The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Taliban, ISIS, & the Kabul Airport Attack

So, a group called ISIS-K attacked near the Kabul airport and killed people, including US troops.

The media is in a full hand-wringing “Blame Biden” mode, which is fair in a sense (the buck stops at the top) and ridiculous in that it is still a war zone, and people die and evacuating traitors and collaborators after the country has fallen was always going to be a difficult job.

The Taliban was responsible for security outside the airport and failed, but given the mob scene, the only way they could have succeeded was to clear all the people clustered around the airport looking to get out, and pushed checkpoints back. Perhaps they should have done it, but it would have looked very bad and been used to suggest they were keeping people in the country.

Some people think this means a hard war for the Taliban against ISIS, but I rather doubt it: ISIS-K is a truncated terrorist group, not a full-fledged guerilla movement. They may be able to carry out some suicide attacks and bombings, but they aren’t a real threat to the Taliban. That doesn’t mean that cleaning them up entirely will be easy, but I don’t expect them to control any large amount of territory.

This is the sort of nonsense being spewed by “experts.”

The Taliban is overwhelmed,” Bruce Hoffman, a counterterrorism expert at Georgetown and the Council on Foreign Relation, tells Politico. “They are very effective at bullying and victimizing civilians, but they are incompetent at battling groups that look like themselves.”

This is the American disease, again. “The people who just kicked our ass are only good at beating up civilians, which is why we lost to them.” And “our murder squads are morally superior to them.” The main strategy in Afghanistan, as in Iraq, other than bribing untrustworthy people, was drone murders and special forces kill squads. We know that the drones killed about 90 percent civilians, and I’d be very surprised if the kill squad numbers were much better.

Broken countries are hard to rule. Iraq still has regular bombings to this day (unknown under Saddam). But the Taliban will be no worse than the US and its proxy government was at stopping them, and I suspect rather better, because they have what the US and the proxy government never had: legitimacy. Remember, most cities, including Kabul, did not fall to military force; the Taliban negotiated entry. In Kabul’s case, they were asked in by Karzai, the ex-President, because the “government” forces couldn’t maintain order.

When going after terrorists, which is what ISIS-K is, what you need to is informants. The Taliban will have more of them than the US ever did because, again, the Taliban has the legitimacy the US and its proxy forces never had.

As for the idea that the Taliban want or needs US help…

…Amira Jadoon, an ISIS-K expert at the U.S. Military Academy, told the Post. “Without U.S. support or Afghan security forces,” she added, “I don’t think we can realistically expect the Taliban to constrain ISIS-K” alone.

No. They will get help from Pakistan, and probably China, not the US, which has already started slapping on sanctions.

And, again, the idea that the US is good, or even remotely competent at shutting down terrorist groups in overseas nations is ludicrous. The US presence and “help” increases terrorist strength.

Afghanistan’s a mess. Over five million refugees were created during the occupation. We don’t know how many people died or wound up with PTSD and other mental or physical issues, but this isn’t going to be an easy country to govern.

What the US can do is bugger off and stay out of Afghanistan’s affairs. No sanctions, and no “help” except maybe reparations (which we all know the US won’t pay, because the US always thinks of themselves as the “good guys”).

And do remember, absent the US invasion of Iraq, ISIS would never have happened. Absent the US support for the Mujahideen fighting against the USSR, the Taliban and Al-Q’aeda would never have happened.

If the US actually wanted to help, which is beyond laughable, the best way would be to just stop interfering in other nations’ affairs.

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The Beautiful Stupidity of Ukraine’s Massive Sell-off


Open Thread


  1. Plague Species

    This leaves Biden no choice. He will now have to nuke Afghanistan in retaliation.

    It’s about this (the following) which Biden has been telegraphing. No boots on the ground, or not boots on the ground in the traditional sense. The next phase of perpetual conflict for conflict’s sake. The Strategy of Tension must always be in play.

  2. Plague Species

    What the US can do is bugger off and stay out of Afghanistan’s affairs. What the US can do is bugger off and stay out of Afghanistan’s affairs. No sanctions, and no “help” ……

    Agreed. I will add, no more Kill Lists furnished to the Taliban.

    The nearly $2 billion in frozen Taliban assets need to be used to transition the Afghan evacuees into their new lives versus dumping them in the ghetto somewhere and telling them good luck.

    Any aid or money to Afghanistan will be usurped and used for purposes other than the intent of the aid if the intent of the aid indeed had a noble compassionate purpose. Also, get the NGOs the hell out of Afghanistan. Most of them are trouble-making Charlie Wilson fronts anyway.

  3. Plague Species

    I’ve counted three times at least in the past week Biden mentioning Beyond the Horizon. That means the drone strikes will continue unabated.

    Intelligence is a funny thing, isn’t it? It couldn’t predict the capitulation of the Afghan army and government to the Taliban without a fight once American soldiers picked up and left in the dead of night, but it can predict with amazing accuracy an attack by the ever convenient and reliable ISIS. The ISIS attack was telegraphed by Biden for the last week, and what do you know, voila, there it is. These Intelligence folks are something, aren’t they?

  4. Hugh

    The Taliban reflect Afghanistan in that they are tribal and diffuse, It was what made them difficult to combat and allowed them to flow around American and Afghan government forces. But it is also what makes it hard for them to organize and structure their own government and control the country. We are already seeing fragmentation where they say one thing and do another. Partly this is simple hypocrisy and lying. But it is also their leaders wanting to do one thing while the rank and file do something else. And it isn’t like it poses a big problem for one religious extremist group (ISIS) to hide in and around another (the Taliban). I mean how is anyone including the Taliban supposed to tell them apart?

    The evacuations at the Kabul airport were always dangerous. It was just easier for the media to, as Ian says, wring their hands and for politicians here to use them as a political football until the ISIS attacks. After them, none of this will stop but they may have to reformulate their messaging a little.

    As for Afghanistan, it is running on fumes. Calling it a failed or failing state means something. If the US and Europe stop the aid they were pumping into the country, they will destroy Afghanistan far more effectively than their years of occupation. And the ISIS attacks give them cover to do so.

  5. anon

    I’ve noticed that the people who are most pro-war are also vehemently opposed to allowing people from the Islamic world to immigrate to the West. I have heard cogent arguments against immigration and the challenges that people who have very different cultures/religions from ours being able to assimilate in the West. However, the best way to avoid letting in hundreds of thousands of immigrants and refugees into our country is to stop colonizing and starting wars in their countries. These pro-war/anti-immigrant voters and supporters of the military industrial complex refuse to see that these issues go hand-in-hand. We need to get out of that part of the world and allow the people there to fight their own fights for whatever they consider to be “freedom” and “human rights.”

  6. Plague Species

    This is pretty damning all the way around. Damning for the Taliban in a LIHOP kind of way, and damning for America to trust the Taliban in any way, shape or form. They’re all bad actors acting in bad faith, including America.

    The Pentagon admitted on Friday that the Taliban released “thousands” of Isis-K militants from US prisons in Afghanistan.

    Pentagon spokesman John Kirby was asked how many members of Isis-K, a wing of the Islamic State based in Afghanistan, were released from the prison at Bagram and why they were not removed before the United States began its exact number.

  7. The Taliban just retook the entire country in a matter of weeks. It took America longer to occupy the entire country. I’d say it is technically accurate that the Taliban are overwhelmed. You’d be overwhelmed to if you spent 20 years fighting a war with a foe that has over 2,000 times more money and was 40 years ahead technologically. Especially if you won and “liberated” your country in an offensive that lasted less time than it takes to quarantine from a viral infection. It takes America longer to approve the repair of a faultily bridge than it took for the Taliban to control the country.

    @ anon

    The same applies to Latin American. America literally funded terrorists groups in central America, overthrew the regions democracies and installed mass murdering dictators. Sadly most people can’t grasp that if you destroy a country the people in it will want to leave.

  8. Plague Species

    So tell me again, why were the American soldiers not ordered to execute the al Qaeda and ISIS prisoners before they evacuated Bagram? Who would have objected or shed a tear? Instead, they were released by the Taliban to execute a bunch of fleeing Afghnans and American soldiers and that funny thing called Intelligence couldn’t foresee these prisoners being released. This all seems so filthy dirty. It beggars belief. Diabolical. Can our Intelligence Services and DoD be this evil? Of course they can be and apparently are.

    From August 15th.

    Prisoners leaving Kabul jail after being broken out by Taliban.

