An Afghanistan Postscript
There are real foreign policy consequences for a society adrift from its origins and foundational principles of citizenship. So, it was only a matter of time until the US had a rendezvous with tragedy abroad given the unhinged assumptions it was operating upon at home.
I list a few symptoms, in no particular order, surrounding the worst American diplomatic, military, and strategic humiliation of the last 50 years.
- How can the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense allow soldiers to be evacuated first, but last thousands of American contractors, diplomatic personnel, and Afghan loyalists, who were to be trapped and in hiding for weeks? What was our top brass focused on prior to this humiliating skedaddle? “White rage”? Rooting out the “alt-right” from military rosters? Ensuring racial and gender proportional representation in all aspects of military operations—except, mysteriously, the racial and gender percentage of dead and wounded on the battlefield? Could Milley recommend more Sun-Tzu, Clausewitz, and Jomini rather than the sayings of chairman Ibram X. Kendi?
- Why did Joe Biden feel he could simply lie in his brief press conferences, on everything from an Afghanistan supposedly free of ISIS and an open route to the airport for American passport holders, to the evacuation being successful and orderly and yet, contradictorily, the inevitable wage of his culpable predecessors? Was the rub that the press had fused with the progressive project, and, for the last two years of Biden’s campaign, transition, and presidency, Biden felt that almost anything he said and did would not only not be audited, but also favorably edited and editorialized by the ministry of truth reporters?
- How do we square the mythologies of Joe Biden and the return of the foreign policy establishment “experts” to the White House with the Afghan nightmare? Is the truth too bitter to swallow? Namely, that the “elite” are hardly elite and have not been so for a generation? Retired Pentagon generals revolve in and out of defense contractor boards on their way to multimillionairedom. They gain exemption from the once anti-corporate Left by sounding “woke” in fast-tracking a race/class/gender/diversity/equity/inclusion agenda, in which military efficacy is not defined by victory on the battlefield or at least US strategic advantage, as much by approbation from the Left and the administrative state.
- Is a society that no longer believes either that it is better than the alternative or feels it does not have to act perfectly to be good really sustainable?
I suggest that 120 days of 2020 rioting, looting, arson, at least 28 dead, 2-billion dollars’ worth of losses, and 14,000 arrests (most charges later dropped or bargained down to insignificant fines) had convinced even the Medieval Taliban that we are a hopelessly adrift society that is terrified of offending anyone and would prefer to be victimized than unapologetically retaliatory.
In an existential war between the premodern and postmodern, did the Dark Ages just win? Or put another way, do those who believe fiercely in something precivilizational defeat those who sort of, kind of, maybe believe in something post-civilizational?
Note here how many Biden officials resorted not to defiance or emergency measures to ensure evacuation as embraced the therapeutic: “This is emotional for me too”; “For me, this gets personal”; “I am as upset as anyone”—all the expressions of the caring and narcissistic virtue signaling, far less of the quiet determination to protect lives at any cost as quickly as possible. To be reductive and a bit unfair: We’ve gone from a movie audience idolizing Gary Cooper and Clarke Gable to one more comfortable with Tom Hanks and Hugh Grant.
- There is a certain callousness of the woke elite. Note the nonchalance with which Team Biden talks of $70 billion in taxpayer-owned military equipment simply abandoned to the Taliban. What would have been so hard in shipping out of Kabul 100 vehicles or 15,000 small arms a day, starting in February 2021? Was there instead the mindset, to quote the Portland mayor Jacob Frey after the incineration of a police precinct, that all such weaponry was just “brick and mortar” stuff? Or, are we such a for-the-moment-only society, that our military and diplomats never paused to think, “How many lives will be extinguished, how many limbs blown up when all these tools of death land up in the Taliban’s hands?”
I have a letter from my namesake Victor Hanson, Jr. written to his Swedish-speaking grandparents in spring 1945 on the eve of the 6th Marine Division’s landing on Okinawa. He was trying to direct the elderly couple how to buy him a used 1911 model .45 automatic handgun (Colt Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45, M1911) (Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45, M1911)from a Fresno second-hand gun store.
The subtext reading it 75 years later was the Marine Corps could not afford to provide all the enlisted ranks sidearms, but that in such fighting in the Pacific they were deemed a vital back-up weapon in extremis.
Victor is patiently and politely explaining that he does not wish to be critical of the Marines, that indeed they have been very generous to him with ample food, clothing, and shelter. Nor does he wish to burden his grandparents by complex directions how to withdraw the necessary funds from his meager bank account and how to send the pistol to the Pacific. I have no idea whether they were successful or not in sending him the .45 (he drew a picture of it for them in the letter), or whether its possible absence contributed to his combat death on Sugar Loaf Hill on May 19, 1945.
I gathered only that such a Depression-era generation didn’t waste or write off so callously government equipment, and rather than blame the public for not being armed adequately, simply made the necessary adjustments through their own modest resources.
The loss in Kabul was not just $70 billion, but rather what $70 billion of such tools translate to in the hands of the Taliban. So there is something grotesque, something creepy in watching Taliban now decked out in the latest uniforms and weaponry of the American soldiers primed to kill the American soldiers with their own equipment. And not a peep from the White House.