Mexican-American War (pure theft), our century long undeclared war against the native american peoples (genocidal theft), our numerous military interventions in Latin America (might makes right), Viet Nam, and last but not least - Iraq II(massive unwarranted hubris).

So...what are we left with? Civil War, (Spanish American War - nice try, but a dodge on your part), and WW II. I'll give you Korea and Iraq I.

Our real love affair with military might arose out of the massive institutional inertia built up to win WW II and rolled right into the start of the Cold War.

If there is any one institution that has bipartisan support in Congress, it is the military.

It's fun to cherry pick a fight, but it's work actually trying to come to terms with someone's book-length argument.

True statement and worth keeping in mind. I have not read the book, but I did read some reviews and came across a speech he made and I quoted from that speech directly. My comments were focused on his speech, not his book, and if that wasn't clear in context, I'm making it clear now.

s far as military preparedness, we spend more on the military than the next 11 biggest spenders combined. I understand that "spending" does not automatically equal "preparedness", but seriously, what the hell.

If we're not prepared, we're doing something seriously wrong.

I've never cared for this metric because it proves way to much as insightful jurists like to say. We are not configured for homeland defense and we do not draft. We are configured to project against substantial conventional forces who possess the homefield advantage and who outnumber us. Thus, we need particularly capable and survivable force multipliers. For example, a US fighter jet, managed by a state of the art command and control (remote) battlespace management system should be able to engage and destroy X times that one fighter. A US attack submarine is expected to outperform a numerically superior opposition by being much better built, more stealthy and so on.

It isn't an apples to oranges problem. It's meat vs vegetables. Our military needs are unique in the truest sense of the word and no one needs or builds a military along the lines our strategic interests require.

You can't beat up a country. All you can do is kill and maim people. The people you kill and maim in war are seldom the people responsible for the actions of their country's government. And their loved ones will hate you for it.

This.

McT, it sounds like what you're proposing is just some kind of naked punitive expedition. Only when the provocation is grievous enough, granted, but it's still very much just a variation of "...get the horns". Bomb the crap out of / shoot stuff up for a while, then wander away when there's no more stuff to blow up.

I'm at a loss to see how there could be any upside to that. I gather the intent is some gesture at "pour encourager les autres" but I don't see how it works in practice. The most likely result would be that the real villains simply fade into the hills until the explosions and massacres stop, then reemerge to exploit the subsequent chaos.

If the working assumption is that leaders like OBL or the Taliban heads care less about individual lives than 'the cause', then the whole affair would be nothing but a great gift to them. A new generation of grievously wronged and righteously enraged youth to exploit, neighbor regions destabilized by refugees and fertile for radicalization or takeover, and the destruction and erosion of what little civic/economic institutions and infrastructure might once have existed to point a path toward modernization...

Not altogether different from what actually happened, I suppose. And not actually better by any measure other than time and money.

I've always found it darkly amusing that so many neocon types picture themselves to be the very model of cold hard logic, and yet when you scratch the surface, there's nothing but raw emotion. It's never realpolitik, just a yearning for some kind of blind, bloodthirsty revenge catharsis*.

The actual cold, hard fact is that sometimes the correct response to getting punched in the nose won't be very emotionally satisfying.

And like it or not, the correct response to 9/11 was not any kind of invasion or military action at all. It was a bunch of boring non-explody stuff. Police work. Reforming intelligence sharing procedures. Financial investigations into funding networks. Strengthening ties with friendly(-ish) governments and foreign intelligence services. Rethinking the whole strategy of uncritical support for Israel and bases in Saudi Arabia. Non-military development aid and soft power expansion in appropriate places. Etc.

----
* This is the generous interpretation, actually. Unfortunately, I think there's also a 'cui bono' question hovering around here that points toward at least some of those in power at the time being at least as interested in just helping buddies in defense-related industries get some nice fat contracts.

