For those of us of a certain age, the sad and tragic debacle that has been unfurling in Afghanistan this past week is deja vu all over again.
We have seen variations of this theme over the course of 60 years of our interventions into the civil wars of other nations. There was the ill-fated, American-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961; the fall of Saigon in 1975; the 1984 withdrawal of American forces from a multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon after suicide bombers killed 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and three soldiers, in their barracks in Beirut; the misadventure into Somalia in the early 1990s; the total debacle of the war in Iraq; and now, the ignomious conclusion of our 20-year involvement in Afghanistan.
Presidents of both parties have been at the helm of these various incursions into the internal affairs of other nations, only to preside over humiliating and costly defeats. Three generations of American political and military leaders have not learned the lessons from these unsuccessful endeavors and therefore have been condemned to repeat the mistakes of their predecessors.
We invaded Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11 expressly to root out the al-Qaeda terrorists in the safe haven that they had been given by the Taliban. We accomplished that goal quickly and decisively.
Somehow however, the mission morphed into one of nation-building Afghanistan into a Western-style democracy. When the facts come out about how and why this transformation happened, we have no doubt that they will show that the cabal of the military-industrial complex, with the added wrinkle of the influence of the plethora of so-called “private contractors,” proved to be the chief architects of our policy in Afghanistan.
Even in the best of circumstances, people generally do not want soldiers from another country becoming involved in their civil matters. No amount of military might is going to persuade people from achieving their own national goals — we cannot force other nations to accept our values.
Yes, we’re saddened at contemplating the fate of women and our Afghan supporters under the Taliban. And we’re disappointed that the Biden administration did not have better contingency plans to factor in the swift takeover of the country by the Taliban.
The lessons of the past should have taught us that our intervention in Afghanistan never was going to end well. But it did have to end, for better or worse.