Joe Biden’s Show Trial: The prosecution team, Edward Luce, Ben Shapiro and Niall Ferguson! Political Observer comments.

Edward Luce addresses the reader :

Headline: Biden’s Afghanistan fiasco: ‘We look like a deer caught in headlights’

Sub-headline: The chaotic scenes in Kabul are unlikely to derail his domestic agenda but undermine his promise to restore competence

Not since Major General William Elphinstone’s retreating British army was picked off in 1842, has a foreign occupier left Afghanistan under such a cloud. It took three years after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 for its Kabul ally to submit to mujahideen forces. It was two years after the US military’s exit from Vietnam before Saigon fell to the communists in 1975. On Monday Kabul folded to the Taliban almost three weeks before the official day of America’s departure.

“We look like a deer caught in the headlights,” says Mathew Burrows, a former senior CIA officer now at the Atlantic Council. “It is one more chink gone in the American empire.”

Further selections:

But as the president on whose watch the concluding fiasco took place, Joe Biden’s name will be indelibly linked to it. The question is whether he can extract any foreign policy gains in what one analyst described as Biden’s “Ides of August”. Since he was partly elected on a promise to restore competence to the White House, there is also concern that the fall of Kabul will wound Biden’s ability to push through his domestic agenda.

“It will be hard to separate Biden’s strategic decision to leave Afghanistan, which may ultimately prove to be right, with the hasty and sloppy and panicked way in which it has been executed,” says Steve Biegun, former US deputy secretary of state. “This comes as something of a body blow to Biden’s ‘America is back’ message. Everyone thought he was going to be different to Trump.”

“It defies belief that this withdrawal was imposed by the military,” says a former senior Pentagon official. “The US military was following civilian orders.” The official adds that it was also misleading to blame what has happened on intelligence failure. “The intelligence agencies gave a range of forecasts, including the worst,” he says.

The bigger impact on Biden’s role is likely to be felt with America’s allies and adversaries. Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, told the European parliament that the departure was “a catastrophe for the Afghan people, for western values and credibility and for the developing of international relations”. Armin Laschet, Germany’s possible successor to Angela Merkel after September’s general election, described it as “Nato’s biggest debacle since its founding”. Even the reliably Atlanticist British failed to conceal their disappointment with an America that had failed to keep them abreast of the details of its pullout.

“If Biden’s withdrawal shows that America is becoming less messianic and will focus more on looking after its people at home, then this decision will be a good one for America and China,” says Eric Li, a Shanghai-based political scientist and venture capitalist, who is a frequent defender of China’s stance to western audiences. “That is what China will be hoping for.”

“The joke was that in 1989 the ISI defeated the Soviets with American help,” says Sarah Chayes, an Afghan expert who was a senior Pentagon adviser. “Now the ISI has defeated the United States with American help.”

Ben Shapiro in full hysterical cry, complete with arched brows, and the usual staccato delivery. There is no transcript, of this not quite 24 minute rant, framed by the Islamophobic ‘8th Century Barbarians’. An Orthodox Jew who lives in a former Confederate State, he is no Harry Golden!

Niall Ferguson in The Economist:

Headline: Niall Ferguson on why the end of America’s empire won’t be peaceful

Sub-headline: As it leaves Afghanistan in chaos, America’s decline mirrors Britain’s a century ago. It may also invite wider conflict, warns a historian

“THE MULTITUDES remained plunged in ignorance… and their leaders, seeking their votes, did not dare to undeceive them.” So wrote Winston Churchill of the victors of the first world war in “The Gathering Storm.” He bitterly recalled a “refusal to face unpleasant facts, desire for popularity and electoral success irrespective of the vital interests of the state.” American readers watching their government’s ignominious departure from Afghanistan, and listening to President Joe Biden’s strained effort to justify the unholy mess he has made, may find at least some of Churchill’s critique of interwar Britain uncomfortably familiar.

How inauspicious that Ferguson should begin his essay with Winston Churchill, in full hyperbolic rhetorical finery ! The reader has access to David Reynolds ‘In Command of History’ , of 2005 ,that argues that Churchill wrote, and re-wrote, the History of WWII, without apology. Or Richard Toye’s ‘Churchill’s Empire: The World that Made Him and the World He Made’ of 2010. Churchill as committed, vociferous Imperialist, not forgetting a career defined by political opportunism. Ferguson is a fellow traveler of Churchill’s, in ultra-respectable Oxbridger drag!

Here is a link to a review of Ferguson’s ‘Colossus: The Price of America’s Empire.’ from the New York Times of July 25, 2004 By John Lewis Gaddis:

At 384 pages, ”Colossus” is one of Ferguson’s smaller books; but it is his most ambitious effort yet to connect historical analysis with what is happening in the world today. His thesis is simply stated: the United States is an empire, however much Americans might deny that fact; its record of accomplishment in this capacity is not very good; and it should learn from the experiences of earlier empires, notably that of Britain.

Both ”Colossus” and Ferguson’s previous book ”Empire” proceed from a controversial assumption for which he makes no apologies: it is that empires have as often been a force for progress as a source of oppression. Their history, he reminds us, goes back much farther than does that of the modern state — that fact alone provides reason to question politically correct claims that we live in a postimperial age. Nor should we want to, Ferguson argues, because empires are a time-tested method for imposing order and securing justice, qualities sadly lacking in the post-cold-war world. ”What is required,” he writes, ”is an agency capable of intervening . . . to contain epidemics, depose tyrants, end local wars and eradicate terrorist organizations.” The United Nations has long since demonstrated its inability to perform this task. That leaves only the United States, together with such coalitions of the willing as it can assemble.

