Friday, August 27, 2021

Tragedy of Empire / Mostly Sociopaths at the Top


Ecclesiastes 1:9 (KJV) The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Turn off the TV and close the browser tabs with mainstream media content produced by middlebrow conformists. Watch this video instead and read the links below. 

If you were surprised by events in Afghanistan over the past weeks, ask yourself why you were so out of touch with a reality that has been clear to careful observers for over a decade. Then ask yourself what other things you are dead wrong about...

Ray McGovern is a retired CIA analyst who served as Chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and preparer/briefer of the President’s Daily Brief. Prior to that he served as an infantry/intelligence officer in the 1960s. 

McGovern wrote Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President (addressed to President Obama, about Afghanistan) in 2009. 

See also: The Strategic Lessons Unlearned from Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan: Why the Afghan National Security Forces Will Not Hold, and the Implications for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan (Strategic Studies Institute and U.S. Army War College Press 2015) M. Chris Mason  

Related posts:

Tears before the Rain: An Oral History of the Fall of South Vietnam (Afghanistan darkness over Kabul edition) 

Afghanistan is lost (2012)

Podcast version of the interview at top:

More color here from Danny Sjursen, West Point graduate, former US Army Major. Sjursen is a combat veteran who served in Iraq and later as an Army captain in Afghanistan in command of 4-4 Cavalry B Troop in Kandahar Province from February 2011 to January 2012.

Added from comments:
At the strategic level it has been clear for 10+ years that our resources were better used elsewhere. It was obvious as well that we were not succeeding in nation building or creating a self-sustaining government there. I could go into more detail but you can get it from the links / interviews in the post. 
At the tactical level it should have been obvious that a quick collapse was very possible, just as in S. Vietnam (see earlier oral history post). Off-topic: same thing could happen in Taiwan in event of an actual invasion, but US strategists are clueless. 
Biden deserves credit for staying the course and not kicking the can down the road, as effectively a generation (slight exaggeration) of military and political leaders have done. 
The distortion of the truth by senior leaders in the military and in politics is clear for all to see. Just read what mid-level commanders (e.g., Sjursen) and intel analysts with real familiarity have to say. This was true for Vietnam and Iraq as well. Don't read media reports or listen to what careerist generals (or even worse, politicos) have to say. 
Execution by Biden team was terrible and I think they really believed the corrupt US-puppet Afghan govt could survive for months or even years (i.e., they are really stupid). Thus their exit planning was deeply flawed and events overtook them. However, even a well-planned exit strategy would likely not have avoided similar (but perhaps smaller in magnitude) tragic events like the ones we are seeing now. 
ISS attack on airport was 100% predictable. I don't think most Americans (even "leaders" and "experts") understood ISS and Taliban are mortal enemies, etc. etc. 
There is more of a late-stage imperial decline feel to Afghanistan and Iraq -- use of mercenaries, war profiteering, etc. -- than in Vietnam. All of these wars were tragic and unnecessary, but there really was a Cold War against an existential rival. The "war on terrorism" should always have been executed as a police / intel activity, not one involving hundreds of thousands of US soldiers. 
All of this is (in part) an unavoidable cost of having intellectually weak leaders struggling with difficult problems, while subject to low-information populist democracy (this applies to both parties and even to "highly educated" coastal elites; the latter are also low-information from my perspective). This situation is only going to get worse with time for the US. 
BTW, I could describe an exactly analogous situation in US higher ed (with which I am quite familiar): leaders are intellectually weak, either do not understand or understand and cynically ignore really serious problems, are mainly concerned with their own careers and not the real mission goals, are subject to volatility from external low-information interest groups, etc.

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