Hubris: The undoing of great plans

After listening to President Joe Biden give his 20-minute speech explaining his decision to leave Afghanistan in the hurried way that has resulted in the fall of the nation (if we can call the tribal land such), I was compelled to end my half-year self-imposed exile from writing articles.  I had become fearful of the cancel culture and the woke antipathy that have overtaken our country.  But watching the videos of the failure in Kabul has reminded me of the film during the fall of Saigon 50 years ago.  Have we learned anything from history?  George Santayana would be brought to mind as we relive this disgrace.

While all the experts point fingers and blame others, it is time to understand the essential truth that caused the failure.  Undoubtedly, the president was told that the Afghan military would be unable to maintain their ground without the support of the U.S. military.  Perhaps they did overestimate the ability of the Afghanis, but this is not the problem. 

Our soldiers sacrificed limb and life for the mission to end the terrorism that resulted in the 9/11attacks.  They performed their mission well and were misused by our political leaders.  This brings to mind the failure of Vietnam, where we propped up corrupt surrogates.  We now have to place many more soldiers in harm's way to secure the evacuation of Americans and our allies from the overrun capital.  For twenty years, these soldiers have done their job and kept the terrorists from attacking our homeland.

During the 19th century, the British found that the tribal groups were ungovernable by Western standards as the artificially contrived boundaries did not conform to a national identity.  This did not change with the end of the war to end wars, or World War I.  Even WW II did not change this situation.  The Soviet Union could not manage the country.  We allowed the Taliban leadership to escape at the beginning of the war due to stupid rules of engagement.

The arrogant, smug intellectuals who manage foreign affairs of our superpower nation have failed to recognize human behavior again.  They thought they could create a democratic society that never had one, nor much literacy, cohesion, or common fidelity.  But after twenty years of American guidance, the Afghani military and government folded like a cheap trick when exposed.  Their corrupt leadership did not gain the loyalty of the people.  The Afghani president ran away lest he be caught.

Yes, for months and years, the Afghan military absorbed casualties in their battle with the Taliban, but that was with our support both on the ground and in the air.  When they feared our departure, they recognized that the Taliban would torture and slaughter those who resisted.  So they surrendered their weapons and ran.  No wonder it happened so quickly.  The choice between the dictatorship of Islamic fundamentalists and torture or death was easily decided.  The people were never members of the modern age.  They would rather live under Sharia law than fight for liberty or the women now at risk.

Those who helped us for years were promised protection and eventual relocation to America.  Even this was in short supply.  Panic results from the onslaught of the enemy when their brutality is so evident.  The political and military leadership of our nation kept redefining the mission so that defeating the Taliban and al-Qaeda was no longer the aim.  Instead, as with most bureaucracies, the mission creep became nation-building. 

The president of the USA could have taken on a limited mission of maintaining our three bases within the territory, but then we would likely be there for many decades as in Europe and Asia.  For once Biden was correct that we could not sustain this purpose for ever.  But his staff failed to provide a plan that would lead to an orderly withdrawal.  But then his staff has failed at the border, too.  So we are looking like a paper tiger again.

After twenty years, the cause of the sorry videos and failure in Afghanistan is the arrogance and lack of appreciation of the differences in culture and aspirations of others.  We can instill hope and desire in other peoples, but we cannot transform their mindset.  Just as we think we can control the Earth's environment independent of cosmic forces, we have swelled heads about our abilities to influence events.  We call this hubris, and it is the root of many failures throughout history.  Will we ever learn the lesson?

Image: Pixabay, Pixabay License.

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