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    • Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 17, 2021
      Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 17, 2021   Strategic Political Economy “You lost. Stop acting like you won” [White Hot Harlots (lyman alpha blob), via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-14-21] “The abortion issue has been lost. I cannot fathom any plausible near or medium-term scenario in which the actually existing American left mounts a successfu […]
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Hubris, Ignorance, Political Games, and Grandstanding

I would like to write something profound about Afghanistan, and our twenty years there, now ending. I am sure that books will be written about the entire history of our Middle East forays into nation-building, finding terrorists, revenging a tyrant’s efforts to kill a President’s father. Very obviously, there are no easy answers, or obvious rights and wrongs. But I think we can reasonably conclude some things even now; or at least I will provide a few of mine.

1. It has been a mostly futile idea to think that America could “fix” totalitarian Middle Eastern countries. We should have learned that from Southeast Asia. Some of what we have tried to do is commendable;, much of it is arrogant and doomed to failure. These countries in general do not want us there; and assuming that we are not going to blow them up, our military cannot effectively change the nature of the populace. Maybe we did effect some better leadership in Iraq, but at the cost of greatly destabilizing the entire region.

2. We have listened to our military too much. On the one hand, we admire and thank the very brave men and women of our military, who go to various parts of the globe to do what they can to defend and support America’s causes. But have we not learned that military leaders have mostly been wrong, often disastrously? They were wrong about the landing on the Bay of Pigs, and they caused an actual debacle. They were wrong about the great danger of a nuclear war in the Cuban Missile Crisis, and many of them actually supported one.

They were wrong about Vietnam, and actually lied about how we were doing ,and whether we could “win.” This led to our country being torn apart; 58,000 American deaths; and a refusal to admit “defeat,” so we stayed even more years, and finally left in ignominious fashion. They were wrong about the second war in Iraq. They were wrong about Afghanistan, where we spent 20 years. The first few years were valid, as we sought Bin Laden, and tried to remove the terrorists who were harboring him. But we stayed and stayed, ten years after Bin Laden was killed. The military leaders kept advising that we were doing well, we just needed to stay the course. And of course nothing improved, and we finally are leaving. So with all sincere respect, I am not impressed by the military people who come on TV shows, and complain about us leaving the country, and how it is being done. For whatever inherent reasons, they are wrong about most of it.

3. Call them “Hawks,” call them “NeoCons,” there is a class of so-called analysts and pundits who have been pushing for these involvements, and even more. We all know the names. And they haven’t changed; they think they are always right; and whatever happens is used by them to support their basic premise, which is that America should use its military might all over the world, to try to turn tyrannies into democracies, and also of course, to secure favorable oil deals. So when we hear some of them bitterly complain about President Biden’s handling of the withdrawal, we should always remember that these people always think they are right; still believe in their global agenda, and so will never admit that they were wrong; will inevitably try to deflect the blame onto Democratic leaders, as virtually all of them are Republican military hawks.

4. Republicans are far more interested in political gains, than in accomplishing anything worthwhile. Whatever happens under a Democratic president, they bitterly inveigh against. Every calamity is the Democrats’ fault, nothing is theirs. When the Marine barracks in Beirut were blown up with about 250 casualties under Reagan, it was because of the evildoers, and we must get revenge. When four people were killed in Benghazi, it was Hillary’s fault and they made “Benghazi” and five years of House hearings, a campaign and fundraising slogan. They never worry about their inconsistencies, hypocrisies and lies, it is all in the service of their lust for absolute power It would be helpful if they actually had any consistent positions to argue, but they don’t. They just hope things go wrong under Democratic presidents.

5. Republicans have profited for over 70 years with their portrayal of themselves as “strong,” and Democrats as “weak.” Virtually every Democratic candidate, from Stevenson, to actual war hero McGovern, to high-ranking Annapolis graduate Carter, to Mondale, to Dukakis, to Clinton, to Gore, to Kerry, to Obama, were all portrayed as weak. Hillary, they portrayed as a “warmonger.” Whatever works for them is what they do. Even to Bob Dole talking about “Democrat wars,” which of course contradicts the rest of it, but they don’r worry about such things.

But it is a trope which the ever-compliant media accepts, and thus does much of the public. GW Bush was AWOL, and should have been court-martialed, but the media portrayed him as a strong Republican; whereas Gore, who actually went to Vietnam, was a boring person who could not make up his mind about what suit to wear. Kerry, another war hero, was portrayed as a “Frenchified” person who shot himself to get undeserved medals. Trump, who got some doctor to diagnose him with bone spurs, and said that “his Vietnam was trying to avoid venereal disease,” was also portrayed as strong, in the way that some see Mafia figures and puffed-up tyrants as strong.

6. Trump, who wanted to take credit for leaving Afghanistan, and who let 5,000 of the Taliban including potential terrorists, maybe those who planned the terrorist attack today, out of prison, now apparently is claiming that he was in favor of us staying there. Trump and Pompeo are the ones who set the deadline for May, which Biden got extended into the the end of August. But apparently Trump and his cult get a pass on facts. And it has been speculated that once Trump knew that Biden would take office, he tried to make it virtually impossible for Biden to get this withdrawal accomplished.

7. The media has expectedly been mostly awful. I could write at length about this, but we all see it. They seem to see themselves as a combination of Inspector Javert from “Les Miserables,” and an overbearing trial attorney. They pepper Biden and any of his officials with accusatory questions, and are not very interested in the answers. They immediately portrayed the withdrawal as a “debacle.” They did not do this when Ford withdrew troops from Vietnam. They have a narrative, and they are going to purvey it, every day. And of course it has the effect of damaging Biden’s approval ratings. Why they do this, is an important subject; but more important is that they do it every single time. They tried to portray every action that President Clinton took in international affairs, as a mistake, or incompetence. And when it mostly all worked out very well, then they pivoted back to personal matters, which they had started their coverage of him with.

8, And those two Congressmen who decided that they would fly to Kabul to give their own personal assessments of things? Utter arrogance, grandstanding, and contempt for the Administration. And I think that the continued media narrative gave them some cover for this stunt.

9. What would people have preferred Biden to do? Stay? Bomb the country? This was going to be very difficult, getting all our troops out, but we probably will. We would like to help all the Afghans who fear a Taliban regime, but that is sadly, impossible. When do you leave this kind of situation? Why were we there for twenty years? Because Biden is a Democratic president, he gets the political third degree that Republican presidents never get with regard to foreign policy. He is supposed to withdraw, but in perfect fashion; getting all the Afghan people who helped us in some way, or want to leave, out; and yet not bringing them into this country. Just make it all go away. It is an impossible task. The horrible terrorist attack at the airport today upsets all of us. It is not Biden’s doing. Terrorism is a major threat to democracy and safety. The domestic terror threat inside this country is likely more dangerous than the rest of it.

10, So many people are quick to contend that we should do this or that; go to war, send troops to a foreign land. But they never seem to worry about the long-term consequences, or they cavalierly or irresponsibly misjudge them, and then they scurry away to either avoid being blamed for any of them, or try to deflect the responsibility to someone else.