Afghanistan Done (Part 2 of A Country on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown)

My dad always wanted to nuke shit. If there was some issue between the United States and another country, he invariably believed that the best solution was to launch nuclear missiles. When I was a kid, he regularly expounded on how the Vietnam War could have been won easily if we had just nuked the Vietcong. "Turn it into a glass parking lot" was a phrase he used often enough that it would describe his approach to foreign relations. Any time the Soviet Union farted in the direction of the United States, he was ready to start a massive nuclear war. During the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, he said that his solution would be simple: "I would call the families of the hostages and tell them that we're going to drop a low-yield nuclear bomb on the embassy and their loved ones wouldn't suffer." I don't know where he got the idea that there were nuclear weapons with such precision that they wouldn't cause massive collateral damage. He did read lots of Len Deighton novels, so maybe from them, but I suspect he didn't care how many Iranians died. He passed away in 1980, so he never got to see how the hostage crisis ended, but I could hear him in my head after 9/11 saying something like "Call the Taliban and tell them that they have 48 hours to turn over bin Laden or we're going to level all the mountains and turn the whole country into a glass parking lot." 

At some other time, I'm sure it would be fascinating to get into the psychology behind the desire to rain mass destruction down on your nation's enemies in every situation. But not right now.

It's a comforting myth, that somehow the United States can just bomb something into submission. I mean, we're told that was part of how we won World War II, with firebombing of cities like Dresden and atom bombing the fuck out of Japan, except historians have told us that neither action was really necessary. But we cling to that idea, that somehow we can win a war that way, that the big dog needs to bark loudly.

To those bomb-loving members of Congress and in the warmongering media, the United States's withdrawal from Afghanistan is a defeat for some vague-ass idea of "security," in that the nation would become a haven for terrorist groups despite the fact that the nation was a goddamn haven for terrorists even while we were there. Two weeks ago, the chaotic retreat and evacuation of Americans, allies, and Afghans was seen as a "catastrophe" all over the political spectrum. When the ISIS-K suicide bombing happened at the Kabul airport, killing over 100 people, including 13 American soldiers, all of a sudden the bloodthirsty mongrels of the right were ready to bomb the place into a mass grave and impeach President Joe Biden. Fuck, if 9/11 happened now, Republicans would blame it on cancel culture and trans people and demand Democrats kill themselves as penance. Unity is for suckers.

The problem, of course, is that the withdrawal wasn't a catastrophe. It simply wasn't. Yes, there were tragedies large and small, but the airlift of 120,000 people, mostly Afghans, was something of a miracle. It exceeded even the most optimistic predictions about the evacuation, and it made all the naysayers seem like damn fools. 

According to so many who understand Afghanistan far more than I do, the end of the war was what it was always going to be: the second the U.S. started withdrawing in earnest, shit was going to go nuts. There was no subtle way to do it. Chaos was going to happen. How could it not? The entire 20-year boondoggle had been a waste of time, lives, and cash, a payoff to military contractors and another woeful experiment in attempting to cram the round peg of democracy into the square hole of another nation and pretend that the stench of colonialism wasn't behind it. There was no way that it all wasn't going to collapse. Nation-building is a Jenga game on a wobbly table on the best days. 

Instead of understanding this, what we have gotten, from the right, center, and moderate left, is an outcry, about the withdrawal as a betrayal of American values, about how Biden isn't fit to be president, about how we have some kind of obligation to stay forever in a country that, truly, doesn't mean dick to us. Yes, what's going to happen to women there is awful. But what's happening to women in a fuckton of places is awful. You wanna bomb Saudi Arabia? What makes Afghanistan so fucking special? Because a guy we wanted dead hid there 20 years ago? Foreign policy is about shitty choices. But too many in Congress and in the media are invested in making this whole withdrawal effort seem wrong for reasons that they can barely describe beyond the idea that we should just keep doing what we've been doing. It's ludicrous. 

And, as Biden put it forcefully today, the rational choice right now is to get the fuck out of Afghanistan. He's right that it's idiotic to keep putting money and lives into an effort just because we can. Goddamn, we haven't fought a war worth fighting in my entire life, and in the post-Vietnam era, the idea that it took 20 years to come to the same conclusion as we did in Vietnam is depressing beyond words. In many ways, Biden's speech was pro-military and pro-veteran. He was saying that he's not going to send them into places for bullshit reasons. And give the man points for consistency. He's been wanting to be out of Afghanistan for at least a dozen years now. 

One other thing that Biden is doing is saying that the U.S. will abide by its agreements, unlike Donald Trump who shitcanned the Iraq nuclear weapons deal and the Paris Climate Accord. With a strengthened Taliban in the wake of Trump's deal with them (helped by 5000 Taliban prisoners released as part of the agreement), the options were to abide by the deal and leave or to go full-on aggressive war, with all the civilian casualties and misery that would cause, as well as the increased US casualties and exploding cost. At least that latter path is foreclosed. Hopefully for good. It's over. It's really goddamn over.  

But, hey take comfort, war-humpers. We're probably still gonna drone missile the fuck out of people living in stone huts in some godforsaken rural area of Afghanistan because freedom. My dad would advocate nuking them, but, as I said, he was a bit of a one-strategy guy.