Sunday’s Forum

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. CSK says:

    There’s a link in this Raw Story piece to Mary Trump’s article in The New Republic:

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Jessica M. MSN, FNP-C

    Tonight I helplessly held the hand of and stroked the hair of a beautiful 14 year old girl as she exited this world. She was looking forward to starting high school and eventually becoming a veterinarian. It was so senseless! I truly believe she could have been saved if her


  3. Teve says:
  4. Thomm says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: @Teve: But remember, we must be kind and respectful of antivax and antimasker’s feelings and keep coddling them and hope.

  5. Sleeping Dog says:

    Taliban enter Kabul

    Its all over but for the persecution.

  6. Teve says:

    Taliban enters Kabul, leaving Afghan government on brink of collapse

    If only we had given them another six months, another few bodies.

  7. kane says:

    y believe she could have been saved if her

  8. Sleeping Dog says:

    “Under Trump, we were one tweet away from complete, precipitous withdrawal,” said Douglas E. Lute, a retired general who directed Afghan strategy at the National Security Council for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. “Under Biden, it was clear to everyone who knew him, who saw him pressing for a vastly reduced force more than a decade ago, that he was determined to end U.S. military involvement,” he added, “but the Pentagon believed its own narrative that we would stay forever.”

    “The puzzle for me is the absence of contingency planning: If everyone knew we were headed for the exits, why did we not have a plan over the past two years for making this work?” (emphasis added)

    If you believe that we are staying forever, why plan to leave?

  9. CSK says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: @Teve:

  10. MarkedMan says:

    The US military has been unable to give a realistic assessment in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan and rather than admit that, they waged all-out efforts to get the administration to believe their absurdly optimistic assessments. They have lobbied key members of congress and civilian influencers to join them in putting pressure on successive administrations.

    Perhaps those with military experience can explain what has been going on for at least two generations. Why does the military continue to be so wrong and why, despite that, do they keep lobbying so hard for people to accept their flawed view of the battlefront?

  11. CSK says:
  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Damning.

  13. de stijl says:


    Admitting that asymmetrical warfare works. Or that just holing and waiting it out vs. a major power works and the Pentagon doesn’t have an answer to that. The Taliban didn’t need to win. They just needed to not lose. Wait us out.

    Almost 20 years in Afghanistan and it was a house of cards. We lost lives and injured men and women for nothing but a lesson in hubris.

  14. Michael Reynolds says:


    The US military has been unable to give a realistic assessment in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan

    Don’t forget Korea.

    The US military and civilian industry did a pretty good job of understanding what was necessary in WW2. But that was total war with a clear objective. We don’t do well with limited, vague, half-assed wars. We clearly should never get involved in training third world armies, we don’t know how to do it. The US military is the Hulk. Hulk does not train illiterate goat-herders to become 21st century warriors, Hulk smash.

  15. MarkedMan says:

    @de stijl: The failure of the US military brass is pretty specific. They grossly overestimate their ability to build a military and civilian infrastructure in a conquered territory, and then continue to insist (believe?) that the house of cards they constructed will withstand a storm.

    They were telling Biden, Congress and all who would listen that the imaginary 300,000 troop Afghan army would hold the Taliban back in much of the country and had a real chance to keep their country indefinitely. Instead, they melted away almost without following a shot. The US military was in charge. They were the ones pressuring endlessly for the investment of more blood and treasure. Are they simply blind to reality or is it more cynical?

  16. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds: My amateur opinion is that the vital thing about WWII was that both Germany and Japan were extremely hierarchical, regimented, rule based societies. When we defeated them we could lop off the head, replace it, and expect the defeated countries to fall into line. Once we made it clear that our goal was to rebuild the country and get the F out, the internal power struggle was over who the allies would leave in charge, not to fight us from every hill and valley.

    Korea was a bit unique. Given that it inhabits a peninsula and that China was completely supporting the North but was willing to accept partition, the choice was either accept the half win that guaranteed Japan’s safety, or go to war with China. Further, given China’s lengthy border with The USSR, even if we had shown signs of success there it would have then drawn the Soviets in. In the end, partition was as good as we could get there.

  17. Sleeping Dog says:

    The other day, I saw a quote from Stanley McCrystal and this morning David Petreaus, blaming Biden and claiming, a few more years. Since these retired generals were the midwives of the military’s turd plans for Afghanistan, it would be better if the they simply STFU.

  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    @de stijl:
    Asymmetrical warfare works if we let it. Every conflict since 1945 has been played under the post-war rules established informally to avoid global thermonuclear war: we fight with one hand tied behind our backs, using a fraction of our power. Under those rules asymmetrical warfare works against us.

    Bear in mind that as morally repugnant as it may be, one possible response to 911 was the nuclear annihilation of Afghanistan. It would have taken an afternoon and cost us next to nothing. Set aside the right and wrong, Mongol Mode is always available to us.

    With that fact on the table, we have to understand that we are living under a set of self-imposed restrictions. IOW, it’s not the enemy stopping us, it’s us stopping ourselves. We don’t choose to be Genghis. We could be, we choose not to be. Under those rules we will remain unable to prevail in situations like Vietnam or Afghanistan. We designed rules to keep the Cold War cold and in the process created a system that can be exploited by the relatively weak.