As far as military preparedness, we spend more on the military than the next 11 biggest spenders combined. I understand that "spending" does not automatically equal "preparedness", but seriously, what the hell.

If we're not prepared, we're doing something seriously wrong.

Yup, doing something seriously wrong. In part, we spend so much because we have a fondness for big, spectacular, and expensive hardware. A nuclear aircraft carrier is incredibly expensive to build. And not cheap to run. These days, vastly cheaper technology can take one out. But we just can't seem to let the old stuff go.

Admittedly, part of the cost is also that we aim to be able to fight a conventional war anywhere in the world. Possibly even in a couple of places at once. And have bases and resources already in place to do so. Nobody else has anything like that expansive a view of their military requirements. (See, in contrast, the British response to the Argentinean invasion of the Falkland Islands. Got the job done, even without an American-style military infrastructure in place.)

we spent $2,600,000,000,000 in Afghanistan.

what we lacked was the support of the people we were trying to change.

Again, though, a price tag is not the same thing as a feasible plan. I fully agree that the policy we tried was both expensive and ineffectual.

What I am saying, ultimately though, is that choosing to start a war with Iraq while OBL was still at large and with a power vacuum still in Afghanistan meant that Afghanistan was never going to get the attention or resources to have a chance of succeeding or to win enough support to make it self-sustaining and able to keep the Taliban out of power. All the attention got lavished on Iraq.

Afghanistan stopped being a priority long before the US accomplished any goal beyond seizing control of Kabul and propping up an incompetent and corrupt leader in their place.

Just killing OBL as a reprisal for 9/11 falls way short of what a country owes to its citizens.

This is a rather bizarre statement.


What the heck does "owes to its citizens" mean?

IMHO, whpat the US -- and the Bush administration in particular -- "owed to its citizens" was competent intelligence work to prevent the attack in the first place. After that, it's just different kinds of failure.

But imagine an alternate universe where, for example, the Afghani government had simply arrested and extradited OBL (and other culpable Al Qaeda leaders) for trial, as they were asked to.

Wouldn't that have been the ideal outcome?

How the heck would a few thousand extra unrelated deaths and explosions in Afghanistan have helped the US pay what was "owed to its citizens"?

I think you understand that (1) I was using "country" in context, meaning the guilty parties...

I have a strong negative reaction to euphemisms for killing people. If your objective would have been to kill people, then how many and who? How would you identify them? How many ordinary Afghans would you be willing to kill to achieve it?

whpat the US -- and the Bush administration in particular -- "owed to its citizens" was competent intelligence work to prevent the attack in the first place. After that, it's just different kinds of failure.

You seem to have a view of intelligence work rather at odds with reality. It's possible that better intelligence work could have prevented, specifically, 9/11. But there is no realistic way to prevent every terrorist attack. Our intelligence agencies are not, and in the real world cannot be, anything like omniscient. Calling them incompetent for that shortcoming is nonsense.

That being the case, it's worth thinking about what a good response should look like. Simply lumping them all together as "just different kinds of failure" is just a way to avoid addressing the question.

Don't bite hooks. Even if the person setting them doesn't realize they are....

Looking for the transcript, but here's Biden's speech

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/16/watch-biden-afghanistan-speech-live.html

Damn good speech

We are not configured for homeland defense and we do not draft. We are configured to project against substantial conventional forces who possess the homefield advantage and who outnumber us.

See also "doing something seriously wrong".

Our understanding of our strategic interests requires us to project overwhelming force any and everywhere in the world, whether the target of that force presents a realistic threat to the United States and the people who live here.

I'm not surprised nobody else finds this necessary.

What I am saying, ultimately though, is that choosing to start a war with Iraq while OBL was still at large and with a power vacuum still in Afghanistan meant that Afghanistan was never going to get the attention or resources to have a chance of succeeding or to win enough support to make it self-sustaining and able to keep the Taliban out of power.

nous,

This is admittedly what happened, but I would amend to say it was a policy choice, not necessarily a resources constraint. We tried to implement a grand strategic goal on the cheap (a relative term I guess when folks discount $2.6 trillion as no big deal).

