Lessons in a costly mishap


We should always think twice before insulting someone. My daughter’s teenage grandson recently put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Daddy, you are bald. I replied, “Grandson, don’t you understand genetics? Likewise, at his age, I told an uncle he was fat. It is now obvious to me that he does not weigh more than I do now. What I mean is poorly crafted statements often come back to bite your butt.

I thought about it when I started criticizing President Biden for his withdrawal from Afghanistan. Many on the right criticized him, although they remained silent when President Trump announced the deadline for the withdrawal. We can say that the pullout was botched, but when you look at the numbers of Americans and Afghans flown in, the results have been quite remarkable. I’m not happy that we didn’t take out all the Afghans who helped us, but at least we didn’t completely abandon them like America did the Kurds when Trump abandoned our Syrian base to the Russians.

Frankly, there is no perfect way to get out of a war that has lasted 20 years. Biden was right in deciding not to leave this unnecessary war to another president.

Arguably, we made a huge miscalculation in invading Afghanistan. Of course, we wanted to have Bin Laden and punish the Taliban for helping him. But bin Laden, we now know, was in hiding in Pakistan, as this “ally” most likely knew. Looking back, why attack the Taliban for helping Bin Laden with a temporary home when the vast majority of his support came from our other ally, Saudi Arabia? We managed to drive the Taliban leadership to – guess where – Pakistan. Of course, they returned within 18 months and reestablished their control over much of the country. Why have we not then destroyed their ability to fight? First, because that has never been our mission. So why not go years ago? Three US Presidents, Bush, Obama, and Trump were dishonest when they each said we were not engaging in a nation-building effort. The truth is, we were there making a half-hearted effort to build democracy in this former backward country. We have wasted billions of dollars doing it. We have formed a pathetic army with men who enlisted primarily for money, not for a cause, as their lack of effort showed when we left.

A very knowledgeable local writer, Linda Dunn, in a recent column for this article, explained the problem of this war better than I did. We have poured millions upon millions into the military industrial complex with no clear purpose for a nation whose age-old culture has firmly opposed change. The best that can be said about our involvement there is that, unlike the Soviet Union, we were not there to support a puppet government. There were, of course, many Americans who sought to do their best for these people. But America never solidified our goals there.

There are lessons to be learned from our misguided Afghan enterprise, but we Americans tend to correct our mistakes only after repeating them. Historians are likely to view our response to the 9/11 attacks as poorly done. If we had relied almost entirely on covert operations, this is how we found and killed bin Laden, rather than waging a 20 year war in Afghanistan, rather than invading Iraq and destroying it there. government, which led to the creation of the Islamic State, imagine how much we could have saved economically and from a world perspective. In the meantime, let’s all be cautious about our criticisms and think deeply about it first.

Michael Adkins was previously chairman of the Hancock County Democratic Party.

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