  19. JohnMcC says:

    @Sleeping Dog: The stupidity of blaming this or that party is obvious. But if a choice of most-stupid has to be made there are at least 10’s of thousands of military/Intelligence Community stakeholders who filed reports on the Afghan military units that they advised. Everyone with ‘farts and darts’ on their hats and leaves on their collars who filed those optimistic reports showing that with MY OUTSTANDING LEADERSHIP the Afghan Army is more than ready to take on their future role…. Everyone of those worthless hidebound careerist bastards should be looking for a new career before 2022 comes around.

    If the DoD and CI are significantly under-manned after that purge of stupidity, good. It’s a place to start.

  20. Stormy Dragon says:

    Potential future schadenfreude:

    I wonder if the (Suni) Taliban are making the same mistake we made in Iraq: assuming that because the conventional military forces collapsed immediately that they won, and now they’re gonna be all surprised Pikachu when suspiciously well armed and organized Shite militias start popping up in couple months and start a protracted guerilla war.

  21. Stormy Dragon says:


    Perhaps those with military experience can explain what has been going on for at least two generations.

    I’d say it’s much larger problem than just the military: American culture is obsessed with magical thinking. Whenever a project fails, it’s never because it was a bad idea from the beginning, it’s because of a lack of will, and if people had just tried harder it would have been a success.

    And usually anyone who argued it was a bad idea to begin with gets scape-goated for the failure.

    It’s only particularly bad in the military because military culture has better tools for eliminating people who “lack a sufficiently can-do attitude” than less hierarchical organizations.

  22. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Even setting aside the morality, what makes you think that nuclear weapons would have made a difference? We conquered and held Afghanistan without them. It is resistance fighters and a Taliban government in exile in Pakistan that is conquering the country today.

    The problem was never conquering the territory of Afghanistan. We did that. The Soviets did that. The British did that. The problem is that it is not a country in any sense meaningful to what we were trying to do there. There is no Afghanistan. There are only tribes.

    We should have come in, captured whatever Taliban leaders we could, put them on trial for war crimes, executed them, and gotten the hell out. We should have made it clear that at anytime Afghanistan was harboring or supporting enemies of the US we would repeat the exercise, as many times as necessary.

  23. charon says:
  24. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    American culture is obsessed with magical thinking

    Ah yes, American Exceptionalism.


    What are their inducements? In the Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz era, where leadership had a predetermined outcome in mind, the faceless bureaucracy coughed up a rational in support. In a give me your best assessment era, the bureaucracy responds with, not the truth, but whatever polished turd they believe will lead to career advancement.

    This is why leadership from the executive is so important. If you look at the 4 presidents who have had the Afghan fiasco on their watch, Bush was deluded by his own rhetoric, chose poor advisers and was led around by them like he had a ring in his nose. Obama, while avoiding Bush’s failures, was timid and indecisive (that was also evident in other areas during his admin), choosing to take the politically expedient route, rather than make the tough decision. TFG, it is hard to say this, had the right instincts regarding Afghanistan, but lacked the discipline and consistency to follow though. Biden made the tough choice, but he knew that the public had long moved on and doesn’t care about Afghanistan, though he too, has been failed by his advisers who believed that the Afghan military could keep the Taliban at bay for 18 months.

  25. JohnSF says:


    captured whatever Taliban leaders we could, put them on trial for war crimes…

    Except for the small problem that much the Taliban leadership would not have been in Afghanistan to be captured. The moment the US invaded half of them scampered over the border to Pakistan.

    The US never captured Mullah Omar; the US never captured Akhundzada, or Muttaqi, or Akhund etc etc.

    We all know the tale of bin Laden; but nobody knows where al Zawahiri ended up.

  26. JDM says:

    I believe our fundamental problem with Afghanistan was that we invaded the wrong country. Of the 9/11 hijackers, 15 of 19 were Saudi’s, 2 were from UAE, another from Lebanon, and one more from Egypt. And, of course, Bin Laden was a Saudi. We should have bombed the shit out of Saudi Arabia and not Afghanistan. Too bad we didn’t kill Bin Laden, when we had the chance, before 9/11.

  27. steve says:

    I cant remember if someone posted this but this is an OK article on how this Covid resurgence is affecting staff. It has certainly had some effect on my critical care docs. I am fortunate enough to work in a supportive network that has agreed to fund an extra position so that for those of our people who are struggling we can give them some extra time if needed. The article captures a lot of the loss of control issue the ICU docs have suffered and dealing with the deaths. What it does not capture at all is the outright hostility of some of the patients and families. A certain percentage of families are always difficult. Another percentage are worse under stress, but the vitriol and the bizarreness of what we encountered is unprecedented as far as I am concerned and counting my time as a corpsman I am almost at 50 years in medicine.


  28. Skookum says:

    @de stijl:

    Yes. If the US was formed because of asymmetrical warfare, and we’ve never won a major conflict with opponents engaging in asymmetrical warfare, how can we expect to win the undeclared asymmetrical war with domestic terrorists. We’d better learn from experience this time.

  29. MarkedMan says:


    much the Taliban leadership would not have been in Afghanistan to be captured. The moment the US invaded half of them scampered over the border to Pakistan.

    Agreed. My solution was the best of bad choices. It’s why I added that we needed to be willing to repeat as many times as necessary.

  30. MarkedMan says:

    @JDM: The best thing we could do in the Middle East has remained the same for a half century. Devote “war footing” amounts of time and attention to making oil worthless as a commodity.

  31. CSK says:

    “There is no Afghanistan. There are only tribes.”


