This Isn’t Dunkirk

Longtime readers of this blog know that I rarely, if ever, post about foreign policy. There’s a reason for that–I am uninformed about most aspects of such policies, and I am deeply conflicted about America’s obligations vis a vis purely humanitarian concerns. 

When it comes to warfare, I mostly agree with those who insist we should keep our cotton-pickin’ hands off unless there is a very clear American interest to be protected, or a humanitarian crisis of significant proportions that we are actually in a position to ameliorate. I will readily admit that the definition of American interests and the nature and extent of humanitarian crises are matters of considerable debate.

If I had been the person determining the parameters of America’s intervention in Afghanistan, I would have approved an initial intervention to root out Al Qaida and “get” Osama Bin Laden–but not the slog of the subsequent 18 years, during which we wasted trillions of dollars–not to mention the lives of thousands of soldiers and civilians.

But here we are.

President Biden has made what I consider the absolutely correct call–and the media and self-styled pundits, abetted by deeply dishonest Republicans sensing political advantage, are having a field day attacking him for, among other things, recognizing and admitting the obvious.

I think that Michael Moore, of all people, has it right in the following paragraphs. (I say “of all people” because I tend to find Moore tiresome–you usually know precisely what he’ll say because, like far too many people, he approaches all issues through an unshakable, pre-defined lens. Sometimes, of course, like that “stopped clock” he’s right; sometimes, not so much.)

In this case,I think he is “on point.” In his recent letter, Moore wrote about our departure from Afghanistan: 

This is nothing here to celebrate. This should only be a monumental gut-check moment of serious reflection and a desire to seek redemption for ourselves. We don’t need to spend a single minute right now analyzing how Biden has or has not messed up while bravely handling the end of this mess he was handed — including his incredible private negotiations all this week with the Taliban leaders to ensure that not a single enemy combatant from the occupying force (that would be us; e.g., U.S. soldiers and spies and embassy staff), will be harmed. And Biden so far has gotten every American and foreign journalist out alive, plus a promise from the Taliban that those who stay to cover it will not be harmed. And not a single one has! Usually a force like the Taliban rushes in killing every enemy in sight. That has not happened! And we will learn that it was because of the negotiating skills and smarts of the Biden team that there was no mass slaughter. This is not Dunkirk.

Dozens of planes have safely taken off all week — and not one of them has been shot down. None of our troops in this chaotic situation have been killed. Despite the breathless shrieks of panic from maleducated journalists who think they’re covering the Taliban of the 1990s (Jake Tapper on CNN keeps making references to “beheadings“ and how girls might be “kidnapped” and “raped” and forced to become “child brides”), none of this seems to be happening. I do not want to hear how we “need to study” what went wrong with this Taliban victory and our evacuation because (switching to all caps because I can’t scream this loud enough): WE ARE NEVER GOING TO FIND OURSELVES IN A SITUATION LIKE THIS AGAIN BECAUSE OUR DAYS OF INVADING AND TAKING OVER COUNTRIES MUST END. RIGHT? RIGHT!!

Unfortunately, we probably will find ourselves in similar situations, because a substantial portion of our citizenry believes we have the right–indeed, the duty–to impose our will around the globe, irrespective of any threat to genuine American interests.

Is our exit from Afghanistan being accomplished smoothly? No. To the extent both the war and the exit were bungled, we’ll need sober analyses of those failures in order to inform future foreign policy decisions. But sober analyses are not what we’re getting–for that matter, even presumably straightforward eyewitness reports of what is occurring “on the ground” are wildly inconsistent. 

If people of good will are truly concerned about the fate of non-Taliban Afghanis–especially Afghani women–under a fundamentalist religious regime, what they can and must do is extend a welcome to those who want to emigrate, and work to facilitate their speedy immigration and resettlement.

It is telling–but not surprising– that the monkeys throwing poo in hopes it sticks to the administration are unwilling to do that.


  1. I applaud the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan wholeheartedly, and the diplomacy that is necessary is, in my view, outstanding. There was no way to exit without chaos. What I cannot understand is how our military bungled its exit to the extent of abandoning state-of-the-art weapons and ammunitions. If it was their intent to arm the Taliban against other perceived enemies, then perhaps I am uninformed; nevertheless, it’s a dangerous and expensive gambit.

  2. Didn’t we vote down the equal pay for women bill in the Senate?

    We manufacture the humanitarian crisis, which requires our military presence. We overthrow democratically elected regimes causing a democratic crisis.

