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The Afghan Resistance has begun Vengeance is unfurling over a wounded land

We must support the son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, whose mujahideen is pictured (Patrick ROBERT/Sygma via Getty Images)

We must support the son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, whose mujahideen is pictured (Patrick ROBERT/Sygma via Getty Images)


August 21, 2021   6 mins

Trump dreamed of it.

But it’s coming true with Biden.

And historians will never stop wondering what could have induced the 46th president of the United States to commit such a grievous error.

Is it the naïveté of a politician lacking any sense of history or tragedy, the one who took the Taliban at their word when they assured us of their peaceful intentions in Doha in February 2020?

Is it the cynicism of a president already looking ahead to his re-election and pandering to those in swing-states who are said to be fed up with “endless wars”?

Is it an effect of a swing of the pendulum between the four major poles of American diplomacy laid out by Walter Russell Mead: Wilsonianism and its democratic messianism; Jeffersonianism and its hard and fast isolationism; Jacksonianism and its reflex to give tit for tat, but only when US interests appear directly targeted; and Hamiltonianism and the formulation, so dear to France’s Montesquieu, that America’s only truly vital interests were those of peaceful commerce?

Or is this a new pole altogether? One pioneered by Barack Obama in August 2013, when he declined to enforce the red line that he had said would be irretrievably crossed if the Syrian leader resorted to the use of chemical weapons against his own citizens? The one at work when, without warning or any shred of moral or strategic interest, Donald Trump abandoned his country’s Kurdish allies, first in Iraq when he allowed the pro-Iranian militias to invade Kirkuk, then in Syria when he allowed Erdogan’s murderous proxies to enter Rojava? The one brought to its culmination in the present Afghan rout, this abject display of open desertion being broadcast live to the world and punctuated, as I write, by scenes of panic and chaos at Kabul airport that could easily be mistaken for those in Saigon in 1975?

Is it, in other words, the consolidation of a trend that I first sensed almost twenty years ago, when writing American Vertigo and later developed in The Empire and the Five Kings? Gone the great power, which has jettisoned its dreams of exceptionalism, its ambition to be a shining city upon a hill! Broken, the gracious Virgilian thread that made the invention of America a new Aeneid whose mission was no longer to rebuild Troy in Rome or Rome on a grand scale in Europe, but to reinvent Europe with improvements! Onward toward a new pre-Columbian order in which the old empire, in retreat, no longer counts and makes way for the latter-day reincarnations of the Ottoman Empire, Greater Persia, Great Russia, Imperial China, and, as here, the new Ummah made possible by a radical misreading of the Koran!

It is too early to know for certain.

And each of these explanations is at least partially true.

But the time has come for a review of accounts.

And that review shows that what the most pessimistic of us feared must be booked not just as a loss but as an abomination in three parts:

  1. The wolves are through the gate

They are hunting down the supporters of republican government and institutions, as well as my journalist friends from Tolo News.

They are sending women back to their fabric prisons after many thousands of them had tasted dignity and become accustomed to gender equality and the freedom to show their faces.

Sharia is the law of the land.

Lists of suspects, banned and “wanted” people are being posted at the entrances to neighbourhoods, sounding an ominous clarion call.

Islamic tribunals will soon be operating at full speed, with their absurd crimes and atrocious punishments.

And the scenes of stoning that have been filmed over the past few months in remote villages will be reenacted live in Herat, Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul, sites of high civilisation where the descendants of horsemen and poets had begun to embrace the democratic dream.

A people are in agony.

The triumph of a strain of barbarism that, twenty years ago, the great democracies and their Afghan allies easily defeated and whose legions of rabble on motorbikes are no more formidable today than they were back then.

And of naïveté, when the American administration, speaking through national security adviser Jake Sullivan, adds credulity to dishonour by accepting the Taliban’s word that it is ready to “protect” civilians seeking to be evacuated from the country while offering dubious evidence of good intentions.

Worse than a crime, this is a mistake.

And, worse than a mistake, it is a stain.

A stain on the term of Joe Biden, whose first dramatic error this is.

But also, in a greater sense, this stain dishonours the modern conscience. It will take a long time for that conscience to forget this failure, this shame.

  1. And what of the United States?

Already devalued by the sacrifice of the Kurds on the altar of appeasement, first toward Iran (the Kurdish Peshmerga in Iraq) and then toward Turkey (the Kurds in Syria), the word of the United States is suddenly worth nothing.

