By now, everyone in the world is aware of the utter debacle into which the 20-year American occupation of Afghanistan has collapsed. In ten short days, the Taliban went from being an occasionally successful insurgent group to becoming masters of nearly the entire country of Afghanistan, capturing a huge booty of American military equipment and receiving formal, uncontested transfer of power from the previous puppet government. In the meantime, Coalition forces struggle to evacuate Western personnel and native collaborators before the international airport in Kabul falls to the Taliban. It’s difficult to imagine a more embarrassing outcome for advocates of American imperial intervention than that into which this situation has devolved.
Already we’re seeing the partisan recriminations fly. Republicans lay blame at the feet of Joe Biden, while Democrats are trying to argue that Trump created the conditions for failure by floating plans for an orderly withdrawal last year. However, both of these are missing the point. The ultimate blame for the breakdown of American nation-building in Afghanistan lies with the foreign policy establishment itself, that set of erstwhile allied factions within the Regime who have driven American imperial expansion since the end of World War II. Regardless of which exoteric set of politicians may appear to have power, irrespective of whether Red or Blue wins an election, there is a self-perpetuating substructure of bureaucrats, academics, generals, and other “experts” who have been driving American foreign policy for decades in directions preferred by globalist elites over and against the actual desires or interests of the American people themselves.
As has been made abundantly clear from the decades-long tradition of foreign policy malfeasance of which Afghanistan is only the latest example, this foreign policy establishment is characterised by nearly complete incompetence. However, the source of this incompetence is not the stupidity of low intelligence outright (as hard is this may be to believe). The people involved in the foreign policy establishment are classic midwits – smart enough to succeed in obtaining the credentials needed to join the club, but not so smart that they can actually do something genuinely constructive with them. So, somewhat above average IQ, but only enough to convince themselves of the conceit of their own ability. The kind of people who desperately cling to their status as “experts” no matter how much they screw up.
No, the source of their incompetence is even worse – arrogance.
What drove the American intervention in Afghanistan, much like the rest of post-war American foreign policy, has been simple, raw, unadulterated arrogance. Whether in this realm or elsewhere, there is a strong correlation between a lack of humility and a lack of competency which stems from a fundamental misunderstanding that many people have about what constitutes “competence.” In the nominalist world of neoliberalism/neoconservatism, “competence” is an external attribution that is granted to you by your peers for having the right education and believing the right things. Being an “expert” isn’t about being right, it’s about being on the right team. This arrogance was manifested in three ways in America’s Afghanistan experience.
First, there was the arrogance of thinking that you could apply simplistic, linear “solutions” to a complex system whose feedback capacities are more or less unknown to you.
And let’s be realistic – you don’t find many systems more complex than the dynamic interplay of religion, ethnicity, state actors, and foreign influence in Central Asia. One of the characteristics of chaotic (in the mathematical sense) complex systems is that their evolutions are completely deterministic, yet nearly impossible to accurately predict due to the interplay of feedbacks and multiple variables involved. This is doubly so when you’re dealing with large groups of human beings who have emotions and motivations that can’t be “empirically” measured. Unsurprisingly, such systems can be prone to giving the appearance of stability for long periods of time, only to undergo sudden collapses when the right stimuli are applied. Which is, of course, exactly what happened.
A second aspect of Regime arrogance is found in its assumption that it could just blithely confront local cultures which have been around for multiple times longer than the United States have even existed and change them to the Regime’s preferred modes of living and thinking. What hubris and arrogance does it to take to go to a traditional Islamic society, hang pride flags everywhere, completely upend their gender relationships, introduce social systems that are antithetical to everything that exists within their culture – and expect them to welcome us with open arms as liberators bringing them into the wonderworld of globohomogayplex neoliberalism? It’s not even a matter of timescale, as if just one more decade of forever war and we’d have had those Talibans injecting themselves with puberty blockers. Cultures are tremendously, incredibly persistent. Blacks in America still demonstrate West African cultural traits even four hundred years after near total immersion in Anglo-American society. There are still Syriac speaking Christians all across the Middle East despite almost 1400 years of constant pressure from Muslims to convert and assimilate them. It’s literally insane to think that you can walk into an alien society, throw some electronic do-dads and condoms at them, and have them fitting into the Gay American Empire in under two decades.