  32. Sleeping Dog says:

    A top U.S. government official gave me a window into Biden’s thinking, which boils down to three points:

    Any other alternative would have been worse.
    The collapse proves that if the U.S. stayed, it would have been Americans in a shooting war with the Taliban, with an unknown number of casualties, and no end in sight.
    Americans support bringing troops home.
    “If people think our August withdrawal is too fast, what would a May withdrawal have looked like?” the official said, referring to President Trump’s deadline of May 1.

    “And if people think we should stay — whose kids are they sending to fight the Taliban when the Afghan army won’t?”

    via Axios


    Between the lines: Critics of the Biden approach tell me it’s not the drawdown per se that they object to. It’s that the U.S. was run out of town, rather than planning a measured and managed departure.

    Ah yes, the we can’t leave because we appear to be running away.

  33. JohnSF says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Since 2001 some 70,000 Afghan army and police have died in combat.
    2,372 Americans.

    But, yes of course, it’s all the fault of Afghans refusing to fight.

  34. charon says:

    We are in such deep trouble—“In January 2021–deadliest month of the pandemic — states were >5 weeks behind in submitting mortality data to the CDC. Under a deluge of new infections, states were 3 weeks behind in investigating #COVID19 cases.” by

  35. JDM says:

    @MarkedMan: I totally agree that making oil worthless as a commodity would be a great strategy. It would neuter both the Middle East and Russia from being Pitbulls in the world energy economy.

    It’s too bad conservatives are too addicted to big oil to see how damaging that addiction is to the political and environmental interests of the world.

  36. Sleeping Dog says:


    What should they have been fighting for, a government that sent them to the front lines with insufficient food and munitions and then didn’t pay them? In effect, large parts of the Afghan army and police forces, were mercenaries and when you don’t pay a mercenary what do you think will happen?

  37. charon says:
  38. Gustopher says:

    @de stijl:

    Admitting that asymmetrical warfare works. Or that just holing and waiting it out vs. a major power works and the Pentagon doesn’t have an answer to that. The Taliban didn’t need to win. They just needed to not lose. Wait us out.

    While it’s clear that as a war, this went terribly and accomplished next to nothing, it’s also clear that as a police action it was remarkably effective and kept the Taliban at bay for a generation.

    The cost was minimal once we got the hang of it — our total presence in the country was tiny, less than our presence in Spain, and we relied on our technology enough that casualties were low. We could have stayed indefinitely.

    I’m not saying that we should have stayed indefinitely, just that we should be able to figure out if we are fighting a war or not, and set our goals accordingly.

    @Michael Reynolds:

    We clearly should never get involved in training third world armies, we don’t know how to do it.

    It’s kind of baffling that at no point in the last 20 years did we withdraw from a province, and test the Afghan army’s ability to hold that province without our involvement and air support. The only reason not to do that is if you know they’re going to fail.

    I don’t think we even really tried to train the Afghan army.

  39. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @MarkedMan: I take issue with this. You have never had an assessment given by the US Military in their military role.

    What you are calling “The US Military” are CIVILIAN LEADERS and THEIR appointed uniformed advisors who exist in the civilian-political sphere. That is the tradeoff. You want civilian control of the Military? Well–you make Coups low risk–but you increase political calculations and decisions as part of the military operations.

    I don’t appreciate novices and people with Cable News degrees pontificating that the professionals (like me) that actually send best military advice and assessments UP the chain are buffoons. Im sorry that the political processes you love warps that correct information into something you want to hear (or don’t depending on which side says it). I got to see both sides of the coin—40% of the time what goes up is 180 deg from what comes out of the Beltway.

    I will say this again–WE DID NOT TRAIN THE AFGHANs TO BE SELF SUFFICIENT. Its not even a resourcing issue. There are certain things you do to train a self sustaining force. Those steps were not undertaken with the resources we had. Period. WE (ACTUALLY) TRAINED THEM TO BE A AUGMENTATION FORCE TO US FORCES. We did train their special forces to be autonomous–and they are still kicking ass. But those forces are scalpels and are no match for regular combat.

    Again, Im sorry that what came out of the Beltway gave you wrong expectations of what was happening. No one who actually worked this mission is surprised that the augmentation force cannot perform without the main force. How could they–they weren’t trained?

    Some of that was the culture of Afghanistan–and some of it was pretty simple: The Taliban paid their forces better and more consistently. The Afghan Army was mostly 3rd string back benchers.

    Do you know what me an my colleagues exchanged texts about the moment Biden suggested withdrawal? That the pictures were going to look like the US Embassy in Saigon–and that it would all be over by early October when fighting season slows down. How could we make the assessment you are seeing unfold in front of your eyes if were “incapable” of making an honest assessment?

    I actually remember some of the early strategy discussions about Afghanistan–the strategy I thought at the time had the best chance of success was actually the British empire model. You forge an alliance between several of the weaker tribes–and support them to subdue the rest. They need your continued support to keep the subdued tribes in check so they are lest likely to turn on you. You allow those tribes to run the Country within some general guidelines and let them figure it would. This is actually what Pakistan is doing though the Taliban–yes they learned well. Instead we end up this democracy building exercise amongst a semi-illiterate population of tribal subsistence farmers. Washington strategy at its best.

    Most of us thought it was dumb–but its was only one of two fights in town so take it or leave it. Sometime you’re wrong and it actually works…to your surprise.

  40. Gustopher says:

    @charon: The “patients in hospital” graph for Mississippi is going to get misleading soon, when it plateaus because of a lack of hospital beds.

