When I think about the men and women we recently lost in Afghanistan, there’s a young Marine in my head who has some very strong opinions which are expressed in language not fit for polite company. This makes every word here today an effort.
This ongoing disaster is a failure on many levels. We don’t need to dissect all the opinions that you’ve already heard on the subject. Granted, it was absolutely the right idea. We should have departed the Graveyard of Empires long ago, but this colossal train wreck in planning makes burning your house to stay warm on a chilly night seem almost sage by comparison.
What War College recommends abandoning your most strategic airbase just weeks before a withdrawal? What Commander in Chief ignores the pleas of experienced military officers to let the military manage a military withdrawal in a military manner – because his political team needs a bragging point before the upcoming midterm elections?
Perhaps this is some rare species of strategy known only to the “perfumed generals” which presidents like to appoint when they desire sycophants more than they need good advice. Or maybe it is “strategic” in a way that would chill us to the bone if we knew the truth of it.
It wouldn’t be the first time. Few of us remember, because few ever knew of the covert strategy to confront the Soviet Union that was hatched by Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor. The plan was to incite and support fundamentalist Islamic groups to “trap” the Soviets in a war of attrition which would drain their economy and destroy their political capital. It worked brilliantly, but the monster they created to fight the Soviets is still with us today, and now the proud owners of about a billion dollars’ worth of American military hardware.
Perhaps the newly outfitted Taliban is a housewarming gift for China, which is eager to move in and exploit the $3 trillion in strategic minerals which lies waiting underneath the rubble. At least that would suggest that there is someone, somewhere calling the shots who is able to think past short term gain or the next election cycle. The alternatives are troubling: That there is no one at the helm, or the captain and the crew are imbeciles – or they are not imbeciles, but rather pirates with no concern for the wreckage they leave in their wake.
Let’s look at the pirate theory for a moment. We’ve discussed here before how well defense stocks have performed over the last 20 years. Companies which make weapons that create rubble did very well, as did certain companies with non-compete contracts for rebuilding the rubble.
The “nation building” facade has always been suspect. We saw how well that worked in Vietnam… but in Afghanistan there was never a fully functioning civil government. It was more like a loosely bound association of competing factions which practiced extortion more than they governed. The Afghan Army was largely a mercenary organization, and when they saw that their employers were leaving, they went home too.
Partisan politics will never let a good disaster go to waste, and our Hatfields and McCoys in Washington are scrambling to spin this one to their advantage. But there is one thing that both sides are saying now that we can’t allow to go unchallenged. Both republocrats and demublicans are talking about how we lost this “war,” and we must collectively throw a penalty flag on that one.
What “war?” How do we define “war?” (They told us Vietnam was a police action.) War on Afghanistan? What part of it? Which of the scores of tribes and factions and religious groups speaking dozens of languages and dialects were we fighting, and which ones were we building into a nation? “War on terror?” How do we know when we’ve won that? Can it be won?
“War” is a grossly misused word in our culture, but it gives us something we can wrap our heads around. It implies a good guy versus bad guy scenario, and we are always the good guys. “War” suggests that there is a state of victory which can be achieved (though strangely the people who start wars are sketchy about the details on that subject).
I think it’s time for a more mature understanding of what our oligarchs have been up to, and it’s a lot closer to a game than to war, though it’s a game with deadly consequences. It sure seems like war to the people fighting and dying, but when you make decisions for which there is no personal accountability, you are not involved in a war, you are playing a game.
The United States did not lose a “war,” because there was never a war to lose. Rather, some high stakes players have just walked away from the table, and though the ending is ugly, the winnings have already been pocketed.
By some estimates, about $8 trillion of taxpayer money was sunk into the bottomless pit of the Graveyard of Empires. It was the biggest money laundering scheme in the history of the planet. It was the sacrificial goat in the “war on terror,” and for all those years that it was pushed to the background and forgotten by a citizenry consumed by other distractions, it made some people very rich. We can track some of the dollars that flowed through military channels, but we will never know how many taxpayer dollars were laundered through mercenaries, contractors, bribes and covert actions.
No, we did not lose a war, and nothing that news talkers, pixel pushers and political hacks can say will diminish the sacrifices made by the best of our people – sacrifices they made in good faith. The military delivered on every mission they were given. When they were attacked, they prevailed. They dominated every battlefield they chose to own, and overwhelmingly they conducted themselves with honor.
After twenty years of collateral damage, and the spectacle of watching the vacuum of our withdrawal filled by brutal extremists with a culture reminiscent of the Dark Ages, it may look like defeat to anyone glancing at the surface. But pirates don’t lose wars, they just sail away after they have finished looting.