“There is no military solution to the problems of Afghanistan. Only a political solution will give good results.”
That is what I have been hearing for some time now.
What have our few remaining troops been doing in Afghanistan these past few months? We have been continuing to facilitate violence. We have been using all of our famed technological skill in helping Afghan soldiers kill and destroy the Taliban. Why should we continue to do this?
The Afghan military, trained and supported for these many years by our courageous military, just “melted away.” Were they cowards?
I don’t think so. I think they used the departure of U.S. forces as the occasion to make their own low-level political solutions to their country’s problems.
The Afghan government fighters probably joined their military for the same reasons that our young people join our military: it seemed like the most promising way for them to make their way forward in a world that did not offer them many other alternatives. They took orders from leaders who had only their own welfare in mind. The war was a place to make lots of money. Billions of dollars were sloshing around. Those leaders had every incentive to keep the war going. More billions would come. Once the U.S. pulled out, they could flee the country with their billions.
It is true that our presence in the country opened up opportunities for many people, especially women. Hopefully those gains will not be totally lost. But the gains were being propped up by fruitless violence.
If anyone outside the Taliban knows what is going on in Taliban circles, it has to be Afghan people. Are the Taliban a totally foreign invasion, spawned in Pakistan for Pakistani political purposes? Or are they partly Afghan citizens disillusioned with their government’s unwillingness to promote a truly political solution to the country’s problems? We can hope they are the latter.
If the Taliban turn out to be just another organization grounded in violence, the Afghan people face a grim future. But if the Taliban have some grounding in the Afghan population, the removal of U.S. support of violence might open the way for more nonviolence.
One policy mistake that the U.S. is likely to make is the same mistake that we have made for the last hundred-plus years in Haiti: make sure the country’s new government gets no outside support. If we do that, we will contribute to the creation of another failed state. Or we will create another Cuba. China and Russia will move in with support that is not likely to promote the kind of society we wish for everyone.
Surely one of these days we will learn that the technology of killing and destroying is not the cure-all that our STEM-focused culture finds so tempting. There is much profit to be made in inventing and producing new forms of violence. It takes just two things to keep the system going: a military-industrial complex geared to inventing and producing more clever ways to kill people or to defend our people against being killed by other people. This trend keeps going in spite of evidence that our technology can be frustrated by the simplest of technologies (e.g. improvised explosive devices). It also requires a public that accepts, without question, the principle that anything that threatens our country’s existence requires unlimited financial support. Anything in the budget is negotiable except defense.
And then there are our nuclear weapons. We are still spending billions to “upgrade” our nuclear weaponry, with the knowledge that coming generations will have to spend billions more to get rid of what we create. In the meantime, one error and humankind could be destroyed.