Nearly 20 years to the day that foreign terrorists took down the Twin Towers in New York City, thousands of lives lost, and trillions of dollars spent, the War of Afghanistan has ended in utter and complete misery. Now, the White House is trying to spin this epic collapse as business as usual. This is an incredible defeat and a national disgrace. How much money, how much dead, and thousands more in the VA hospital system, and the Afghan president the U.S. picked hands over the capital of Kabul to the Taliban in front of us? How is this possible?
What we are witnessing is the product of failed policy, poor leadership, and corruption in our system. When arrogance is coupled with ignorance, together you have the formula in place for calamity. We have pushed these failed policies, fostered corruption on the American and Afghan side for 20 years by deliberate actions. In effect, we set the conditions for failure by year 2003. We stayed with a failed policy trajectory for the past 18 years trying to create Philadelphia on the Hindu Kush. We failed for 20 years to understand the Afghan culture and tried to remake it into something else.
The exit chaos we see today certainly could have been prevented had we designed and managed a change in policy and set the conditions for an orderly departure. In the end, the same results would have been produced. We set ourselves and Afghanistan up for this over the arch of 20 years. We tried to shape Afghanistan into something that it isn’t––now we watch in horror as Afghanistan is taken over by the same government we attacked in 2002. A full circle of deeply disturbing events that the modest observer could deduce many years ago.
The bottom line is that on our current trajectory we could stay for 10 or 20 more years and not have succeeded. We made this mess. There are many factors to explain why we have failed for 20 years, and there is no soft landing for doing this wrong for 20 years. However, the mistakes over the past six months brought this into focus this weekend. An orderly turn over and exit was possible, more so it was recommended. However, these immediate events spearheaded by Biden have brought together our profound lack of good intelligence, objective analysis, incredibly poor planning, and weak leadership, to produce this spectacle. Just four days ago the CIA, Pentagon and State Department were all saying that there is no imminent threat in Afghanistan and it was stable. The entire 20 years of feckless effort collapsed in mere days.
One only had to look honestly at the facts on the ground to see the collapse coming, fast. Postponing the departure would have delayed this but not changed the ultimate outcome. The truth is we lost this war back in 2003 when we became an occupying army in a country we did not want to be in and set the conditions for failure. Coupled together, we are witnessing the product of our inability to wage war, understand our limitations, and our cultural ignorance. With all three of these key factors in shambles, it only made sense that this catastrophe would occur.
We proved in Vietnam we don’t understand other cultures. We have still not learned anything. We just repeated April 1975 in Saigon. A simple fact is that not every country is the United States. We are talking about civilizations and cultures that predate democracy and liberal values. What is the point of forcing your identity on people who do not want it? This misguided mentality has only served to fuel and enrich the military industrial complex which has plagued this country for decades. Nation building and spreading democracy is a fallacy that the American people can no longer support in any capacity. We need to focus on our country’s deep internal problems, of which there are many.
There is never a graceful or orderly way to lose a war. There is no soft landing. Your mistakes, arrogance and ignorance combine and you crash head first into reality. Only now is a time to introspect and learn from this incredible disaster. We must learn how to be better in the future. Why did this fail? Where could decisions have been different? How can we prevent corrupt bureaucracies and incompetent military leaders? Can we hold to account those who waste taxpayer money with no clear vision?
The people of America should demand change, an accounting and establish responsibility. Our leaders in Congress should take a stand against any attempts at stopping introspection and take a deep dive into our current system. Our military, intelligence community and State Department don’t know what they are doing. Worse, they failed the American people in the most extravagant of ways. Over 20 years, four presidents, trillions of dollars blown away, 7,000 dead and 54,000 in the VA system, and then the entire system collapses and the Taliban retakes their nation and are stronger than they were the day before 09-11-01? What a true stain on the country.
Armstrong Williams (@ARightSide) is the owner and manager of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the Year. He is the author of “Reawakening Virtues.”