  9. Plague Species

    Oakchair the terrorist sympathizer. His anti-vax stance and implying COVFEFE-45 is a hoax shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s the official Taliban stance considering the Taliban wants as many Americans to die form the pandemic as possible. I bet Oakchair has a beard, sunglasses and he wears pajamas when he practices at the gun range. Oh, and he keeps his women locked and chained in the cellar no doubt.

  10. Purple Library Guy

    So supposedly the Taliban released “thousands” of ISIS-K types from a prison, and that’s supposed to be the problem here? How is it that I’ve been following news about the war in Afghanistan ever since 2001, I’ve never heard of ISIS-K before, and yet they’re supposed to have not only thousands of members, but so many members that someone managed to put thousands of them IN PRISON?

    I’d be willing to believe “dozens”. And most of those probably switched sides or just dropped the whole gig once they realized the Americans were out and the Taliban now in charge. Except maybe the ones actually on the CIA payroll.

  11. StewartM


    I’ve noticed that the people who are most pro-war are also vehemently opposed to allowing people from the Islamic world to immigrate to the West.

    Including the commentariat here. In fact, when talking about Central American children fleeing gang violence and enforced gang enlistments, a long-term result of Reagan’s policy of supporting anti-Sandanista “freedom fighters” and other thugs, one commentator here openly asked “Can’t we just send in the military?” Anything, but anything to avoid accepting brown children into the country!! Spare no expense!

    I have heard cogent arguments against immigration and the challenges that people who have very different cultures/religions from ours being able to assimilate in the West.

    I would differ on that. I have a friend in a country neighboring Afghanistan, and I asked him “what do you guys think of the Taliban?” He replied “We hate them”. He said he had friends in Afghanistan, and some of them had already escaped to Canada, while others had made it to either Tajikistan or Kazakhstan (I forget which). Admittedly my friend is young, and his girlfriend has traveled through the EU, but my impression is that his opinion and interests and those of his family and friends (he’s not rich, btw) aren’t that different than most Westerners of the same age. There is no huge yawning cultural gap. My friend likes eating pizza and sushi, going to karaoke with friends, and nice wrist watches. People are largely the same everywhere.

    A good analogy, I think to what happened in Afghanistan would be if an outside power poured money and trained and the more extreme Christian rightists in the US, who used military power and intimidation into taking over the US government, stripping the vote away from “the undeserving” or “not true Americans”, locking up abortion doctors and gays, and banning contraception. That would not mean that they would represent “the will of the American people” or any other happy BS. It would be the result of the exercise of naked power, or the threat thereof.

    This is the essential problem that happens when start regarding military prowess as a sign of competency in anything but war. You can see in the 1970s photos of Afghan women wearing Western garb. Lots of them, maybe most of them, don’t want to live under the Taliban’s or ISIS’s concept of Sharia Law.

  12. Hugh

    ISIS-K has been around since January 2015 when it was recognized by the original ISIS. It’s in wiki, numbers around one to two thousand and is mostly made up of former Taliban.

  13. Mary Bennett

    Plague Species, since when are refugees ever dumped “into a ghetto somewhere”? Refugees are treated far better than our own homeless. Most of the Afghan refugees will turn out to have a relative or five already living in the USA, they will be supported by Moslem communities already here, all this in addition to whatever benefits can be wrangled out of an embarrassed govt. Naturally such worthy folks can’t be expected to mop floors or flip burgers; it won’t be long before the functionary who insults you at DMV or your child’s school, or the CPS agent who shows up at your house for no good reason will turn out to be “from Afghanistan”, that information presented as one more reason why said agent or functionary is A LOT more important than you, who was merely born here and has contributed to the economy all your working life.

  14. Astrid

    More than 90% of the trillions spent in Afghanistan were for military use. And America has been “investing” in Afghanistan since 1979.

    Somehow I don’t think the Afghan economy will suffer that much compared to the unhealthy distortions of US MIC money, especially as China, Russia, and Pakistan all have great interest in keeping a stable Afghan government going.

    But I suppose for the likes of Hugh, the woke man’s burden is unending and all encompassing and cannot fail, only be failed.

  15. Astrid

    As this article by John Pilfer should remind people, Afghanistan had a popularly elected socialist government that supported women’s rights and poverty alleviation, until US funded Saudi educated Wahbists overwhelmed it. Incidentally, this is practically exactly the same story as Yemen, and Iran to an extent. There’s nothing inherently barbaric about the local population, but the after effects of suffering through decades of brutal US imposed violence and sanctions. If you read travelogues by whites a century ago, you will hear them believing the backwardness of east and southeast Asians in very similar language.,15445

  16. Afsoon

    Abdullah Panah was born in the United States and raised in Atlantic City but speaks both Persian and Farsi, he said. He has visited Afghanistan, the last time about seven years ago.

    “We were at a famous lake not too far away from Kabul — Qargha Lake. We went there for gathering old memories for my parents,” Abdullah Panah said. “Literally four hours after we left a well-known restaurant at the lake, it was attacked by the Taliban.”

    When Americans think of Afghanistan, mental pictures of a war-torn country are often not far…

    He has not been back since, he said.

    Setaara is filled with memorabilia from Afghanistan. There is a mural of the Darul Aman Palace, destroyed by civil war in the 1990s but rebuilt by Ghani. There is a human-sized model of one of the two gigantic sixth century Buddhas of Bamiyan statues carved into cliffsides in central Afghanistan and destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. There is also photo after photo of 1970s Afghanistan, when people dressed in Western styles, women were educated and held jobs, and there was a feeling of freedom, according to Daud Panah.

    “Afghans are moderates,” Daud Panah said of the majority of his countrymen. He blames other countries for foisting fundamentalism on Afghans, including the British who fought three wars in his country in the 19th century.

    “Now, the Chinese are trying to get in,” Panah said.

    Abdullah Panah said he believes the Chinese plan to control the vast mineral wealth of Afghanistan.

    Hashimi is hopeful the Taliban will not be violent or exact revenge, but previous experience with the fundamentalist group inspires fear.

    “The first time the Taliban was there (1996 to 2001) was a brutal time,” Daud Panah said. “No one could breathe. You could be beat up for anything.”

    Daud Panah described what the people of Afghanistan are feeling now as a type of post-traumatic stress disorder.

    “People are having flashbacks from the past,” Panah said, of violence, cruelty toward women and a lack of freedom.

  17. Mark Pontin

    Ian: “What the US can do is bugger off and stay out of Afghanistan’s affairs.”

    Are you serious? I thought you had a palette for unpleasant truths, Ian. Things are just kicking off.

    As the Chinese try and order their aid and mining and pipeline-building (Iran to China) efforts in Afghanistan, and the Russians do whatever they do, and the Indians are there because the Pakistanis are there, and the Taliban keep killing Shia Hazara tribesmen, and the Iranians are there because of that and the pipeline, so too the CIA will also have operatives and operations out there in the Afghan hill country and in the towns.

    The Great Game will continue, with a different configuration of players. For the international covert ops/intel agencies, it’ll be just like old times in the 19th century, except probably even more intense given the expanded roster of players.

    Marlo Stanfield: The Game is always the Game.

    Avon Barksdale: Always.

  18. Hugh

    We live in a time where the new normal is simply to ignore facts and numbers. Afghanistan has a population a shade under 40 million. About 14 to 15 million are dependent on foreign food aid. If that stops, they die. Afghanistan has a cash economy. With the Taliban takeover that has largely ground to a halt. The cash that kept it running was what trickled down to it from US and international aid. That’s either gone or paused. People who think China, Russia, and Pakistan are interested in or have stabilized anything need to go into standup or cut back on their medications. Russia back in the USSR days invaded the place for nine years and killed 500,000 Afghans. Pakistan has spent most of its existence trying to undermine and manipulate Afghanistan. And about the only countries China has supported are North Korea, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and the junta in Myanmar.

  19. Plague Species

    A man gotta have a code. ~ Omar Little

    Omar is the Robin Hood of The Wire in a very literal way he makes his living by robbing the Hood, stealing from drug dealers and giving back to his community, Omar feels almost mythical because it seems impossible to do what he does and stay alive. And Omar’s superpower is really his code. We respect Omar as a moral character because he shows courage integrity and a coherent worldview through living by the rules he’s made for himself. Ultimately Omar shows what the basic worth of a code is — it offers us the freedom to live as ourselves without fear or regret.

