Afghanistan 2050: A Political Watershed

. . . Thus ends our discussion of the military aspects of the Afghan campaign. The political roots of the campaign and how they developed – everyone obviously has their own individual story as to how their own family was affected by the momentous events this war helped to set in motion – are not so easily discernible today. President Bush’s decision to invade the country and overthrow the Taliban government in 2001 seemed a logical response to the events of 11 September, but was in reality predetermined by decades of ideological and political confusion which only came to its inevitable end with the withdrawal of Successor States forces in 2018. In effect American policy makers fancied themselves metaphysicians capable of driving human historical events/the development of political cultures through the use of military power. While the tendency among Bush Studies academics is to argue that Bush represents a unique model followed by his three successors, this puts too much influence on the man and not the times, nor the history which made those times what they were. It is difficult to imagine today, but in the waning years of the US Empire three great tendencies came together and imploded pretty much simultaneously. The first was the notion that the US, alone among the political communities of the world, possessed a special mission from God to influence and change the world; we can refer to this as the “shining city on the hill” delusion. The second was the “liberal”/Enlightenment view of the US as a new start, the perfect humanist society which would reform the corruption of the past; refer to this as the Founding Fathers’ assumption. The last was the powerful complexus of interests that formed the Empire’s National Security State which had developed after 1945; let’s call this one by Fulbright’s famous term: The Arrogance of Power. Who was to know in 2001, or even up to the very end, that the first two tendencies provided the poison which destroyed the third, and vice versa? “Afghanistan” is where all three essentially ran out of gas (both literally and figuratively): the scales fell from the people’s eyes, the support of the “too big to fail” Empire collapsed, and a new phase of our people’s history was set in motion that we are still experiencing today. Graveyard of Empires indeed.

Analysis I will leave to the reader. I think it pretty much speaks for itself. This view – following Clausewitz and Max Weber – sees “political states” as social action orientations. When individuals, in this case the citizenry of a state, no longer orient their actions in terms supportive of the state, the state ceases to exist. Afghanistan in itself is of little consequence to the US, just as Vietnam was 50 years ago. It is rather our own policies and the background/causes of those policies which are of actual importance.

I also assume an educated, well-informed citizenry capable of not only critical thinking, but also clearly identifying their own communal interests.