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zonemaster

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Member since: Mon Sep 28, 2015, 12:41 PM
Number of posts: 190

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The patient was terminal... an Afghanistan analogy

When I first heard that we'd be pulling out of Afghanistan, I thought - Oh, no - here we go again. Just like Syria for Obama: as much as it often sucks to stay engaged on the world stage, the second Daddy's not in the room, there's a power vacuum, all kinds of unhygienic riff-raff gets sucked into the void, then the place descends into septic chaos. Chaos when it comes to societal upheaval is never going to be easy on the mind nor the soul, especially when the attendant heart-rending scenes are the MSM's oxygen - that which gives them the next news-cycle's worth of life, during which they monitor their ratings, and adjust and collect their advertising fees.

Time's passed since Obama's Syria decision - an eternity in US politics and literal eternity for many Syrians, sadly - but for the vast majority of the US populace, Obama's disengagement and all of its tragic consequences were just a blip - another not-especially-resonant moment on the decades-long US intervention timeline. Eternal fodder for partisan jackasses, but not much else. Sad commentary.

Afghanistan was different, obviously. It took shape as a direct part of the "Yer either withus 'r againus" response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. The shocked and seething U.S. cowboyed-up and descended into Afghanistan to snuff out Bin Laden and Al Qaeda (rightly), and put the hurt on their enablers, the Taliban. G.W. Bush was the first to get a taste of how risky it was to rely on the loyalty of the locals when the we tried to farm-out the last measure of Bin Laden's pursuit and apprehension to some Afghani warlords, who promptly took the money and ran in Tora Bora, so to speak, allowing Bin Laden to escape to Pakistan after an earth-shattering bombing campaign and an ever-tightening noose conducted by U.S. Special Forces. Well - with the mighty U.S. military machine all warmed up, deployed, and no quarry in sight, G.W. the marionette was posed to look like he thought it was a good idea to take a crack at nation-building, being manipulated as he was by the deft hands of the Threevil Puppeteers Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz.

Trying to get a completely fractured nation that had been fighting among itself for centuries to suddenly 'come to its Western senses', uniformly grab its bootstraps, pull its million pieces into a suitably functional whole - to the point of democratic self-governance - in the time span of less than many decades (and that, even if everything went right) - was a exercise in naked, megalomanic hubris. Though there were brief and encouraging moments of hope along the way, the reality - noted periodically and inconveniently by various parties within the military and intelligence communities - was that building this particular nation would always be a Sisyphean task - even when supervised, assisted and bankrolled by the most powerful nation on earth and its health-careless taxpayers.

So, with the above as background, I present my insignificant analogy on the momentous Afghanistan pull-out. In times like these, with complex events taking place, I often try to conjure a model to help me put things in perspective - to render and superimpose them - in order to make them more understandable, despite all of the visceral baggage obscuring the fundamental realities. That said, I believe Afghanistan, with respect to the nation-building goal, was always a terminal patient. The U.S. went to Afghanistan to remove a cancer from the pancreas. Obama eventually found it and removed it from the brain, over in Pakistan. Like the hopeful people that we are, we tried to 'save' the disease-riddled patient - get it to the point of democratic health that it could stand on its own, ambulate, and take its place as a respected, contributing member to the world society. During that time we attempted a brain transplant, a heart and lung transplant, a kidney transplant. Soldiers and civilians died doing it. Still, the moment the oxygen flow was reduced, or even just threatened to be reduced, the patient faded - it was never going to be able to come off of life support.

Death is death. When you're the one keeping the patient alive, it's always uglier to have their final journey start because that moment, that decision - you own. You could keep the patient alive indefinitely if you would just stay the course, keeping the blood and treasure flowing until time's end. As has been made abundantly clear by the Taliban's stunning rate of territorial re-capture, the nation-building patient is gravely ill, and has always been too sick to survive - from Day 1, twenty years ago. Many of those who believed the dream, those who sweat, toiled and risked their lives to achieve it, are going to lash out at whomever pulls the plug - that's understandable. The Republican opportunists and Monday-Morning Policy Quarterbacks - of course. But the plug was always going to have to be pulled by someone with fortitude, eventually. That wasn't going to be Trump. By telling the Taliban that our military would certainly be leaving by X date, and allowing several thousand of their fanatical members to be released from detention (including the new national leader, BTW), the deal was 1000% sealed. Death it would be. In effect, Trump gave the cancer patient a few packs of smokes and some BBQ, then giggled at the happy, tinkling sound of the can he kicked down the road. What he did, likely without realizing it - certainly not the importance of it - was to help make sure that the coup de gras would have to be painfully executed on the next President's watch.

Watching the death of an animal is bad enough. Of a loved one, substantially worse. Knowing that the US leaving Afghanistan is going to cause immeasurable amounts of anxiety, despair, torture and death as the result of its pull-out? It sears the very soul - and the shocking videos of the chaos only burn it in more deeply. Though the exact circumstances and specific events of the final chapter could never have been predicted, it is a fact that the story's outcome had been unalterably defined as soon as we signed up for nation building in a region which was so completely unsuited for such an endeavor in this epoch. The only variable was when the reality could no longer be ignored.





BTW - there's been a lot of good writing on DU about this topic, and lots of useful links to other able writers who help put things in perspective. Some of these sources have helped bring into focus various bits of my perceptions of the Afghanistan situation. Thanks to all.

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