The Day After

The Day After

Airlines rerouted planes to avoid Afghan airspace, while others nixed flights as chaos gripped Kabul international airport Monday. "Due to the dynamic nature of the situation we have begun routing around Afghanistan airspace," United said, explaining a decision that affected daily flights to Mumbai. Flydubai and Emirates suspended flights to Kabul. "Customers holding tickets with final destination to Kabul will not be accepted," Emirates said. Would-be passengers were told to contact the carrie
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14 thoughts on “The Day After

  1. I spent 23 years on active duty in the U.S. military: three as an enlisted Army paratrooper, 20 as a Navy SEAL officer. I am not in the least bit a bleeding heart anti-war sort of guy. I would also add that for decades in my mid-life, Central Asian history was a hobby of mine, and I have a particular fondness of Afghanistan and its people. Within that context, though, I say that as tragic as this ending is, an ending is way past overdue.

    We probably had a chance to do something meaningful and beneficial at one point—despite the history of foreign invaders in Afghanistan—but we took our eye off the ball when we invaded Iraq. Let’s be done with it and hope like hell that we shift the balance of foreign engagement a little more to diplomacy and soft power, and stop thinking the U.S. military can solve all overseas problems.

    Also, I do sure hope that the U.S. steps up to the plate now in helping take care of Afghan refugees.

    1. I agree. The US had a chance to do something meaningful and beneficial – very early on. Capturing OBL before he slithered away over the mountains and Pakistan border was an objective all in the world could understand in 2001/2002.

      The meaningful and beneficial event I’d like to see now is for every Afghan refugee to find a new home.

    1. Of course, what’s really amusing is when you put it in perspective. We “spend” (a misnomer) $120 billion every 30 days buying bonds from ourselves. So, the Fed creates one whole US-financed Afghan military every three weeks. I mean, your sentiment is obviously correct, but money is an illusion. People are touting that $83 billion we spent arming and training Afghans like it’s this huge sum. The Fed conjures that amount every 21 days.

  2. It’s impossible for me not to see parallels from this unceremonious exit to the Vietnam exit. Sure, we’re not helicoptering people out as our embassy as it is being invaded, but it’s damn close. The mission of any military service member is to protect the United States from enemies foreign and domestic. Somehow, our government has been able to twist that mission into nation building over the past 60 years. Nation building has never been the military’s purpose or mission and the entire notion of it is impossible. You can not militarily inspire a nation of people to believe in a cause of government. They have to believe it first and then you can leverage your military power to enable their cause. That is what France did for us when we decided to become free of Britain. Had the French showed up and sacked all of our cities and blown up our buildings and accidentally killed our friends and family, I doubt we would have been interested in their version of government. I truly hope that we might finally learn this lesson, that the military is a horrific weapon of war, not a mechanism to inspire and bring about peace. Nobody listened to Eisenhower when he warned us to beware the military industrial complex.

  3. Probably the biggest folly in this (and similar boondoggles in military adventurism) is America’s failure to come to terms with the reality that liberal democracy is a very new idea in the context of human history. We make long lists of reasons why “transplanting democracy” fails, usually without acknowledging that the American version has only existed for 250 years. And, as we saw over the last four years, it can collapse at any time. Little wonder, then, that trying to forcibly transplant it to societies with histories that date back millennia doesn’t generally work. We (almost) never draw a distinction between the wars we won and the ones we “lost.” When we go somewhere to do something that needs doing (e.g., Europe in WW II) and we commit the full force of the military to getting it done, it gets done. It doesn’t matter who’s in the way. Hitler himself couldn’t stop the US military, and we were fighting on two fronts. By contrast, when we run off into the desert or the jungle or the mountains somewhere with no clear objective beyond some person(s) we want to eliminate, it invariably goes wrong. I’m often reminded of that (possibly apocryphal) story about the massive, multi-million dollar reward we offered to Afghans with information on the whereabouts of Bin Laden. Asked what he would do with such a sum if he were to receive it, one local balloon salesman allegedly told western media he reckoned that would be enough money to buy a year’s worth of balloons. Again, that may be a myth, but the thrust of it is undoubtedly true: We go trekking off into the wild blue yonder talking to people about representative democracy the virtues of capitalism, and they don’t know what we’re talking about. It’s not that they aren’t capable of understanding it or that they wouldn’t enjoy such things, it’s just that it’s so foreign to them and, perhaps more importantly, so totally irrelevant to their daily lives, that we may as well be aliens. Aliens with guns, who accidentally killed one of their neighbors or relatives in an “oops” drone strike.

