Most of you have heard that Afghanistan has fallen into the hands of the Taliban. If you've payed any attention to user generated content on the internet, you've probably heard varying perspectives on the U.S. decision to withdraw, as well as how that was conducted in the final months of the process. Notably, Taliban forces took control, seemingly overnight (it was about 10 days) despite their army being dwarfed by the Afghanistan forces.
Unlike some of you (but a lot like the rest of you), I was alive when the USA got involved in the activities over there. I sat in my Irvington Bungalow watching a tube television as President Bush began to talk about our glorious democracy while decrying the dangers of terrorism. I looked at a newspaper printed on actual paper that talked about the beginning days of the war in Afghanistan. I watched journalists brag about the new technology our military had that allowed soldiers to digitally aim at things they wanted to blow up. They played the video of just such an explosion as repeating b-roll throughout a story about how skilled we are at killing people, and if not, at least blowing up their stuff.
I supported the decision to attack the nation. Most of us were. Somewhere around 88% of Americans supported military action in Afghanistan in October of 2001. Why wouldn't we? We had just watched the twin towers fall right before our eyes, paired with coordinated attacks of the Pentagon, and another plane which was courageously taken down by civilian passengers who overtook the men who had hijacked the plane.
Most of us remember where we were that day. Personally, I was in New York City when it happened. I had just left a job site in Brooklyn, for an appointment outside of the city. At my meeting, we were interrupted with the news. Bridges were closed. The whole city was in disarray. Traffic had a feeling of confusion, unlike normal New York City traffic which is very self assured and decisive. It was like driving on a roundabout in Greenwood, Indiana. Everyone was stunned and did not know what to do.
The whole country shared this confusion. People left work, children in schools were shaken, even reporters were in shock as they shared the story. I immediately headed back to my team. I was staring at the burning buildings, minutes after the second tower collapsed. I called my wife, and left her a message after the beep on a classic answering machine. "Turn on the news, right now! I'm okay."
I was stuck in NYC for a few days. Rental cars were hard to come by, bus stations, train stations and airports were flooded with people trying to find their way out of the city. For days, the smell of the burning rubble filled the air. Even more palpable was the shock that filled the air. As I walked the streets passing people by, it was as if I was passing zombies. Nobody felt okay. Nothing was business as usual.
For the ensuing months, America demanded answers and demanded that someone be help accountable for the damage and the lives lost. President Bush was in a school classroom sitting in front of second grade students when Andrew H. Card Jr. His chief of staff informed him "A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack.". The President held his composure in front of the class and continued his visit, although everyone in the room noticed the sudden change in his countenance. Within 30 minutes, President George W. Bush was delivering remarks to the nation. The message from POTUS on live television was "terrorism against the United States will not stand".
It seems to me that the country had never been more unified than it was at this time.
Here in America, we are proud of our military. We're proud of our western democracy, and we push our wills on other countries. Our policies allow us to direct much of the economic and geopolitical activity around the world. Our military has significant military bases stationed in no less than 30 countries around the world with a named base, and more if we count ad hoc deployments. We provide over $47 billion of financial aid to other countries. In the case of Afghanistan, 57% of that aid is earmarked for military aid. It's not as common for foreign military to be on U.S. soil, although we have a small number of training exercises being conducted by foreign armies on our military bases. We have perhaps more military based influence over the world than any empire in history.
The United States happens to be one of the most powerful countries in the world, even if only a few hundred years old. People were attracted to that freedom in the beginning because it was in contrast to the power that had been exercised over them in other countries. We in turn have exercised power over others, and called it peace keeping. Does it make sense for us to have the military spending of 740 billion dollars–one out of every 6 dollars in the budget? Does it make sense that our military spending is 39% of what the whole world spends, outspending China by 3.5 times? On the other hand, does it make sense to let terrorism thrive, in any place? Should we turn our neighborly eye and say "it's not my business" when we see women's rights yanked from them by force?
As the Taliban began its decent, the Afghanistan Army conceded despite outnumbering the Taliban by far, President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, and the Capitol was handed over swiftly. Are we to continue our effort to make Afghanistan the country we want them to be if it's own citizens, including their army, and President don't know the country they want to be?
What move should we have taken? Could any strategy have been successful in Afghanistan?"
What is clear is that we were as unified as we have ever been as a nation to intervene in the first place. If public discourse is any indication, we are as divided as we have ever been on it today.
But thank you for sharing your opinions.