I will note the relative benefits for women (and everyone else) of modern western liberal democracy over the benefits of life under these indigenous, non-capitalist, non-white but deeply faithful adherents of a non-Christian faith.

McKinney, I meant to ask earlier, do you imagine that there's anyone on ObWi who thinks life for women is not better in the democratic west than Afghanistan? "And everyone else" is a separate question; presumably for e.g. misogynistic fundamentalist men, life in Afghanistan now is (or is about to become) just how they think it should be. As for your characterisation of these indigenous, non-capitalist, non-white but deeply faithful adherents of a non-Christian faith, I am absolutely unable to understand what you are getting at. Seriously. What on earth do you mean by this?

FWIW, and not that it's relevant to anything whatsoever or matters in the least, but Afghan people are not especially 'non-white'. They aren't especially any particular color.

Kind of like Europeans. Kind of like Americans, except probably lighter skinned than us on average.

My guess is this is McK poking all us liberals with his anti-PC stick again.

Lots of free-market capitalism in the opium marketplace, also, too.

Okay, they don't float shares on the NYSE, but who amongst us here does?

Yes, Snarki, I had that self same thought exactly, and as for non-white, you'd think McKinney had never seen that famous photo (National Geographic, was it, or Life?) Afghan Girl.

No, I knew McKinney was trying to yank our liberal chains, russell, I just didn't see how that loony string of (anyway inaccurate) description was supposed to do it. I still don't, really. I guess it just shows what a strange caricature of liberals conservatives have, or (as Janie has sometimes expressed it) the straw men in their heads.

As McK points out, you gotta' be careful around those indigenous folks.

@wj:

You seem to have a view of intelligence work rather at odds with reality. It's possible that better intelligence work could have prevented, specifically, 9/11. But there is no realistic way to prevent every terrorist attack. Our intelligence agencies are not, and in the real world cannot be, anything like omniscient. Calling them incompetent for that shortcoming is nonsense.

I never used the word incompetent. It is entirely possible for competent people to fail.

I stand by what I said: if there's anything owed to the American people, it's competence. If there's a failure nevertheless, I don't think any unpaid debt exists. Certainly not one denominated in dead Afghan civilians.

(Also: I thought it was more or less received wisdom at this point that 9/11 in particular very likely could have been prevented. That is, all the salient facts had been collected and were known by various US agencies beforehand, just not all at the same time or in the right place. So, a great deal of competence, actually, ultimately undermined by a systematic failure of coordination and leadership at the highest levels.)

That being the case, it's worth thinking about what a good response should look like. Simply lumping them all together as "just different kinds of failure" is just a way to avoid addressing the question.

The very next paragraph considers exactly this sort of question of 'least worse' outcomes, so I'm not sure how I'm avoiding it.

But it's important to keep things in perspective. And there's no way to characterize something like 9/11 as anything other than a failure. Even if it wasn't avoidable (dubious), unavoidable failure is still failure. I mean, it certainly wasn't just another Tuesday. And I don't think you can call it a success...

So, the question after that really is about different kinds of failure. Some are even worse than others, sure. Failure can be like that. But none of them would have resulted in those 3,000 people going home to their families.

Punitive expeditions to Central Asia certainly won't/didn't accomplish that -- rather the opposite.

I knew McKinney was trying to yank our liberal chains

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be
Kurt Vonnegut. Mother Night

Lots of free-market capitalism in the opium marketplace, also, too.

Indeed. And 'non-capitalist' covers a lot of ground, but the Taliban are rather famously not communists, if that's the alternative implication. At least their mujahideen forebears certainly weren't.

We should probably be wishing they were. My understanding is that actual Afghani communism was dominated by secularists who, at least on paper, strongly supported things like universal education and women's rights.

