We Gave Them Everything They Needed to Defend Their Country Except a Country
The Dramatic Failures of Ethnocentric Social Constructionism
I speak to you today from behind a computer screen in a comfortable rural American community, with horses and trees and a beautiful light rain soaking the freshly cut grass, while my children read and play Nintendo, and we all digest a particularly good ribeye steak. I speak to you while people in Afghanistan plummet to their deaths from heights exceeding that of the World Trade Center, their broken bodies bouncing off rooftops in Kabul after attempting in vain to cling to the side of C17-A troop carriers “floor loaded” with anyone the Taliban might hang from a crane by the neck in the next week. I speak to you, steak in my belly, while I watch videos on Twitter of my Afghan twins plummeting, wondering idly if Biden was able to properly read his teleprompter after they got him out of his hyperbaric containment chamber to make a statement regarding the Establishment Position on what’s going on. I didn’t watch him. Too busy watching the sky over Wardak Province rain goat herders while the US army tries to herd people off the runway with Apache attack helicopter prop wash.
To say I had no thoughts to share on this would be an immense lie. I have enough thoughts to share on this for ten novels. But today we will narrow our focus to the one question everyone seems infatuated with in the Western World: How did the United States Government not see this coming? I see it attributed to an “intelligence failure,” and to a “failure of leadership,” and to a “logistical SNAFU.” I see those claiming we should have pulled out on the date Trump negotiated, when Ron Paul wanted to a decade earlier, or when all the “Wrecking Shit” was done in 2001. I also see people saying this was inevitable and unavoidable.
It was inevitable, but not unavoidable. The problem wasn’t intelligence, nor even logistics. The problem was how cultural indoctrination sets act as lenses that distort facts and create false images of the world. And I am not referring to the cultural indoctrination sets of the Afghanis, but of the creeps in Washington DC.
The whole "reconstruct Afghanistan" project flowed from something called “The Pottery Barn Rule,” conveyed in private to George W. Bush by Colin Powell and deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. "You break it, you fix it." Powell told George W with regard to the invasion of Iraq, “You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people. You will own all their hopes, their aspirations, and problems. You’ll own it all.”
In brief terms, bombing people into near oblivion just creates a more unstable region which will in turn create more of the (thing) that caused the place to have to get bombed in the first place. This “reconstruction” idea was widely credited with the creation of a lasting peace after World War Two, in contrast to the approach for World War One where the winners twisted the knife in the backs of the losers until their people were okay voting for Hitler. That logic, extended, said the only way to avoid future terrorist kamikaze camps was to build a different Afghanistan where people wouldn’t breed terrorist kamikaze camps because they’d be so happy about their “democracy” and their “freedoms.”
This was fundamentally, terribly, horribly wrong and led to the skies over Kabul raining goat herders. To understand why, let’s look at my clone.
The Afghanistan birth rate in 1976 was 50 babies per 1000 people. On the day I was born, 1,800 babies were born across Afghanistan. One of them was born the same hour and minute as me. He is my clone. My lost brother on the opposite side of the world geographically, socioeconomically, and culturally.
I often daydream of my clone. He has a wife, six children, and a dozen goats. He has no electricity and he wipes his ass with rocks when he goes to his outdoor toilet. He’s no dumber than I am, no less wise, no less resourceful, no less committed to his children, and he’s probably a much harder worker. He would excel here in the USA. He has lived in the Daoud Republic, the Soviet occupation, the Mujahedeen insurgency, the Taliban, the United States occupation, and is about to witness the sixth government of his lifetime take control of his goat farm.
If he is still alive, he has stayed alive by doing one important thing during each of these state transitions: going with the flow. He’s pledged soft loyalty to any man who shows up at his door with an automatic rifle, said "yes sir no sir they went that-a-way sir" to every single one of them, and has continued his life of making baby Afghans and baby goats. This is the only way he could have survived, as everyone who made any different choice has been shot. Natural selection has bred a people who absolutely will not stand up for any government ideal, because if they did they'd be dead. He’s clever. He’s shrewd. He’s not dead. His genes will live on and his children prosper as best as their situation allows because he chose to never, under any circumstances, fight for a government. I am in awe of his wisdom.
As much as I completely disagree with the social indoctrinations of the Taliban, their religious beliefs, their treatment of women, and such, I would absolutely support them today if I were my clone. And I'd give the same soft support the Chinese when they invade in five years too, and in turn the Taliban again in ten years when they root the Chinese out.
“Yes sir, no sir, they went that-a-way sir.”
Setting aside the stark socioeconomic differences between the creeps in DC and the rural Afghans, the policy makers and military of the United States are, to a fault, indoctrinated in the myth of self-governance so deeply that they can't understand the minds of anyone who isn't. That's why they thought the Afghan forces would fight back. They definitely had the tools to fight back, but why would they?
