2022: The Situation in Afghanistan

Well, OK. But please do not complain when they stone women to death or behead Gays. Those who wanted to pull out made all that possible again.

It was already possible (and happening). Maybe not in the very, very limited territory the US actually controlled, but that’s it.

We were basically accomplishing nothing besides enriching contractors and corrupt Afghan politicians. Zip. Nada. We weren’t doing shit except spending money and occasionally dying. That’s why I’m so relieved we’re out. We weren’t accomplishing a damn thing.

It seems to me a lot of nasty corrupt Koreans got fat off US contracts too. They went on build corporations that enriched their entire nation, and the world. I suspect Korean politicians were much worse than their Afghani counterparts.

But progress does not lay on a direct route. The road is long and with many turns, steep inclines and even dead ends. That is why progress takes time, generations of time.

We lost in Afghanistan as soon as we decided to attack Iraq, then we found ourselves Karzai, installed him and a kleptocracy and turned a blind eye.

We weren’t making any progress. We were probably a barrier to progress. It was just a colossal failure in every single way.

How many more years of complete and utter failure would have been enough for you to say “okay, obviously we can’t accomplish anything here, we should leave”? 10? 50? 100?

I disagree; Iraq was a bigger foreign policy failure.

Maybe. But ISTM Iraq is significantly different now than before we came (not sure if for the better or not). Afghanistan seems pretty much exactly the same.

The two are connected, they are part of a single giant mistake; the biggest mistake in US foreign relations. Saudis living in Afghanistan attacked the US with support from that country’s de facto government, so we attacked Iraq. As Richard Clarke, former NSC advisor said, “it’s as if after Pearl Harbor we attacked Mexico.”

We lost two wars, created ISIS and then just wandered off.

Well, to start with your entire concept of “Afghani (people)” is a foreign construct. Afghanis, save for the tiny minority of educated urbanites, do not think of themselves of being citizens of the Afghan nation but members of their tribe through which they have strong familial affiliations that are literally the only thing that supports and sustains them through the harsh conditions of that hardscrabble region. The Fremen of Frank Herbert’s Dune novels are explicitly modeled on the Bedouin which are culturally similar to the Pashtuns of Afghanistan and Pakistan; an unbreakable people who band together with harsh, unyielding strictures to reinforce social obligation to authority above all else.

I do not understand what you mean by “…the Afghani makes him incapable ruling himself as other people do” but the tribes very much rule themselves and their members by the ideals of their rigid culture. They understandably see Western culture and modernity as a threat to that way of life that has served them for centuries and thus reject it all as a piece. The idea of women being educated and making choices for themselves about who to marry or whether to pursue a career is an anathema to everything most of them know and if widely accepted would rend their culture asunder.

I personally view their culture with horror and disgust—the endemic and accepted pedophilia, the theocratic and harsh punishments, their treatment of women as essentially slaves, the rejection of all learning for its own sake—but the only way to alter that in the foreseeable future would be to go in, kill everyone holding those regressive beliefs, and deal with the resultant trauma, resistance, international backlash, and of course feeding into the fundamentalist Islamic belief that the Christianized West (and of course the hated Jews and other infidels such as us nonbelievers) is out to destroy Islam in a final crusade.

The only way to effect a real change in Afghanistan without triggering theocratic global conflict is to allow and promote Afghanis who want Western education and exposure to other cultures to seek that and then encourage them to carry such ideas back to Afghanistan. It isn’t as fast and certainly not as profitable to materiel suppliers and contractors as a good occupation but it also doesn’t result in an endless war that just breeds more insurgents and terrorists than it captures or kills, and also doesn’t result in us electing to violate essential principles by putting ‘enemy combatants’ in ‘indefinite detention’ in offshore prison camps or bombing the ever-loving shit out of the very women and children we’re supposedly trying to protect.

Stranger

Gee, Stranger, it is almost as if we had plenty of reason to go in and reshape their culture.

Again, you are welcome to try. The entire might of the US military and Department of State spent nearly twenty years trying to turn Afghanistan into a ‘democratic’ nation with a modern infrastructure, schools, medical facilities, et cetera at a costs that can only be roughly estimated in the trillions of dollars, most of which disappeared either into the coffers of security and construction contractors or into the bank accounts of corrupt officials and hewala of Islamic fundamentalists, some of which was almost certainly used to fund terrorist organizations like ISIS, all to no avail as roads and schools were destroyed, foreign aid workers and Afghanis who worked with Coalition forces kidnapped and killed (or their families threatened), and all of which collapsed with such rapidness that once the US announced an intention to pull out that we couldn’t even organize an orderly transition while the Afghan National Army melted like ice cream on a hot day and officials disappeared.

