Afghan Apprehensions

Afghan Apprehensions

“U.S. abandoning Afghans sends terrible message” is the headline in South Africa’s BusinessLive. The Daily Maverick calls it an “unmitigated disaster.” Kenya’s Standard: “U.S. Government has let down Afghanistan.”

None argue that America should stay. The criticism is entirely for abandoning the tens maybe hundreds of thousands of Afghans who live in mortal danger because of their American connections. And for the stupidity of having extended the original mission:

“The purpose of armies is war, not peace,” writes BusinessDay this morning in Johannesburg. “The failure of military intervention [in Afghanistan] shows the time has come to disband Nato and US bases around the world.”

The Biden chirp that Afghans should have taken more responsibility for themselves and their defense rings hollow.

Afghanistan “has become the symbol … of much that is wrong with our world. It is … a source of worry for the entire world,” writes the Nigerian news anchor, Reuben Abati, from Lagos.

He continues: “The crisis in Afghanistan speaks to the failure of American diplomacy and specifically of US foreign policy…Washington policy wonks have now come to the realisation that this is a failed mission … as was similarly the case in Vietnam, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, Iraq, and Libya…

“America misread the politics of Afghanistan. It underestimated the Taliban.” Spending billions of dollars on an ‘Afghan Army’ “to secure their own country against the terrorists… was pure fiction…

“Twenty years later the US may have lost so much but it is the entire world that is [put] at risk…

“The thinking that the US and its allies can save humanity, or that any country at all can rely on the omnipresence or the “indispensability” of the United States has been exposed as one of the biggest lies of the century. When it suits its purpose, the US will review its own priorities and it would not matter to the average American taxpayer whether [locals] sink or float.”

OK. American readers and thinkers should sit back with some important context:

African journalists, politicians and thinkers are essentially unanimous in their opinions. They are also likely all beneficiaries of American (or allied European) largess. Their education and jobs training are likely western, and it isn’t just their opinion about Afghanistan but about global culture and politics that has been shaped by westerners.

This shaping has been far more successful than colonization ever was. It is in the image of America as whole: it includes precious values of individual liberty that are understood to be taken to the extreme. In other words, when they can believe they have discerned true American intentions it’s been presumed that the Americans will fight to the death to defend them.

This notion is reinforced daily by the global dissemination of American political rallies and protests. Foreigners often dismiss with a knowing smile when asked to explain Trump:

“They [meaning Trumpers] might be totally crazy but they’re American. They’ll stick with him to the death.”

There’s a lot of truth to this, although I think finally and slowly it’s changing. But this notion of ‘believing to the death’ which today is killing the unvaccinnated and their babies is anathema to many foreigners, especially Africans.

It’s the difference between absolutism and relativism. Americans have always been absolute in their ways (which they incorrectly term ‘resolute’). Most of the rest of the world isn’t. So when much of the rest of the world is propped up, educated and even armed by America, the foreigner believes this is an absolute commitment.

…until now. And I’m glad. I’m glad that believing America is Superman, the Policeman of the World, the Ultimate Defender will finally change. I’m glad because it was never true, and maybe now even Americans will realize it.

This says nothing about the morality of leaving Afghanistan. It’s just an important lesson to be garnered from the unfolding mess.

Racing from the current debacle, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari wrote in the Financial Times almost before Kabul had completely fell:

“If Afghanistan has taught a lesson, it is that although sheer force can blunt terror, its removal can cause the threat to return.” Buhari continued a brilliant discourse about the threat of terrorism to Africa and essentially that America could no longer be trusted as a reliable partner to combat it.

How times have changed. For good and bad.