  41. Mister Bluster says:

    I occasionally take short road trips to escape. This is “move in” weekend at Sleepytown U as classes start tomorrow and unlike a year ago when the campus was virtually closed there are a healthy (dare I use the word) number of new and returning students many accompanied by parents piloting U-Hauls and other carriage full of essentials. Restaurants and grocery stores are busy and despite many signs urging masks and social distancing I know better. I need a break anyway.
    One of the major draws for me at the Super 8 is the DirecTv. Since I don’t have any TV at home I am content to catch up on the usual Law and Order Marathon’s, old Twilight Zone episodes and a movie or two.
    It is depressing to find that even cable networks, WE in this case, will bleep out words on Law and Order reruns. Words like “ni99er” that were not cut from the original broadcast 20 years ago. And I was truly stunned when the word “crapper” was bleeped out of Jerry Orbach’s mouth! Crapper? Really?
    The weekend is not lost. IFC, once known as Independent Film Channel is showing Animal House. One of my all time favorites.
    I am pleased to report that….TRIGGER WARNING!!!!!!!!!!…this scene…TRIGGER WARNING!!!!!!!!!
    was TRIGGER WARNING!!!!!!!!! Not Suitable For The 21st Century!!!! uncut TRIGGER WARNING!!!!!!!!! in it’s presentation.

  42. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Thomm: I can’t fix the levels of stupid we’re seeing right now, and I still have to treat others as I would want to be treated because I can’t change the world.

    (Well, actually I could change the world, but eventually, you’d get tired of all the burials you’d need to do and make me stop.)

  43. Sleeping Dog says:


    The cost was minimal once we got the hang of it — our total presence in the country was tiny, less than our presence in Spain, and we relied on our technology enough that casualties were low. We could have stayed indefinitely.

    The cost was minimal for the US. If you believe that keeping the US there with the minimum 2500-3500 troops that the US had in Afghanistan when Biden took over, you’re wrong. Over the last couple of years the Taliban have avoided engaging the US and allied militaries. If we were to stay and provide resistance to the Taliban, it would have taken far more troops and casualties than we suffered. Trump had signaled we were headed for the exits, the Taliban had no reason to provoke us in a manner that would have us stay.

  44. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: My brother seems to have been offered the opportunity to stay in the military after his tours in Vietnam were over–going to officer candidate school in order to make such a career worth his while (at least, that’s the story as it has been told since 1968 or 69). My brother elected not to take the military up on their kind offer because he saw no point in a career in a military that was not going to be at war. (Even in 1968 and at 20 years old, he saw that Vietnam was a debacle from which the military would not recover for a generation)

    Why does the military continue to be so wrong and why, despite that, do they keep lobbying so hard for people to accept their flawed view of the battlefront?

    Because they, too, see that there is no point in a career in an army not at war, but choose a different solution?

  45. charon says:


    It may take a while to exhaust cancer surgery etc. “elective” cases that can be bumped

  46. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @de stijl: “for nothing but a lesson in hubris.”

    And before you get old enough to shuffle off this mortal coil, you’ll discover that we didn’t even get that. (I would have said “before you’re my age, but I don’t know which side of 50 you’re on.)

  47. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “We don’t do well with limited, vague, half-assed wars.”

    Gee, I dunno. We managed to keep this one going for 20 years… Wait, were you thinking of something else?

  48. JohnSF says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    I rather think you missed my sarcasm.
    70,000 Afghan army and police have died in combat since 2001.
    How were required to die to prove their conittment

    However many died in the current debacle, who knows.

    I see people saying the collapse “proves” they were worthless.
    But the collapse is unsurprising.
    The Afghan state forces were dispersed around the country, in positions dependant on firepower, logistic support, surveillance etc that were wrecked by the US withdrawal and the related flight of the contractors maintaining Afghan aircraft etc, and the failure of inbound supplies.

    I’d have a small bet that any military, yes even the US Army, would have difficulty fighting among such a ruination of their support systems and abandonment by allies.
    Let alone the Afghans, with all their problems of deluded leadership, incompetent staff, corruption and theft.

    First world armies have had total morale collapse and been utterly routed in similar circumstances.

  49. JohnSF says:


  50. JohnSF says:

    Edit missing.
    Above should read:
    70,000 Afghan army and police have died in combat since 2001.
    How are required to die to prove their commitment to your satisfaction?

  51. Thomm says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I get where you’re coming from, but honestly, I am treating them the way I would want to be treated if I was making a willful decision that actively can harm others on such a large scale. I would want someone to call me out in my b.s. in no uncertain terms, to call me a cretin, to treat me like a pariah. If I am failing my fellow sufferers in this side of the veil of tears and community, I would expect nothing less.

    I may not be able to change the world, but I can admit that the world can, and should, put me in check.

  52. MarkedMan says:

    @Jim Brown 32: Obama wanted to pull out. The military (not the administration, the military) went on a full scale attack against “giving up” and “losing Afghanistan”. It wasn’t the Obama administration that wanted to stay. It was the military, who, contrary to your “innocent military leadership cowed by the administration” narrative, went to congress and the press and anyone else they came to and made it astoundingly clear that, a) just a year or two more and the Afghan government would stand on its own with the help of a strong military, and b) if the Obama administration insisted on pulling out anyway they would blame him and his fecklessness and take no responsibility of their own.

    Hell, inasmuch as the Trump administration had any kind of agenda for Afghan, it seems like Trump repeatedly ordered a pullout in his ineffectual, blustery manner and the military essentially ignored him.