    We have think tanks (lots of them) funded by the Defense Industry who are paid very well to go on TV and write opinion pieces to manufacture consent for war (propaganda).

    We also have very highly paid politicians from the Defense Industry rattling the podiums for war. Yet, when you consider the Defense Industry has placed itself in many districts throughout this country, there is rarely a Nay vote.

    Biden didn’t boggle the decision to exit Kabul, but he did boggle the exit plan. Along with the Pentagon who has been struggling to save face. We have contractors who were paid extremely well (some elected into Congress) to train the Afghan Security Force that crumbled within days.

    The one journalist who told us the truth about the Afghan War is still in prison in London after being chased for 10 years by all these people lying to us and profiting off this war.

    Will there be a committee convened to investigate all these people, including the media?

    No need, there was an Inspector General (INSIGAR) who documented all of it, but it was ignored because Washington DC is a cesspool of corrupt and immoral people. They made millions off graft, and the one journalist who had the guts to hold them accountable is facing 175 years in prison.

    Let the show go on…

  3. ” What I cannot understand is how our military bungled its exit to the extent of abandoning state-of-the-art weapons and ammunitions.”

    Early reports last week had learned that the Afghanistan police and some Afghan military had simply given up and handed over their weapons. Reports also that the Taliban was moving through the rural and residential areas threatening and committing acts of violence against the citizens who also gave up. The few remaining American and allied troops were forced to evacuate areas around the cities due to Taliban control, making it easier for them to take over cities, including Kabul. So far they are keeping their control outside of the Kabul Airport…until the promised date of August 31, 2021. The Afghan government’s collapse and abandonment happened because they knew the Taliban had the upper hand throughout the country. It would have taken continued active war throughout the past 20 years to prevent the panic and chaos we are watching as the evacuations take place. NOW, the Afghanistan people beg to be taken away from conditions they gave into. The difference between Muslim religion and the extremist terrorism of Taliban rule is simply a matter of degree within their religion and their basic culture for thousands of years.

    As for Michael Moore’s comment, “Dozens of planes have safely taken off all week — and not one of them has been shot down. None of our troops in this chaotic situation have been killed.” Taliban leaders are extremists and terrorists but they are not stupid; they are keeping their “hands off” questionable promise of safety within the boundaries of the Kabul Airport until August 31, 2021. What will happen at midnight when we move over to September 1, 2021? The horror will truly begin on that date and become another “date to live in infamy”.

    As for Sheila’s reference that, “…very clear American interest to be protected.”; for another view of our NOT keeping “out cotton-pickin’ hands off” of foreign affairs, Google the name Charles Horman. Or watch the movie “Missing” with Cissy Spacek and Jack Lemmon and what our interference brought about in Santiago, Chile due to American Interests in that country.

    As always; it is “Follow the money!” regarding our interest. Why else would there be thousands of Americans living in that country in addition to our military to be evacuated from Afghanistan?

  4. For once Todd has it right about our politics. Not mentioned yet is the fact that REPUBLICAN war-mongering administrations created this nightmare after the attack on 9/11. Intelligence KNEW it was perpetrated by Saudi nationals. So, naturally, Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld invaded Afghanistan. The Taliban existed for the sole purpose of expelling foreign invaders and “nation builders”.

    We left all that equipment there because, logistically, it would have taken MONTHS to haul it all out of there. High tech? Probably not much higher than what the Chinese are already selling to the Taliban…

    Finally, Donald Trump released the Taliban leader who immediately went back to work completing their mission to expel foreign invaders. So, the 12 years of Republican malfeasance (Do they do anything else?) coupled with 8 years of the Obama administration being screamed at by war-mongering Republicans in Congress produced the fiasco we’re now witnessing.

    Biden is making as much lemonade out of this sour lemon he was handed as he can. He’s actually letting the professionals do their jobs as best they can. The rest of us should take this whole story in context of the last 20 years of bungling.

  5. Oh, and lest we forget, Afghanistan is loaded with rare earth minerals that support the electronics industries around the world. They also have lots and lots of lithium minerals that keep our iPhone batteries going. And there is loads of iron ore too. Watch for the corporate exploiters to enter into negotiations with the Afghans – whoever ends up governing that ancient culture – to mine all those resources.

    Do you think that maybe the Chinese gave them all those guns as leverage for being first in line to harvest those mineral riches? I do. I don’t think the world is finished with messing with Afghanistan. Our 3 trillion dollar misadventure is just the next chapter. I wonder how Allah will handle all that.

