Anyone who grew up in the third world or worked there for any length of time will know all too well the virtual futility of trying to make those countries anything like democratic or hold Western values on non discrimination, free markets and the like. As the vice president of Egypt once told my CIA father, “if you don’t discriminate by race, creed or color – then how do you discriminate?” The idea on not discriminating was completely alien! Or the USIA guys who proudly went back to the village where they had paid to install pipes so women would not have to walk miles to get water to bring back to their villages with jars on their heads – only to find the pipes dug up and the men watching TV. “Why do we need pipes when we have women to get the water? What we really want is a TV” they were told.
So wasting blood and money in Afghanistan was something many knew right from the start but as the US usually finds out – it is easy to get in, but it is very hard to get out. Trump was not the first to want to get out of Afghanistan. He said he was going to do it but in the end did not. Perhaps he was just a big mouth pussy; but for sure he got pushback from all sorts of people. Let’s be honest. Getting out of Afghanistan, no matter if Republican or Democrat, was going to be messy. And many people and companies with sympathies on both sides of the isle were making lots of money out of being there. They did not want to loose that money AND the politicians did not want to face the inevitable bad press they would get by pulling out. Biden did pull out and look what happened. Bad press from both right and left.
People forget that when the British pulled out of India in 1948 warnings of what would happen came to pass in spades. Was it messy? A million people murdered, the country breaking into three, Pakistan, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and India – and breaking up along religious lines was certainly a lot more than messy, it was a human disaster. By comparison the US getting out of Afghanistan is pale by comparison.
Meanwhile the speed with which the Taliban took over the country shows just how futile was the US effort. Apparently there was a lot more support for the Taliban than we wanted to admit. We took a horses to water and only saw the ones drinking. The Russians did the same in Eastern Europe. Once the noose was loosened Poland, the Baltic states, Hungary, the Czechoslovakia etc – after 50 years of Russian domination and propaganda all marched straight to join the West and NATO.
Tito held together Yugoslavia. As soon as he was dead civil war erupted and the whole country broke up along ethnic and or religions lines. One country broke into many countries and they still hate each other. Meanwhile, one of the great tragedies that many decry is the outflow of refugees fleeing repression or reprisals from the new regime taking over. From a humanitarian basis one has to sympathize with their plight. At the same time, taking the long view, one has to say that you make your bed now sleep in it.
What would have happened in the US if the suffragettes fled to Canada so they could vote? Or if Martin Luther King had done the same? In both cases staying to push for change at home is what happened. That being said, I would think the Taliban would be happy to see all those that don’t buy into their bullshit view of the world flee as that makes it easier for them to install their bullshit ideas.
The reality is that if change is going to happen in Afghanistan (women’s rights, etc) it is going to have to come from within – just as it did in the United States. Those people that flee only make bad things more possible in the countries they flee from. Will there be death, beatings, pain? Yes of course but so was it true in the US. Change is messy, it comes with struggle, running away does not lead to change. As heartless as that might seem we would do well to remember that reality.