So. 'Non-white' and 'non-capitalist' is out. And I think "indigenous" might be an interesting point of discussion too, given the complicated history of conquest and migration over the millennia.

What's left? "Faithful" and "non-Christian"?

I guess the latter is true enough. Of all the major religions you could probably name off the top of your head, I think Christianity might be the only one Afghanistan hasn't taken for a good spin over the centuries. (Well, Judaism too, I guess.)

Which is all very interesting, but I'm not sure how much it has to do with anything.

I could easily quote a number of devout Christian authors that have/had as despicable views about women and their 'proper' place as the Taliban. That includes theologians that consider the creation of women the greatest blunder G#d ever committed.

@jack lecou:
I never used the word incompetent. It is entirely possible for competent people to fail.

You said "what the US -- and the Bush administration in particular -- "owed to its citizens" was competent intelligence work to prevent the attack in the first place." Which pretty strongly implies that, since the attack did take place, the intelligence work was not competent. Even if you didn't type the word "incompetent", that's what you said.

I could easily quote a number of devout Christian authors that have/had as despicable views about women and their 'proper' place as the Taliban.

Some of them lead evangelical churches in the US.

Christians figured out misogyny long before Mohammed was even born. A lot was copied off Aristotle and likeminded Greeks but they easily managed to top him.
Remarkable given that the biblical Jesus just once insulted a woman and that was his own mother when she pestered him about providing extra booze for a wedding.

What russell said - and at least one insider from back then agrees with him.
Sceptical as I am about Frum's opinions, this in not unconvincing.
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/08/bin-laden-2001-end-war-afghanistan/619767/
Had the United States caught and killed Osama bin Laden in December 2001, the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan would have faded away almost immediately afterward. I cannot prove that. It’s only an opinion from my vantage point as one of President George W. Bush’s speechwriters in 2001 and 2002.

Yet I strongly believe it. The U.S. stayed for 20 years in Afghanistan because first Bush and then his successors got trapped in a pattern of responding to past failures by redoubling future efforts…

The occupation was neither planned, nor financed as nation building - though far too late elements of that crept into it, even if the vast majority of aid went (uselessly) to the armed forces. Had that been the wholehearted aim at the outset, there's an outside chance it might have succeeded.

One last thought, the shockingly quick collapse of the government, however embarrassing it might be to the Biden administration, has if nothing else minimised the bloodshed involved in a Taliban takeover. The alternative anticipated by our planners was an 18 month civil war.
Whether that is any great consolation will depend on whether this Taliban regime is as brutal and backward as was their previous one. There are tentative suggestions that it might not be, but I'm far from optimistic on that point.

And ... they're off!

https://www.mediamatters.org/tucker-carlson/tucker-carlson-warns-invasion-millions-afghan-refugees

https://www.mediamatters.org/war-afghanistan/laura-ingraham-it-really-our-responsibility-welcome-thousands-potentially-unvetted

The best way to make room for the Afghan refugees is to deport Rupert Murdoch and every FOX employee now Talibaning the American political landscape with their cobbled-together conservative IEDs.

They can take their maligned Mitt Romney and the rest of his Neo-Con crew with them, perhaps to pound sand in Saudi Arabia.

Both sides of the subhuman Republican Party have done it to us.

If the Republican Party was The Price Is Right, behind every door would be a steaming pile of dog shit inside of which would be a free pass from the IRS.

Come on down!

Lest anyone believe I'm anywhere close to fully endorsing the Democratic Party, when I'm offered as my only choices two shot glasses on a tray, one whose contents are laced with LSD, and the second whose contents are pure uncut strychnine with a chaser of coughed up Christian Covid phlegm, I'll take the LSD, if you please.

because What did you expect from right wing fundamentalists?

Taliban bans COVID vaccine

I miss Kurt Vonnegut.

Remarkable given that the biblical Jesus just once insulted a woman and that was his own mother when she pestered him about providing extra booze for a wedding.

I've heard of God-bothering, but Jesus-pestering is a new one.

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