    No – once the Cheney’s and Bush’s were out of power, the primary promoter of “just one more year” was the US military.

    Obama was in for eight years. He made if clear from day 1 that he wanted us out. If the US military didn’t train the Afghanis to take over but rather merely serve as adjutants to the US military, whose fault was that?

  53. Sleeping Dog says:


    The Afghani tradition of switching sides continues. A WaPo piece up today points out that over the last 2 years the Taliban have been quietly cutting deals with tribal leaders, low level government officials and military. They were bribed yes, and hadn’t been paid by the Afghani goverment (that money had been stolen). You believe the return of the Taliban is inevitable and you believe that the US will eventually abandon you, of course you make the deal. The Afghani military made a calculation and decided the future was the Taliban.


    I’m confused, my focus has been of the failure of US policy.

  54. Teve says:

    You might wanna keep editing.

  55. JohnSF says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    It was meant in response to the US official quoted:

    whose kids are they sending to fight the Taliban when the Afghan army won’t?”

    Trying to use a mini laptop with no mouse and keys that keep getting stuck is doing my head in.

  56. Scott says:

    To me the principal issue is that, as Americans, we view these conflicts through our own eyes and ideological lenses. We fought in Vietnam under the guise of fighting International Communism. We fought in Afghanistan under the guise of fighting radical Islam. Neither are true as the real reason those conflict were going on. Vietnam was first a anti-French, anti-colonialist war and then a civil war. We decided to choose sides in that civil war while imagining we were fighting International Communism. We never understood what we were doing.

    In Afghanistan, it is the same thing. Once we took out al-Qaeda, we emmeshed ourselves into tribal warfare and tried to take sides. And this is the result.

    The talking heads keep talking how we will be targets again of terrorism. I submit we were a target primarily because we were there not so much because of who we are. Any country (China, Russia) will be a target if they involve themselves in Afghanistan.

  57. dazedandconfused says:

    As Sleeping Dog says, the failure is in the Afghan government we helped to set up in the winning of the faith and confidence of the people. They are, strike that, were a corrupt bunch, and utterly self-serving.

    Michael, teaching people to fight is a simple matter, which we do about as well as anyone. What isn’t simple but absolutely key is having a belief in something worth fighting for.

  58. JohnSF says:


    What isn’t simple but absolutely key is having a belief in something worth fighting for.

    70,000 Afghan army and police have died in combat since 2001.
    Did they believe, maybe?

  59. dazedandconfused says:


    Notwithstanding the egregious BS in claiming deaths in combat are absolute proof of devotion, we are watching the Afghan forces surrender en mass, and are you seriously claiming they are “believers”?

  60. de stijl says:


    I am not blaming any of this on Afghani service members.

    I am blaming us the US for creating the situation that was doomed to fail.

    I am especially blaming US military and civilian leaders that told us we were six months or two years away or whatever away from “victory” for almost two decades. Can-do bullshit.

    All for a relatively meaningless plot of ground of no strategic significance whatsoever.

    Even Rome wasn’t that foolish and self-deluded and knew when to say when (occasionally).

    Some hard-on dudes in the Bush admin wanted to make a point. (They failed to make the point, and in Iraq, too.)

    They chose an inappropriately scaled response to 9/11 on the wrong targets. Fear pride hubris.

    Sustaining a bad decision is itself a bad decision.

  61. de stijl says:

    The Iraq was especially galling.

    If random idiots in Pittsburgh launched a terrorist attack against Cincinnati and Cincy decided the best response was to invade and occupy Philadelphia and just pick another one, let’s say Memphis, that would be foolish.

    We did just that. And we stood by it for decades.

    A bad initial decision and followed up by can-do bullish pride is toxic and stupid.

  62. JohnSF says:

    Do you expect them to die to the last man to prove a point to you?

    Of course they stopped fighting.
    Abandonment by the US, and the incompetence, and likely betrayals, by senior commanders, had placed the Afghan security forces in an utterly untenable position.

    As for

    egregious BS

    I ask you, what, if not the lives of 70,000 Afghan military, would satisfy you as some indication of support?

    Doesn’t mean they all did. Do you take me for a fool?
    But at least some, we might concede, may, just possibly, have believed that in fighting the Taliban they were fighting in a just cause, for a worthy goal.
    Perhaps they did not.
    We could try surveying their opinions on the matter, except that they are dead.

    But WHAT would serve you as any sort of proof at all.
    Nothing, I suspect.

    Because I think there may well be some egregious BS that round here; we may disagree on who is shovelling it, though.

  63. JohnMcC says:

    @JohnSF: Just wondering how many Afghans died fighting for one side or the other in the 20 years prior to 9/11? Or the 20 years prior to that?

    And wondering what the beliefs of those poor bastards were and how that applies to anything at all?

  64. Gustopher says:

    @de stijl: yesterday, you wrote:

    The Thin Red Line 2. No Caviezel this time. That man is an idiot.

    If you have not listened to the QAnon Anonymous podcast episode about him, I highly recommend it.

    “He’s like having a puppy, and you keep saying over and over ‘don’t chew on that’, ‘don’t chew on that’, ‘don’t chew on that’, and the puppy doesn’t understand. Also, the puppy keeps talking about Hitler.”

    And it goes downhill/uphill from there.

    He is convinced he speaks many languages, and is bothered/angry/frustrated when people pretend not to understand him. He is just babbling at them in gibberish, of course.

    All the people in the production of “Person Of Interest” tiptoeing around their star because he’s a complete loon and they show would end without him.

