I had several other posts in various stages of finishedness, but I just can’t. I can’t because I have trouble moving on from the one thing on my mind right now – the disaster in Afghanistan that is unfolding before our eyes in real time.
I have been quite successful at staying away from politics in this space for quite awhile now, and I intend to do my best on that score today. I am filled with a combination of sorrow, anxiety and anger. Yes, anger. Some of the reasons for these feelings are, in no particular order, noted below.
We in the US spend a lot of time discussing things that the Federal Government should (or should not) be doing. But when it comes down to it, isn’t there really only one job that is uniquely in the Federal Government’s zone of authority? Yes, that would be the defense of the citizenry. We have a military and we have people in top jobs who are dedicated to dealing with the things that military does. As is commonly said today, “You had one job . . . .”
I am not getting into why we went there, which Administrations took us there and kept us there, and which Administrations made decisions on leaving. What I am getting into is this one question: Who thought it was a good idea to spend the last six months closing down our military presence there while NOT getting American civilians out?
I have no idea how many civilians are in that country (but not on the grounds of the airport which is the single place the military now controls). Actually, I wonder if anybody knows – there are reports that it is in the five figures, but we cannot know if this is accurate. When the Titanic went down, it was reported that women and children were the first ones put on the lifeboats. Wouldn’t a modern analog lead to civilians being ushered out before the military leaves?
It is all a big swirl in my head from the last few days, but it is my understanding that it boils down to this: a) Americans are peppered all over Afghanistan, b) that they are being told to get themselves to the airport, c) the U.S. Government lacks the ability to get them there or to assure their safety along the way. Oh, and this last one is just fab: I am now aware of a report that citizens are being told that if they make it into the airport and onto a plane, that THEY ARE GOING TO HAVE TO SIGN A FOUR FIGURE PROMISSORY NOTE TO PAY FOR THEIR EVACUATION FLIGHT. Yes, I was indeed yelling. And I am not making this up – here is the link.
It is hard right now to imagine any outcomes that are not bad. They are a) Americans killed by the Taliban on the way to the airport, b) Americans being held hostage before being allowed to get to the airport; c) American hostages being assisted by Russian and Chinese governments at what are sure to be incredibly high extortion-level costs to the U.S., or d) You fill in the blank. Because I don’t think d) is going to be “every American in Afghanistan will land safely at a U.S. air base in the next ten days.
And remember the whole reason for this affair? That we are removing our last 2,500 troops from that country? We have not even accomplished that, now that forces are back up to a level of maybe three times that (although not, apparently, at a level that allows for extracting American citizens).
None of this is, apparently, the fault of anyone who has any responsibility for anything. Is it an intelligence failure? A military planning failure? A civilian authority failure? Guess what boys and girls – It. Doesn’t. Matter. Who among the readers of this blog would not be unceremoniously fired for misleading superiors or for either being so dense as to not understand your job or for lying about what is really happening.
When my children were young and when unpleasant things happened to them, they would often complain about those things. I tried to get them into the habit of asking themselves a question: “Was there anything I could have done that might have made things work out differently?” In all the briefings of all the officials and all the spokespeople, I have not heard any evidence whatsoever that anyone involved in this entire debacle has asked him (or her) self that question, or one even remotely like it. This has probably been the single thing that tweaks me the most. Nobody has been willing to stand up, look us in the eye, and say “I/we messed up, and here’s how we will try to fix it.” Nope. This is evidently (from what we are being told) a minor problem that was surely inevitable. I am not buying.
Yes, this has been a rant. No, I do not expect it to accomplish anything. And, sadly, I do not feel one whit better. I can be pretty tolerant of poorly executed government functions. In fact, isn’t that an oxymoron? But when the execution of CRITICAL FIRST TIER government functions gets Americans killed, I lose all patience. We are not to that point yet. I hope we don’t get there and I can come back and offer a “Good Save” to Team Helpless – I really do.
I am old enough to have been in college when the Iranians took 52 American hostages during Jimmy Carter’s administration. I have seen incompetence. I know what it looks like. Or at least I thought I did.
In 1571, a vastly outnumbered naval force of Christian sailors engaged in the last large scale naval battle using oars against a fleet of Ottoman ships. The weather favored the Turks in the morning, but by the end of the day the western force routed the Islamic aggressors. In Catholic circles, it is know that Pope St. Pius V (a Dominican) prayed a rosary throughout the time of the battle. Thereafter, he attributed victory to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Perhaps Pius V shows us today the way to actually accomplish something (which a rant like this cannot.) Sometimes there is no substitute for prayer. The governmental housecleaning can come later after our at-risk citizens are safely home.