That Americans have the power to run such a ”liberal empire” Ferguson does not doubt: they have been doing something like this for decades. They have, however, been ”surprisingly inept” in their interventions, which are ”often short-lived and their results ephemeral.” This has happened, he complains, because they ”lack the imperial cast of mind.” Americans fail to train their youth to manage their empire. They resist annexation, preferring ”that foreigners . . . Americanize themselves without the need for formal rule.” They are more into consumption than conquest: ”They would rather build shopping malls than nations. They crave for themselves protracted old age and dread, even for other Americans who have volunteered for military service, untimely death in battle.”

At nearly 3200 words Mr. Ferguson’s essay is a crowded field of Historical Players: Britain, in its various rhetorical permutations, takes three large paragraphs. A comparison between America and Britain takes up six more paragraphs. Then notorious Neo-Liberal Larry Summers enters predicting ‘inflationary dangers’. Austerity is the lingua franca of Neo-Liberals, even in the face of the 2008 Economic Collapse, and the Obama ill-fated Simpson-Bowles, named ‘The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform’! Churchill, Hitler, Mussolini, Imperial Japan, Fiji, Gambia, Guiana, Vancouver – the Ferguson Juggernaut is just gathering speed as the readers patience ebbs!

Luckily? for the reader she comes to a section titled ‘Power is Relative’, two paragraphs begin this part of the essay:

A relative decline compared with other countries is another point of resemblance. According to estimates by the economic historian Angus Maddison, the British economy by the 1930s had been overtaken in terms of output by not only America’s (as early as 1872), but also Germany’s (in 1898 and again, after the disastrous years of war, hyperinflation and slump, in 1935) and the Soviet Union (in 1930). True, the British Empire as a whole had a bigger economy than the United Kingdom, especially if the Dominions are included—perhaps twice as large. But the American economy was even larger and remained more than double the size of Britain’s, despite the more severe impact of the Great Depression in the United States.

America today has a similar problem of relative decline in economic output. On the basis of purchasing-power parity, which allows for the lower prices of many Chinese domestic goods, the GDP of China caught up with that of America in 2014. On a current-dollar basis, the American economy is still bigger, but the gap is projected to narrow. This year China’s current-dollar GDP will be around 75% of America’s. By 2026 it will be 89%.

Ferguson’s ‘idee fixe’ on China takes up the next two paragraphs, except that China become part of a carefully muddled historical analogy, if it even qualifies for that rhetorical status!

Beijing, Taiwan, Neville Chamberlain, Czechoslovakia,1938 as “a quarrel in a far away country, between people of whom we know nothing”.

I had printed copies of these essays, so as to more easily engage with their arguments , yet this essay has almost reached the length of Mr. Ferguson’s essay. Here is the point of arrival, for this essays, swimming in historical/political/economic garnish, with the help of political fabulist Winston Churchill!

The acquisition of such extensive global responsibilities was not easy. But it is a delusion to believe that shedding them will be easier. This is the lesson of British history to which Americans need to pay more heed. President Joe Biden’s ill-advised decision for a “final withdrawal” from Afghanistan was just the latest signal by an American president that the country wants to reduce its overseas commitments. Barack Obama began the process by exiting Iraq too hastily and announcing in 2013 that “America is not the world’s policeman.” Donald Trump’s “America First” doctrine was just a populist version of the same impulse: he too itched to get out of Afghanistan and to substitute tariffs for counterinsurgency.

The problem, as this month’s debacle in Afghanistan perfectly illustrates, is that the retreat from global dominance is rarely a peaceful process. However you phrase it, announcing you are giving up on your longest war is an admission of defeat, and not only in the eyes of the Taliban. China, which shares a short stretch of its vast land border with Afghanistan, is also closely watching. So is Russia, with zloradstvo—Russian for Schadenfreude. It was no mere coincidence that Russia intervened militarily in both Ukraine and Syria just months after Obama’s renunciation of global policing. Mr Biden’s belief (expressed to Richard Holbrooke in 2010) that one could exit Afghanistan as Richard Nixon exited Vietnam and “get away with it” is bad history: America’s humiliation in Indochina did have consequences. It emboldened the Soviet Union and its allies to make trouble elsewhere—in southern and eastern Africa, in Central America and in Afghanistan, which it invaded in 1979. Reenacting the fall of Saigon in Kabul will have comparable adverse effects.  

What have these three propagandists missed?

Headline: At Least 37 Million People Have Been Displaced by America’s War on Terror

Sub-headline: A new report calculates the number of people who fled because of wars fought by the United States since Sept. 11, 2001.

At least 37 million people have been displaced as a direct result of the wars fought by the United States since Sept. 11, 2001, according to a new report from Brown University’s Costs of War project. That figure exceeds those displaced by conflict since 1900, the authors say, with the exception of World War II.

The findings were published on Tuesday, weeks before the United States enters its 20th year of fighting the war on terror, which began with the invasion of Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001; yet, the report says it is the first time the number of people displaced by U.S. military involvement during this period has been calculated. The findings come at a time when the United States and other Western countries have become increasingly opposed to welcoming refugees, as anti-migrant fears bolster favor for closed-border policies.

Political Observer

About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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