    Omar unlike the thugs around him purposely excludes innocents, taxpayers, witnesses and bystanders from his violence, but as he says “the game is out there, and it’s either play or get played.” Omar is highly intelligent, curious, doesn’t curse, he takes his Gran to church and protects those whom he loves, exacting revenge on their deaths when necessary. Omar is an odd moral compass, but by insisting that the rules of the game be upheld, he set an example for the next benighted generation.

  20. Ian Welsh

    Mark Pontin,

    “If the US actually wanted to help, which is beyond laughable”

  21. different clue

    The only way that America will bugger out of engineering manipulation of other country-loads of other peoples’ affairs is if a Seclusionist America movement can organize and cohere itself into existence, and then keep recruiting Americans into becoming a commanding majority within America.

    At which point, we would have to wage and win a civil cold war ( at the very least) against our “internationalist interventionaries” and our “free trade supporters”. If we can get America to that point, I would hope that the “internationalist interventionaries” and the “free trade supporters” would allow themselves to be crushed and humiliated and would stand by to see their policy orientation be utterly destroyed and abolished without forcing us to have to slaughter several million of them and bury them in mass graves.

    We would also have to create a new national consensus about Woodrow Wilson as ” 20th Century America’s most evil President”, the moral monster who brought official jim crow to the Federal Workforce and to Washington DC, the global-scale warmonger who conspired and connived with Great Britain to trick America into World War One on the wrong side, the great destroyer of a viable left wing political movement and community, the colonial marine corps intervener in Haiti, etc.

    If we can get the Wilson legacy to be accepted as the high level radioactive waste sewage lagoon which it really is, we will be on the road to decontaminating certain forms of conceptual pollution from the American mind.

  22. Plague Species

    Another tragedy upon tragedy — Afghanistan’s population doubled (20 million to 40 million) during the 20 year American occupation with 70% of the population comprised of Afghans younger than 25 years of age.

    Per this graph, Afghanistan’s population is set to double again to 80 million by 2050. Of course, that’s not factoring in impacts from environmental destruction and devastation.

    If you had to guess, what would you say Afghanistan’s population will be in 2050 if there is an Afghanistan in 2050? I’ll kick it off and say if it isn’t zero, let’s go with 6 million.

  23. Mark Level

    I thank Ian for a very sober and cogent column, as usual, but somewhat agree with other commenters that the US NatSec “Community” (sic, spies and torturers may form a community of sorts, but in general the term fits poorly) will not walk away from the bloody clusterf*ck they created for the last 2 decades willingly or easily. As Astrid said, Empire can’t fail to its cheerleaders, it can only be failed. And we have the White Men’s Burden crowd here, Hugh and Plague Species most prominently, who will want us to stay involved eternally because of course “we” are morally and perhaps additionally racially superior, look at our wonderful economy and how well it serves the top .001% obviously . . . PS once shrieked in the comments that because I agreed with Ian’s thesis in a post (factually & objectively speaking, Joe Biden has been a bigger “killer” than Putin, no saint himself but with a smaller empire with fewer endless wars running for decades, etc.) that I was plotting to nuke him alongside my admired “friend” Putin (sic), & now we get to see a PS post in which he (evidently not even using hyperbole) advocates that Biden “nuke” the Afghans, because Isis-K (as best we know) not the Taliban even, may have killed some occupying Imperial troops . . . Anyway, I would say that the Chapo Trap House crew has been doing some outstanding podcasts recently praising Biden for finally having the courage to pull out (which neither Obama nor Trump for his faux anti-imperialism or anti-globalism) remotely had the courage to do. . . As the joke goes, the Empire of Graveyards just got whupped by the Graveyard of Empires!” (I probably saw that on Counterpunch?) . . . in any case the Chapo Monday podcasts are free on SoundCloud and I’d recommend their recent pieces on Afghanistan to those who are interested. Since Mark P brought up the Great Game, one of the great questions that the CTH group asked was, how will the CIA replace all the opium and heroin $$ they were getting running Afghanistan the last 20 years? Even NPR (another establishment war cheerleader) admitted recently that 93% of the world’s heroin/opium originates in Afghanistan since the US took it back from the Taliban, who were actually suppressing its cultivation and distribution back in 2001 . . . In any case, though I’m no fan of Biden, in this case he has made the right choice, clearly, and I hope the Deep State minions don’t succeed in blocking a full withdrawal. I know the Empire will try to create some new conflict it can look like it will win, perhaps in Latin America, installing another right-wing, murderous Military junta of the Pinochet type (Oakchair correctly notes the Empire’s “success” in making most of Central America unlivable for the majority of its people, then forced to emigrate to Mexico or here). But there are constraints on the Empire’s funding and effectiveness post-Covid that evidently even a senile old pol like Biden can recognize. (The push for withdrawal definitely isn’t coming from Blinken.) It will be interesting to see if the Taliban suppresses the opium trade or not, or takes its revenue for a time to rebuild, but the US’s defeat, tail between its legs, is to be celebrated, and the people of Central Asia will need to take their own future back as best they can without the US’s malign attempts at control, Great Game of the past few centuries or no.

  24. Chava Harel

    I’ll kick it off and say if it isn’t zero, let’s go with 6 million.

    To honor shabbat?

  25. “Anyone opposing invading Iraq is a terrorist traitor.” -Plague species in 2002.

    “Afghanistan will be poor and suffer if America doesn’t spend trillions bombing weddings and terrorizing it’s people. There’s no way a non war zone will have a better economy than one littered with blood and bullets.” -Hugh

  26. Ché Pasa


    What’s that? No, really. What is this “Afghanistan” of which you speak? There is no Afghanistan except in the ever-fabulizing imperial imagination, the Stan between the Stans, but there is no such nation in the sense that “Nation” is usually used. Never has been. Isn’t one now. Empires can’t win there until there is de-tribalization (not happening) and unification under a commonly agreed and supported leader/king/emir. Also not happening.

    There’s near desperation to legitimize the Taliban and their emirate without an emir, because at least they recognize the idea of a Nation and are playing the game of national recognition. Outsmarting the empires again? Could be.

  27. Hugh

    Nice to see the upside down crowd has arrived. Really you guys need to lay off your drugs. Plague Species has said we should never have gone to Afghanistan at all. I thought we should have left within 6 months by mid-2002. Somehow to drug-addled brains this equates to support for forever wars. Oakchair just takes it a step further making up things we never said and positions we don’t hold because true believers like them don’t need no facts and honesty doesn’t apply to them.

  28. Hugh

    Ché Pasa, I rank Somalia as the first failed state, a space on a map without any real government or control of that space. That’s was back in the 1980s. There are others now like Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Afghanistan. At some point, a few years ago I added the category of “permanently failing states.” Much of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia fall under this description as well as states like Myanmar as well as much of Central America and Haiti.

  29. Bridget

    We would also have to create a new national consensus about Woodrow Wilson as ” 20th Century America’s most evil President…the global-scale warmonger who conspired and connived with Great Britain to trick America into World War One on the wrong side

    Samuel Untermeyer and Chaim Weitzman did the tricking.

    As to Wilson:

    “It was Mr. Wilson who appointed Louis D. Brandeis to the Supreme Court Bench, an appointment which he fought vigorously to have approved and in which he was successful, overcoming the prejudices of the Supreme Court itself and of Congress. As Governor of New Jersey he had previously showed his friendliness for the Jews in appointing Samuel Kalisch to the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

    Mr. Tumulty also definitely confirmed the long standing impression that Brandeis was one of Wilson’s principal advisers both during and after the war. He said Wilson frequently consulted Brandeis on some of the greatest problems of the government, especially when critical situations arose and placed much reliance on Brandeis’ advice. Mr. Tumulty recalled some incidents in connection with Mr. Wilson’s nomination of Brandeis to the Supreme Court.”

    Plague, how’s the weather in Tel Aviv?

  30. Gail

    We would also have to create a new national consensus about Woodrow Wilson as ” 20th Century America’s most evil President…the global-scale warmonger who conspired and connived with Great Britain to trick America into World War One on the wrong side

    Samuel Untermeyer and Chaim Weitzman were the tricksters. But I imagine you knew that.

  31. Plague Species

    John Pilfer — I guess that’s an appropriate mistake considering Pilfer and Afghanistan go together like a horse and carriage. The last 20 years, longer than that actually, in Afghanistan have been about pilfering if nothing else.

    These are the scum you are bragging about, Oakchair, you sicko.

    The Taliban’s use of children as suicide bombers in Afghanistan is an egregious affront to humanity that should cease immediately, Human Rights Watch said today. In the latest incident, on August, 27, 2011, residents of Baharak district in northeastern Badakhshan province captured a 16-year-old wearing a suicide vest as he was on his way to blow up a local mosque.

