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Ability of American forces

I generally avoid opinionizing in print about breaking news because there’s always more to the situations than I’m aware of, so I wind up wishing I’d kept my thoughts to myself.

But I can’t stop myself after reading a tidbit in the Sunday news (August 15) which seemed to me so indicative of the politicized thinking that taints American foreign policy practices, and which gets the US into such messes across the globe. Here’s Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) from an interview with ABC’s Jonathan Karl on “This Week” on the subject of U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan: “This has been an epic failure across the board, one we’re going to pay for years to come.”

President Biden will be faulted for this collapse, but Cheney blames both Biden and Trump, plus a host of other recent D.C. gurus for the intelligence failures which led to the current … flight? Retreat? Disaster? But it’s what she overlooks that makes me think she’s not being up front on the subject.

For instance, does she forget we’ve already been paying with American lives and money for 20 years on this deal? How many more years would have fixed it? Another 20? Fifty? Yet it was so fragile that it fell apart in a matter of weeks. Apparently, calling the troops home just pulled aside the camouflage netting from what was a poised, patient monster of a strategic failure.

If we must establish blame, let’s go back to Liz’s daddy Dick Cheney, plus Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush II, the guys who so cavalierly got us into this mess, ignoring the lessons of history. The British Empire, at the height of its power, got its reputation beat to smithereens in Afghanistan in the 19th century, as did the Russians in the 20th century. And Americans (both in national policy and in military lives) got beat to smithereens in Viet Nam. When the U.S. dropped into Afghanistan, the underlying problems – primitive tribalism, a twisted form of Islam, lack of natural resources, a lack of any democratic heritage or rules or institutions and of any desire to change that, were as they had always been, so what did we expect?

Talk about American hubris – that combination of ignorance, arrogance and naive intentions. There it was again in its full glory. But to people like the Taliban, those good intentions are just weaknesses to be exploited.

Something like this disastrous conclusion was inevitable and predictable from the get-go, and when you add revelations from various American generals on mistakes of strategy, it’s also predictable that the talking heads will accuse American military forces of failure, retreat and meaningless losses.

At the level of the generals – yes, by their own admission (for instance, read “Why We Lost” by Gen. Daniel P. Bolger), apparently there have been failures. But at the level of the pilots and actual ground-pounders getting shot at? The Liz Cheneys would seem much smarter if they held silent, because here, once again, American fighters performed superbly. Where bullets are actually flying, there’s little use for policy, politics or cheap patriotism. There’s only the ancient pride in protecting your own tiny circle of fellow fighters, and in giving tit-for-tat until the enemy at that level wants no more. Nobody does that better than American military forces.

Our mid-level officers and on down to the enlisted ranks can be proud of being the best there ever was. The Taliban learned this the hard way and decided to wait us out, and this American combat capability is the only thing anyone knows for certain about the Afghanistan debacle … in my opinion.

Ron Rude, Plains


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