  6. Thank you for this!!!!! I am so fed up with the coverage of this. I simply refuse to watch the Newshour and CNN. Joy Reid is the only one I’ve seen who isn’t dripping with false empathy.
    And, if all of these Afghans are so terrified of the Taliban why in the hell didn’t they support us for the last 20 yrs…What did all of these supposedly well informed people think would happen when we pulled out? Biden made a tough call which, frankly, Bush and Obama couldn’t bring themselves to do. It’s like breaking up a 20 yr marriage with kids, property, investments, friends who’ve watched the train wreck for 20 yrs suddenly shocked, yes, shocked at trauma involved …it’s not pretty. We need to get out everyone who actively worked for us that we can, but there’s no other way to move forward.

  7. Years ago after I returned from tour of duty in Vietnam 1970-71, draftee type. I started reading books about Vietnam. Bernard Fall was a go to author, others wrote about US militarism.

    The articles about US militarism were especially eye opening. For many of us in the anti-war movement we had no idea of how deeply militarism was embedded and interwoven into the fabric of American society.

    Politicians who fought for defense contractors in their districts or states, politicians who moved on to serving as advisors or even the board of directors in the MIC. Generals and Admirals who always needed some new weapons system or just more weapons and moved on after retiring to some cush job in the MIC.

    We also had the so-called “Think Tanks” that scoured the globe looking for new enemies to strike.

    Our preferred method of fighting in spite of stories about hard hitting Green Berets or some Rangers or other special small sized units, was massive firepower. You do not make a lot of profit from firing M-16’s in somewhereistan.

    You need modern fighter-bombers, drones and other missiles to take out the bad guys, tanks, brand new fighting vehicles and artillery – Now we are talking Profit. Of course all this equipment must move – How happy we must be making the oil companies. The beauty for the MIC is every expended explosive or blown up tank or fighting vehicle must be replaced – Profit. We also need to arm-up our “Allies” – More Profit.

    Our McMega-Media has willingly allowed itself to be neutered into cheerleaders for the Pentagon. No tough questions to the Generals or politicians about their failures, that would not be Patriotic. Wave that Flag , sing the National Anthem and military marching band at sporting events, maybe even a Fly-Over by the Air Force.

  8. If the world were a saner place, we might have had an orderly draw down of citizens, allies, and equipment. Don’t get me wrong, the Biden Administration was asleep at the wheel when contemplating the exit for Afghanistan. They needed to start withdrawing people from the provinces months ago, but they heeded the wishes of President Ghani, who didn’t want to alarm anyone until after he had lined up his money transfers so he could live in comfort somewhere NOT Afghanistan.

    Not only did we not learn the lessons of history, we didn’t even learn the lessons of the present. We never understood the warlords, who don’t want the Taliban or the US interfering with their businesses, whether it be copper or opium. If anyone defeats the Taliban, it will be those warlords.

    Thankfully, Biden had the courage to pull the damned plug.

  9. There is a reason why less than 20% of the American public do not trust the Federal government. No argument with leaving…but PLAN, COORDIATE, EXECUTE??? No lessons learned from Vietnam and/or Iraq?

    The most trusted institution in American is the military…so much for that.

    “Is this any way to run an airline?”

  10. Lester, You are out over your skis on this one. There was/IS a plan. It IS being coordinated with perhaps the most dysfunctional terror group in the world. And it IS being executed by our professional military. You don’t cycle C-17s in and out 24/7 without execution of a plan.

    BTW, the fiasco in Chile was a product of two things: The moronic fear of communism/socialism in the western hemisphere, and the cockeyed hyper-capitalist ravings of Milton Friedman and his “Chicago Boys”.

    What we NEED to read is Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine”. In it you will find the Republican-generated programs to overturn democratically elected governments over the fear of communist/socialist influence.

  11. I grew up with a quasi “military brat” upbringing. It was not until my father retired, did I find out he worked for the CIA, so I speak to the size of the Military Industrial Complex. I have seen it first hand in far flung countries across the world.

    I am glad we are ending our entanglement in Afghanistan. People forget the withdrawal from Afghanistan was a BI-PARTISAN goal of the last three administrations. There have been some good analysis as to why things are so chaotic here at the end, and a lot of it has to do with the Afghan government just evaporating. I had a Russian friend point out that the government the Soviets set up, at least lasted 4 years.