If there is some lesson that the US should have learned it is that we cannot ‘reshape’ other cultures to suit our beliefs and interests. That takes either a total authoritarian domination over generational periods or a willingness to being even more brutal than the indigenous leaders are at preserving their culture; we don’t have the resolve for the former (nor is it consistent with principles of a self-realized democratic governance) and we’ll never beat the Pashtun tribal leaders on the latter even if we cloned Eddie Gallagher into legions of sociopaths. We tried this in Haiti the Philippines and it didn’t work. We tried in Haiti and it didn’t work. We tried in Viet Nam and it didn’t work. I know there is something in the American psyche that always says, “…but this time…” but it certainly won’t work in Afghanistan where empire after empire has been mortally weakened trying to break the cultural back of the tribal leadership going back centuries without success.

Stranger

It’s possible, it just takes a lot of hard work, money, and willingness to do it. It worked in Japan and West Germany directly, and South Korea indirectly. With Japan we even went so far as to send over one of our generals to run their country, write their new constitution, and set up their new government. Fortunately for the Japanese, MacArthur decided to use his power to rebuild the country rather than plunder it. The Marshall plan played a similar role in Germany. That willingness to rebuild rather than plunder is what was missing with Afghanistan and Iraq.

It might have, but it would have taken a level of commitment that Bush Jr. and Obama didn’t have. Rather than holding an election that resulted in a corrupt ruler like Hamid Karzai coming to power, it would have taken a temporary imperial approach. Appoint an American who has the best interests of the people of Afghanistan at heart, and who will be willing to do what it takes to rebuild the country. Write the Afghanistan constitution from scratch, the way MacArthur did with the Japanese constitution. Most importantly would be to spend money. Build hospitals, build schools, build roads, build water treatment plants, farms for food rather than opium, and so on. Keep spending on all those things, along with enough security for even the rural areas, and things would have eventually turned around.

That’s why democracy right out of the gates was the wrong answer. An enlightened monarchy, Douglas MacArthur in Japan style, with a focus on the things I mentioned above until the people are no longer interested in the Taliban, would have been the way to go.

MacArthur was not a monarch, never tried to dissolve the Japanese government, and no effort was made to make radial fundamental changes to Japanese culture which was already highly modernized. The military-dominated authoritarian government of the early Shōwa period was not popular especially after being defeated in the war, and the Japanese people eagerly embraced the pacifism that was written into their post-WWII Constitution. Japanese culture has no theocratic trappings that are anything like the hold of fundamentalist Deobandi Sunni Islam and despite often being portrayed as a robotic monoculture of thought (mostly due to the highly formal rules of etiquette) the Japanese have as wide an array of thought and expression as any other relatively open culture.

Stranger

He wasn’t a monarch in the sense of being a hereditary ruler (he had Hirohito, who turned out to be a decent guy in the post-war years, to do the rubber stamping), but he was the de facto ruler of Japan in the post war years. Most importantly, he governed for the benefit of the people of Japan, rather than focusing on enriching himself or American oligarchs looking to take advantage of the situation, the way that Bush Jr. did with Afghanistan.

The same Bush Jr. that oversaw massive tax breaks to American companies for moving their manufacturing to China, simultaneously gutting the US middle class and spreading and multiplying manufacturing, industrialisation, and global warming globally.

I have a hunch, humanity is an evolutionary mistake.

To be fair, some of that stuff started under Bill Clinton. I don’t think the problem is inherently biological, at least not for most people. The problem is mostly cultural (whether in Afghanistan, the US, or anywhere else with problems due to authoritarianism), which while difficult to change, isn’t impossible.

MacArthur wasn’t any kind of monarch. He ruled using the authority and cultural respect that Emperor Hirohito held among the Japanese population. There is no such figure in Afghanistan, which, again, is not even a coherent or unified culture with a pre-existing central authority of any kind. There are literally no cultural, political, or social parallels between post-WWII Japan and the post-US occupation of Afghanistan that would lead any reasonable person to conclude that appointing an ‘monarch’, hereditary or otherwise, would in any way be effective in managing and converting Afghanistan into a modern nation which is something most of the population fervently do not want.

A transitional phase between savannah ape and the autonomously-piloted cars and self-managing convection ovens that will replace us. If that doesn’t work out, the Earth will eradicate us and start over with a species of small sea cucumber. A few hundred million years is nothing if you’re a planet; as Louis Armstrong sings, “We have all the time in the world.”

Stranger

After 2000 there was much greater transfer, and American workers who had no time to retrain went into real estate flipping… Very clever, as they made lots of short-money in the period but also helped cause a serious collapse in the global financial system.

And also erase billions of species that could peacefully and without huge conflicts and environmental damages, continued life.

Evolution is not without collateral damage. Look at the dinosaurs; once the kind of the land, now just food in a bucket. So it goes.

Stranger