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Pat Buchanan was right about Afghanistan

Patrick Buchanan in 1999. Credit: Getty

August 25, 2021 - 3:44pm

Pat Buchanan, paleoconservative and three-time Republican Party leadership hopeful, hasn’t yet faded into obscurity. Last week, the Conservative blogger Rod Dreher stirred up controversy on Twitter after posting a tweet stating ‘He told us so’. Why was Buchanan, long since marginalised from mainstream conservative spaces, back in favour? The answer is simple: the fall of Kabul to the Taliban.

By mid-July 2002, nearly two decades prior to the humiliating US exit, Pat Buchanan had already seen the writing on the wall in Afghanistan.

“Clearly the days of easy victories are over,” Buchanan wrote. U.S. forces were destroying Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters at Tora Bora through Operation Anaconda, yet it was obvious that America’s mission in the region was about to change. The war that President Bush sold to the American people would not be the one they’d be fighting for much longer.

Buchanan knew this was a fool’s errand. “No nation has ever done the ‘final chapters’ of Afghanistan well, as the Afghans tend to want to write those chapters themselves, and turn savagely on outsiders who come to teach them how to live,” Buchanan told Senators, who were calling for further military investment into Afghanistan.

The year prior, Buchanan had given an interview to Jake Tapper saying that the U.S. should help anti-Taliban forces with economic and humanitarian aid but have no troop presence in Afghanistan. “I don’t think we ought to have them there. We’ve made these commitments to the Paks about the Kasmir thing. Plus commitments to the Uzbeks and Tajiks. I mean, there are four nuclear powers over there and no vital interests to the U.S. in that area of the world to justify [our] presence.”

Pat’s statement was a bold one for the time. Neoconservatives were at the apex of their political influence, and a terrified nation still in shock over the terrorist attacks of 9/11 fell quickly under their spell — as did nearly every Republican and most Democrats in Washington. Buchanan and his ilk were labeled “unpatriotic conservatives” for daring to speak up.

Buchanan may have appeared to lose the argument, but two decades later he looks ahead of his time. Somewhere over the last two decades, between $8.5 trillion spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, and nearly 7,000 American soldiers dead, America finally caught up with him. Voters have handed the presidency to the candidate who promised to bring the troops home from war in four straight elections since 2008. When Biden finally withdrew from Afghanistan, Americans overwhelmingly backed the decision.

Buchanan insisted that we lost the mission to remake Afghanistan in the image of Delaware because “the Taliban’s God is Allah. The golden calf we had on offer was democracy. In the Hindu Kush, their god has proven stronger.”

This mission was doomed from the start, though few recognised it. But to Buchanan, the parallels were clear enough: “If we don’t stop behaving like the British Empire, we will end up like the British Empire”.


Ryan James Girdusky is a writer and political consultant based in New York City. He’s the author of “They’re Not Listening: How the Elites Created the Nationalist Populist Revolution.”

RyanGirdusky

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James Joyce
JJ
James Joyce
2 years ago

Absolutely true! Biden deserves the blame now–and also for his 50 years or so as a Senator–but the Neo-cons are responsible for the initial invasion. Same with Iraq. Massively stupid.
Comedian Steve Hughes–who is also a very clear Libertarian voice–talks about Bush, et. al as “globalist demons,” and suggests we hate them (not Enya, but that’s part of his comedy). He has an excellent point. How stupid does the US have to be to realize that this mission was doomed to failure from the beginning? 9/11 could and should have been prevented with more coordination and stricter immigration policies.
The amount of $ completely wasted in Afghanistan is almost beyond belief. Real infrastructure in the USA is crumbling–and I mean roads and bridges, electric grid, not child care–and Biden’s delusional plan will not help much. Why can’t American politicians discuss things like this: To replace the Brent Spent Bridge, an essential link to commerce on I-75 over the Ohio River, connecting Ohio and Kentucky and stretching from Michigan to Florida, it will cost $3 billion, the equivalent of 1 day in Afghanistan, 2 days in Iraq…..
Can we add this to the debate, please? Oh, by bugging out of Afghanistan, Afghani girls won’t be able to wear jeans and go to school! Does anyone seriously believe that this is a legitimate reason to invade a country and continue to occupy it? Apparently some do. Let’s debate it!

Simon Denis
SD
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

All true, but if you break it, you own it. The western alliance, led by the States, may not have broken Afghanistan but they certainly did it some damage. And on a moral level, their involvement – over twenty years – creates a number of human relationships which involve mutual obligation. Agreed, we can’t fight on the ludicrous basis of imposing liberty on a hostile world; and we have an obvious interest in limiting migration; but equally, we cannot let our reputation for loyalty be smashed. It would be a massive own goal and a gift for the Islamists. Some limited programme of assisted resettlement in third countries for a number of Afghan allies would appear to be, therefore, an inescapable duty.