    I’d say it would be funny if it wasn’t real, but I laughed.

  65. Sleeping Dog says:



    …when the Afghan army won’t?”

    But that will be the frame that those who are defending Biden will use, so in that context I won’t be too hard on the unnamed official. As many have pointed out, that the Afghan military folded, wasn’t a surprise, but the rapidity of the event certainly was until the remote provinces began surrendering.

  66. JohnSF says:

    Because some people around here are asserting the peoples of Afghanistan never showed any commitment to not being ruled by the Taliban.

    What, exactly, would they require as proof of such?
    If fighting them isn’t enough what the hell is?

  67. dazedandconfused says:


    If you agree with my statement, why are you contradicting it?

  68. JohnSF says:

    Because it would foolish to claim that all the Afghan soldiers who died believed in the “cause”.
    But is it not possible that quite a few did?

    What, exactly WOULD satisfy you as evidence that considerable numbers of the people of Afghanistan did not, and do not, wish to be ruled by the Taliban?

    Military collapse in circumstances of abandonment and betrayal proves nothing.

  69. MarkedMan says:

    @JohnSF: You make a very important point: There were many, many Afghani who wanted a better country and were willing to put their lives on the line for it. But we can’t deliver that. We should have conceded that before we went in. Unless we stayed there forever, the collapse was going to come. Pretending that staying longer would change that is just that, pretense.

  70. JohnSF says:

    Staying on the terms you had tried since 2001?
    Little hope, I’d agree.

    But what was never tried was:
    – accepting tacit, de facto, partition, based on balancing the tribal interests and power bases, as the Ghilzai Pushtun were never going to rest content under the rule of others.

    – confronting Pakistan, at least in private, and demanding that their sly double-dealing STOP

    – possibly bringing India into discussions, and obliging Islamabad to realise that half a loaf (the Ghilzai provinces) serves them better than none.

    (Oh, and dropping the stupid “anti-poppy” policy which wrecked what little support Kabul, had among farmers in Helmand and elsewhere)

  71. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @MarkedMan: Do you comprehend English?

    The military people that do the work, analysis, and plan…ARENT SPEAKING TO THE PRESS/MEDIA. THEY CANT.

    Anyone in uniform speaking to the media has to be authorized by their command public affairs….to provide approved talking poits. If they are at the Pentagon they are going to say what their boss, POTUS or SECDEF, wants them to say. Their opinions are OFTEN, not the same opinions as the middle grade Officers doing the Analysis or plannimg.

    The Obama Administration played good cop bad cop against you. Sorry.
    Its a dirty game but thats politics. Obama could have made one phone call and said he never wanted the Chairman or anyone else in uniform talking about anything other than getting out.

    Just like Biden is doing now…

    You dont get to play the same game as the Trumpites when it suits you. POTUS RUNS THE MILITARY

  72. dazedandconfused says:


    Mary’s assessments of Trump’s mind are in her ballpark, but I don’t think she grasps how the GOP currently functions. They have handed power over to their primary “elections”, an abandonment to populism.

    The “leaders” do not control the nomination process.

  73. dazedandconfused says:


    You’ve read into an assessment that the military collapsed because of a lack of faith in the government a claim that none of the soldiers believed in it at any point.

  74. MarkedMan says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    The military people that do the work, analysis, and plan…ARENT SPEAKING TO THE PRESS/MEDIA. THEY CANT.

    Sure. And they don’t get to talk to the President either. That’s the Generals and equivalents.

    Are you making the argument that Obama wanted to stay in against the advice of the military leaders? I just don’t see any evidence of that, and plenty of evidence for the opposite.

  75. JohnSF says:


    What isn’t simple but absolutely key is having a belief in something worth fighting for.

    You did not specify the time period.

    As I said previously:

    I’d have a small bet that any military, yes even the US Army, would have difficulty fighting among such a ruination of their support systems and abandonment by allies.
    Let alone the Afghans, with all their problems of deluded leadership, incompetent staff, corruption and theft.
    First world armies have had total morale collapse and been utterly routed in similar circumstances.

  76. flat earth luddite says:

    As the leader, you rely on information provided by others. Others bring their own filters/biases/goals to the table. This information is then run through the Bass-O-Matic™ of your own filters/biases/goals. The trick is to recognize this, which is never easy. It only gets worse when you’re surrounded by people telling you what they THINK you want to hear, or who are afraid to tell you the truth because of how you’ll react. (Killing the messenger and all that.)

    While I’d argue that we should have organized our exit better, it wasn’t going to happen. Not 20 years ago. Not now. Not ever. We were no more going to evacuate our allies/supporters or the Taliban’s victims than we were going to bring ARVN/Hmong allies and their families back to America. Wasn’t going to happen.

    Going there in the first place was a bone-headed mistake, which I believe was driven by the same eagerness to be “tough” that drove us in Vietnam, driven by people who’d never actually been in a school yard scuffle, much less lived in a combat zone or even, gods forbid, survived actual combat.

    Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether I think Biden was right or wrong to leave “Afghanistan.” We were going to leave eventually, and I’ll give him credit for finally saying enough, either s*** or get off the pot (at least he flushed and washed his hands).

    At least, that’s my opinion. That and $3.00 will get you a small plain coffee at Starbucks.

  77. Mister Bluster says:

    @flat earth luddite:..That and $3.00 will get you a small plain coffee at Starbucks.

