Monday, September 06, 2021

Unclear on Afghanistan

From an email I had sent:

I've got a lot of conflicting thoughts about Afghanistan. If anyone doesn't have conflicting thoughts about it, then I doubt they're trying to think seriously about it.

Here's one observation though, that in the blame game for what's happened there, I see very few people blaming Afghanistan. I recognize that real-world democracies don't work like they taught us in elementary school, but both the elites and the normal people of a country have to take some responsibility for their country's fate when they have a choice in the matter.

This might sound like "Screw the Afghani people for not fixing their country in 20 years, we're right to leave." I actually disagree with leaving. As a historian, you know that 20 years isn't a long time. I think Afghanistan was better off with us there (I could care less about The Blob's stupid fixation with credibility and resolve), very few American soldiers had died in the few years, and even the expense isn't that high any more. There was a war in Afghanistan but America wasn't at war there.

But still, it's their country. The parallel I draw is American responsibility for Trump in 2016. We didn't vote for him, we voted for Clinton. But we tolerated an undemocratic Electoral College system that made Trump possible with only anemic efforts to fix it. So we own the result.

The Afghani people didn't vote for the Taliban and I'm pretty sure the majority don't support them, but they did have some choice in both their government and in whether to fight the Taliban.

While the left side of the political spectrum (where I reside) doesn't like to blame "the people," we all know humans are a combination of good and bad, and our better angels don't always win. The people of Afghanistan are obviously in for a bad time, especially women, but I hope they find a chance to seize their country and future back in the future. Other poor countries have done that dating to India in 1948, so it's not impossible.

One last thing - the only mistake I'll blame Biden for, after deciding to leave, is to withdraw all soldiers by the end of the fighting season instead of waiting to the end to start withdrawing soldiers. Probably that would have only bought Afghanistan six months, but what's wrong with six months of a better life? More broadly, the Afghanistan mission did bring a better life to most of the people in Afghanistan for a generation. That's not nothing, despite how things are right now.


And for an alternative (but also unclear) opinion, the New Yorker on Afghanistan.

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