The first paragraph of his essay is cinematic in its sweep of images, and evocation of emotions:
The bookends of our two-decade entanglement in Afghanistan are two men falling from the sky. The first, on September 11, 2001, happened in Manhattan, as a figure facing imminent immolation in a skyscraper chose to jump instead. The second we witnessed this week, as another young human body, losing what grip he had on an airplane taking off from Kabul airport, tumbled through the sky for the last moments of his life. Their deaths were both a function of one thing: resurgent theocratic barbarism. And today, they can be seen as punctuating its resilience.
His essay then appropriates the frame of the 21 inch black and white world of 1952.
Everyone who has ever tried this Sisyphean task has failed. We lost the war long ago, and had conceded defeat already. Despite extraordinary sacrifices by Americans and Afghans and Brits and others, a viable, stable, less-awful alternative to Taliban rule existed only so long as it was kept on life support by the West — and not a day longer.
Andy then resorts to a History Made to Measure, the standard trope for the pundit class. While respecting his framing, as vital to his political moralizing. But not content, he sharpens the melodrama:
Our swift victory in the winter of 2001/2 soon became a circle of pointlessness, with al Qaeda underground, Bin Laden in Pakistan, and a Western-designed “government” wallowing in a fathomless pit of corruption. We should have left then, instead of flattering George W Bush’s utopian “nation-building”. Obama should have done the deed in his first term, but he figured he couldn’t end two wars at once, and tried to turn the Afghan project into a moral calling, as he drone-killed thousands. He caved — against Biden’s advice — to the blandishments of the top brass and the piety of the Blob. Trump should have done it — as he promised — but Trump couldn’t even build a wall. And real battle and conflict — along with real accountability that executing withdrawal would have demanded? Trump ran away from all of that for four years.
Has the reader lost her patience with Andy’s Moral Melodrama stretched taught? I’ll just quote some of the more telling portions of Andy’s screed:
We can flagellate ourselves over this — and the futility of it all seems heartbreakingly obvious in retrospect — but it was not ignoble. Two difficult things can be true at the same time. Lives were saved, minds were opened a little, women breathed freer air for a while, bodies were less frequently bludgeoned by torture and barbarism, and souls were less stricken with constant dread.
But we also know that countless Afghans, exhausted by the incompetence and kleptocracy of their own government, unmoved by Western liberalism, had, over the last year, swiftly made deals with the winning party as it swept through all the provincial capitals.
Of course, we should have gotten our people out before the Taliban’s imminent victory — all the Americans and every single Afghan who helped us. That we didn’t is horrifying. To contemplate this betrayal is to shudder.
But there is something about the unreal huffing and puffing this week from the left-media, the neocon holdouts and the opportunistic Republicans that seems far too cheap and easy. It’s as if they have learned nothing — nothing — from the 21st Century.
Bill Kristol — I kid you not — actually wrote another article condemning the withdrawal, quoting Churchill and Munich! How dead can a brain be?
I have tired of Andy’s political moralizing! I’ll just move to Andy’s quotation from The Economist:
Sitting on a dusty rug beside their lorries at the edge of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second city, a group of middle-aged drivers explain the difference between the Taliban and the government. Both groups take money from drivers on the road, says Muhammad Akram, leaning forward in a black kurta; both are violent. But when the Taliban stop him at a checkpoint, they write him a receipt. Waving a fistful of green papers, he explains how they ensure he won’t be charged twice: after he pays one group of Talibs, his receipt gets him through subsequent stops. Government soldiers, in contrast, rob him over and over. When he drives from Herat, a city near the Iranian border, to Kandahar, Mr Akram says, he will pay the Taliban once. Government soldiers he will pay at least 30 times.
The fact that Andy used to be a fellow Neo-Con, and published this 138 page mea culpa about his support for the Iraq War :
Should this present essay. lead the reader to consider exactly what Andy’s motive is for writing this essay? Still, there are 477 words left of Andy’s essay, yet to be read. One of the cornerstones of Straussian rhetorical practice, is to exhaust the readers patience, thereby dulling her ability to understand an argument, if such an argument presents itself to a critical reader’s attention!