Afghanistan, America, and Rot

It has been about a week since the eruption of what my own notes summarize as “clueless, pointless national shoutfest about Afghanistan falling back to Taliban control almost instantly, and with basically no local resistance, even as US is still completing retreat.”

I feel like some kind of commentary is warranted, here, although I’m not sure how much I can say which is more important than the basic facts:

  • When I was 23 years old, the United States invaded Afghanistan—after a terrorist attack carried out mostly by Saudis and plotted by a leader eventually found holed-up in Pakistan.
  • I’m now 43 years old, and two decades’ sacrifice of lives and immense treasure have achieved absolutely no durable result in Afghanistan.

The setting of this extended fraud against basically my whole adult life kind of colors my perspective, and I completely support President Biden making the correct bad choice of pulling the plug on the occupation.

Beyond this I feel like the rest of what I can say mostly amounts to notes.

The way in which the Kabul government just disintegrated, pretty much overnight, has made me wonder if I am overestimating the likelihood that America’s decaying status quo will linger on for quite a while before any real catharsis. On reflection, I’m guessing not a lot. I recognize the possibility that things can change, quickly. But I think it is important not to count on that, here. The Kabul government was basically propped up by an external force which could and did just go away, eventually, and I’m not sure what equivalent exists in the United States.

It is still not a a great sign for America that this colony collapsed almost instantly into barbarism. Not because I support imperial projects, but because if no imperial project is really good, they aren’t all necessarily colossally hollow frauds to quite this degree. As I have posted on Twitter a couple of times, the rotten tree bears rotten fruit.

Surveying the Afghanistan-related rot, domestically, is mostly a dismal display of things I have already noticed.

About the worst I can see in the Biden administration’s conduct, here, is more of the bullshitting and muddle which were concerns two years ago. My impression of messaging has been unpersuasive reassurances that Afghanistan will be fine, quickly replaced (when that proved obviously false) by allies and surrogates explaining how the situation was all Trump’s fault. I’m also concerned at another instance of the administration saying “we don’t have authority to do that” then announcing “wait yes we do,” here re: refugee admission. This does not seem like an executive at all prepared to outfox a corrupt and very hostile Supreme Court.

Yet in this context, these are minor failings compared with the maturity of finally pulling the damn plug on a fraudulent occupation which has gone on for 20 years.

In this regard, most of the rest of America’s policy- and opinion-making systems look awful compared with Joe Biden, and that’s dreadful.

Politics looks bad. Both parties and multiple administrations have perpetuated the fraud, which means that we certainly won’t see any real reckoning or accountability. American journalism’s enduring, absolute, unquestioning, blind bias toward empire as the natural state of things is breathtaking. Other institutions do not look good either. Intelligence and national security agencies have a hard time evading some responsibility, although they are trying hard to blame one another.

The US Senate is, of course, playing about the role which one ought historically to expect Senates to play in imperial rot:

Ted Cruz has an apparent blanket hold on all State and USAID confirmations. There is no confirmed US Ambassador to NATO. There’s an acting ambassador to Afghanistan. No confirmed Assistant Secretary of State for Refugees; South & Central Asia; Europe; Near Eastern, or political military affairs. The list goes on and on.

Laura Rozen

Cruz, of course, is just one person in a 100-member chamber which supposedly his party does not control right now. Yet Democrats permit his obstruction, and even legitimize Cruz’s party of sabotage, with games of “look ma, bipartisanship!”

Yeah, how can I summarize this. America’s two-decade occupation of Afghanistan was a colossal wasteful fraud, so ending that is a relatively positive and important development—yet we should recognize that even this is more a product of exhaustion and nihilism than a product of recovering decision-making systems. In the bigger picture, America today seems much less like a functioning political entity than the one which launched this travesty.

2 Thoughts on “Afghanistan, America, and Rot

  1. There’s a quote about the Soviet Union that I can’t find right now that goes something like, “They seemed like a strong nation that wouldn’t collapse, until they did.” Hindsight is 20/20 and it’s comparatively easy to see all the contributing factors to a collapse like that in a way that’s not immediately evident in the moment. It feels sudden because you just wake up one day and there’s a new person in the primary seat of power, but the reality is that there were a lot of seemingly unconnected issues that most people weren’t paying attention to until they all crashed in the same intersection.

    That was always part of the genius of Sherlock Holmes, right? He would pick out details that would casually seem irrelevant or unrelated, but they only make sense to everyone else once they’re shown the whole picture. Lestrade wasn’t incompetent; he was just more myopic than Holmes in what he looked at.

    Of course, the difficult part is discerning what is significant without making absurd red-yarn-tacked-on-a-corkboard-of-random-notes connections. Humans, after all, are excellent at seeing patterns that aren’t there! 🙂

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