2022: The Situation in Afghanistan

My, this discussion took an alarming turn overnight.

Seems to me we started off saying it was terrible what is happening in Afghanistan. we then turned to there is nothing we can or should have done about it, because of reasons. Now we have moved onto we are all doomed anyway.

I suppose you could say the dinosaurs’ evolution led to them being unable to withstand the fallout from a large meteor strike, but our weaknesses are so much more self-inflicted - directly caused by our make up, and we’d go down the same paths whether the environment was conducive or not.

Would you guys relax. Afghanistan is thousands of miles away from you. Geez why do you care about it so much?
The Students are being oppressive? Yeah what else is new.
I have been on this Earth 37 years. In that time I have seen 5 “Falls of Kabul”. My parents have seen 7.
Always happens. New regime comes, acts like arseholes get replaced in 3-7 years. Rinse, lather repeat.
Its becoming clear that this is what will happen again and soon.

Not “reasons”; it is because the majority of Afghanis do not want cultural change or a more egalitarian system of governance, and trying to impose this by force over twenty years accomplished absolutely nothing beyond corruption, loss of civilian and military lives, the opportunity for sociopaths like CPO Eddie Gallagher to commit war crimes (and he was not a singular case), and sinking of trillions of US taxpayer dollars (and massive debt) with literally nothing to show for it and a national government government that collapsed before it was even really challenged because most of its leaders were corrupt parasites and much of its military were fictitious ‘ghost soldiers’ or actually Taliban supporters itself.

Unlike, say, Puerto Rico or Hawaii, which were smmall island nations easily invaded and isolated, and with populations that were pretty unhappy with extant colonial or monarchial regimes, Afghanistan is a large and mountainous region that is a collection of tribal groups with deeply entrenched theocratic culture. They do not view themselves as Afghanis or accept rule under a central authority, and do not want or will tolerate external rule by an external and especially non-Sunni power, especially a ‘decadent’ Western Christianized one like the United States. The US could maintain an occupation for fifty years, in the process bankrupting itself and pounding Afghanistan back into the Stone Age (from which it is little distance to begin with), and Afghanistan would still be the same ‘nation’ it is today. Any real cultural and political change for Afghanistan to bring it into the world of Westphalian sovereignty, modern governance, and acceptance of the concept of rights and protections for all of its occupants is going to have to come from within Afghanistan itself, not imposed from without.

Afghanistan is not described as “the graveyard of empires” for naught. One great power after another has tried and failed to invade and subjugate the Pashtuns and other tribes of Afghanistan uniformly without success, and it is not as if the United States has that ‘special sauce’ that makes colonialism work; in fact, during its relatively brief period of open colonialism the US turned out to be pretty bad at it and since realized it is better to sow dissent and fund insurrection through covert action than to try to impose authority by military occupation. That someone decided at some point that our incursions into Afghanistan—which, again, was all just about ‘getting’ bin Laden (because we needed to have a public show of force, mostly for political reasons rather than that he was still a persistent national security threat)—should turn into an indefinite occupation and the then-popular neoconism of “nation building” is the result of a bizarre obtuseness of history that you would think people versed in international relations would seek to be well versed in. In the 1970s, the US (per the “Afghan Trap” plan from Zbigniew Brzezinski, then-National Security Adviser to the Carter Administration and father to oleaginous television personality Mika Brzezinski) literally lured the Soviet Union into invading Afghanistan under the correct hypothesis that it would drain their resources, demonstrate that their military was not the indomitable force that some believed, and break their resolve. That we would then turn around and make fall into the exact same trap a quarter of a century later is just beyond conception. It’s like the guy who demonstrated how dangerous a firearm is by literally shooting himself in the foot.

I hope this clarifies the “reasons” for you.

Stranger

To speak quite honestly, I thought your reasons belittled the Afghan people for reasons I suspected were at the least reminiscent of an earlier age.

So unlike everyone else in the world, the people of Afghanistan do not want self-rule? That seems remarkable. Further, as you have pointed out that the Afghans behave so poorly that we must either live with women being enslaved and little boys passed around like whiskey after the prom, or we must do something about it.

Please decide. If you are convinced that we must simply live with the current situation in Afghanistan please stop complaining about the current situation in Afghanistan.

Seems pretty clear that they do want self rule, but they define that very differently than you do.

How bout we bring democracy to Saudi Arabia?

It was the exact opposite of a monumental failure. We had a stable country that acted as a barrier to the Taliban’s violent existence. It will be a breeding ground for terrorism.

“Stable country”… what a joke! Hilarious. Give us another!

I mean it’s pretty easy to fall into the British Imperialist trope of “they’re savages and savages have to be civilized.” It’s also possible to have an intelligent discussion about it instead. The reality is Afghanistan has undergone some cultural, societal and technological changes that are relatively modern, but they (as a collective group of disparate people) have chosen to maintain some things from their past that just aren’t compatible with a form of government outsiders designed for Afghanistan.

