Nearly 20 years to the day that foreign terrorists took down the twin towers in New York City — when thousands of lives were lost and trillions of dollars were spent — the Afghanistan War has ended in utter and complete misery. Now, the White House is trying to spin this epic collapse as business as usual. This is an incredible defeat and a national disgrace. So much money, so many dead and thousands more in the Veterans Affairs hospital system, and the Afghan President that the U.S. picked hands over Kabul to the Taliban in front of us? How is this possible?
What we are witnessing is the product of failed policy, poor leadership and corruption in our system. When arrogance is coupled with ignorance, you have the formula in place for calamity. We have pushed these failed policies and fostered corruption on the American and Afghan sides for 20 years by deliberate actions. In effect, we set the conditions for failure in 2003. We stayed with a failed policy trajectory for the past 18 years, trying to create Philadelphia on the Hindu Kush. We failed for 20 years to understand the Afghan culture, and tried to remake it into something else.
The exit chaos we see today certainly could have been prevented, had we 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 set ourselves and Afghanistan up for this over the last 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 for 10 or 20 more years and not have succeeded. We made this mess. There are many factors to explain why we have failed for 20 years, and there is no soft landing for doing this wrong for so long. However, the mistakes over the past six months brought this into focus this weekend. An orderly turnover and exit was possible; more so, it was recommended. However, these immediate events spearheaded by President Joe Biden have brought together our profound lack of good intelligence, objective analysis, planning and leadership to produce this spectacle. Just days earlier, the CIA, the Pentagon and the State Department were all saying that there is no imminent threat in Afghanistan and it was stable. The entire 20 years of feckless effort collapsed in mere days.
One only had to look honestly at the facts on the ground to see the collapse coming fast. Postponing the departure would have delayed this but would not have changed the ultimate outcome. The truth is that we lost this war back in 2003 when we became an occupying army in a country we did not want to be in. Together, we are witnessing the product of our cultural ignorance, and our inability to wage war and understand our limitations. With all three of these key factors in shambles, it only made sense that this catastrophe would occur.
We proved in Vietnam we don’t understand other cultures. We have still not learned anything. We just repeated April 1975 in Saigon. Not every country is the United States. We are talking about civilizations and cultures that predate democracy and liberal values. What is the point of forcing your identity on people who do not 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 spreading democracy is a fallacy that the American people can no longer support in any capacity. We need to focus on our country’s deep internal problems, of which there are many.
There is never a graceful or orderly way to lose a war. There is no soft landing. Your mistakes, arrogance and ignorance combine, and you crash headfirst into reality. Now is the time to introspect and learn from this incredible disaster. We must learn how to be better in the future. Why did this fail? What decisions could have been different? How can we prevent corrupt bureaucracies and incompetent military leaders? Can we hold to account those who waste taxpayer money with no clear vision?
The people of America should demand change, accounting and responsibility. Our leaders in Congress should take a stand against any attempts at stopping introspection and take a deep dive into our current system. Our military, intelligence community and State Department don’t know what they are doing. Worse, they failed the American people in the most extravagant of ways. Over 20 years, four presidents, trillions of dollars blown away and over 7,000 American troops dead. Then the entire system collapses, and the Taliban retake their nation and are stronger than they were the day before 9/11? What a true stain on the country.