    The 24 hour news cycle lives on sensationalism and the day after does not really matter in the long run. It makes for good political spin, but what really matters is what things will look like in the long term.

    Heather Richardson Cox published a quote that put a little perspective on the situation in one of her blog posts: “Interestingly, much of the U.S. media is describing this scenario as a disaster for President Biden. Yet, on CNN this morning, Matthew Dowd, who was the chief strategist for the Bush-Cheney ticket in 2004, noted that more than 20,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan without a single loss of an American life, while in the same period of time, 5000 Americans have died from Covid-19 and 500 have died from gunshots.”

  12. I concur 100% with Sheila’s views on foreign policy. I too usually don’t talk about it b/c I feel I am not that knowledgeable. But it would seem we’re really good at accomplishing military objectives. I’m convinced we shouldn’t be in the nation-building business and that trying to “grow” democracy doesn’t work. It does pain me though to see the human rights abuses, but the sad fact is there are human rights abuses throughout the world.

    I think though the issue though isn’t continued military involvement in Afghanistan (which most people on the right and left wanted to end) but the unquestioned bungled evacuation of American citizens and Afghan allies. Even Democrats have been critical of the complete lack of evacuation planning by the Biden administration. Democratic members of Congress were on the Biden administration to speed up the visa process for the Afghan allies that was going to take nearly 2 years to complete. They said get them now and sort out the paperwork later. But Biden didn’t do that.

    Given his history including his leaving behind our Kurdish allies in Syria to die, I have no doubt that Trump would have performed even worse on the evacuation. (Let’s remember that Trump is the one who signed the surrender deal with the Taliban, cutting out the Aghan gov’t in the process, and let Taliban fighters and the new Aghan president out of prison.) But Biden won over voters because he was perceived as competent and empathetic when compared to Trump.

    While I am also against us staying in Afghanistan, at the end it wasn’t so much a war (nobody had been killed in the last 18 months) than it was a security operation. But we can’t be the world’s policeman.

    Oh, and Todd, the Equal Pay Act, which abolished wage disparity based on gender, was signed into law in 1963.

  13. Many years ago, Eisenhower was worried about the MIC. He did not want America’s economy to be fueled by it. Unfortunately, his fears have come true.

    Just as we could not defeat the Viet Cong insurgency in Viet Nam, we could not defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan. Pakistan supports the Taliban. It is no coincidence that Osama Bin Laden was lying hidden in Pakistan. The mountainous terrain in which many warlords and the Taliban live make it impossible to defeat them.

    I do wish that Biden had had enough foresight with the evacuation so that the chaos we now witness could be minimized. I support his decision to leave but am deeply grieved to see that women will now suffer from a mysogynist group of terrorists. I can only hope that many of them will be evacuated. I know that a girls’ robotic team were evacuated by an American woman who had befriended them.

    Afghanistan is a tragic nation riddled with war loads, opium, mysogyny, and an inablity to unite under a democracy that truly serves its people. Its divisiveness does not allow them to unite. We’d best learn from their cautionary history. The so called “democracy” was obviously corrupt which is why the Afghan military so quickly folded. Many deserted their posts because they did not want to support a corrupt government.

    And in the midst of all this, I am writing a new song. The chorus starts with a question “Are you gonna feed the black wolf or the white one when fear is running wild across the land? It’s in response to how people are dealing with the pandemic. I hope I am not misappropriating Native American teachings. I sincerely believe we all struggle with this polarity of a black and white wolf within us.

    One question remains. Will we and other countries open our doors to the refugees? I just heard of an organization in Seattle that is helping the new refugees from Afghanistan. That’s a powerful way to feed the white wolf.

  14. Vernon, “…the fact that REPUBLICAN war-mongering administrations created this nightmare…”

    Since WWII, Democrats too have led in waging nightmarish wars, e.g. Korea. Mr. Assange has offered “massively corrupt economic gain” as a (hidden) impetus for U.S.’s Afghanistan War.

    The relentless campaign for imposing the death penalty on Mr. Assange for making that, and other, truthful disclosures seems to be bipartisan.