    There has been an alarming increase in recent months of suicide bombings, and attempted suicide bombings, by children, Human Rights Watch said. Younger and younger children have been involved. Children as young as 7 have reported that they were deployed as suicide bombers. Surviving children who trained as suicide bombers describe having been given amulets containing verses from the Quran that they were told would protect them from the explosion. They said they were told that when the bomb they carried detonated, everyone around them would die but they would survive.

  32. Mark Pontin

    Mark Level: ‘… how will the CIA replace all the opium and heroin $$ they were getting running Afghanistan the last 20 years? Even NPR (another establishment war cheerleader) admitted recently that 93% of the world’s heroin/opium originates in Afghanistan since the US took it back from the Taliban, who were actually suppressing its cultivation and distribution back in 2001 .’

    It’s an interesting question. Especially as my suspicion has been that we’re only seeing the unfamiliar sight of an elite billionaire family, the Sacklers, being (nominally) prosecuted over the Purdue opioid crimes, because someone — or set of someones — wanted that chunk of the US heroin market back.

    It’s a growing market, needless to say —

  33. Mark Pontin

    Just one more argument for a continuing CIA presence, I guess.

  34. Gail

    I’m sure most Americans and people of the world are aware that that Louis Brandeis “was leader of an elitist secret society called the Parushim, the Hebrew word for ‘Pharisees’ and ‘separate,’ which grew out of Harvard’s Menorah Society.”

    No? Please visit a Shoah museum near you. We’re building as many as we can, for your convenience. The museums also touch on some other of the other atrocities other peoples of the world have experienced. But it’s mostly us.

    Palestine? No such thing.

    Never forget.

  35. Matt

    Palestine? No such thing.

    lol. No, no section on Palestine.

    Hypocrisy much?

  36. StewartM


    connived with Great Britain to trick America into World War One on the wrong side

    Whatever Wilson’s many faults included, the Central Powers and the Second Reich sure the hell wasn’t the “right side” to be on.

  37. Hugh

    Nice to see the anti-semites join the party. The Taliban is into most facets of the opium trade and controls the majority of it. So who do we blame? The CIA, of course. My neighbor got rained on today as he was cutting his lawn. Clearly, there was CIA involvement there too.

  38. nihil obstet

    Matt Stoller has a long post addressing issues that I’ve rarely seen elsewhere on Afghanistan.

    Specifically, first, most of the money sent to Afghanistan came back to American contractors. The concern about the loss of this foreign aid to the country is overblown because they were getting only about 10% of it anyway.

    Second, the American style fighting depended on heavy technical and air support, most of which was provided by contractors. They maintained the intellectual property of the equipment. As the contractors left, they tore out the helicopter defense system and removed access to intelligence and communications software. The Afghan army was left without the minimum resources to organize.

  39. Hugh

    Let’s see, 10% of a couple trillion dollars. Yeah, that wouldn’t come to tips at a fancy restaurant. And the Afghan army couldn’t fight against an enemy with no air cover because its own air cover wasn’t as good as it had been? Come on, man! I’ve heard better excuses why one side lost after a football game.

  40. different clue


    Neither was the British Empire and the Czarist Empire any sort of “right side” to be on.

  41. Astrid

    Ah, Hugh equating anti-Zionism ( even the quasi-paranoid sort) with anti-Semitism, why am I not surprised?

    Again, calling blowing up the countryside and bribing local warlords with Viagra aid doesn’t make it so. US’s post-1950 track record for intervention abroad is so abysmal that it doesn’t deserve any benefit of doubt. I hope that one of these days, all the countries that the US invaded wins a case for reparations. Maybe the stupendous amount of damages will finally kill off the DoD.

  42. elkern

    My optimistic version of the near (decade(s)) future for Afghanistan would be this:

    – China (with carrots) and Russia (with sticks) convince Taliban to become [relatively] responsible rulers – at least preventing export of terrorism.
    – China puts up Real Money to build their New Silk Road right through Afghanistan
    – China hires a million young Afghans to do this
    – which creates a new Middle Class there
    – new opportunities in This Life reduce the appeal of rewards in The Next Life.
    – Russia sells Taliban the kinds of weapons they can use & maintain (unlike US stuff)
    – Taliban pays for it with Chinese loans
    – China & Russia use SCO to keep Pakistan & India from messing things up
    – Maybe Taliban provides Intel to Russia to roll up ISI & Saudi-funded radicals throughout Central Asia?
    – New Silk Road creates a path for economic development throughout the region

    Win/win/win, for Afghans, China, Russia, Iran, ‘Stans. USA & West only “loses” relatively, and only if we don’t take the time to rebuild our own country(ies).

    My pessimistic future:

    – Pakistan (ISI), KSA, & USA/CIA waste a lot of money preventing peace & prosperity in Afghanistan
    – ISI might kill their famous Bowler (Khan)
    – China gives up on building Silk Road through to Iran
    – attacks Taiwan instead
    – maybe starting WWIII
    – Russia gives up on diplomacy with West & Islamists; SCO turns into Military Alliance
    – Muslim-majority Asian states, with no economic improvement, provide lotsa angry young men for more jihad
    – mostly against Russia, but with some attacks in West
    – USA continues to focus on Empire & Military Greatness
    – doesn’t get around to rebuilding crumbling infrastructure
    – invades Venezuela because it’s Good For Exxon
    – Global Warming worsens
    – Bangladesh washes into Indian Ocean; India rejects refugees, fights Pakistan
    – maybe starting WWIII

    I’m sure I left out a few details, especially from my pessimistic scenario.

    So, the question is, will USA be able to accept anything less than complete Global Military domination? Will we take the world down with us, if we can’t run things?

    It’s hard to be optimistic about US politics these days.

  43. Jesse

    Israel accelerated its nuclear program after the death of President Kennedy. By 1965, it had obtained the raw material for a bomb consisting of U.S. government owned highly enriched weapons grade uranium obtained from a company in Pennsylvania called NUMEC, which was founded in 1956 and owned by Zalman Mordecai Shapiro, head of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Zionist Organization of America. NUMEC was a supplier of enriched uranium for government projects but it was also from the start a front for the Israeli nuclear program, with its chief funder David Lowenthal, a leading Zionist, traveling to Israel at least once a month where he would meet with an old friend Meir Amit, who headed Israeli intelligence. NUMEC covered the shipment of enriched uranium to Israel by claiming the metal was “lost,” losses that totaled nearly six hundred pounds, enough to produce dozens of weapons. Such was the importance of the operation that in 1968 NUMEC even received a private incognito visit from a top Israeli spymaster Rafi Eitan who later ran the spy Jonathan Pollard.

    With the uranium in hand, the stealing of the advanced technology needed to make a nuclear weapon, which is where Hollywood movie producer Arnon Milchan comes into the story. Milchan was born in Israel but moved to the United States and eventually wound up as the founder-owner of New Regency Films. In a November 25, 2013 interview on Israeli television Milchan admitted that he had spent his many years in Hollywood as an agent for Israeli intelligence, helping obtain embargoed technologies and materials that enabled Israel to develop a nuclear weapon. He worked for Israel’s Bureau of Science and Liaison acquisition division of Mossad, referred to as the LAKAM spy agency.

    Milchan admitted in the interview that “I did it for my country and I’m proud of it.” He was not referring to the United States. He also said that “other big Hollywood names were connected to [his] covert affairs.” Among other successes, he obtained through his company Heli Trading 800 krytons, the sophisticated triggers for nuclear weapons. The devices were acquired from the California top secret defense contractor MILCO International. Milchan personally recruited MILCO’s president Richard Kelly Smyth as an agent before turning him over to another Heli Trading employee, future Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for handling. Smyth was eventually arrested in 1985 but insofar as is known neither Milchan nor Netanyahu has ever been questioned by the FBI regarding the thefts.

  44. Harry Mui

    As Bennett meets Biden, IDF ramps up plans for strike on Iran’s nuke program

    Military, defense minister believe a credible threat of an Israeli attack on Tehran’s nuclear facilities is only way US will be able to negotiate better deal with Islamic Republic

  45. Coyote Don

    Please stop mixing your meds and popping off.
    Thank you from the edgy side of town.

  46. nina rotater

    a credible threat of an Israeli attack on Tehran’s nuclear facilities is only way US will be able to negotiate better deal with Islamic Republic

    See, Israel does stuff for the U.S. sometimes!