Imagine you are a Ukrainian in Donbass battling, in the trenches of Luhansk or Donetsk, pro-Russian separatists and mercenaries in the pay of the Kremlin.

An Armenian in Nagorno-Karabakh who has learned that the resentment of those pining for a return of the Ottoman Empire and denying the genocide of their ancestors knows no bounds or limitations.

Or a Taiwanese, South Korean or even a Japanese sensing the nearby presence of the iron jaw of Chinese totalitarianism just waiting to bite.

To say nothing of the Balts, the Poles, the Czechs — of Europeans, in other words — who had been living, like the generation of the founders of Europe, in the belief that venerable old treaties protected them and ensured their security.

What do they all think of this self-inflicted Saigon? This geopolitical suicide? How can they avoid ruminating on the betrayal and massacre of Carthage’s Punic allies, as recounted by Gustave Flaubert in his novel Salammbô, when confronted with this spectacle, this disarray in a diplomatic system that has made the inexplicable choice, just weeks before the anniversary of September 11, of returning Afghanistan to the terrorists on a silver platter and allowing them to build a nest for the vipers of the new Al-Qaeda and their ilk? When confronted, yes, with the direct, deliberate and slow-motion abandonment of a people who, like the Kurds, were our rampart against radical Islam and protected the world from terrorism? Under the circumstances, how is it possible not to conclude that if Putin, Erdogan or Xi got it in his head to fill part of the void created by the American retreat there would be no one to oppose him?

Dizzying.

An Afghan Anschluss.

Munich on all fronts.

And even if one must be wary of comparing the incomparable, this is truly terrible.

  1. But then, there is Panjshir

There remains, living in his homeland of Panjshir, one young man, Ahmad Massoud, son of the legendary Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who, in his day, embodied the struggle against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and who was assassinated two days before September 11.

A few days ago, just a few hours after the fall of Kabul, the young Ahmad Massoud was able to elude the hired killers sent to track him down.

Knowing that if they captured him, he might suffer the same fate as his illustrious father, he did exactly what his father had done, a little less than twenty-five years ago, after the first fall of Kabul, when he managed to get hold of one of the last old helicopters that the Taliban had not yet taken over and took refuge in his bastion in Panjshir, above the Shomali Plain, to organise the Afghan resistance.

He wrote to me from his native village on Monday (16 August), several hours after rejoining his commanders.

“We find ourselves,” he wrote, “in the situation of Europe in 1940.”

The debacle is complete, he continued.

The spirit of collaboration is all around us.

Subjugation is closing in with sound and fury.

As Kabul groans, as the villages of the north and south are put in chains, vengeance is unfurling over our wounded land.

But despite reversal and even catastrophe, all is not lost, he told me.

Ahmad Massoud: We were betrayed but not defeated (Roya Heydari)

With my Mujahideen, I intend to resume the struggle.

I call on all free women and men in the world, friends of Afghanistan old and young, to join us in spirit.

I call on all free fighters from all over the country, whatever their origin or ethnicity, to come to our valleys.

Already, he continued, groups of brave citizens are moving to the front with their creed, their bravery, and their antique rifles and grenade launchers.

I welcome them!

They will be — we will be — the living faces of the Resistance, and, soon enough, of the counteroffensive.

Free Afghanistan has lost Kabul, but it has not lost the war.

Massoud’s words were the words of the Spanish republicans in 1936.

Of Czech president Beneš in 1939 and of Alija Izetbegović, in 1992, at the height of the siege of Sarajevo, when he gave me a dramatic message to pass on to French president François Mitterrand.

Almost word for word, they are the words of General de Gaulle’s radio address to his defeated countrymen in June 1940, broadcast from London, in which he urged them not to submit but to continue to fight.

Except that the Afghans were betrayed, the young Massoud pointed out. Betrayed but not defeated. And they were not defeated because their leadership, their generals, did not even take them into battle.

* * *

I know this young man, just as I knew his father.

I have done numerous video interviews in the mountains of Panjshir, where, for a year, Massoud has been quietly preparing for the worst and stockpiling arms, equipment and supplies, as his father had done.

I trust him.

I believe him when he says he inherited from his father the taste for freedom and the instinct of fighting to defend it.

I believe him when he insists that he has no choice and that the fight is now ineluctably his, body and soul.

I believe that when he issues a call for all free Afghans who love their country and reject servitude, whether living in Afghanistan or abroad, to join him, he is not only sincere but credible.

