If the first casualty of war is truth, a close second is certainty. Unfortunately, Americans often take a mechanical approach to problems. President Biden preaches that there’s nothing a united American people can’t do. If only.
Witness the evacuation from Afghanistan. To date, we’ve flown out 105,000 Americans, Afghans and others. But come Biden’s August 31 deadline for our leaving, many Afghans will be left behind. So may some Americans.
The evacuation has been imperfect because it’s fraught with danger. On Wednesday, a suicide bombing claimed by ISIS-Khorasan killed 13 U.S. service members. As many as 170 others may have died.
Should the Biden administration be held accountable? Yes. Should an investigation be conducted to get a better grip on what happened? Standard operating procedure. But truth is best served when we take a collective breath and consider a lesson of history that even victory comes at a heavy price.
George Washington’s Continental Army won the Revolution but lost many battles—and lives. The U.S. held off England in the War of 1812, yet the Brits burned the Presidential Mansion and the Capitol Building. President Madison was re-elected.
Abraham Lincoln guided the defeat of the Confederacy, but the North lost about 100,000 troops to combat deaths and another 250,000 to other causes. In 1894, the frontier was considered closed, but only 18 years earlier, native forces killed 700 men of George Armstrong Custer’s U.S. 7th Cavalry.
Later victories on foreign shores saw 116,000 Americans killed in World War One, 405,000 in World War Two, 36,000 in Korea, 58,000 in Vietnam, and 6,700 in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As to the bombing at the Kabul airport—intelligence sources say another is highly possible—can we really stop every terrorist attack everywhere in the world? Anyone rushing to judgment about these matters is engaging in hubris. Better to consider New York Times columnist Tom Friedman’s advice that what counts isn’t “the morning after” but “the morning after the morning after.”
As to the illusion that great power always gets its way, consider these three opinions, all reflecting changing thoughts:
Former Marine captain and Afghanistan/Iraq vet Lucas Kunce, wrote in the Kansas City Star (8-23-21) that the Afghan National Security forces were a job-training program. “I was delighted to see how far along they were on paper—until I actually began working with them.” As to America’s withdrawal and the ensuing Taliban victory: “What happened last week was inevitable, and anyone saying differently is still lying to you.”
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen stated on CNN last Friday that then-Vice President Biden was right to urge then-President Obama to withdraw from Afghanistan. “I thought we could turn it around, obviously, I was wrong.”
As to the August 31 deadline, Representatives Seth Moulton (D–Mass.) and Peter Meijer (R–Mich.), both Afghanistan/Iraq vets, flew to Kabul a few days ago. Moulton commented that all Congressional veterans wanted the deadline extended. Then he and Meijer saw the situation up close. “There’s no way we can get everyone out, even by Sept. 11. So we need to have a working relationship with the Taliban after our departure. And the only way to achieve that is to leave by Aug. 31.”
All I’m certain of is that certainty can be lethal.
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