  47. Hugh

    I thought this post and thread were about the Taliban and ISIS-K. My bad.

  48. bruce wilder

    i think 20 years of cruel and murderously destructive U.S. policy might have something to do with the horrors of the outcome

    so, no, not about the Taliban and ISIS-K alone, without the context of an irresponsible and morally repugnant 20-year strategy by a world power with no business being there.

    this idea of some commenters that the U.S. is somehow not responsible, after 20 years and $2.2 trillion spent on corruption, cruelty and destruction, carrying the lying and the mismanagement of every operation right down to the bitter end of evacuation and abandonment and — absurdly — financial sanctions against those inheriting the fragments of the Afghan state the U.S. destroyed.

    the inability of so many to blame those actually responsible is why the U.S. is itself rapidly becoming a third-world country

  49. Hugh

    Afghanistan had a history before we got there. It will have one after we leave. It was never much of a state, and pretty much a failed state by the time we showed up. It looks like it will remain a failed state.

  50. Mike Barry

    “We would also have to create a new national consensus about Woodrow Wilson as ” …, the global-scale warmonger who conspired and connived with Great Britain to trick America into World War One on the wrong side…” — different clue.

    Achtung, baybee! Seriously, we speak English here. If you don’t like it, emigrate.

  51. According to Hugh, above;

    The Taliban is into most facets of the opium trade and controls the majority of it.

    That statement is ridiculous. They might own most of the poppies, but once those, or the crude product, is sold, I doubt they control anything thereafter. Supermen, these Taliban, not only can they win wars and set up a govt., they even find time to control the international drug trade.

  52. bruce wilder

    “Afghanistan had a history before we got there. It will have one after we leave. It was never much of a state, and pretty much a failed state by the time we showed up. It looks like it will remain a failed state.”

    “So sorry about destroying your car and killing your child when I drunkenly collided with you in the intersection, but, hey, your car was kind of a wreck, you were poor and your child would probably become a criminal and end up in jail if he had any ambition at all. So no real harm, am I right? No real foul”

    That’s your argument, Hugh. For the facts of what happened, you substitute an irrelevant counterfactual where nothing the U.S. did had any impact on an imaginary abstract national trajectory because (in Che Pasa’s favorite phrase) “nothing changed”. Meanwhile a whole lot of lives and wealth was senselessly destroyed “changing nothing”

  53. bruce wilder

    I suppose it is not entirely relevant, but it reminds me of people who, observing the lives of people being destroyed by cruel and abusive parents or bosses or indifferent institutions insist nothing can be done. All problems are intractable. Unintended consequences trump the good intentions of the misguided do-gooders.

    As Ian says, if the U.S. really wanted to help, we could have saved everyone, including ourselves, the time and trouble, and would not need to be rotting our own brains with such bs

  54. Hugh

    My argument is that black and brown people the world over have their own histories. And far more than us, they are responsible for them. They aren’t six-year-olds, and we should stop treating them as if they were.

    Mary Bennett, I will quote from an article in al Jazeera, the Taliban are involved in “poppy planting, opium extraction, and trafficking to exacting “taxes” from cultivators and drug labs to charging smugglers fees for shipments bound” out of the country. I thought it was obvious that they did not and could not control the opium trade once it left Afghanistan.

  55. KT Chong

    Let’s be real here: the US government left in a hurry and behind all the military hardware DELIBERATELY and INTENTIONALLY. Why? Look at Afghanistan on a map: its neighbors are China, Iran and Pakistan — all which are enemies of the US. Russia, another US enemy, is also nearby. If Afghanistan falls into chaos and civil wars, China, Iran, Pakistan and Russia will suffer the consequences. Yet the US (which is far and away across oceans) will NOT. So that exactly is what the US is hoping: for Afghanistan to destabilize and cause problems for the enemies of the US.

    In fact, I’d wager that the CIA is actually behind the ISIS-K insurgents in Afghanistan to make sure that Taliban will not be able to form a stable government. The US wants the fighting between ISIS-K and Taliban to drag on for years if not decades to destabilize the region — and causing constant and massive headaches for China, Iran, Pakistan and Russia. That is killing four birds with one stone. Let’s admit it: we all know that is how the US — especially the CIA — rolls.

  56. Synoptocon

    IS-K looks to me to be a semi-deniable proxy. They’re quite intimately tied to the Haqqani network and widely said to have significant leadership element ties to less potent Pakistani proxy factions (JeM, LeT). Their operations capability looks to be pretty modest and I seriously doubt they can operate over long periods without ongoing cross-border support.

    I would not necessarily assume that the Taliban security apparatus has entirely penetrated them – this looks to me to be an instrument of Pakistani leverage against the nascent Taliban state. Their entire strategy to date has been aimed at complicating negotiated settlement. Once the Emirate is fully running and less dependent on Pakistan, look for relations between the two to be much more contested.

  57. Jason

    “The terrorist attack that we’ve been talking about, and worrying about, that the intelligence community had assessed, had undertaken, an attack by a group known as ISIS-K.” – Joe Biden, yesterday

    “ISIS-K” was “undertaken” by intel.

    Both Ian and Hugh seem certain that “ISIS-K” is, or ever was, an entity unto itself.

  58. Stirling Newberry

    “Once more into the breach!”

    What is happening is not really related to the events in Afghanistan. (Note that I am writing a novel about Afghanistan so my viewpoint is bound up in what is going on there, so take what I write with the appropriate number of pounds of salt.) It is much more that there were sources of revenue to support various experts in a particular field, and now those sources are drying up. This means that for 20 years, you were on the gravy train if you picked Afghanistan as your specialty. For example, Bruce Hoffman. There is nothing wrong with him, particularly, but he does need the conflict which he has staked his life practice continuing. So naturally, he has a particular view of Kabul and its environs.

    What is going on inside Afghanistan is far more complex and multifaceted in its execution. The Taliban are the only group of people capable of governing the country at the moment. They realize that their previous run of administration was far too violent for Pakistan and China to support them and they need to have support to pay their troops. They got along support because they moderated, somewhat, various stances that they took. This does not mean that they will govern the country anything like a westernized nation, while the name “failed state” is far too extreme, one can say that Afghanistan is a satrapy. But it has always been so. First of the British, then a turn with the USSR, then it danced with Iran, the United States, and now Pakistan and to some extent China. The people of “Afghanistan” are not one people and they have never had a chance to govern themselves. However, given enough food they have multiplied far more than they should because they have no industry or set of industries capable of supporting the level of population. This is why they became a black hole state: the only reason there is a government in Kabul is to allow the extraction of resources. The reason Poppy is grown is not that Afghanistan is a particularly good place to grow it, but that it is allowed by the government. That and a bit of mining are the only things that the state of Afghanistan can produce. The problem is that it cannot support anywhere close to the 40 million people.

    This means that whoever takes over the country will have to dispose of 20 million people. Because Pakistan and China are not willing to give us as much food as the United States was. The Taliban, aside from being not very a nice people, have chosen to administer the state and will do the same things that anyone with does without food: try and keep some semblance of intelligent people to run the place, and attempt to suppress any hopes of survival in the rest of the population. It is going to be a disaster but it would be a disaster whoever is running Afghanistan.

    Because the reality of Afghanistan is that it is a buffer between nations, not a nation itself.

  59. valerie

    Jason, yes, it’s interesting to note that Ian rightfully can’t stand what “the west” is doing all over the world, yet continues to buy into the myriad games western intelligence creates in to do its dirty work.

    I don’t know why Ian takes “ISIS-K” at face value. We can tune into CNN or FOX for this sort of propaganda.

  60. Dale

    ISIS-K is real. It was an iteration of ISIS-J, which morphed from ISIS-B65-A.

  61. Plague Species

    What about ISIS-C(OVFEFE-45) operating in plain sight here in America? Where are the drone strikes? The leader of ISIS-C is painted flaming orange and holds rallies and yet no Beyond the Horizon drone strikes. I don’t get it. Why the discrepancy? Why the contradiction? ISIS-C in America has murdered more than 630,000 Americans now and counting. Where is the Intelligence on this? This is a matter of national security. If you allow ISIS-C to wipe out all the Essential Workers in America, there will be no one left to wipe the asses of the wealthy elite.

  62. Hugh

    So KT Chong, why were China, Russia, Pakistan, and Iran trying to undermine our presence in Afghanistan when, according to you, we were stabilizing their borders for 20 years?

    For others, no matter what happens, it’s a CIA conspiracy.