At my initiative, France’s President Macron received him at the Elysée Palace on April 5, 2021.

I was present at that meeting, where the best of France appeared to have a rendezvous with an heir to the noblest anti-totalitarian and anti-fascist struggles of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

And I am convinced that, in the new Great Game that lies ahead, it is this young man whom France, Britain and the rest of Europe will have to support.

In this area of the world, he is the embodiment of the future and of hope.


Bernard-Henri Lévy is a philosopher, activist, filmmaker, and author of more than 30 books. His most recent, The Will to See: Dispatches from a World of Misery and Hope, is published by Yale University Press.

BHL

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J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago

In my opinion, the author demeans the seriousness of the subject matter by his self-aggrandizing prose.

Last edited 2 years ago by J Bryant
Johann Strauss
JS
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

But isn’t that par for the French. Everything they write is pompous. Just look at the in-flight magazine on Air France with the French on the left page and the English translation on the right. The English, in plain language, occupies less than half the space of the French. Monsieur Levy probably wrote this highfalutin piece in French and then used the Google translator!!
And of course he is so enthralled by his intellectual prowess that he fails to reason that everything he writes and advocates and everything he believes in is built on sand.

Philip LeBoit
Philip LeBoit
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The reason that the right page is shorter is that most of the jokes about gauche tourists are omitted.

Galeti Tavas
VS
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

And the dig at Trump.

“Donald Trump abandoned his country’s Kurdish allies, first in Iraq when he allowed the pro-Iranian militias to invade Kirkuk, then in Syria when he allowed Erdogan’s murderous proxies to enter Rojava? The one brought to its culmination in the present Afghan rout,”

I guess Trump ‘abandoned’ the Kurds because they were getting a bit to Pan-Kurdish. Like the Basques in Spain they always dreamed of a Kurdistan, taking territory from the 4 who hold Kurdish peoples – Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Turkey. But was that really what was in the USA interest? A 4-way civil war, one which each country would resist, and our Allies Turkey would be so hostile to? Pouring gas on the fire?

And his (troweled on prose) praising the ‘Lion of Pansheer’s fighting? Is this just inevitably going to make the 40 years of Afghan war go on for ever? When is the time to begin unity attempts – despite who holds the country – it must begin the process of putting down the weapons and working to see where things go. This writers praise of the underdog is not helpful now.

China is going in, the 3 Trillion $ of ready minerals need extracting, and that only happens with a government in control – if the endless IEDs and pipeline bombs and rocket attacks against the mines goes on the Nation is F****d even more. The stability which allows commerce is the only chance the Afghanis have – unless this French guy proposes his country pay its way.

The one certainty in Life is the French are trouble makers and always on the wrong side. Like in Iraq their (and their Bi* ches Germany) split the UN being united on Saddam WMD inspections – and then going in to block his mad invading of neighbors – By the French being on the other side of all the Free World in this Saddam was emboldened – and so the utterly un-needed Iraq war… Not to mention Vietnam, Algeria, the Sahel, and remember Sikes-Picot?

Ask the French and then do the opposite.

(edited because I put Syria twice instead of Turkey – I almost never edit, I think it shows vacillating, so let errors go usually)

Last edited 2 years ago by Galeti Tavas
Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

……he’s French for God’s sake ! Not some bland spokesperson,(pronouns: he she sh*t) from Foggy Bottom…..

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Plus, not a single mention of Pakistan, or modern China, or India, or barely a mention of Russia, in the piece about who will and won’t fight the taliban, or who will support them covertly and overtly, or who the taliban and the local warlords need money and resources from. Completely delusional.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago

Henri Levy is the kind of French intellectual who will fight to the last American working class soldier.

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
2 years ago

It has been said of the French that they will always be there, when they need you.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

The French are doing plenty of fighting in Africa – rightly or wrongly – in the war against Islamic extremism.

rick stubbs
RS
rick stubbs
2 years ago

One could say the Foreign Legion is fighting for French mineral rights under the banner of “enlightenment values”

Dan Gleeballs
DG
Dan Gleeballs
2 years ago

“ Broken, the gracious Virgilian thread that made the invention of America a new Aeneid whose mission was no longer to rebuild Troy in Rome or Rome on a grand scale…..”

Ridiculously purple prose. I’m just happy we’re out of Afghanistan. The Russians had no press corps embedded, were utterly ruthless and yet still failed there. The Americans and British went in with one hand tied behind their back. Regime change is a game compared to war. Real war is Dresden.

