Monday, December 9, 2019

The Longest War

In the midst of all the impeachment stuff it was easy today to miss a report from the Washington Post about the realities of the war in Afghanistan. What's especially striking is that the information is not classified, it's been out there in plain sight.

The article gets into the massive levels of corruption, the failures to establish a lasting order, and the inability to win the conflict. These are things we have known for quite some time, but have just elected to ignore. I have been hearing inklings of these failures for several years now, rumbling in the background. The report is damning, but we've known the gist for over a decade.

If this century has demonstrated anything, it's the inadequate nature of America's institutions. It's all been laid bare in America's persistence in fighting the longest war in our history. More than eighteen years after invasion the Taliban is still going strong, despite hundreds of billions of dollars being spent and the sacrifice of thousands of lives. It's part of the same institutional breakdown that led to the election of Donald Trump and the inability to prosecute him for his crimes.

On Capitol Hill and in Kandahar the American Colossus has feet of clay. The credibility that was squandered after 9/11 by the failed occupation of Afghanistan, the illegal war in Iraq, and the torture of suspects from shadowy black sites to Guantanamo Bay has erased the United States' post-Cold War claims to moral superiority. We knew they were fraudulent all along, now we have the incontrovertible proof. Obama tried to salvage America's reputation, but with Trump it is now lost and gone forever.

The question the report raises is what exactly is going to happen to the world with the end of Pax Americana. It's entirely appropriate that even with the release of this report, most Americans have forgotten about Afghanistan a long time ago. This is how empires end, not with a bang, but with a whimper.

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