    Synoptocon, ISIS-K certainly has ties to Pakistan. I wonder how far Pakistan can use it to undermine the Taliban without running afoul of China and its interests in a relatively stable Afghanistan.

    And I agree with Stirling that the core challenge facing any would be ruler of Afghanistan is simply feeding its people.

  63. common sense

    As Philly-based Gopuff goes global, its delivery drivers demand better pay and work conditions

    Another $1 billion for GoPuff as out-of-town capital floods Philly firms

    Alumni Founders of GoPuff Dedicate Torah Scroll to Drexel Chabad
    Two 25-year-old graduates channel their business success

    Was “GoPuff” ever Philly-based? Does the fervent ideology of people such as Gola and Ilishayev drain local communities in the interest of their Judaic world community?

  64. Plague Species

    Note that bruce is implying America has a responsibility to the people of Afghanistan but yet bruce says nothing about Mary Bennett’s comment to me above. I suggested a constructive use for the frozen Taliban funds. Mary Bennett said no way, give the money back to the Taliban and by the way, we don’t want those filthy wretched Afghan refugees (cue Stephen Miller) in our country and bruce says nothing about this and instead goes after Hugh and Mary Bennett goes after Hugh too but bruce and Mary Bennett pretend each other don’t even exist or their respective commentary.

    What is it, bruce? What do you want America to do? Stay in Afghanistan forever? Pay reparations to Afghanistan? Never-ending aid to Afghanistan? If it’s the latter, how naive can you be. Have you seen the documentary Poverty, Inc.. Aid doesn’t work. It creates a permanent state of dependency and a people who are dependent are a people who can never be free, not to mention the Taliban would confiscate and usurp all aid in all its various forms and use it for their own destructive ends versus for the good of the people of Afghanistan.

    What’s your plan, bruce? Let’s see it and hear it. You claim Afghanistan is America’s responsibility. Tell us how America can make it right in Afghanistan. If you were the POTUS instead of Biden, what would you do? You’re an intelligent guy so surely you can provide a comprehensive cogent response.

  65. Plague Species

    Supermen, these Taliban, not only can they win wars and set up a govt., they even find time to control the international drug trade.

    This is rich. We have Oakchair above bragging about what supermen the Taliban are and not a peep from Mary Bennett (or bruce) and instead we get this comment directed at Hugh who has always asserted the Taliban are nothing more than gangsters who cannot lead. It’s rather transparent you creeps. And cowardly. The fact you have to tag team with one another to control the narrative. Very Taliban-like. Clearly not supermen, you lot. And clearly no code and proud of that fact. That’s Intelligence for you.

  66. Synoptocon

    Pakistan is almost unbounded in this domain. Acting against China’s interests if that becomes necessary is a feature, not a bug. Their strategic culture views Afghanistan as literally their backyard, providing the potential for defence in depth. It may seem an eccentric approach to view a state behind your own from the line of conflict as a potential buffer, but I guess that’s wise given the Pakistani military’s complete incompetence.

  67. Ché Pasa

    As “Lambert” at NC would say, Biden is breaking a lot of rice bowls with this Afghanistan withdrawal. He’s doing the right thing, and damn it’s hard for Anti-Dems to process. Crediting Dems for anything good has been off the table for so many years, it’s almost impossible to conceive of with a Dem president, especially Old Joe who has such a history of badness.

    The media hysterics, even on always calm PBS, are interesting to me because of all the Sudden Discoveries: ISIS-K which nobody’d heard of until a few days before the bombing. The Humanitarian Crisis (endlessly flogged by BBC among others) which somehow didn’t exist prior to the Taliban take over. Starving babies just like Yemen. Something Must Be Done About It! NOW! Pssst. The US is Cooperating With the Taliban! Shh. The Taliban won’t let anyone get to the airport. The US doesn’t want any more people at the airport. Much, much false and speculative reporting, and an overwhelming presence of Forever-Warmongers on the teebee and in print.

    Among the chief falsehoods was that Afghanistan was “stable” before the Taliban takeover. That keeping American troops there just a little while longer — days to years to centuries — would keep things stable until troops could be withdrawn. Um-hum. Sure. Right. Whatever. Wrong.

    Somehow the Course of Empire could be righted in Afghanistan. No.

    For whatever reason, the US and Taliban seem to be getting along fine. Except for the crowds at the airport, most of whom now probably won’t be able to leave any time soon if ever, reporting from elsewhere shows remarkable calm, even the vaunted stability that could only come, we were told, by continuing the occupation. There may — or may not — have been some incidents of revenge/reprisal by Taliban against their enemies and rivals, but I’d take most of those reports with a grain of salt. But overall, there are no reports of or evidence of the kinds of horrors and massacres that took place during the American conquest by proxy warlords. Nothing like that.

    The bombing of the crowd at the airport was sickening. Its purpose? Primarily to make things worse and to panic the people more. When they’re driven by fear and panic, they’re easier to control — or so the thinking goes.

    But who are the string-pullers? Damned if I know. Whatever the case, Biden will pay for all those broken rice bowls, and you know what? I don’t think he has any more fucks to give. Yanno?

  68. StewartM


    Neither was the British Empire and the Czarist Empire any sort of “right side” to be on.

    But you went beyond that. You said we fought on the “wrong side”, implying that fighting alongside Wilhelmian Germany was the “right side”.

    Moreover, as Fritz Fischer’s arguments imply, you cannot logically say that it was wrong for the US to fight with the Allies in WWI then say it was right for the US to fight alongside the same Allies in WWII. For one thing, Hitler’s Germany and its extreme militarism and global expansionist aims were just logical extensions of those of Wilhelmian Germany in WWI:

    – Fischer’s argument had ramifications far beyond the immediate issue of German responsibility for World War 1. It was a fundamental attack on the usual interpretation of German history from 1870 until the present.

    – most German historians had looked upon the Wilhelmine period as a kind of golden age, an apex of German power and glory. After unification, Germany had flowered as an economic, colonial and military power. In contrast, the Weimar Republic and its democracy was usually despised and denigrated. Weimar was certainly a period of reduced status internationally and of corruption and economic decline internally. In the interwar period, leading historians had welcomed the rise of the Nazis because of the promise that the Nazis would restore Germany to its previous status in the Wilhelmine period.

    – even in the post-1945 period, many historians continued to accept this basic framework. Some even blamed the rise of the Nazis on the Weimar Republic, claiming that the latter was so ineffective and corrupt that it opened the door to the Nazis as Germans turned to anyone who would save them from Weimar.

    – the Nazis, on the other hand, were treated in the post-1945 historiography as an aberration, an atypical departure from German history and tradition. While Germans certainly had some responsibility for allowing the Nazis to take over, still the Nazis were not the true Germany.

    – what aroused so much outrage in the historical establishment was Fischer’s contention that there were in fact a great many similarities and continuities between Wilhelmine Germany and the Germany of the Nazis:

    1) the idea of ‘lebensraum’ was borrowed almost without change from the Pan German League’s programme of expansion and the notion of MittelEuropa which had been around since the 1890s. The Pan German League’s programme of annexations in fact was adopted virtually without change in September of 1914 by the Reichstag as Germany’s official war aims. Thus, Wilhemine Germany was just as aggressive and expansionist as Nazi Germany.

    2) the idea of some accommodation with Britain (albeit on German terms)— “We will allow and ‘guarantee’ your empire if you give us a free hand in Europe.” This was put forward in the pre-1914 era and, as we noted, during the July crisis. This was a major idea of Hitler at times and certainly among some of the other Nazis, such as Hess and Ribbontrop. This possibility is given as a reason for Hitler ordering an easing up on the attacks on the British for several critical days during the evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940. It was still being discussed as a possibility well into the war.

    3) Hitler’s cogitations as recorded in the Hossbach Memorandum of 1937 are uncannily similar to German General Staff assessments before 1914 of an early war being better for Germany because it was better prepared.

    4) in a number of important ways, the Nazis were not only in the mainstream of thinking and aspirations of Wilhelmine Germany but were in fact just the logical extension and fulfillment.

    – for Fischer and many younger German historians, the older generation of historians continued to show anti-democratic bias (against Weimar and for the more authoritarian Wilhelmine empire).

    – they also showed a fundamental unwillingness to come to terms with Nazism. Until historians and Germans recognized that Nazism was not something essentially alien but in fact arose out of some of the mainstream currents in modern German history and society, the new post-1945 democratic Germany would perhaps be endangered.

    i.e., it was a danger for Germans to continue to look back nostalgically at Wilhelmine Germany; in denigrating Weimar, there would be an on-going implicit criticism of post-1945 democracy and the latter would be held up to an unfavourable (and inaccurate) comparison with Wilhelmine Germany.