If the Afghans want to live under the strictest Islamic law, I say let them. Not my circus, not my monkey.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Gleeballs

If only the Russians had been left alone! The Russians know those countries, they build roads, dams, mines, electrical grids. rough but workable Medical, girls schools….But it was cold war, and so Regean used it to bankrupt the Russians by channeling many billions through ISI, which is yet another problem, and encouraged KSA to in fact Create the Taliban. (which they did by making all the Western Frontier Madrassas to fire up Pushtun rural boys with zealotry education, and military training)

The Russians handled all that till the USA gave the ISI Stinger missiles to pass on- which grounded the Russians, and no one can fight the Afghani on foot!

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

“and no one can fight the Afghani on foot!”

see what happened when the Biden insane Lefties took out the USA Air support? – the National army put down their weapons as it was not possible….

Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
2 years ago

The self importance of this guy is embarrassing. In France he has been exposed as the narcissist he is. He likes to pose in his cool open necked white shirt and jeans among ruins he has never seen.
If he were asked to house a family of refugees in one of his (expensive) properties you wouldn’t see him for dust!

Last edited 2 years ago by Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Ian Morris
Ian Morris
2 years ago

Yes. Always beware of someone who describes himself as a “philosopher”, or “thinker” or “intellectual”.

Noah Ebtihej Sdiri
Noah Ebtihej Sdiri
2 years ago

Bernard-Henri Levy embodies everything that is wrong with French intellectualism. This scam of a man never wrote anything of value, but keep on being treated like intellectual royalty due to his friends and connections among the rich and powerful.
Iraq, Libya, Mali. This shoddy character supported every western intervention that ended in abject failure.
Biden’s pull-out game could have been better handled, true, but the US had to go, Afghanistan was lost, worst, I don’t think it ever existed.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

NO, the war did not have to end like this!

under 5000 USA people kept the air screen for the Afghan National Army – without this air support the war was impossible for them. 11 Days after Biden, (it makes me shudder to say that name now) sent the US Air cover home, without even telling the Foreigners and locals with visas to get out, the entire country was under Taliban – because you can not fight the Taliban on the ground.

Even Alexander The Great, who created the Parthian empire there, had his Generals he left in charge marry the local ‘Kings’ daughters so the natives could see the royal blood line would succeed in ruling them. If only General Paetrus had married the King’s grand daughter and set up in the Bala Hissar as a sort of Heart of Darkness warlord all may have ended well…. Maybe this French guy can write that book.

Cathy Carron
CC
Cathy Carron
2 years ago

Such a nauseating essay, but then again written by a ‘French intellectual’ sitting high atop the once expansive but hardly great French Empire.

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
2 years ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

Ha ha I didn’t know he was French while all the time thinking, “this article is so poetic while saying nothing that it’s almost like it was written by a Frenchman”. Well blow me down!

Mary McFarlane
MM
Mary McFarlane
2 years ago

The only person who cares what this man writes is the author. Pretentious? moi?

Last edited 2 years ago by Mary McFarlane
Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

Although European nations contributed troops (and airmen) to Afghanistan, it was chiefly an American operation. Hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and ex-soldiers, who are in America now, are veterans of the Afghanistan campaign. The next time you or I visit America on holiday, the chances are that in every town or rural community you pass through, there are a dozen vets maimed from either of the operations in Iraq or Afghanistan. Tens of thousands of Americans under 50 today, those born after 1971, say, must be scarred physically, psychologically, emotionally. That’s on top of all their other problems! …. that one encounters in life. (America’s working-class millennials are not so snowflakish). So how many have been deprived of the chance to work in a physical job? These are the little stories that may only be learned about in small-town newspapers. Where was I?
Europe instead of America could have been attacked on 9/11, twenty years ago. Al-qaeda, as it had attacked American embassies in Africa in 1998, could have targeted American or plain old European institutions and buildings, the civilians about of no concern. (More than 200 Kenyans blown up in 1998). Buildings and other valuable spots have seen defences and barriers go up, in Europe.
Perhaps some Americans in the last week are so fed up that they wish they and their great country could just disappear …. and the rest of the world could then sort themselves out. Leave the rest of the world to it!
In the autumn of 2001, America wanted to square up to a “rogue state” and finish it off. But it made sense not to leave a vacuum in Afghanistan. Amidst the effort to build up a new country, the American Bagram Air Base must have gladdened hundreds of thousands of well-intentioned Afghans’ hearts. But with a smattering of European nations’ military involvement, to millions of Afghans it must have seemed like the whole of Christendom had come to town. (With only French forces fighting in the Maghreb, that perception of Christendom on the march can’t be formed there).