The third area of arrogance is seen in the assumption by the Regime that we, and the puppets we installed, could march in, loot the country, and not provoke a reaction. And make no mistake – looting (both of Afghanistan and the American tax payer) makes up a good share of what was done by both the Coalition and especially the “national leadership” we set up. The war in Afghanistan was a tremendous source of profit for nearly everybody involved in the military-industrial complex, from weapons manufacturers keeping Coalition troops well supplied with arms to various “experts” selling their “expertise” to companies, NGOs, and governmental agencies for hefty sums. The natives we put into power preferred a bit more directness to their graft. Ashraf Ghani, the duly delegated president of Afghanistan (until Sunday last), reportedly fled to Uzbekistan with cars and a helicopter full of cash, and had to leave $5,000,000 behind because he couldn’t fit it into his vehicles. A couple of years ago, the United States government had to take notice when the corruption among local officials got bad enough, leading them to repossess around $100,000,000 in funds earmarked for infrastructure projects. Apparently, one of the appeals of the Taliban for many Afghanis is that they are viewed as less corrupt, and therefore less venal and likely to simply rob the citizenry of what wealth remains.
Nobody likes to be looted, after all.
Understand that the combination of arrogance and incompetence isn’t confined to one area. It easily transfers anywhere that you have midwits placed into positions of power. The most obvious recent example outside of the foreign policy world has been the West’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. All of the same criticisms made above amply apply here as well.
Failure to grasp that the medical, epidemiological, immunological, and environmental inputs and feedbacks surrounding the pandemic constitute a complex system that is inherently non-linear in form and shouldn’t be dealt with via one-size-fits-all approaches? This has been seen in spades. Nearly every failure in official responses to COVID-19 traces back to simplistic, hamfisted blanket policies that are rarely appropriate to the actual local conditions being dealt with. Even if there weren’t legitimate concerns about outright governmental maliciousness and totalitarianism surrounding issues like masking, vaccines, lockdowns, vaccine passports, etc., the dumbly uniform way in which these are being applied would still be cause for alarm.
Who can deny the arrogance involved in the efforts by governments and the medical establishment to coerce dissenters from official medical disinformation into compliance, no matter how many traditional liberties, small businesses, and cultural patterns have to be destroyed in the process? The incompetent arrogance of many medical “experts” and the masses of reddit-tier midwits jibbering excitedly on social media about “putting the unvaxxed in camps” is facilitating a genuine, and idiotic, war on civil society itself. These people burble on about “the science” while failing to grasp several fundamental basics about the actual science involved. One is amazed at the number of nurses who don’t get that, just as watching a lot of Columbo doesn’t qualify you to be a police detective, giving a lot of shots doesn’t qualify you to talk about vaccine development. Yet, these people are completely willing to destroy our entire culture to assuage their neuroticism about a flu that has a 99.9% survival rate.
And of course there’s the looting. Every stage of the pandemic response has been characterised in some way by massive wealth transfer from the masses of regular folks to a handful of oligarchs in various organs of the Regime. Accompanying this has been a huge centralisation of political and economic power. Vaccines to make Pfizer and Moderna tens of billions of dollars richer via a mandated captive audience? Lockdowns to destroy small businesses so that economic activity flows to Amazon and Walmart? Eviction moratoriums to put landlords of out business so that BlackRock can snarfle up their properties? Using the pandemic as cover for Democratic governours to rule by emergency fiat? It’s all there, plus a whole lot more.
The common factor between Afghanistan, COVID-19, and pretty much everything else the Regime screws up is the arrogance involved. Midwits getting in over their heads, but failing to recognise it. People who have been promoted way beyond their Peter points who are then put in charge of making life and death decisions for the rest of us. Because the metric used by the Regime at this point is not actual competence but the willingness to adhere to official Regime ideology, we will continue to see the problems get worse until some form of collapse of the entire system takes place, probably sooner rather than later. In the meantime, regular folks in the USA and the rest of the West should buckle up, band together, build up their reserves, and try to minimise the impact which these arrogant incompetents can have on their lives.