    Don’t know where you are but at the new ‘bucks here in Sleepytown a small Pike Place Roast is $2.51 tax inc. I usually throw the 49¢ change in the tip bucket.
    Refills are 56¢.

    Kabul is falling…We shouldn’t have been there to begin with…I’m still pissed at Kissinger and Nixon for dragging out that GODDAMNED war in Vietnam to win an election.

    Abroad at Home; The Lying Machine
    By Anthony Lewis
    June 6, 1994
    New York Times

    Henry Kissinger, the former Secretary of State, has taken exception to a recent column of mine. It noted that 20,492 Americans died in Vietnam while he and Richard Nixon made policy on the war, in the years 1969-72. It quoted H. R. Haldeman’s diaries as saying that on Dec. 15, 1970, Mr. Kissinger objected to an early peace initiative because there might be bad results before the 1972 election.
    In a letter to the editor of The New York Times, Mr. Kissinger said the column had pounced “on a single entry in 600 pages” of the diaries to show that “President Nixon’s Vietnam policy was driven by electoral politics.”
    A single entry? A few pages later in the diaries there is another.
    On Dec. 21, 1970, Mr. Haldeman recorded Mr. Kissinger opposing an early commitment to withdraw all U.S. combat troops “because he feels that if we pull them out by the end of ’71, trouble can start mounting in ’72 that we won’t be able to deal with and which we’ll have to answer for at the elections. He prefers, instead, a commitment to have them all out by the end of ’72 so that we won’t have to deliver finally until after the elections and therefore can keep our flanks protected.”
    And another. On Jan. 26, 1971, Mr. Kissinger discussed plans for “a major assault on Laos,” which he thought would devastate North Vietnam’s military capability. (The Laos operation turned out to be a costly failure.) “This new action in Laos now,” Mr. Haldeman wrote, “would set us up so we wouldn’t have to worry about problems in ’72, and that of course is the most important.”
    Of course. The overpowering reality in the Nixon White House, as so meticulously recorded by Mr. Haldeman, was that what mattered about any proposed policy was its likely political effect. (Mr. Kissinger was opposed to publication of “The Haldeman Diaries,” and it is easy to see why.)
    On Vietnam, the public wanted withdrawal of American soldiers from a war it increasingly hated. But Mr. Nixon had repeatedly said he would not be “the first American President to lose a war.”
    The political solution was to withdraw gradually, leaving South Vietnamese forces to carry on the war. No one could seriously expect them to withstand for long an army that had fought 500,000 Americans to a standstill. But the inevitable might be delayed, and a formula agreed with North Vietnam to let the United States claim “peace with honor.”
    Mr. Kissinger complained, in his letter, about the statement in my column that the United States could have got out of the war in 1969, before those 20,492 American deaths, in the same way it finally did in 1973: on terms that led before long to a North Vietnamese victory.

    Until the end, Mr. Kissinger wrote, the North Vietnamese insisted that a peace agreement remove the Nguyen Van Thieu regime in South Vietnam. It was only at the negotiating session of Oct. 8, 1972, that they dropped that point — and agreement followed.
    True. But it is a half-truth, leaving out the crucial fact. North Vietnam dropped the idea of a change of government in Saigon only when Mr. Kissinger acquiesced in its key demand: that its forces be allowed to remain permanently in the south.
    President Thieu saw that concession as a death sentence for his Government, and he strongly opposed the peace agreement. He was bitter at Mr. Kissinger for concealing the terms from him until after they were agreed, indeed deceiving him about the possibility of serious new U.S. negotiating positions.
    Who knows what might have happened if the Nixon Administration had made that crucial change in U.S. policy in 1969, conceding the right of Hanoi’s forces to stay in the south? Hanoi might well have abandoned, as unnecessary, the demand for political change in Saigon. In any event, the end result would have been the same after 1969 as after 1972: a North Vietnamese victory.
    President Nixon said in his memoirs that Mr. Kissinger had told him the 1972 peace agreement “amounted to a complete capitulation by the enemy; they were accepting a settlement on our terms.” Two years later North Vietnamese forces marched into Saigon.
    A fair test of Mr. Kissinger’s claim would be to put it to the families and friends of the 20,492 Americans who died in Vietnam during his years as policy-maker. Would they think it was worth four more years of war?

  78. flat earth luddite says:

    @Mister Bluster:
    I’m in Puddletown, and I was including the tip $$$ in the cost, since we don’t have tax. I just figured that our brethren in the big cities were paying a bit more than us yokels.

    Cracker and I usually go to a smaller local chain, for what a late friend used to refer to as “20 oz dark chocolate mocha, extra shot, extra caffeine (me), extra whip, no ducks.” The “no ducks” was a comment from a barista that she couldn’t fit a duck into the cup on that order.

  79. Jax says:

    @steve: Just know that I am sending you huge hugs, and all of the love and light I can send to you and your staff.

  80. MarkedMan says:

    @flat earth luddite:

    It only gets worse when you’re surrounded by people telling you what they THINK you want to hear, or who are afraid to tell you the truth because of how you’ll react.

    Is there any possible universe in which the Generals thought Obama wanted them to tell him not to pull out? The generals convinced him, or rather, they snuck around to their congressional allies and and tame reporters and whispered in their ears, manufacturing a situation wherein the inevitable fall of Kabul would be blamed on Obama and not them.

  81. de stijl says:


    Person Of Interest was intriguing. The first season or was a bit formulaic and reductive. Kinda CBS NCIS type knock-off.

    But it went to interesting places, too. Later.

