Clifford Rieders
Clifford Rieders

Afghanistan and Incompetence

Those of us who are children of the Vietnam War era cannot be told that the American disaster in Afghanistan was not preventable.  Republicans and Democrats agree on one thing; we should be out of Afghanistan because we cannot control a tribal society squeezed between Iran and Pakistan and all of the other “Stans” to the north which are completely hostile to the American way of life, while eager to receive our greenbacks.  Like Vietnam, nation building in certain parts of the world in the democratic image is a fantasy.

A reflection on history demonstrates that George Bush and Bill Clinton had it right.  Bush, with the advice of his incredibly brilliant general Colin Powell, understood that massive force was required to get Saddam Hussein’s Iraq out of Kuwait quickly and decisively.  Once the mission was accomplished, and indeed it was, the Americans were “outta there”.  Bill Clinton kept Saddam Hussein in a box by aerial bombardment, not boots on the ground.

Oddly, America quickly forgot the lesson we learned in Vietnam and the positive experience we had with Iraq, the first time around.  George Bush’s son and Barrack Obama eased into a semi-permanent war in Afghanistan, which towards the end became something of a police action.

What is stupendously upsetting to Americans right now is how badly we planned for the withdrawal from Afghanistan.  “Yes” everybody agrees we should be out, but nobody whose brain is screwed in properly would think that we should have established an arbitrary date for a pull out, leaving our citizens and Afghan helpers behind, while failing to protect the soldiers remaining.  We had the intelligence, we warned others and we knew that the program initiated by President Trump and completed by President Biden was reckless and doomed to failure.

President Trump gets a small share of the blame, since he made a “deal” with the devil, the Taliban, and established the first date.  However, President Biden has been in office for the period of time in which the Trump policy was carried out.  President Biden and his Administration has had some pretty terrible things to say about President Trump, but they not only followed his plan rigidly, but they also failed to respond to the increasing intelligence concerning the risks to Americans and our Afghani agents.

America’s allies will not only mistrust our promises and intentions, but more importantly, our lack of competence.  It is one thing for a great power to change its mind, to abandon its friends and to jeopardize its citizens but quite another to carry out its national and international events as rank amateurs.  What were the generals and policymakers in the United States thinking would happen?  They knew that the Taliban was ready to take over, and had the power to do that.  They understood that the Taliban had a cozy relationship with other Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups like Isis.  They understood that the jails would be emptied in Afghanistan and that our enemies would be roaming freely, just as soon as the troop withdraw began.  Why were no precautions taken?  Why were our citizens and local assistants not protected or removed first? Why?   Why? Why?

The books, studies, hearings and investigations will continue for a long time.  The Republicans will have a lot of fun with this, but the Democrats are hoping that people have a short memory for international fumbles.

The political minds of the Democratic party remember that notwithstanding George Bush’s brilliant strategy in Iraq, which was not shocking given that he was a former CIA director, at the very next election he was turned out for the promises of Bill Clinton.  President Bush’s international success paled in comparison to the view of Americans that they could be doing better economically.

There are even those cynics, the talking heads on television, who claim that in the long run, meaning before the next election, the mess in Afghanistan will benefit the Democratic party.  The first midterm election is not until November of 2022.  That is a long way in the memory of voters.  The Democrats are hoping that by the time of the next midterm election, there will be another $3-$5 trillion spent on rebuilding America and raising the economic hopes of the downtrodden.  There will be more immigrant voters supporting the Democratic party.  Some states will get tougher on voter registration, but the big states will encourage more mail-in ballots.

Is it possible that in a year or less, Afghanistan will be forgotten, the Marines will be buried, and the Biden Administration will be touting the borrowed money that it has given to economically eager Americans?  Can the Administration borrow its way to success, inflation be damned?

They say in physics that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  It could very well be true that ending our engagement in Afghanistan, may enhance our economic prospects.  However, no one can honestly and accurately calculate the long-term cost of the terrorist state that Afghanistan will become and the damage that Muslim fundamentalists operating out of Afghanistan and its allies such as Iran will cause the world.

We can, however, learn some lessons.  There are many other nations in the world, including our own allies in Europe, the Middle East and the Far East, endangered everyday by terrorist regimes.  The Mullahs in Iran, the terrorists Hezbollah, Hamas, along with the Taliban-Isis in Afghanistan all seek the same goal.  They truly believe in their hearts and their minds in the hegemony of Islam.  They pray that the 21st Century will be the century of an Islamic conquest of the western world.  Christianity is on a decline, no one will defend the Jews, and the West is morally bankrupt.  That is not a philosophy merely of a few extremists, but it cuts across a wide swath of thinking by those in the position to jeopardize Western civilization.

This does not mean that the United States, Europe or any other democracy can or should wage war against another religion or ethnicity.  What it does mean is that we need to strengthen and focus our own national goals, get our economic house in order, and be proactive in terms of addressing threats that undermine the existence of our way of life and that of our friends and allies.

About the Author
Cliff Rieders is a Board Certified Trial Advocate in Williamsport, is Past President of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association and a past member of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority.
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