Almost 20 years to the day that foreign terrorists destroyed New York’s Twin Towers – when thousands of lives were lost and billions of dollars were spent – the war in Afghanistan ended in utter misery and complete. Now the White House is trying to turn this epic collapse into business as usual. It is an incredible defeat and a national disgrace. So much money, so many deaths and thousands more in the Veterans Affairs hospital system, and the President of Afghanistan and the United States handed Kabul to the Taliban in front of us? How is it possible?
What we are seeing is the product of failed politics, poor leadership, and corruption in our system. When arrogance is paired with ignorance, you have the formula in place for calamity. We have pushed these failed policies and encouraged corruption on the American and Afghan side for 20 years with deliberate actions. Indeed, we set the conditions for failure in 2003. We have stuck with a political trajectory of failure for the past 18 years, trying to create Philadelphia on the Hindu Kush. For 20 years, we failed to understand Afghan culture and tried to transform it into something else.
The exit chaos we see today certainly could have been avoided if we had designed and managed a change in policy and set the conditions for an orderly departure. In the end, the same results would have been produced. We have prepared ourselves and Afghanistan for this over the past 20 years. A full circle of deeply disturbing events that the modest observer could deduce many years ago.
The bottom line is that, on our current trajectory, we could have stayed 10 or 20 years longer and not been successful. We made this mess. There are many factors as to why we failed for 20 years, and there is no soft landing for doing this wrong for so long. However, the mistakes of the past six months have brought that to the fore this weekend. Orderly rotation and exit was possible; more so, it was recommended. However, these immediate events led by President Joe Biden brought together our profound lack of good intelligence, objective analysis, planning, and leadership to produce this spectacle. Just four days ago, the CIA, the Pentagon, and the State Department were all saying there was no imminent threat in Afghanistan and that it was stable. The entire 20 years of senseless effort collapsed in a matter of days.
It was enough to look honestly at the facts on the ground to see the collapse happen quickly. Postponing the start would have delayed that but would not have changed the final result. The truth is, we lost this war in 2003 when we became an occupying army in a country we didn’t want to be. Together, we are witnesses to the product of our cultural ignorance and our inability to wage war and understand our limits. . With those three key factors in shambles, it made sense for this disaster to happen.
We have proven in Vietnam that we do not understand other cultures. We still haven’t learned anything. We have just rehearsed April 1975 in Saigon. Not all countries are the United States. We are talking about civilizations and cultures that predate democracy and liberal values. What is the point of imposing one’s identity on people who don’t want it? This misguided mentality has only served to fuel and enrich the military-industrial complex that has plagued this country for decades. Nation building and the spread of democracy is a mistake that the American people can no longer support in any capacity. We must focus on the deep internal problems of our country, of which there are many.
There is never a gracious or orderly way to lose a war. There is no soft landing. Your mistakes, arrogance and ignorance combine and you crash head first into reality. Now is the time to do some soul-searching and learn from this incredible disaster. We have to learn to be better in the future. Why did it fail? What decisions could have been different? How can we prevent corrupt bureaucracies and incompetent military leaders? Can we hold those who waste taxpayer money without a clear vision to account?
The American people should demand change, accountability, and accountability. Our leaders in Congress should take a stand against any attempt to stop soul-searching and dive deep into our current system. Our military, the intelligence community, and the State Department don’t know what they’re doing. Worse yet, they let the American people down in the most extravagant way. More than 20 years, four presidents, billions of dollars swept away and more than 7,000 American soldiers dead. Then the whole system collapses and the Taliban take back their nation and are stronger than they were on the eve of 9/11? What a real stain on the country.