In 2001, there were, perhaps, still people in top government positions in Washington who had in the course of their work met with American expatriates who had lived with their families and worked in Afghanistan in the 1950s and into the 1960s — I have vague memories of reading about this years ago — it was an enterprise in improving the agricultural economy of Afghanistan — American engineers and their families built up their own little communities among the Afghans. Perhaps some among them had seen how other parts of the life of the country could be improved and banked it in the memory. But how refreshing it was to read about that co-operation from sixty years ago.

Anyway, where was I? Yes, Europe could have been attacked instead of America on 9/11. Europeans back then would have been none the wiser. So what if an EU army is created? As rumoured about? Is it less likely now that the Brits are out? If an EU army had existed during a European 9/11 event, and a landlocked rogue state had to be taken out, would inevitably the Europeans come tapping on the Americans’ shoulder?
Remember? Bush was quite prepared to muscle Pakistan away were Pakistan to refuse access to its airspace to American planes.

America needs a break. It bungled big-time its retreat from Afghanistan. But tiredness leads to unfeeling. Other freedom-loving countries need to do more to support America. That’s why the previous administration was keen its allies would do more to spend more on their military – so America did not have to always plug the gap.

Moreover, the US navy have kept the seas and trade secure the last sixty to seventy years. If not for America’s great efforts to police the high seas, economies would not have flourished, poverty around the world would not have been alleviated. That’s an often overlooked fact! The world has taken America for granted for too long, and it’s high time it became a little more American itself. America deserves its supposed understudies around and about to take up the reins for a while. But maybe we all still only trust America. And would rather not take up the reins on America’s behalf.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago

Afghanistan was an exercise in futility for the USA. My niece’s husband served in the country as a nurse. He said that as soon as a roads or schools were built by Americans they would be blown up, but no matter, they would go back in and rebuild. Hence the TRILLION American dollars expended. Average Americans are tired of seeing our elites squander the country’s resources when so many other domestic issues need addressing like healthcare, infrastructure etc. It’s proven impossible to bring a Stone Age culture to the present. Time to go. Why isn’t Bernhardt Levy urging his fellow Frenchmen to stay in Afghanistan and rebuild it? Of course, we all know the answer – The French have no spine, no capabilities- Napoleon was their last ‘conquering hero’ and we all know how well that turned out.

Last edited 2 years ago by Cathy Carron
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

I do not remember this – I doubt it really, any links (and then the Mujahideen were warlords, and many, in many different kinks of places)

ed martin
ed martin
2 years ago

The important point about domination of the sea may now be out of date.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

“American expatriates who had lived with their families and worked in Afghanistan in the 1950s and into the 1960s — I have vague memories of reading about this years ago”

I knew them well, I can still name lots of them, it was a magical time and place.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Lovely stuff. Now, it may have been the memoirs of a person who was a child living in Afghanistan in the 50s and whose father was one of those engineers. A book I randomly looked at in a a bookshop. Years ago. With photos in it, too. I could try and google it but …. you can do that.

Bruno Lucy
BL
Bruno Lucy
2 years ago

This man will never tire from creating or approving chaos. We ow him the lybian intervention…….and look at the mess this country is…..not that it was heaven before….but at least Kadaffi was controlling the place.
Has Lybia become a better place ? Certainly not…..it is a basket case……
But sure thing…..seen from Café de Flore on Boulevard Saint Germain, one can spread one’s dribble without having to the consequences.

GA Woolley
GA Woolley
2 years ago

‘the new Ummah made possible by a radical misreading of the Koran!’ A What!? Their interpretation, as with Al Shabbab, Boko Haram, the IS, and hundreds of other ‘Islamist’ movements, is absolutely no different in principle or practice from the original. The only ‘misreading’ is on the part of those ‘moderate’ Muslims who choose not to participate in Dawa.

Galeti Tavas
VS
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  GA Woolley

The Talib are Deobandi Sunni, which Weirdly, the majority of British Imams are also Diobandi….. Even though the UK Muslims are not. (Because KSA funds the world’s Mosques a lot – and Saudi and Deobandi have a great afinity, from this 1980 time and place, it is very interesting, the billions KSA spent creating the Taliban (Talib means religious student).

