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.