Re Afghanistan, last night I had a wave of guilt

about what I’d written yesterday. When my fury overcame my keen awareness of my own Mid-East history ignorance.

Guilt, because without any real knowledge of Afghanistan’s history, I trashed the country. Called it primitive, regressing to a state of misogynistic theocracy.

So today I shamefacedly Googled “History of Afghanistan” and, of course, found myself in Wikipedia.

I apologize for being half-assed and loudly wrong. Nothing worse; if one is going to be wrong, one should do it very quietly. Afghanistan has a long history, a very complicated one. Indeed, back in BCE, thousands of years back in BCE, I read that there were signs of a civilized urban culture.

But its more recent history boggles the guilt-ridden reader. Or, as Wikipedia describes the endless battles for power among a seemingly endless supply of would-be Strongmen: “… lawlessness, crime and atrocities fueled by complex…tribal rivalries.” And assassinations. Loads of those. Call yourself head of the government and you probably won’t live until next week.

Efforts at establishing a functioning government collapsed, sometimes within days.

So Afghanistan is largely anarchic, I think it’s fair to say.

The Taliban, my model for misogynistic, utterly crazed, primeval religious fundamentalism, didn’t assert itself until the 1990s.

Today, Josh Marshall, the maestro of Talking Points Memo, published a calm, supremely rational, even gentle and profoundly intelligent analysis of our withdrawal from Afghanistan, and why the furious reaction — and attacks against Biden — are misguided.

Marshall’s whole piece is eminently worth reading. I picked up this paragraph which sort of says much more wisely than I did, what I was getting at with my overwrought and condescending description of Afghanistan:

Yes, failed states can become the breeding grounds for asymmetric threats against the US and other established, powerful states that are unassailable by conventional means. But there are lots of failed states. We can’t occupy all of them. And really Afghanistan was and is just one failed state that happened to be one that caused a grave attack 20 years ago. If such a thing happened again it could easily come from at least a half dozen other places.


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