    Great cast: Amy Archer is always phenomenal and I love her to death. Michael Emerson too. Dude is fucking killing on Evil right now. (Seriously, watch Evil.)

    Taraji P. Henson and Sarah Shahi. Both of these need new and good roles.

    I really liked the last sane man Fusco. Dude was workaday and bootstrapped himself up the ladder. I related except he was a cop. Interesting role and well played.

    As to Caviezel. Perhaps he caught a bad vibe off Mel Gibson during The Last Temptation Of Christ and ran with it too far. He doesn’t strike me as a bad guy, just determinedly deluded today. Very Q.

    His “adrenochrome” rant is fucking jaw-dropping WTF stuff.

    Was he toxic during the run of POI?

  82. DrDaveT says:

    @MarkedMan: @MarkedMan:

    Are you making the argument that Obama wanted to stay in against the advice of the military leaders?

    Obama’s military leaders did not determine what the mission was. That’s the point Jim Brown 32 was making about civilian control of the military. The generals have opinions on how best to accomplish the goals set by the civilians, and on how feasible those goals are. Period. If you have actual evidence that some of those generals were in fact trying to push a political agenda through the press, I’d love to see it.

  83. de stijl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I prefer not to be genocidal. There is no reason. The “loss” of Afghanistan is a blip.

    So asymmetrical warfare works. BFD. Kudos to the folks who cracked the code.

    It does not harm us in any meaningful way except to our ability to project unstoppable force world-wide. To our pride.

    One guess where I stand on that issue, and unrestrained hegemony ain’t it.

    I admire them in a limited, tactical way. Savvy.

  84. Jax says:
  85. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @MarkedMan: I dont have to make an argument because I know what the raw unfiltered recommended to him was, what the Pentagon polished recommendations were, and what he choice to do.

    Seriously the man campaigned on ramping up Afghanistan. Then he saw what it would take and the level of violence required and decided on a special ops campaign of targeted raids…COIN-lite

    That’s it. Obama approved and asked Congress to fund a killing machine to swack Taliban leaders and some performative “training” of Afghan forces.

    “But Sir We need to build their intelligence capabilities” No

    “But Sir, they need organic electronic warfare capabilities” No

    The list goes on and on.

    To go in or leave is not a military decision to make. We tell Civilian leaders How, How Much, and as much as possible…3rd order effects of each course of action.

    What you are putting forth is the stuff of TV dramas. Obama talked extensively about Afghanistan in his 1st Campaign…so when he won there were several different types of campaigns ready for him to select.

    HIS choice was to treat it as a managed problem and not actually try to fix the country. I actually dont blame his selection…a central government with democracy would have required ethnic cleansing…and for what?

    The achievable solution: screw democracy lets find and finance 3/4 warlords to rule them all isn’t politically feasible in the beltway. But would have brought stability to the place

  86. Gustopher says:

    @de stijl: Totally off his rocker.

    I quite liked the show. Not sure if it would be better or worse to watch again knowing how unstable and delusional the main actor was.

    I’ll check out evil.

  87. Mister Bluster says:

    @flat earth luddite:..The “no ducks” was a comment from a barista that she couldn’t fit a duck into the cup on that order.

    Duck Roast Coffee

  88. de stijl says:

    I was once at a show that was so loud my innards resonated and reverberated. My liver, kidneys, my lungs. All of my guts.

    Sugar. The first show of their Copper Blue tour.

    It was very intense and both incredibly weird and also kinda uncomfortably pleasant simultaneously.

    I used to have a going out to shows jacket. Utterly unremarkable tan / khaki windbreaker type of cotton twill. Anonymous jacket. Blend in with crowd jacket.

    But, I kept a stash of foam earplugs in a tiny plastic bag the size of crack rock bags.

    Foam earplugs are the least effective but knock a perceived 20 – 30 decibels off actual volume. Not recommended for anything but a short burst.

    It was glorious! My guts shimmied and shaked. Rattled. Reorganized by resonance and gravity to accommodate the new now.

    Standing On The Edge Of The Hoover Dam.

    Ooooh. I know.

  89. de stijl says:


    I wrote out a few paragraphs on how hard Emerson is rocking his character on Evil, but decided it was sorta spoiler. So I deleted that.

    Watch for yourself if you want.

    The female lead is really intriguing. [Googles] Katja Herbers.

  90. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @flat earth luddite:

    At least, that’s my opinion. That and $3.00 will get you a small plain coffee at Starbucks.

    Not in Washington. Restaurant coffee has sales tax added. 😉

  91. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @flat earth luddite: I remember a day when it was my turn to pay and I had forgotten what Gilchrist’s order was but the barista said she knew it by heart so I didn’t have to go and ask. When his order came out, both cups, (one for there, one for home the next day) had 2 ducks drawn on the cup with strikethroughs on them to mark which were his. I hope she did well at her next job. She was a great kid.

  92. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: I watched a couple of episodes of Evil. It was well acted and I liked the characters, but the story was offputting enough for me that I knew I wasn’t going to want to watch 15 or 2o episodes a year, so I quit. Then again, not a big horror fan. Stopped watching horror movies after Lon Chaney, Jr.

  93. de stijl says:

    The Suburbs Rattle My Bones.

    I love those idiot dudes. Chan is a fucking mensch.

  94. de stijl says:

    I stood on the edge of the Hoover Dam while listening to Standing On The Edge Of The Hoover Dam a year or so later. At full volume.

    Highly recommended. Good life experience.