The best thing Biden did since becoming president was something Bush, Obama and Trump were unable-- and unwilling-- to do because of pressure from an excessively venal and powerful military industrial complex-- the same one Dwight Eisenhower warned Americans about as he was leaving office in January of 1961, 6 decades ago! It was the finest moment of his presidency-- and no one payed much attention or any heed.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-- economic, political, even spiritual-- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
The hair-on-fire media coverage of the withdrawal from Afghanistan (including on MSNBC)-- and the hysteria from well-paid conservative politicians on both sides of the aisle-- is shameful and disgusting. Ben Sasse (R-NE) isn't a Trumpist; he's an old fashioned, blood-thirsty, right-wing warmonger. He released this yesterday right after the 2 blasts at Kabul Airport that killed 11 Marines, a Navy medic (first U.S. military casualties since February 2020) and an undisclosed number of Afghan civilians:
Another one, Tennessee wing-nut Mark Green ran to Fox to say he'd respond by starting to kill bad guys. Which ones? Isis-K pretending to be the Taliban? The Taliban pretending to be Isis-K. A bunch of militants being paid by Russian or China? Any number of other bad players in the region?
The all-conservative "bipartisan" Problem Solver Caucus, financed by right-wing billionaires, including plenty from the military industrial complex, got exactly what they paid for yesterday with a push from corrupt reactionary Blue Dogs like Abigail Spanberger, Josh Gottheimer, Kurt Schrader, Carolyn Bourdeaux, Ed Case, Lou Correa, Jim Costa, Jared Golden, Vicente Gonzalez, Tom O'Halleran and Stephanie Murphy:
In yesterday's NY Times Ezra Klein wrote that "There was no good way to lose Afghanistan to the Taliban. A better withdrawal was possible-- and our stingy, chaotic visa process was unforgivable-- but so was a worse one. Either way, there was no hope of an end to the war that didn’t reveal our decades of folly, no matter how deeply America’s belief in its own enduring innocence demanded one. That is the reckoning that lies beneath events that are still unfolding, and much of the cable news conversation is a frenzied, bipartisan effort to avoid it.
Focusing on the execution of the withdrawal is giving virtually everyone who insisted we could remake Afghanistan the opportunity to obscure their failures by pretending to believe in the possibility of a graceful departure. It’s also obscuring the true alternative to withdrawal: endless occupation. But what our ignominious exit really reflects is the failure of America’s foreign policy establishment at both prediction and policymaking in Afghanistan.
“The pro-war crowd sees this as a mechanism by which they can absolve themselves of an accounting for the last 20 years,” Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, told me. “Just think about the epic size of this policy failure. Twenty years of training. More than $2 trillion worth of expenditure. For almost nothing. It is heartbreaking to watch these images, but it is equally heartbreaking to think about all of the effort, of lives and money we wasted in pursuit of a goal that was illusory.”
Emma Ashford, a senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, phrased it well: “There’s no denying America is the most powerful country in the world, but what we’ve seen over and over in recent decades is we cannot turn that into the outcomes we want. Whether it’s Afghanistan or Libya or sanctions on Russia and Venezuela, we don’t get the policy outcomes we want, and I think that’s because we overreach-- we assume that because we are very powerful, we can achieve things that are unachievable.”
It is worth considering some counterfactuals for how our occupation could have ended. Imagine that the Biden administration, believing the Afghan government hollow, ignored President Ashraf Ghani’s pleas and began rapidly withdrawing personnel and power months ago. The vote of no-confidence ripples through Afghan politics, demoralizing the existing government and emboldening the Taliban. Those who didn’t know which side to choose, who were waiting for a signal of who held power, quickly cut deals with the Taliban. As the last U.S. troops leave, the Taliban overwhelms the country, and the Biden administration is blamed, reasonably, for speeding their victory.
...Initially, the war in Afghanistan was as broadly supported and bipartisan as anything in American politics has ever been. That made it hard to question, and it has made it harder to end. The same is true of the assumptions lying beneath it, and much else in our foreign policy-- that America is always a good actor; that we understand enough about the rest of the world, and about ourselves, to remake it in our image; that humanitarianism and militarism are easily grafted together.
The tragedy of humanitarian intervention as a foreign policy philosophy is that it binds our compassion to our delusions of military mastery. We awaken to the suffering of others when we fear those who rule them or hide among them, and in this way our desire for security finds union with our desire for decency. Or we awaken to the suffering of others when they face a massacre of such immediacy that we are forced to confront our passivity and to ask what inaction would mean for our souls and self-image. In both cases, we awaken with a gun in our hands, or perhaps we awaken because we have a gun in our hands.
To many, America’s pretensions of humanitarian motivation were always suspect. There are vicious regimes America does nothing to stop. There are vicious regimes America finances directly. It is callous to suggest that the only suffering we bear responsibility for is the suffering inflicted by our withdrawal. Our wars and drone strikes and tactical raids and the resulting geopolitical chaos directly led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Afghans and Iraqis.
This is the deep lacuna in America’s foreign policy conversation: The American foreign policy establishment obsesses over the harms caused by our absence or withdrawal. But there’s no similar culpability for the harms we commit or that our presence creates. We are much quicker to blame ourselves for what we don’t do than what we do.