    Moreover, does it not count that both Britain and France were *democracies* (imperfect democracies, yes but what democracy is perfect?)?? And that WWI Germany was not? And that a very significant reason why Germany both initiated the war and spurned chances for a negotiated peace was the belief of people like Ludendorf that only a total and complete victory in WWI could stave off the democratic currents on the home front and allow them to maintain and even promote aristocratic power and privilege at home?

    Let’s apply your same thinking to WWII:

    a) Britain still has the empire. How many people died as a direct or indirect result of British rule is debatable, the high figures range up to 150-200 million. Undoubtedly, it was in the millions, though.

    b) Stalin’s Russia if anything is worse than Czarist Russia (the latest figures on Stalin is .c 9 million civilian dead from both direct and indirect causes).

    c) and the US has its own genocidal past against its native population. In fact, Hitler actually admired the US and the way whites had conquered and subjugated its “inferior” races and used the US as a model for what he wanted to do (Hitler was a big fan of Western movies, in fact, and of Karl May, a German who wrote Western novels). Save Hitler’s “Indians” to be put on reservations and then pushed off the cliff to extinction were Jews, Poles, Slavs, Russians, gypsies, and others.

    So the “good guys” of WWII are really no better than the Allies of WWI you say weren’t worth fighting for. Do you then also say “Meh, it doesn’t matter if Hitler wins a global empire. The British, Russians and US are just as bad??”

    To me this is answered by this simple, irrefutable fact:

    a) The Allies after WWII (particularly the US) rebuilt both their former enemies into prosperous, democratic states. Both Germany and Japan are objectively far better off by any measure you can think of after we did the “nation-building” thing than they were before.

    b) By every indication that exists, if Germany and Japan had won, their conquered territories would have become vassal states not to be rebuilt but to be exploited for their resources and labor. Their populations (well, those were allowed to live) would have been far worse off than before. We know this by their actual occupation practices during the war.

    Case closed.

    By every measure that exists, the Allies of WWI treated Germany far, far, far better in defeat than Germany had planned to do the Allies if it had won. The “horrible Versailles treaty” really wasn’t that horrible compared to all the Brest-Litovsk-style treaties the Germans were planning.

    The Allies could have done better, for sure, but “doing better” would not have been being more gentle but by doing what they did in WWII–fighting until the unconditional surrender of Germany, and then doing nation-building in 1919 like they did in 1945. The fundamental problem that Weimar democracy had was its reliance on the anti-democratic elements who hated democracy in the military, the civil service, and the judiciary, a reliance it could never shake, and these in no small part aided and abetted the rise of Hitler. What the Allies did after WWII with de-Nazification was to kick out all these elements (sometimes putting them on trial) and to replace them with Germans who believed in democratic institutions. The Allied military during occupation enforced order and provided the civil administration until the new government could get its feet. A similar process was followed in Japan.

    So—now, once again, all our wise commentators and talking heads are telling us “we can’t nation build”; it’s just not possible. But we *did nation build* after WWII, and did it very competently. So it IS possible. The real question should be: why is the US now so incompetent at doing what it once could do competently?

    There are a variety of reasons why, I think, but it’s probably highly correlated with the fact a nation that conquered polio can’t fight CoVID.

  69. bruce wilder

    Matt Stoller’s take is really quite good.

    PMC incompetence is at the core of the legitimacy crisis overtaking everything.

  70. bruce wilder

    What’s your plan, bruce? Let’s see it and hear it.

    What is it, bruce? What do you want America to do? Stay in Afghanistan forever? Pay reparations to Afghanistan? Never-ending aid to Afghanistan? If it’s the latter, how naive can you be.

    You really are deranged, Plague Species, on top of being obnoxious to everyone.

  71. Hugh

    Stoller’s take is that Afghanistan was just like a movie, and he manages to get through the whole thing without mentioning the Afghans. Apparently, they weren’t worth even a footnote to him.

  72. Ché Pasa


    Really enjoyed your developed argument regarding US vs. Germany/Japan (and their allies) during WWI and WWII, and how the US rebuilt both Germany and Japan after the War.

    Yes, the US was capable of the dreaded nation building and hasn’t succeeded in doing it since the efforts in Germany and Japan.


    In my view it requires certain predicates which in its wisdom, the US was unwilling to do.

    First is the utter defeat and devastation of the Enemy. Partial genocide. Making deserts and calling it peace. Germany came out of WWI practically unscathed, for example. Wilhelmine Germany was defeated more by starvation, lack of warmaking materials and supplies, and inability to marshal further armies to continue the fight rather than devastation. Despite the economic strangulation of the Weimar Republic, the nation recovered quickly from the war. And went on to spawn the Nazi war machine.

    And how did they do it? Such a poor country, right? And yet within a very brief period, what, six years, the Nazis were able to able to invoke Lebensraum and conquer most of Europe that they hadn’t already absorbed. How? In a sense, they weren’t defeated in WWI; defeat only came after WWII, and recovery took… a while. It wasn’t by any means immediate.

    Japan didn’t suffer in WWI — they were allies after all — and their continued development allowed (required?) a conquest spree on the continent of Asia and in the Pacific. Their defeat was if anything more devastating than that of Germany. It wasn’t just the US use of nuclear weapons, it was much worse and more horrible than that.

    And it took a while for Japan to recover as well.

    Neither would have recovered to the extent they did unless the US had done the nation building that today is impossible.

  73. nihil obstet

    Stoller’s take is that Afghanistan was just like a movie, and he manages to get through the whole thing without mentioning the Afghans. Apparently, they weren’t worth even a footnote to him

    Stoller didn’t portray the American leadership in Afghanistan as being just like a movie. He used a movie portraying the American leadership in Afghanistan to illustrate the problem. One part of the problem that I cited was described by Afghan General Sami Sadat as a reason his army collapsed. This was in the text and in a linked NYT article, which I would have thought more noticeable than a footnote.

  74. bruce wilder

    I would like to second Ché Pasa in commending StewartM’s thoughtful comment.

    As to the pre-requisites for successful nation-building, on the American side, there was a lot of intellectual preparation in both the disappointments of Wilsonian idealism in international relations and in the intellectual ferment and problem-solving of the New Deal. Wilson’s 14 points initiated institution building in U.S. foreign policy. The Council on Foreign Relations was founded to do the research to support Wilson. Of course, that establishment grew under FDR, who loved a good brain trust, and has now decayed into the thoroughly corrupt and stupid Blob(tm). The New Deal with its fervent anti-trust policy, detailed regulation of banking, public utility rate regulation, agricultural regulation and subsidy, promotion of industrial unionization, meant that there were a lot politically astute subject area specialists who at least thought they knew something about institution-building and how things work practically. And, not incidentally, the U.S. was a decade ahead in the Second Industrial Revolution’s transformation of industrial process engineering — an important factor to countries like Japan and Germany which had to industrialize successfully to prosper: the U.S. knew the technical secrets that could multiply industrial productivity. (I visited Norway only six years ago and academics cited the huge gains in industrial productivity that came with Marshall Fund assistance as nearly revolutionary for chronically poor Norway. Bergen has turned pre-WWII sardine canning factories and their pathetic attempts to boost productivity into museums.) The British Labor Party brought an important spirit to the Occupation in the most industrialized area.

    On the German and Japanese sides, defeat went a long way to weakening the legitimacy of the political ideologies that saw military conquest as a means to nationalistic ends and strengthening alternative visions in those societies. In Germany, specifically Nazi ideas were actively suppressed; MacArthur, right-wing ahole, did not let prosecutions and confrontation with war crimes go nearly as far in Japan.

    Matt Stoller makes an important point about neoliberal MBA brand management culture — our elites in every sphere seem peculiarly handicapped with regard to practical knowledge today.

  75. Mike Barry

    Rebuilding is a lost easier than building from scratch. Just sayin’.

  76. Mike Barry

    “lot easier” (sigh)

  77. Hugh

    It wasn’t like a movie which is why Stoller talks about the movie for more than half his article. Stoller doesn’t believe American generals but he takes as gospel what an Afghan general whose army melted away before his eyes has to say. And Stoller manages to ignore the last 40 years of anything else that was going on in Afghanistan. How much more fair and balanced can you get than that? /s

    The US and the US military made all kinds of mistakes in Afghanistan, the primary one being we were there at all, but I do not hold making Afghans bystanders to their own history. It’s not that the Afghan army fought and lost (add your reasons here). It is that it did not fight at all. You could blame the Pentagon for the first case, but the second is all Afghan.