Andy Simpson
Andy Simpson
2 years ago

Pretentious tripe.

rick stubbs
RS
rick stubbs
2 years ago

BHL is apparently convinced he has animated this tribal rebellion to safeguard the French enlightenment. Although One rather doubts muslims in the Hindu Kush experience fraternite, egalite, or liberte in the mystical manner described by French philosophers eager to put the sword in their hand. More likely a tribal dispute. Still Macron should send him to organize the rebellion. For someone who never strapped on the harness, he clearly fancies himself as a Che like figure. But then remember what happened to Che…

Matt Spencer
Matt Spencer
2 years ago

I wonder what the author would consider a better option, life in a peaceful yet terribly repressive country, or one riven by yet more civil war. Neither is a good option, yet the latter is presented as somehow hopeful.

Matt B
MB
Matt B
2 years ago

Massoud is a source of hope to some Afghans, but not all (the ever-problem), but despite the florid self-referential prose here from BHL, surely SM deserves any support he can get? The hastened US exit is grim for Afghans and a snub to NATO Art 5 allies. Beyond that, why does BHL give Macron a free pass? Biden’s blundering exit is as political as Macron’s pre-election wavering in Mali, and his former generals’ broodings – clouded by Algeria – over risks of civil war in a pessimistic France.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt B
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt B

An intersting feater of the Great Game is on the Map of Afghanmistan – an arm of land from the top right goes out a long ways and touches China, to separate Tajikistan from Pakistan. Tajikistan being Russian, and Pakistan British – so they would not have a common border which may have shots exchanged, and thus a war, or ‘Incident’ anyway. This is the sort of thing maps were created to do.

David McDowell
DM
David McDowell
2 years ago

Nauseating. The resort to ludicrous, deep purple prose suggests even he doesn’t believe it.
If he did believe it he would advocate conscription in the EU for deployment in the causes he purports to favour.

Last edited 2 years ago by David McDowell
J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago
Reply to  David McDowell

The resort to ludicrous, deep purple prose suggests even he doesn’t believe it.
Good point. I thought about this article today and I’m more convinced it’s a clumsy attempt at satire. The author might be mocking the idea that anyone can ride into Afghanistan and solve its many problems. On the other hand, maybe the author really is as pretentious as this article suggests.

Mike Doyle
MD
Mike Doyle
2 years ago

When you find yourself trapped in a hole the most important thing is to stop digging. Glad to see that Biden finally worked this out.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

What exactly do you mean?

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
2 years ago

For Afghanistan the USA has spent in the order of $1,000,000,000,000 and lost 2,300 service personnel. The Afghan state was a mirage – without the US to support them it toppled like a house of cards. There was no prospect of success: either the USA had to stay there forever, or leave and let it collapse. Biden did the right thing.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

2.3 Trillion is a number reasonable people have been using, about 1/3 USA’s total income from Taxes in one year. The Military Industrial Complex has Really Good Lobbyists!

Colin Elliott
CE
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

I won’t say that the USA spent wisely in Afghanistan, and it was probably strategically right to withdraw, but tactically, Biden got it wrong, thus making a sure failure of the the strategy while ensuring that much of the expenditure ends up at the disposal of an avowed enemy.

Robin Bury
Robin Bury
2 years ago

What a nasty article A disastrous total failure of an arrogant intervention by Bush and followers. Biden 100% right to get out. Good that corrupt Afghan army did not start civil war. Shame on you Unherd for publishing this

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Robin Bury

If it is right to get the kids down the cliff as the storm approaches – it still is not right to just throw them off.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Robin Bury

Whether one agrees or not, Unherd is right to publish a variety of opinions.

Alan Thorpe
AT
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago

The problems in Afghanistan started with the communist revolution followed by the Russian invasion.

ed martin
ed martin
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

or did they start when outsiders claimed to have over-riding interests – or else…..?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  ed martin

It started when the Kings Cousin set up a Parlament of socialists around 1964, (and also had the King), which took over in 1973 as a Russian puppet wile the King was out of country, and in 1979 when they were being driven out by insurgents they Invited the Russians in – the Russians were invited by the Afgnani government, spurious as they were…

q9szgdrv45
q9szgdrv45
2 years ago

This is an odd sort of poetry.