Fight for what?
Why would they risk their lives maintaining the fifth regime of their lives to prevent the fourth regime of their lives from becoming their sixth, when everyone who fought for any of these prior regimes ended up dead? “No thank you sir,” says my erudite Afghan clone, “I have babies to make and goats to milk and rocks to soil. They went that-a-way.”
And the Taliban storms Afghanistan as the Afghan Defense Force welcomes them, hands them billions of dollars of United States military hardware, and gracefully accepts their first paycheck and food delivery in months, while the Taliban fighters forgive them their transgressions and offer them a job. The Taliban used to say “Americans have the watches, but we have the time.” They waited patiently twenty years, and are now a world military power in desperate need of helicopter mechanics, likely handing out wives as an employment perk.
All because the creeps in DC were so indoctrinated in the socially constructed “Nationalism Meme” they couldn’t understand how the world looks for anyone who doesn’t have it.
I have family who are Army brass, and I do not want or intend to disparage them. One of them is a woman so talented that on each of her five deployments to Afghanistan she was in charge of logistics for the entire military theater. I will never have the talent she has, nor the commitment and dedication to her job and nation. I don’t talk to her much, but I recall a dinner conversation about half a decade ago where she shared some stories.
She met her husband, my cousin, in the Army in the run up to Desert Shield. They were stationed together in Dhahran unloading boats when the Scud missiles fell. In order to have a family one of them had to quit the Army. They did the progressive thing. She stayed in, he raised their three daughters, and last I heard she was a general stationed at NORAD. She told a story over dinner of meeting with Afghan tribal officials one time, and they were infinitely fascinated and curious that a woman would not only be in the US Army, but in a position of power. They kept asking her who raised their children. She said her husband.
She was proud of the work she was doing over there. She spoke with excitement about how the girls could finally get educations, and looked up to the Americans because of the opportunity they were being given. I’m sure they were, and it saddens me to know that unmarried women over age 15 and widows under age 40 are being collected and handed off to Taliban fighters for arranged marriages against their will.
But that personal example pulls the thread apart of what the larger project of “nation building” actually is. It is culture war at sword point. The United States military, in its attempt to westernize Afghanistan, was installing classical feminism by force, and now the Taliban are uninstalling it, also by force. I happen to believe in all the things we were trying to install, but I’m not clear the girls we left behind are any better for it.
Machiavelli said you had three options when you take over a country. You could kill everyone, you could colonize them by moving your people into their area and rubbing their culture out face to face, or you could occupy them until you ran out of men and money and had to quit. We chose number three because we didn’t have the guts (“political will”) to do number one or number two.
I don’t object to colonization in certain contexts. I think everyone made out much better that the Spaniards colonized the Aztecs, for instance. But they did it right. They killed a lot of people, crushed a religion and replaced it with their own, and destroyed a proud civilization. The reason I’m okay with this is that the Aztec civilization was god awful. It’s robust economy and technological advancement was built on the backs of hundreds of thousands of human sacrifices per year, with their own expanding colonies as far away as New Mexico and Colombia. If not for the Europeans the Aztecs may have been slaughtering women and babies on the tops of pyramids in New York.
The Aztecs are still here. I play soccer with them. They refinished my basement last year. They throw balling tailgates with construction coolers full of Pina Coladas at the Atlanta United games. I attend Club America games when they come to town from Mexico City. They’re awesome people, who haven’t performed a human sacrifice in five centuries, and the greatest example I can conceive of society being socially constructed. I’m glad the Aztec Empire was crushed. But the lesson here, is if you’re going to play this god-awful game of Social Constructionism, you must either play it right or not play it at all. If the only move on the table is the losing move then don’t play the game.
The Next Weeks
This terrible two decades, culminating in this terrible power transition, will be used by political wonks and DC creeps to yell at each other and score media points and Twitter shares while they watch their grass grow and digest medium rare steaks. The Blue Tribe is going to say “this wasn’t so bad but also it would have been just as bad if Trump did it.” The Red Tribe is going to say “if Biden hadn’t scrapped the negotiated time table and moved it to 9-11 to score media optics it would have gone better,” which may or may not be true. The authoritarians are going to scream and blame everyone and everything, aghast that the object of their worship couldn’t get this right, faulting the intelligence apparatus, the strategists, and the military. The military is going to say “it’s not our fault they didn’t fight for their country.”
And nobody is going to take the first step of realizing that nobody ever gave them a country to fight for. Because the Afghans, in their electrically devoid shacks with their goats and their toilet rocks, are wiser than them all, and knew there wasn’t a country to fight for in the first place. And perhaps there never was, nor will be, because “countries” only exist in the mind.