My heart breaks for the suffering we will leave behind in Afghanistan. But we do not know how to fix Afghanistan. We failed in that effort so completely that we ended up strengthening the Taliban. We should do all we can to bring American citizens and allies home. But if we truly care about educating girls worldwide, we know how to build schools and finance education. If we truly care about protecting those who fear tyranny, we know how to issue visas and admit refugees. If we truly care about the suffering of others, there is so much we could do. Only 1 percent of the residents of poor countries are vaccinated against the coronavirus. We could change that. More than 400,000 people die from malaria each year. We could change that, too.
“I want America more forward-deployed, but I want it through a massive international financing arm and a massive renewable energy arm,” Senator Murphy told me. “That’s the United States I want to see spread across the world-- not the face of America today that’s by and large arms sales, military trainers and brigades.”
The choice we face is not between isolationism and militarism. We are not powerful enough to achieve the unachievable. But we are powerful enough to do far more good, and far less harm, than we do now.
In a statement last night, progressive Bruno Amato, the Kern County Democrat and veteran taking on the most careerist of all the career politicians in DC, Kevin McCarthy, wrote that he's "been following the news all day as we learn more about the devastating attacks that occurred today in Kabul. My thoughts are with all the families of U.S. and Afghan personnel who were killed and to all who were wounded in these attacks. As a U.S. Navy veteran, I can only imagine the bravery and extreme difficulty of the ongoing evacuation missions by service members and Afghan allies. I know we are indebted to folks who are putting their lives on the line in order to make sure we can safely evacuate as many people as possible. I will be continuing to monitor the situation as it unfolds.
The same cannot be said for Kevin McCarthy. If you think he cares about the safety and service of U.S. personnel and Afghans whose lives are in danger, think again. This guy doesn’t care one bit about service members or our country. He only cares about his political ambitions. He is using the ongoing evacuations-- which have already surpassed 70,000 people in the past two weeks alone-- and twisting the story to fit his own narrative that will make him more money and raise his profile among the extreme far-right supporters. In a seven minute interview on Fox News, CNN reported that McCarthy made five false claims including a racist, false statement of Afghan prisoners 'coming across our borders.' Now, he’s grandstanding about the sacrifice of our service members, the safety of Afghan evacuees, and politicizing these horrific attacks for his own gain. His record shows he voted against actions that would have helped prevent the severity of the current situation in Afghanistan. It’s disgusting behavior, Howard. My heart goes out to the families of the fallen, the thousands of Afghans who’ve been forced to leave their home, the thousands of veterans who served time in a twenty year war that had no point or solution, and all those who are continuing to make sure our mission to evacuate as many people and exit Afghanistan is complete."
And what do you think those disgraceful 16 members of Congress are saying now about the mess they helped perpetuate in Afghanistan?
Marjorie Traitor Greene (Q-GA): "Our military is still 'NON-combative.' Non-combative. 12 of our military KILLED and more injured. Our commander in chief has our military in a NON-combative operational mode."
Andy Biggs (R-AZ): "As President, it’s Biden’s job to ensure America is so feared & respected that enemies think twice about interfering with our troops & citizens. Biden has done the exact opposite, and Americans are paying for it."
Lauren Boebert (Q-CO): "There is blood on Joe Biden’s hands. Four marines died in an attack he failed to prepare for during one of the most incompetent military operations in history. Their lives can never be replaced."
Mo Brooks (R-AL): "President Biden has embarrassed America with his botched Afghanistan withdrawal. Now his decisions have led to dead Americans in Kabul. Biden should take responsibility for this disgrace and resign immediately."
Matt Rosendale (R-MT): "How many American military personnel have to die to evacuate unvetted refugees? Get American citizens out and bring our troops home."
Jody Hice (R-GA): "I miss AMERICAN President Trump!"
Barry Moore (R-AL): "The events unfolding in Afghanistan are a reflection of a President who makes decisions with his 'leadership team' based on America Last priorities. The President and NSC HAVE:
• forced vaccinations on U.S. troops
• indoctrinated our military w/ CRT
• claimed that diversity in race, sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation determine readiness
• combated “climate change”
• prioritized foreigners over Americans
Today Marine veteran and Missouri Senate candidate Lucas Kunce had a response to the political hacks and warmongers like Kevin McCarthy and Marjorie Traitor Greene: "Today, we lost more brave American service members in Afghanistan. I cannot fully begin to express my heartbreak for what their families are enduring. This is what war looks like. This is what it has looked like for twenty years. It's what it looked like in 2014 when I stood on the runway in Helmand, Afghanistan with a hundred other Marines and saluted a fallen member of our battalion as he was loaded into a transport plane for his final flight home. And this is what it will continue to look like if we keep going. Today’s attack makes our mission even clearer: get out of Afghanistan, bring our people home and start rebuilding our own country. Not one more American should die for a war that most Afghanistan veterans like me know should have ended over 19 years ago. I have a clear message to those demanding we stay in Afghanistan indefinitely: You’ve had your twenty years, your $2 trillion, your nearly 2,500 American service members who made the ultimate sacrifice. Not one more."
As you can imagine, the pollsters are all asking about Afghanistan. YouGov asked a whole series of Afghanistan-related questions in the survey they released on Wednesday for The Economist. Here are some:
Do you approve or disapprove of the plan to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021?
Do you approve or disapprove of the way Joe Biden is handling the war in Afghanistan?
Do you think the United States made a mistake sending troops to fight in Afghanistan?
Do you think the United States made a mistake by withdrawing troops from Afghanistan?
Do you think the United States should or should not offer asylum to Afghan refugees who helped U.S. forces in Afghanistan?
Should not- 13%
Should not- 8%
Should not- 20%
Should not- 15%
Favorable/Unfavorable views of American politicians