    1. And again, when the military has a very clear objective (eliminate the fascist threat of Nazism), it is easier to inspire a group of people to go execute that mission. Go invade Afghanistan and turn them into a Democracy? Uhhhhh how the crap do you do that? Conversely, it’s backwards to go decide a country should change it’s ethos to become what you desire them to be. I mean, that’s akin to someone invading your home and telling you that you need to become a Muslim and that they are not leaving until you do so. Nobody likes to be told what to do or forced to become something they hadn’t even thought about. It’s really American arrogance that leads us into these positions where we are sacrificing service members lives because we are so certain we can turn this 3rd world country into a functioning Democracy, that we don’t even concern ourselves with the cost (or the risks). As a former service member I can tell you that watching these parallel wars come to fruition was a complete violation of leadership’s oath of office. I fulfilled my end of the bargain but, my leaders didn’t fulfil their oath to protect me, my friends, and all of our families from unnecessary harm.

      1. There’s a great Doonesbury cartoon from the fall of 1990 (I’ve kept a copy in my files all these years). A Schwarzkopf like officer is briefing the troops on the mission, when a grunt asks something along the lines of “Gee, sir, what chance does a small band of outsiders have of changing things in a region riven by conflicts that go back centuries?” He replies, “Son, I see you’ve studied history.” “No, sir! I just read the in flight magazine.”

        We had an easy win in 1990-91, which swept away a lot of the learning/humility we picked up from VietNam. That gave us Bush, Cheney, and Rummy.

        I’ve not served in the military, but I spent a couple of years on the ground as a Peace Corps volunteer (no equivalence) in an Arab country. Even in a well educated, somewhat modernized albeit authoritarian society (Tunisia), things change slowly . Afghanistan? Good luck. I never made it there, but got to visit a friend working on Afghan relief in Peshawar in the late 1980’s. Another world.

        A few years ago i did a presentation to our local foreign policy discussion group. In the course of preparing, I came across a copy of an Army manual (42 pages) to prepare junior officers for deployment in Iraqi Kurdistan. It was good material, but how can you possibly function with ten phrases of self taught Kurdish? (Yes, I know about interpreters.) I assume we had a similar manual for Afghanistan. Or maybe just the in flight magazine.

  4. I processed paperwork at NKP airbase in Thailand during my service in 1973/74. Please don’t thank me for my service, because I did not protect our country. I protected the culture that Eisenhower warned us about succumbing to all these decades – corporate welfare. Welcome to a repeat of the ’70’s, the psychological effects of hopelessness will rebound the same.
    Afghanistan just has more mountains, it’s a giant farm to grow poppies. They have many of the most modern automated grow systems in the world.
    We were in that S___h___ to protect an extremely profitable product – heroin.
    This “war” was just one of the many reasons my family and farms went ex-pat to Chile SA.
    Buena Suerte

  5. Perhaps this isn’t a relevant comment, but I feel compelled to make it if only to eject from my psyche. Watching the last few days of what’s transpiring in Afghanistan, I couldn’t help but think what a failure the State Dept, Pentagon and CIA have been in their appraisals of Vietnam, the USSR, Iraq and Afghanistan. I can’t begin to guess how many people were paid and how much money was spent to come up with evaluations that turned out to be incredibly flawed (and outright lies) and led to huge human disasters. Unfortunately, these organizations my be ‘too big to change’. American democracy may only work up to a certain population size. Congress is a good example of something that is no longer functional. When major institutions no longer fulfill their role, significant portions of the population may become so disillusioned that they will grasp at all manor of dangerous fantasies rationalizing ‘how could it get worse’.

  6. Watching our hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan, visions of the CNN and other MSM ‘news’ broadcasts during the buildup to the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions keep replaying in my mind. Though I respect those that served, sacrificed and died in our New American Century military adventures, I’m totally disgusted with those that led us into Iraq and Afghanistan. I think someone needs to point out the fact that the trillions they say we spent on these campaigns didn’t, for the most part, leave the US or permanently improve the lives of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan but they did make some people in this country very rich.

    To quote retired United States Marine Corps Major General and two-time Medal of Honor recipient Smedley Butler: “War is a Racket”. Nuf said.

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