A Failure of Vision
The sheer speed of the Taliban’s recent return to power in Afghanistan took the world, and even the Taliban themselves, by surprise. Far less surprising and indeed totally predictable, was the ignominious outcome of the American involvement.
Understandably in the wake of 9/11, the eradication of Al Qaeda terrorism from Afghan soil was the United States’ top priority – 3,000 of its citizens had been massacred. Less comprehensible was the American failure to provide any post war plan for Afghan reconstruction. Thus America’s military defeat has now been compounded by its abject moral failure. The failure, after 20 years, to leave behind a safe, independent and viable state. All that has been left behind is an estimated 85 billion dollars worth of US military hardware – now in the hands of the former enemy.
And what is impossible to understand is the further failure to learn from past mistakes and to go on repeating them time and again – in Iraq, Libya, Syria and other countries over the next decade.
The United States has a long history of hubristic involvement in the affairs of weaker states. Its assumption of moral superiority and the right to intervene whenever and wherever it sees fit has long been a feature of American foreign policy. As Noam Chomsky has noted :
“Even before the United States entered the second world war, high-level planners and analysts concluded that in the postwar world the United States should seek “to hold unquestioned power,” acting to ensure the “limitation of any exercise of sovereignty” by states that might interfere with its global design.” (Humanitarian Imperialism: The New Doctrine of Imperial Right , Noam Chomsky, Monthly Review, September, 2008)
Immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia fell victim of this mindset. Almost unnoticed it became the first nation state after the end of the Cold War to be dismembered and destroyed. Some world leaders could hardly place Yugoslavia on the map but it provided a good testing ground for the newly fashionable doctrine of humanitarian imperialism and the changes they wanted following the end of the Cold War. These changes invariably served their own economic and political interests, not those of humanity. They also rode roughshod over the awkward fact of life, that people in nation states have a stubborn preference for being allowed to decide their own destinies.
The tragedy was that, at the end of the Cold War, most of the world was hungry for peace. A little generosity and a lot of straight dealing might have achieved a great deal. But, sadly, the opportunity was missed and it is unlikely to come again.