Christopher Barclay
CB
Christopher Barclay
2 years ago

There are other possible explanations. Cynics would suggest that American policy on military intervention is driven by the interests of arms manufacturers. Those with a more strategic bent would suggest that the US might be trying to consolidate its forces ahead of a confrontation with China over Taiwan.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

The world is driven by FOUR things, the Military Industrial Complex, the Pharma/Medical Industrial Complex. the Tech/Social Media Industrial Complex, and the Banksters Financial Complex. They own you, and your country. Klaus Schwab of the WEF will tell you it is true, although all you need is to look at the world and history to know it is true.

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
2 years ago

Levy has read lots of books except ‘The Quiet American’ it seems. Decarbonise from oil and let godless Russia and China sort out these medieval theocracies as they fail under global warming and a young unemployed population. Sounds cynical but time for very hard eyed realpolitick.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
2 years ago

Painful to read, as probably true. In hindsight then, had there been a feasible way to do this, it would have been better to replace Ghanis with Massoud a few years back, and support him in preparing the Afghans for the day they’d have to fight with little US support?

chris sullivan
CS
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

Absolutely-why did this not happen – at least as a backing up strategy with some REAL indiginous muscle !

ed martin
ed martin
2 years ago

Good luck to Mr Massoud and friends.
They have advantages relative to those who have tried to confront the Taliban in the past.
Tele-communication is much further developed and drones have revolutionised weapons delivery.
No shortage, as noted, re other weapon supply.
But does the Great Game continue – with Chinese involvement – or does the West keep well out of direct action? Its ineptitude suggests the latter is obvious but how many times were British politicians advised so and then ignored the advice?
Otherwise the West should concentrate on writing the musical – subject of course to CCP censorship.

Earl King
Earl King
2 years ago

The sadness descending upon the American flag that was self inflicted…..Regardless of the desire to end our participation in Afghanistan, our quitting was always going to be deadly with the Taliban as the barbarians at the gate.

stephen archer
SA
stephen archer
2 years ago

I skimmed through the article then read the comments since normally these contain a lot of wisdom and interesting viewpoints on the subject matter. But I found a fair degree of anti-French prejudice, cynical criticism of the author of whom I am not acquainted, and general negativity towards the article content. So I read the article again and found little to warrant this reaction, even if not all he said could be concurred on. I found the article reasonably balanced which is more than can be said for many of the comments. Disappointing for Unherd where the comments are often more interesting than the article!

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

Yes I think the highlighting of indiginous anti-Taliban forces is important – and should have been fully supported for the past 20-30 years by any country attempting to contain the taliban. A huge missed opportunity – how come ??

Julia H
Julia H
2 years ago

The Afghan resistance seems rather late. Perhaps the people who stood to lose the most should have been at the forefront of organising against the Taliban during the past 20 years, instead of relying on foreigners to do it for them.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

I had a careful look at the Taliban in the photo spread out across the road, to see if one of them had a guitar slung over his shoulder. No hope there. No hope anywhere. Though the guy on the far right, in his left hand, could be carrying a rattle.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

Tell them that in person….

Chris Eaton
CE
Chris Eaton
2 years ago

Just a coward who supports the efforts of another coward. Where were either of these men last week. Afghanistan is a county that no one can conquer because, quite plainly, it sucks and therefore no one really cares. They are a backwards people and deserve the ‘government’ they get. Frenchie seems to think it’s so great…..move there, dude and quite your cheese eating surrender monkey substandard analysis.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago

Mon Dieu! What pretentious and bombastic nonsense! Meaningless. The US never should have invaded Afghanistan and it was inevitable that they leave at some point, unceremoniously tossed into the graveyard of empires. The way that this retreat/surrender is unfolding is, however, obscene beyond words, as is the cost. Trillions for….nothing? To make matters worse.
Biden owns this utterly incompetent execution. As I read somewhere, many who voted for Biden because he was not Trump somehow had to convince themselves that Biden was a good man, reasonable, competent, centrist, informed, sympathetic. He is none of those things. He is a demented, doddering dotard, a disgrace to himself as well as the United States. Whenever he steps in front of a camera–when not eating ice cream–he embarrasses himself and personifies in real time the decline of the United States. For Biden, as with RBG and John McCain, it is self before country, not country before self. All three–varying political persuasions–either sought or clung to office long after they were physically/mentally capable of doing the job. This is sickening, but the norm for declining America.

¶ 5 of this mess mentions Biden’s re-election plans. Is this meant as a laugh line? Shortly after taking office, Biden mentioned that he was running for re-election–normally pro forma but for Biden, it is a joke. Biden will be lucky to make it through the end of the day, the end of the week. It won’t be long before Biden will be removed from office either by resigning or the 25th Amendment.
I am surprised that this pig’s breakfast of an essay garnered so many comments, including my own. Perhaps some felt the need to bash the French, understandable, but in the end, it’s just not worth it….