  15. Add to this Afghan women being hunted down, assaulted or murdered. Did you see the photos of Afghans begging American soldiers to take their infants to escape this horrendous situation? But, I thought “you people” cared for the oppressed! Oh yeah – that’s just a talking point for your “social” causes. Get ready America for the next 9-11 with Biden and the “inept” in charge. You Biden sycophants OWN this.
    Biden’s gifts to the Taliban include:
    ✅ 2,000 Armored Vehicles Including Humvees and MRAP’s
    ✅ 75,989 Total Vehicles: FMTV, M35, Ford Rangers, Ford F350, Ford Vans, Toyota Pickups, Armored Security Vehicles etc
    ✅ 45 UH-60 Blachhawk Helicopters
    ✅ 50 MD530G Scout Attack Choppers
    ✅ ScanEagle Military Drones
    ✅ 30 Military Version Cessnas
    ✅ 4 C-130’s
    ✅ 29 Brazilian made A-29 Super Tocano Ground Attack Aircraft
    208+ Aircraft Total
    ✅ At least 600,000+ Small arms M16, M249 SAWs, M24 Sniper Systems, 50 Calibers, 1,394 M203 Grenade Launchers, M134 Mini Gun, 20mm Gatling Guns and Ammunition
    ✅ 61,000 M203 Rounds
    ✅ 20,040 Grenades
    ✅ Howitzers
    ✅ Mortars +1,000’s of Rounds
    ✅ 162,000 pieces of Encrypted Military Communications Gear
    ✅ 16,000+ Night Vision Goggles
    ✅ Newest Technology Night Vision Scopes
    ✅ Thermal Scopes and Thermal Mono Googles
    ✅ 10,000 2.75 inch Air to Ground Rockets
    ✅ Reconnaissance Equipment (ISR)
    ✅ Laser Aiming Units
    ✅ Explosives Ordnance C-4, Semtex, Detonators, Shaped Charges, Thermite, Incendiaries, AP/API/APIT
    ✅ 2,520 Bombs
    ✅ Administration Encrypted Cell Phones and Laptops all operational
    ✅ Pallets with Millions of Dollars in US Currency
    ✅ Millions of Rounds of Ammunition including but not limited to 20,150,600 rounds of 7.62mm, 9,000,000 rounds of 50.caliber
    ✅ Large Stockpile of Plate Carriers and Body Armor
    ✅ US Military HIIDE, for Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment Biometrics
    ✅ Lots of Heavy Equipment Including Bull Dozers, Backhoes, Dump Trucks, Excavators
    But rest assured, America. None of this equipment will benefit those who regularly chant “Death to America” nor will any of it ever be used to attack our own soldiers in the future.

  16. Gordon has a point. The men piloting the aircraft on 9/11 were the product of Zbigniew Brzezinski. Care to guess what administrations ZB occupied?

  17. Well; President Biden got his answer from the Taliban, there will be no extension past August 31st to evacuate all who qualify from the Kabul Airport. Will Paul K. Ogden and the rest of the Republicans continue blaming President Biden for the problems of being left without Afghan government or military aid in these evacuations with those who deserve our help are in hiding throughout the country from the Taliban and any deaths that may happen past the deadline?

    The only alternative if we miss that deadline is WAR. Do we continue trying to find Afghan citizens who need our help evacuating or will we post a deadline for our American military and allies to get out before the atrocities begin?

  18. The enemy advances, we retreat; the enemy camps, we harass; the enemy tires, we attack; the enemy retreats, we pursue.
    Mao Zedong

    The Taliban did not watch the clock. They knew Time was on their side. All things considered one of the most important pieces of warfare is the cause and the will to fight. We may not like the cause or methods of the Taliban. The Taliban tapped into portraying the USA as an invader – No different from the British or Soviet Union.

    Both Vietnam and Afghanistan have a long history of resisting foreign invaders. Our American arrogance was at work. Once again we thought we could bludgeon an enemy into submission.

  19. Becky,
    The really bad stuff is REALLY REALLY expensive to maintain. A jet fighter costs $1 million and hour to fly when you count all of the maintenance. Similar kinds of numbers with helicopters as well. All we can hope is that in a few years all of this stuff is going to be abandoned junk.

  20. Dan,

    One has to wonder whether the Russians and/or the Iranians and/or the Chinese might have the $ and expertise to do the maintenance? Might they also like to take some apart?

  21. Dan, too bad Biden didn’t know how to handle the withdraw effectively. Trump explains:
    Trump explains to Biden proper Afghanistan protocol: “First you bring out all of the American citizens. Then you bring out ALL equipment. Then you bomb the bases into smithereens. AND THEN YOU BRING OUT THE MILITARY. You don’t do it in reverse order like Biden and our woke Generals did. No chaos, no death—they wouldn’t even know we left!”

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