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Oh God, Not Like This

(Screencap courtesy Al Arabiya.)

I’ve been fatalistic about the future of Afghanistan for so long now that I can barely remember when mission creep made our failure there a certainty.

Afghanistan isn’t a country. It’s a hole in the map where neighboring countries aren’t. Sometimes, a foreign power like Great Britain, the Soviet Union, or the United States will attempt to fill that hole. But as has been proven yet again, the hole labeled “Afghanistan” is essentially bottomless.

Absent occupying foreigners, Afghan localities typically rule themselves (badly) while the strongman-style central government tries to rule from Kabul (even more badly). In this age of renewed Islamic fundamentalism, the strongmen, local and central, were always going to be the meanest and most brutal fundamentalists.

Always.

Routing the Taliban in late 2001 was a necessary and proper response to the 9/11 attacks on this country. But there was never going to be a permanent fix.

Had President George W. Bush pulled us out when he damn well should have, in 2002 or ’03, the result would have been the same as it was on Sunday: a rapid takeover by the Taliban.

Had President Barack Obama pulled us out after killing Osama bin Laden in 2012, same result.

Had President Donald Trump pulled us out last year, yep, same thing.

But it didn’t have to be like this:

Dear God, not like this.

Presidentish Joe Biden told people just like the ones being shed from that cargo plane like so much detritus that he had a plan for getting them out.

He did not.

Biden told the world that we had weeks or even months to bring home those Afghans who had put their lives on the line to help our mission.

We did not.

In fact, the Biden administration gave the order that made the rapidity of this weekend’s Taliban takeover inevitable:

THIS is what people around the world will remember: that the United States left our Afghani friends and their families behind to be tortured and then slaughtered.

I’m reminded of the sad trope from the darkest corners of the Soviet Union:

Thousands of the victims wrote letters to Stalin from their exile and hardships in the labor camps, all of them persuaded that it had all been a terrible mistake. If only Comrade Stalin knew, he would set it all right and they would be freed and restored as good, loyal Soviet citizens ready to once again work to “build socialism.”

But of course Stalin knew. It was Stalin who ordered the construction of the GULAG, of the forced labor camps, and whose signature adorned one death warrant after another.

“If only President Biden knew” might be the last words from the lips of untold numbers of Afghans, whose own deaths were all but ordered by the American commander-in-chief.

But to the limited extent he seems to know anything these days, Biden knew.

He just doesn’t give a damn about our friends or our interests, as is plain for all the world to see.