Lionel Woodcock
Lionel Woodcock
2 years ago

Such self-indulgent flowery language is inappropriate and a somewhat insulting for such a serious matter.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago

The critiques attack the prose but not the intent. We are likely to see a continuing war. The Taliban are ruthless rulers and many will not submit. The smell of death will continue. Afghan hopes dashed in the sort term. As terrorists arrive in their new nation, the West will be forced to return.

John McGibbon
JM
John McGibbon
2 years ago

I suspect the old Vice President and his warlord partner are not really interested in democracy, rights for minorities and being “the resistance”, etc, rather they are interested in a power share, well when I say power share, I mean corruption share, well what I mean is a share of the corruption.
Where is the international uproar about the former president disappearing will tens of millions of aid funds?

ml holton
ml holton
2 years ago
Reply to  John McGibbon

… The “old” VP (and now self-proclaimed ‘President’ according to Afgan law) is 48.

Apparently he was banned from Twitter last week, unlike prominent members of the Taliban.

The reverse holds true on Facebook. He still has a platform there. The Taliban are banned as a ‘terrorist organization’.

(Facebook said they are abiding by American terrorists list. Who knows what’s up with Twitter.)

Jim Cox
Jim Cox
2 years ago

This fine essayist is correct. Ahmad Massoud is the hope of Afghanistan and the Afghan resistance leader whom the West must support.

As for the current American president, he guaranteed the defeat of the Afghan army by pulling out the contractors who maintained the modern fighter jets and helicopters of the Afghan air force. Then he abandoned Bagram air force base before American citizens and vulnerable
Afghanis had been evacuated. So, bereft of its own aircraft, both fixed and rotary wing, as well as American Air Force support, the Afghan army experienced difficulty in fighting the Taliban. This botched withdrawal was a betrayal of Afghanistan and its brave soldiers who fought hard to keep the Taliban at bay.

Marco S
Marco S
2 years ago

Some very ignorant comments which are not worthy of this site and its members

Penelope Lane
PL
Penelope Lane
2 years ago

A wonderful article, thankyou.
I believe you are right about the New Resistance.

Jim Donnelly
Jim Donnelly
2 years ago

Perhaps the biggest truth is that if europeans want to defend themselves or their values, we have to do it without America. We have been warned time & time again that we are spending too little on defense. Further, even the idea of war and sacrifice has been continually derided, as our lack of any common value becomes apparent.
The pencil’s are being sharpened as whole regimes calculate what it would take for the European cities to capitulate, one after the other just like Afghanistan.
I hope there is a young man in Afghanistan ready to recruit and equip freedom fighter. Europe needs him just as much as Afghanistan.
Europe is a walk away America is an Ocean away.
The American people will never again come to the aid of Europe. The anti American rhetoric will not be forgotten. Let them show they can defend themselves will be the abiding belief on the other side of the ocean why should our sons & daughter die?
We have heard that message from Joe Biden and Afghanistan is only the start of the withdrawal.

Edward De Beukelaer
Edward De Beukelaer
2 years ago

It was interesting to read some of the savage comments on this piece. BHL does of course like his prose… he is know for that.
It is interesting to ask though whether his point of view is correct: is it up to ‘us’ (the West) to intervene military to decide the future of a country…. or should our weapons be diplomacy, trade cultural etc with a long term out come grown from the country itsel. It is an optimistic view of thinsg but is ‘going in and soring it out’ not a bit simplistic?

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago

He’s already surrendering, you t*t.

Last edited 2 years ago by Drahcir Nevarc
MJ Reid
MJ Reid
2 years ago

When do the other 50% of the population get a seat at the tableto decide the future of countries? Why are those making the decisions always male?

Women should no longer be seen as chattels for men to do what they will. They need to have ownership of their countries and of their future.
When that happens, there maybe longer stability in countries where tribal factions rule. Until then there will only be more misery at the hands of men.

Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
2 years ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

What a rubbish sexist, ignorant comment.
Remember that war mongering trollope Thatcher? Or Golda Meir, or Mrs Bandaranike. The gentle sex my a*se.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Branagan

way too strong Peter !

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Branagan

I’m taking it that the male Galtieri and friends is much more to your liking.