The end of the war in Afghanistan has become every bit as gut wrenching as the U.S. loss in Vietnam, with our local allies again seeking any way out, desperate to escape persecution, torture and death for their collaboration with Americans.

It seems the final chapters in both wars were stark reflections of the failure of a U.S. foreign policy where the mindset remains fixed on “military might” creating a “victory” that would soon convert a foreign society into a “normalized” democratic ally. Yet when we arrived in Vietnam, and then again in Afghanistan, with thousands of fresh recruits from across America, the U.S. government had disregarded the fact we would be facing “career” veteran soldiers, in both cases a generation of mature adults who had bravely fought and overcome the vastly more powerful French and Russian armies over the previous decade, on their own soil.

We sent our young and inexperienced soldiers into battle halfway around the world with virtually no knowledge of the local languages, culture, geography or politics. Even the friendly Afghans were frustrated by American soldiers, trained to perceive the country as a battlefield and not the homeland to some 25 ethnic minorities and a complex multicultural society for many centuries.

Certainly this made us entirely dependent on our brave and loyal Afghan interpreters, just like our Vietnamese interpreters before. So, despite the termination of the airlift operation in Kabul, of course we must continue to use our political and financial leverage, in cooperation with our allies, to rescue and relocate the compatriots and their families left behind, just as we did previously accomplish for our Vietnamese refugees.



Yet it is simply appalling this chaotic exit from Kabul is put entirely on President Joe Biden’s shoulders, as clearly he was walking a tightrope the past few months trying to remain loyal to the Afghan government while making plans for a quick exit. Could Biden have possibly anticipated the complete collapse of the Afghan army in a matter of weeks when he has been rightfully consumed with our ongoing COVID-19 crisis and global warming catastrophes nationwide? Obviously, the shocking takeover of more territory by the Taliban than they ever occupied 20 years ago is an enormous “tell” about the utter failure of our policies throughout this never-ending saga.

To think we invested a staggering $2 trillion-plus in Afghanistan, an unfathomable $300 million per day for 20 years, in addition to the tragic loss every day of 15 American and Afghan soldiers, as well as Afghan civilians, is as unbelievable as it is painful. One must ponder how we might have spent a fraction of that amount of money and blood to accomplish so much more in Afghanistan, while expending far more to feed, house and educate the poorest sector of our own population in America.

We continue to think nothing of committing billions of dollars to seemingly create “security” around the world, which remains an elusive fantasy, while we must now seriously question the security within our own society when more than 60 million Americans have so little income they simply “strive to survive” each day without the means or capacity to plan more than a month in advance.

The epidemic of violence and addiction in the U.S. alone should be sufficient evidence that we are failing to protect our own citizens from harm in their own communities, so why then do we think we have the expertise to defend and develop a society halfway around the world?

John McPhee is a fourth-generation New Mexican and has been engaged in health and safety policy development for the past 30 years.

(2) comments

Emily Koyama

Fine if Mr Mcphee wants to write apologist pieces defending Biden's botched handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal....it is to to be expected that the SFNM would gleefully print it. But get the math right. It adds up to a well under 300k per day "investment" by the US.

Jim Klukkert

Gee Emily Koyama, I so wish Joe Biden had not started this ill-fated war!

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