Afghanistan and the Managerial Elite
It will be interesting to see what Joe Biden has to say on the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks. Some believe that Biden rushed the withdrawal from Afghanistan so that he could claim on 9/11 that he had ended America’s longest war. But in the scramble to end the war before 9/11, mistakes were made, corners were cut, lives were lost. And by leaving in the way he did, what has Biden really ended? It seems likely that Biden may have done nothing less than heat up the GWOT, the Global War on Terrorism.
The pullout from Afghanistan was so horrendous that the kindest thing one can say about it is that it was incompetent. In “Farewell to Bourgeois Kings” on August 16, the Swedish blogger Malcolm Kyeyune (whose byline is “tinkzorg”) had some interesting things to say about incompetence, as well as political legitimacy, meritocracy, experts, elites, and the managerial class:
When Michael Gove said “I think the people in this country have had enough of experts” in a debate about the merits of Brexit, he probably traced the contours of something much bigger than anyone really knew at the time. Back then, the acute phase of the delegitimization of the managerial class was only just beginning. Now, with Afghanistan, it is impossible to miss.
It is not just that the elite class is incompetent… it is that they are so grossly, spectacularly incompetent that they walk around among us as living rebuttals of meritocracy itself. It is that their application of managerial logic to whatever field they get their grubby mitts on -- from homelessness in California to industrial policy to running a war -- makes that thing ten times more expensive and a hundred times more dysfunctional.
The “best and the brightest,” right -- but is incompetence impeachable?
Regardless of what the Constitution says about “high crimes and misdemeanors” and what the “experts” might say that means, Congress can impeach a president for anything. Indeed, they just impeached the last guy because they didn’t like him, (or maybe it was because he had insulted Nancy one too many times). And Trump’s second impeachment trial ran from February 9-13, after he had left office. So Congress can impeach a ham sandwich.
If Congress will not impeach and remove the president, and the president’s cabinet will not invoke the 25th Amendment to remove the president, is America doomed to being led by a dangerous incompetent for the next three-plus years?
Note that impeachment and the 25th Amendment are legal remedies. Since so many are doing it, including the president, what about going around the law? Indeed, extra-legal action should have been used to postpone the evacuation until winter, when the Taliban go home to Pakistan. If Biden had insisted on a summer pullout, Defense Secretary Austin and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Milley should have informed Biden that he can’t have that.
What I’m referring to here is disobedience by those who are one step down from the very top of the “chain of command.” When the top of the chain of command is issuing stupid orders, if the military brass bows to the chain of command, then they’re responsible for whatever ensues. They can’t just say they were following orders. The diminished status of America around the world from the disastrous withdrawal is not only on Biden; it’s also on Austin and Milley.
What if Biden were to command the military to nuke Moscow? Would the brass just hop to it? Or would they balk and consider the commander in chief’s cognitive difficulties? Would they destroy the planet in Mutual Assured Destruction just to preserve the chain of command? Our military does all kinds of destructive things. Is it too much to ask that they overrule a senile incompetent once in a while? Austin and Milley’s FUBAR has turbocharged America’s decline.
In 1964, the great John Frankenheimer’s Seven Days in May premiered. It’s been ages since I saw it, but the movie dealt with a military takeover of the government. The film came down on the side of the chain of command. The general who plotted to relieve the president of his duties was called “Judas” by his second in command. (I guess that means the screenwriters saw the president as Christ.)
Regardless of the position the movie takes, I think it has relevance to our current situation with a frail commander in chief, and I recommend it. But I’m not urging a coup d'état to remove Joe Biden from power. Rather, I’m suggesting that Austin and Milley should have refused to obey Biden’s order to evacuate in the summer.
On August 30, New York Post reported that 87 retired generals and admirals had called on Austin and Milley to resign, “accusing them of ‘negligence’ in connection with the disastrous US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.” This writer has urged that Austin and Milley be allowed to resign but only if they take part in a 25th Amendment removal of the president, and failure to do so would result in courts-martial.
Returning to “Farewell to Bourgeois Kings,” Mr. Kyeyung compares the American withdrawal from Afghanistan to that of the Soviets 32 years earlier:
But it is how it has ended that has really thrown back the curtain and shown the world the rot festering beneath. The Soviet Union was dying in 1989, when it completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan. It still managed to do so in an orderly fashion, with a symbolic column of Russian APCs crossing the bridge over to Uzbekistan. The leader of the war effort, one Colonel-General Gromov, symbolically rode in the very last BTR, and then proclaimed to the gathered journalists that there wasn’t a single Russian soldier behind his back.
The American withdrawal, by contrast, is a grotesque spectacle, laid bare to the eyes of the world in realtime thanks to the wonders of modern technology.
In October 2001, the Washington Post ran “War or Police Action?” by the late Molly Ivins, who wrote: “In 1950 the United States got involved in a war and called it a police action. We are now involved in a police action we're calling a war.” Although a pleasant read, the article offered up no argument for why our 2001 foray into Afghanistan should be a police action rather than a war. But twenty years later, many Americans must wish that we had merely destroyed the terrorist training camps, done our damnedest to capture or kill bin Laden, declared victory, and come home in 2002.
Instead, we got bogged down in the “graveyard of empires.” And after all the blood and all the treasure, the Taliban are right back in power where they were before 9/11, and armed to the teeth, courtesy of the Biden administration. It’s difficult to believe that the rank and file thinks this 20-year adventure was worth their suffering and sacrifice.
The only positive that might be claimed about the “war” is that it kept the homeland safe -- fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here. But the reason we’ve suffered no comparable terror attacks since 9/11 is because we hardened the homeland, not because we waged war in Afghanistan.
America needs to know the identities of the managerial elite, the “experts,” who hatched this reckless monumentally stupid withdrawal plan. Was it Sleepy Joe? Was it Susan Rice? Ron Klain? Barack Hussein Obama? Who? Corn Pop could have managed a more professional pullout.
Jon N. Hall of ULTRACON OPINION is a programmer from Kansas City.
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