Ed Driscoll

'It’s Official: America Has Lost Afghanistan'

Headline by Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute, whose lede is equally depressing:

The news today that the United States will begin negotiating with the Taliban will certainly be celebrated in the future Afghanistan as “Taliban Victory Day.” There is a long history of negotiation with the Taliban; in absolutely every case, the Taliban has embraced talks insincerely. Think the Taliban are only interested in Pushtun areas of Afghanistan? Back in 1995, they had agreed in talks not to enter Herat, and yet into that non-Pushtun city they marched. Then, in 1996, they agreed to take part in negotiations about a broad coalition government in Afghanistan. The talks were still ongoing when they seized Kabul and imposed their reign of terror.


At Commentary last month, Rubin wrote:

The United States went into Afghanistan in 2001 to help the Afghan government fill a vacuum in which terrorism thrived, and to help Afghanistan rebuild a military that could monopolize the use of force within its borders. That mission is not yet complete. Perhaps politicians and diplomats will still push forward with withdrawal. As they do so, however, they should recognize that they are not leaving in victory, but rather condemning Afghans to repeat the past.

Found via Jonah Goldberg in his weekly emailed G-File, in which he adds: “I think Michael Rubin is largely right that we lost the war the moment Obama declared a timeline for withdrawal:”

The opening of the Taliban office in Qatar said it all. They hung up a shingle declaring themselves representatives of the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” — the name they used for Afghanistan before their rule was so rudely interrupted by the Arsenal of Democracy. The notion that they have any intention of giving up their Talibannish ways strikes me as beyond fanciful. They are Aesopian creatures. The scorpion stung the frog because that is what scorpions do. The Taliban enslaves women, persecutes religious minorities, and mutilates children because that is what the Taliban does.  If and when the Taliban stops doing these things, it stops being the Taliban.

Supporters of the War on Terror were always right when we said the fight with these people was existential. They want us dead (or converted, which for many people of conscience is at best a meager distinction). What people don’t appreciate is that it works the other way around. Their fight with us is existential as well. They see our way of life as a metaphysical threat to theirs.

Now the good news, for us, is that because our way of life is better — yes, better — we have technology and prosperity on our side. We’re also an ocean away. That means they lack the means to destroy us, for now.

Anyway, I didn’t want to get into all of that. I just wanted to make the point that losing a war has consequences. It’s impossible to know them all now. But you can be sure few of them will be good. There’s simply no way that jihadis around the world won’t be emboldened or at least encouraged by the fact that America is in retreat. Again, our reasons may or may not be sound. But our enemies will take away something very different.


GWB understood that losing a war has consequences; hence his determination to go all-in on the surge in Iraq. On the eve of Barack Obama assuming office in January of 2009, former GWB speechwriter Bill McGurn wrote that “Bush’s Real Sin Was Winning in Iraq:”

“Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave,” read the editorial. “There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide.” Even genocide. With no hint of irony, the Times nevertheless went on to conclude that it would be even worse if we stayed.

This is Vietnam thinking. And the president never accepted it. That was why his critics went ape when, in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, he touched on the killing fields and exodus of boat people that followed America’s humiliating exit off an embassy rooftop. As the Weekly Standard’s Matthew Continetti noted, Mr. Bush had appropriated one of their most cherished analogies — only he drew very different lessons from it.

Mr. Bush’s success in Iraq is equally infuriating, because it showed he was right and they wrong. Many in Washington have not yet admitted that, even to themselves. Mr. Obama has. We know he has because he has elected to keep Mr. Bush’s secretary of defense — not something you do with a failure.


In sharp contrast, in his AEI column on Afghanistan, Rubin wrote:

After billions of dollars and hundreds of lives lost to promote the idea that the Afghan government was in charge and Hamid Karzai was legitimate, with one fell swoop the Obama team is cutting Karzai out of the equation. On the one hand, no one should be sorry to see Karzai go, but on the other hand, the US strategy appears to be to delegitimize Karzai, promote the Taliban, and provide no alternative.

Let no one say that Afghanistan has become Vietnam. In terms of results—and diplomatically-inflicted wounds—the forthcoming Taliban talks will make Afghanistan far worse than the aftermath of our war in Southeast Asia almost four decades ago.

Funny how these things always seems to happen to America when the far left is in charge:

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