Last edited 2 years ago by Simon Denis
James Joyce
JJ
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

I found this very insightful. I don’t really like Frank Snepp, but he was there in Saigon and his insights are worth listening to.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/secrets-spies/id1152618068?i=1000532537598

William MacDougall
WM
William MacDougall
2 years ago

Buchanan was right and so were many other conservative opponents of liberal imperialism and the deluded “neo-con” movement. A quick in and out of Afghanistan to deal with Al Qaeda made sense, but not staying for 20 years to make the world a “better place” or whatever the goal of the moment was.

Simon Denis
SD
Simon Denis
2 years ago

I’ve always found his thesis convincing, certainly as far as the second world war is concerned – and not only for America. Why Britain, dragging a reluctant France, guaranteed Poland and Romania in 39, in the absence of any plan, any intention and any capacity to intervene is a mystery. It helped Poland into the abyss by encouraging them to resist a Germany only too willing to unleash “frightfulness” upon them. It also helped Stalin advance his appalling rule through the Moscow-Berlin pact. Had the west allowed Poland to cede territory to Germany, this would have precluded the alliance with Russia and kept an uneasy balance of power in Europe, thereby preserving peace. In this time, Britain and France could and would have armed themselves further such that if Berlin struck west rather than east – it had that dangerous choice – we might have resisted more effectively. And many Poles may well have been spared.

Galeti Tavas
VS
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

I hold it all as France’s Fault. They had the common border with Germany, they held the treaty rights to stop Germany re-arming, and had vast military superiority – BUT DID NOTHING.

If Germany was the cause of WWII, France was the Enabler.

Simon Denis
SD
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

You forget some fairly salient points, here. In the first place, France even more than Britain was scarred by the first world war. Fifteen hundred thousand dead from a population of just 40 million. Think about that. She had only just rebuilt the territories ravaged by the western front and malicious German occupation by the time the second war loomed into view. In the thirties, births were down because many of the young men who would otherwise have had children were dead. And America was conspicuous by its absence in offering the support promised in 1919. Indeed, between the wars, isolationist America ratted on the peace treaties so comprehensively, it all but guaranteed their failure. To call France an “enabler” in this context is malicious and ignorant. You should withdraw the accusation.

Last edited 2 years ago by Simon Denis
David McDowell
DM
David McDowell
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

So why on earth did France guarantee Poland?

Johann Strauss
JS
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Well the French always talk big but have managed to lose every single (or almost every single) battle they have ever fought in against a half-way decent foe. They just run with their tails between their legs as they are too interested in drinking champagne and eating caviare!

Simon Denis
SD
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Mere bigotry. Do you really think an ignorant comment like this worthy of threads like these?

Mel Shaw
MS
Mel Shaw
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

I think it is highly questionable that Hitler would have been content with a bit of Poland. His tactic was to create or inflame a grievance and then use it to justify a full scale takeover. He did it over the Sudetenland before occupying Czechoslovakia and was doing it again with Poland. The problem there was that the Soviet Union was on the Eastern border of Poland so a carve up with Stalin suited him until he was ready to attack further east. Most of his plan was set out in Mein Kampf.

Matt B
MB
Matt B
2 years ago
Reply to  Mel Shaw

Totally. Comments here are odd.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt B
Simon Denis
SD
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt B

Why should one be a fan of AH for opposing a futile war which ended by making the world worse? If this is your standard of argument you aren’t ready for the civilised exchange of opinion.

Simon Denis
SD
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  Mel Shaw

I allow for that; and if you read what I say again, you’ll see that I allow for it. Not guaranteeing Poland is not about avoiding war for ever; it would have been for avoiding it then; avoiding at the same time an appalling deceit perpetrated on the Poles – for our war plans had no provision to help them at all. The Royal air force as the battle of France showed was for home use only. Maginot was understandably defensive given the French experience of Verdun. You have to understand: Britain and France were too weak to take on Germany in 39. Events proved it. And had the Germans paused at any point until 41, they would have dominated Europe for good. With more time bought from a slice of Poland – restoring the Wilhelmine frontier – the west could have continued to rearm. It would have dodged, thereby, the cost of a wartime economy and the pointless waiting game of the phoney war which did so much to reduce morale. Also, without a pact with Stalin – which he could only have obtained by giving him half Poland – the German dictator would have been uneasy about going either east OR west, so may well have rested content in his bloated Reich. Finally, the evacuation of his most likely victims, which had begun under the aegis of individual diplomats like Foley, would have got more people away from the terrible destiny planned in 42. Peace is always wiser; war is the result of cowardice and panic.