  78. Synoptocon

    I would not say that PMC incompetence is the key driver here. To put it succinctly, the key driver is that senior American military leadership has templated itself on corporate management with a leavening of “oohra!” to account for the difference in core competencies (killing people and breaking things).

    My advice would be that no military leader should be allowed to seek higher education in business administration. It simply isn’t a good intellectual basis for military leadership, particularly with the current heavy emphasis on financialization. I actually think Matt has some good points and I am a good deal more critical – and I say this as someone with an entire first half of career dealing with military-politico affairs.

    The bottom line, visible to all us “minor” powers, is that senior American leadership simply isn’t that good. The dirty little secret is that the rest of us aren’t going to be as compliant with American leadership the next time around.

  79. nihil obstet

    Hugh, Stoller quoted three American generals and a few aides, who said that the Afghan army was winning against the rebel forces. He does not say they were wrong. He depends his readers knowing that the Afghan army didn’t win against the rebel forces. To the extent that you see the history of the Afghan army’s achievements as victorious, why do you charge that his quoting more American generals than Afghan generals is unfair and unbalanced? Most of us are also somewhat aware that the Americans quoted about the victories in Afghanistan had material interests. This included generals during their service before Congress. It included them after they had retired from the military when they had taken jobs with military contractors — they go on news analysis shows where they are identified by their past service but their current paid positions are not mentioned. In all cases they explain why the Pentagon needs more funding.

    Why should the Afghan army fight? Has the 20-year American occupation made life in Afghanistan better for most Afghanis? Are they mere bystanders when they throw down their weapons and walk away? What’s to come for Afghanistan will probably be very bad, but it looks like a significant portion of the Afghan society prefers it to a continued occupation.

  80. Hugh

    Not sure where you think I said the Afghan army was in any way victorious. What I said was that the Afghan army didn’t fight. It dissolved. And that was all Afghan. The Pentagon was irrelevant to the decision not to fight. It had never come up with a reason for Afghans to fight, and when the time came to fight, they didn’t. Completely unsurprising. The 20 years of hogwash and propaganda the Pentagon came up with for continuing the Afghanistan occupation was for an American audience and Washington politicians. It was irrelevant and probably unknown to the vast majority of Afghans. Airplane parts is about the lamest excuse I have heard for why the Taliban “won.”

  81. Stirling Newberry

    The interesting thing about Afghanistan is that this is not the first time it has collapsed. Consider the situation in 1839-41 “The First Anglo-Afghan War.” The native forces ripped the occupying British troop in late 1841 and the occupiers left in 1842.

  82. bruce wilder

    What I said was that the Afghan army didn’t fight. It dissolved. And that was all Afghan.

    No. American policy in creating and sponsoring and organizing an Afghan state and political economy and military with neither operational capability of its own or the genuine backing of a substantial part of the population had everything to do with the instant collapse. The American generals and diplomats had twenty years and $2.2 trillion to do a job that they manifestly failed to do. You can argue that such nation-building is an extremely difficult task, but the evidence that any effective action was ever taken at any stage in 20 years is lacking. What the evidence shows is self-interested American generals lying about what had been done, what had been accomplished. And, the instant collapse shows the truth that nothing had, in fact, been accomplished.

    I am sorry that U.S. policy in that country was so benighted that no viable alternative to the Taliban could be assembled in that 20 year period. I am sorry that a policy of torture and droning wedding parties and rank corruption and no development made Afghans choose the Taliban as infinitely preferable to the American-sponsored regime.

    I think Stirling and others are right: that just feeding the population is probably nearly impossible in the long-run. Not my country, not my problem. My problem is my government, its corruption and incompetence and the lying Media in the U.S.

  83. Hugh

    Where were the Afghans during those twenty years? The country was stable enough during that time for the population to double to 40 million. But neither the US nor the Afghan government gave them anything to fight for or believe in. So they didn’t. People will fight fiercely with not very much if they have a reason or need to. And as Afghanistan shows, they will not fight even with quite a bit if they don’t. None of this is hard to understand, or unexpected. Nor is the current round of justifications and angst from the US military and pro-war factions.

    In foreign policy, you first have to have a policy, and that policy has to have some correspondence to reality: what can and can’t be done, what is worth doing and what isn’t, what works and what doesn’t. And finally that policy has to be put together by adults. To me, US policy toward Afghanistan over the last twenty years looks like it was put together by school children, and not very bright ones at that. No one could actually be bothered to look at the reality Afghans inhabit or even human nature. American policy in Afghanistan failed because, aside from inertia, we had no Afghanistan policy.

  84. Plague Species

    The interesting thing about Afghanistan is that this is not the first time it has collapsed. Consider the situation in 1839-41 “The First Anglo-Afghan War.”

    It’s arguable there is a thing called “Afghanistan” now except on Western paper, but surely there was no “Afghanistan” then, not even on paper or imagined even. If there is no “Afghanistan,” there is no collapse of Afghanistan.

    THIS is the reason for all the so-called failures. Perspective. Just because the West calls this region “Afghanistan” and pretends it’s a country, doesn’t make it so.

    And no, bruce, the “people” of “Afghanistan” didn’t choose the Taliban over America and the West. They had no choice. They’ve never had a choice. They still don’t and probably never will until they are no more.

    Much like the people of the Balkans, they are a bunch of tribes who have coexisted for centuries, millennia even, without any notion of nations and nationalism. Then along came the West with its nationalism and contrived factionalization and conflict.

    The “people” of “Afghanistan” had and have no more choice than the people of Srebrenica had prior to the war criminal Mladic slaughtering them after the Dutch UN troops abandoned them. It’s sick to say the Muslims of Srebrenica chose Mladic just as surely as it’s sick to say the Muslims of “Afghanistan” chose the Taliban.

  85. nihil obstet

    Hugh, my basic point is that your description of the article I linked to misrepresents the article in a way that would keep people who might be interested from reading it. I get involved in verbal ping pong matches when I’m calling attention to inaccuracies of fact (and when I’m entertained of course, and this one has been fun).

    You said that Stoller ignored the Afghans. I pointed out that he quoted the Afghan general, along with three or four American generals. You said, “Stoller doesn’t believe American generals but he takes as gospel what an Afghan general whose army melted away before his eyes has to say. And Stoller manages to ignore the last 40 years of anything else that was going on in Afghanistan. How much more fair and balanced can you get than that? /s.” You said, “Not sure where you think I said the Afghan army was in any way victorious.” The American generals all said the Afghan army was winning battles. Go back and read the article if you’ve forgotten. The Afghan general spoke from seeing his army disperse. So when you say that Stoller doesn’t believe American generals whom he quoted describing Afghan army victories and believes the Afghan general who described Afghan army failures as a problem, I take it that you think Stoller ought to believe the American generals on the victorious Afghan army. However, I’m not sure whether you’re just having fun pretending to be Fox news fair and balanced/s.

    As we’ve addressed specific claims that you made about the article, I have concluded that you just wanted Stoller to write a different article about different issues. That’s fine, but it would help people decide whether to read it or not if you made your issues clear. I object strenuously to simply telling people that the article said things it didn’t say.

  86. Hugh

    I find Stoller’s contention that the Afghan army that existed nowhere except on paper and in the minds of Pentagon generals and the media fell apart because its planes weren’t spiffy enough silly. It “fell apart” because it never really was there. Stoller might have examined why that was the case. But that would have entailed looking at Afghans, their lives, decisions, and responsibility for those decisions. Instead I see Stoller trying to replace the official Western narrative of the last 20 years with another equally Western narrative: “Hey, it was the tech! It was the planes!” I get really tired of this obsession of making everything about us, and writing the vast majority of humanity out of their own history. We never bothered to try to understand the place, or that it never was ours to lose.

  87. different clue

    @Mike Barry,

    Thank you for your interest in my comment. I am always happy to hear from you. Please let me know if you have any other concerns.

  88. different clue


    I have read your comment. It is worth reading and considering slowly and carefully.
    Thank you for having written it, and that’s no sarc.

  89. Mike Barry

    Glad to lend a hand, dc. USA!

  90. different clue

    @Mike Barry,

    Thank you for your interest in my comment. I am always happy to hear from you. Please let me know if you have any other concerns.

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