Self-rule is not the same thing as “American Democracy” or “Westminster style democracy” etc. The form of democracy that America has was designed by a ruling class of wealthy white men 240 years ago, who all shared a common cultural background and language, and while not all were the same denomination of Christians, they were all either Christian or Christian-Lite, and they also were willing to agree to keep the government mostly secular. There’s a lot of cultural assumptions built into a government produced from that background. One of the big ones is our style of politics has elections in which one side “wins” and gets to be in charge. When both sides are relatively cut from the same cloth, and only disagree on a narrow range of “political” matters, that’s fine. That is actually not a great system for a country with several large and distinct ethnic groups, several large and distinct religious groups–some of which are quite oppositional to one another, several languages etc. On top of that outside of the larger distinct groups in Afghanistan there are many, many small minorities.

One reason traditional tribal forms work so well in societies like that is because they can manage most things on a relatively local level and within relationships where people already understand and can work with one another. Trying to change that by funneling a bunch of money to corrupt lackeys in Kabul who fund a military that aside from a few special forces units appeared to mostly exist to steal money, and then periodically kill Afghans via U.S. bombs dropped from planes and drones, oddly enough did very little to promote any constructive change in the status quo.

I don’t know where you get the authority to make that request. Someone can both feel we need to live with the situation and still complain about it, they aren’t mutually exclusive. I also don’t really see most people complaining, I see you complaining because you appear to wish America had stayed in Afghanistan indefinitely. Maybe the onus is on you to justify that expenditure of treasure and blood on a people who did not want us there.

I did not “belittle the Afghan people”, and am not “complaining about the current situation in Afghanistan”. That ‘situation’, as @AK84 astutely points out, is the default for that nation going back centuries and until some significant portion of the population decides that it should materially change it will continue because it is the way of life that most Afghanis—yes, even many of the women—want. The Afghanis have “self-rule” through their shifting coalitions of tribal units and neither see themselves as owing fealty to a larger group nor want a central authority to rule over them.

Please stop intentionally mischaracterizing my statements to feed into your continuing narrative that everybody but you just doesn’t understand Afghanistan, especially since you have demonstrated exactly no familiarity of the history, culture, and politics of the region. If you have some constructive plan or theory on how to improve the situation in Afghanistan feel free to share it, here or elsewhere because people have been grasping for workable solutions for two decades, but if your ‘solution’ is just to re-invade and occupy the region at enormous expense and broad opposition to accomplish exactly the same as we have in the last twenty years there is not a fruitful discussion to be had.

Stranger

Seems some people can make requests, but other may not.

In any case, you (Stranger) keep saying our twenty years in Afghanistan made no difference. That seems unlikely. Tens of thousands of local people got college educations and were exposed to the outside world. It will be very hard to keep them down on the farm after they have see Paree. So to speak.

Results will not happen quickly. In Korea they took generations.

Men with guns running things isn’t democracy just because everyone else is too afraid of getting shot to even try upturning the system.

Oppressive systems oppress. They do not a democracy make.

We don’t have to invade and occupy a country to help kids go to college. If that’s all we accomplished, it could have been done without the loss of thousands of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars wasted.

Really quite pathetic, actually.

Not usually for sure. Sometimes, probably. But in any case, we must not give up. Evil will not yield easily. As the last Dali Lama pointed out, We have to remember that each and every one of us is part of humanity. We must be determined to achieve positive change, but also to take a long view of what needs to be done. What is important is not to become demoralized. Optimism leads to success; pessimism leads to defeat.

I’m optimistic that the end of our counterproductive and embarrassing failure in Afghanistan will increase the chances of some sort of improvement in the future prospects of that country, low as they might be, which were zero while we were bumbling around for twenty years.

But, as other folks have pointed out, there’s much to be said about opportunity costs: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.”

If we grant, for the sake of argument, that an optimist could spend some amount X+Y+Z to effect positive change for one person in Afghanistan instead of ‘giving up’ over there, what‘s to be done if we can instead spend X in Country B to effect positive change for a hundred people — and spend Y in Country C to effect positive changes for a hundred people there, and, heck, spend Z here to effect positive change for, y’know, a hundred locals?

(That said, if there’s a solid argument that X+Y+Z will add up to nothing in the way of positive change in Afghanistan, then the comparison gets even more lopsided; but, even putting that aside, why commit to doing all that optimism-leads-to-success stuff at Point A instead of B or C?)

Who said anything about a “democratic tradition”? I just pointed out that it cannot be democracy if rule is being forced on you by others. Democracy means rule by the people, and thus must be a decision by the people. Once they choose it, sure, they can have allies come in and help. But a foreign government forcing a regime change is not democracy.

Imagine if a foreign military came into the US, demanding we change our government. They overthrow our president and congress. Would you consider that democracy? Of course not. It’s imperialism.

And that country would not be doing it for our own good. They’d be doing it because they want a vassal state. That’s what happened in Japan and South Korea. And all of the countries you leave out because things didn’t go so well, like most of Central America.

Is stealing potentially trillions worth of resources under Afghan soil called democracy now? It seems since all of the companies that tried to extort their mineral wealth failed, we decided maybe giving them democracy isn’t worth it. That is, until the Taliban can persuade another gov that it’ll let in their miners if they just send a few troops to ensure those companies’ safety.

Agrammatical word jumbles of random adverbs and prepositions and vague inspirational quotes are not a plan or even the rudiments thereof. Still waiting to see the actual steps the US should take to turn Afghanistan into a Western-style democracy, chief.

Stranger