Simon Denis
SD
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Ah, now I’m afraid you mistake me. I am not against WW2 in principle; and once it had been declared, an initial compromise peace was out of the question. We had to try for victory, although I think the 43 decision for unconditional surrender was unwise – but that’s another matter. No – I am specifically against the guarantee to Poland, precisely because I believe it deceived the Poles; because it led to war on terms unfavourable to the allies; because we should have chosen our moment – later; because we should have rearmed further; because – finally – in precluding a Moscow-Berlin pact it might have preserved peace by means of a balance of power and further enabled the burgeoning rescue of vulnerable people from the bloated German empire. I am not, I must explain, of the Alan Clark school, which would have tolerated a German Europe – not for a second. I may apologise for appeasement – never for collaboration – and yes, I think there is a major difference. But thank you for taking the time to consider these speculations courteously.

Simon Denis
SD
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

But for years the only combatants were indeed Germany and Russia; and the combat was despicable – on both sides. Our involvement did nothing to mitigate it in the slightest degree. Indeed, we were just as defeated as France in 1940. Thereafter, we were just a satrapy of the States – a miserable fact which Suez went on to demonstrate. And in this squalid, abject role of Roosevelt’s bagman we made a contribution of our own to war crime, incinerating thirty thousand civilians in Dresden. If that is not savagery, then nothing is. The whole point was NOT to play into the hands of either the communist or the fascist dictator by granting them the war they sought. By stiffening Polish resolve, we supplied the occasion for total conflict, used by the extremist powers as a means of establishing their Utopian projects, one based on slaughtering “class enemies”; the other based on slaughtering “race enemies”. Wiser far to keep the peace, on every occasion – armed peace as in 45 – 89, which brought the enemy down at a minimal cost, certainly minimal by comparison with the bloodbath of 39 – 45.

Andrew Fisher
AF
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

It is rather strange that anyone can today posit a ‘reasonable’ Third Reich, which would have been satisfied by this or that boundary amendment. Surely the whole of European history from 1934 – 9 argues against that? Poland reasonably enough wanted to prevent its own annihilation. And its ruling class and intellectuals were indeed largely annihilated. Hitler always intended to destroy Poland and to create ‘lebensraum’ in Eastern Europe. He said so, and when he could, he did it. Not the industrialists, not even the German Army, Hitler alone made the decisions. His enemies in Germany and outside should have destroyed him when they could have done; there were many opportunities.
This is very different from Stalin’s Russia, which however evil its internal system, posed little military threat to the West. Its invasion of Poland was utterly cynical and appalling, but would not have happened without Hitler. It would have been a very good idea for the western powers to have made an agreement with the Soviets before Hitler did so in 1939-41 Nazi-Soviet Pact, which of course he always intended to break at a time of his choosing. The Cold War may have come later, as it did in reality, but the worse immediate high risk of a Nazi-dominated Europe, which indeed nearly came about, would have been averted.
Of course the UK and France finally declared war in 1939 at almost the worst possible time, when relatively weak, after the Anschluss, the dismemberment and annexation of Czechoslovakia etc. But that is a different point. I have just been reading Golo Mann’s History of Germany since 1789. He is by no means uncritical of the western allies but the idea that a Nazi-dominated Europe was somehow ‘our fault’ or could ever be tolerated, is just unreal. Britain could never accept Napoleon dominating Europe, who at least brought the rule of rule, so all the less could it a barbaric terrorist state. There WAS no coherent ideology in the Third Reich by the way, Hitler loathed ordinary Germans almost as much as he did everyone else, and was quite prepared to see its complete destruction when its people failed to measure up to his megalomaniac theories.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
Johann Strauss
JS
Johann Strauss
2 years ago

In this instance (i.e. Afghanistan and Iraq for that matter) Buchanan was absolutely spot on.
What was also insane was to teach the Afghan army and special forces to fight US style which is entirely reliant on air support to provide eyes, ears and of course targeted, high precision bombs. Take that away, as Biden did, and the Afghan forces were essential left blind and stranded. Hence their total collapse as they knew they couldn’t fight against the Taliban without air support.
What the US should have done is train the Afghan’s to fight Afghan style and not be reliant on sophisticated air power operated solely by the US.

Last edited 2 years ago by Johann Strauss
Andrew Roman
AR
Andrew Roman
2 years ago

Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Galeti Tavas
VS
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

What Ifs… He was right, and good for him, but the statement which is used on every finance prospectus:

“”Past performance is no guarantee of future results””