Thursday was a very bad day. There’s no guarantee Friday won’t be worse.
We control nothing. For all our military might, for all of our economic and geopolitical prowess, for all of our inflated sense of global preeminence—we control nothing.
The Taliban. ISIS-K. Al Qaeda. While they are in many ways competitors at this poker table, they collectively hold all the cards. The fourth player? The United States? We got nothin’. The others know that. Worse, we know that.
So now what? First, don’t make it worse. Continue the mission of getting as many Americans and innocent Afghans out of there as possible before Tuesday’s deadline. But the deadline is the deadline, as both a political and logistical matter. The reality is that many of our friends, and perhaps even some of our own citizens, are going to be trapped against their will, with futures that will be dark and often short.
Second, limit the empty-barrel bluster. “We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”
“You” who? “Hunt” how? “Pay” what and whom?
Biden has said—rightly in my view, and actually that of pretty much everyone else in this country, in both parties—that the United States must get out of The Endless War Business. Let’s not let our understandable anger and desire for retribution drag us into yet another B-Western Movie pit of quicksand. You don’t think that is a danger? Then you don’t know us as a nation very well.
Just a “surgical strike”? You mean like we should have executed in Afghanistan almost two decades ago, right before we got the hell out of Dodge?
Iraq War Cultural Flashback: “We’ll put a boot up your ass.” This is what happens when we let a Toby Keith simplistic, jingoistic mindset guide our foreign policy. The path forward here has nothing to do with cowboy footwear and other people’s rectums.
“Surgical strike”? Sure. As long as it’s truly cutting-edge brain surgery, and not simply a battlefield leg amputation. Of our own leg.
We need to take a geopolitical form of the physicians’ Hippocratic Oath. “First, for gawdsake, don’t make it worse.”
Our hearts break for our 13 Marines and their families. The best thing—really the only thing—we can now do to honor their sacrifice, is to avoid senseless repeats.