The scale of failure in Afghanistan is hard to overstate. Our “intelligence” services (who deserve to be referred to in scare quotes until they display some actual intelligence some day) were incapable of picking up any signs that the Taliban were arming and organizing on a large scale for their swift takeover of the entire country, or if they did gather any on-the-ground signals, their interpretive process (a polite term for “groupthink”) prevented them from drawing accurate and meaningful conclusions. This is the opposite of intelligence: it is the product of an establishment that simply lacks the capacity to think at all.
Never mind the “finding” that the Taliban would take 90 days to reach Kabul. How about the reassurances that we had trained an Afghan army of 300,000 (and provided them with lots of materiel that is now in the hands of the Taliban)? Doesn’t inspire much confidence that our military knows how to train a foreign army at all. Perhaps our military should be excused to some extent, as the entire “training” program was politically driven by our genius foreign policy establishment, people like the Agency for International Development and similar goo-goo entities. Remember the huge federal budget last year that included $10 million in the State Department budget for “gender programs” in Pakistan? This is the kind of establishment that thinks what we need is a now-abandoned $700 million embassy in Kabul (and an even more expensive embassy in Baghdad), with a staff of 5,000.
Taxpayers should be furious not just about the profligate waste and extravagance of such an establishment, but at the bottomless idiocy of a class of credentialled people who think that the answer to every foreign problem is to spend absurd amounts of money, hire endless case officers and private contractors/consultants, outreach coordinators to tweet out rainbow flag celebrations, issue endless white papers analyzing the situation that bear little or no relation to reality, and an apparatus that has proven unable to process visas for the Afghans who worked for us, let alone have a plan for evacuating Americans. Despite Biden’s pathetic defense of the outcome, he ought to be furious with the whole upper echelon of our military-diplomatic complex. There ought to be mass firings. Of course, we all know that no one will be fired, and no senior person in this apparatus of disaster will have the honor to resign.
Finally there is the incompetence of the withdrawal itself. It is one thing to decide to end our presence in Afghanistan, and take your chances that the Taliban can be deterred or contained some other way (does anyone think our military-diplomatic complex has a serious plan to do this?). It is another thing to make the announcement that set the Taliban’s timeline in motion. So vagueness and misdirection were called for, but no one seemed to have the guile for it.
When the British decided to end the Gallipoli misadventure in early 1916, it made no public announcement that it was planning to end the offensive and withdraw, because they knew doing so would encourage the Turks to attack the retreating British and ANZAC forces and turn the retreat into a slaughter. So the withdrawal was done in a stealthy way that effectively disguised that the Allied forces were leaving the scene. The ingenious British went as far as to improvise rifles that fired from the abandoned trenches automatically, with makeshift firing mechanisms that pulled rifle triggers when water ran out a hole in a bucket, for example. We should have been using that kind of legerdemain in Afghanistan. At the very least, we should be mined and booby-trapped equipment we were abandoning.
The only people more feckless than our military-diplomatic elite are the media, led, naturally, by CNN. One of CNN’s reporters actually said, “They’re chanting ‘Death to America’ but seem friendly at the same time. It’s just bizarre.” I suspect a university education is behind this level of cluelessness.
In his great book Modern Times, the historian Paul Johnson called the period of the late 1960s through to the end of the 1970s as “America’s Suicide Attempt.” We seem to be repeating every folly of that era just now.
To paraphrase slightly something M. Stanton Evans once said, when I think of the calibre of our DC elites, one looks with a certain degree of new respect at the Roman Emperor Caligula: at least he appointed his whole horse to the Roman Senate.