Pulling out

Let’s imagine for a moment if Donald Trump had been re-elected.

Recovered from your swoon? I know, the thought makes me dizzy, too. But let’s consider Kabul, where a couple of hundred thousand people spent three weeks shitting themselves (literally; I don’t think Porto-Cans were provided) in the biggest mess since, I dunno, Syria six months ago? (And another thank-you to George Dubya Bush, whom a crossword I solved recently informed me that he majored in history at university; obviously he never ventured outside of U.S. history).

But back to imagining Trump being in charge. For one thing, there would have been fewer U.S. troops, because Biden slowed the previously planned withdrawal. Also, if Republican critics are to be believed, the evacuation would have begun perhaps a couple of weeks earlier. This is predicated on the idea that the Taliban are woefully ignorant, do not follow the news, do not have their own intelligence network, and are basically just too dumb to grasp an opportunity.

If there had been a significant announced withdrawal back in, say, early July, the Taliban would have been in Kabul the following day and loaded for bear. The Yanks might have had maybe three days before before the last Marine lifted off. The Biden administration, through obviously fruitless negotiations that nevertheless mitigated the ensuing disaster, did manage to slip quite a few people out and persuade the Taliban to leave the airport alone until an agreed-upon date.

Biden is getting a lot of crap for sticking to his 31 August deadline. I don’t know why he doesn’t just say out loud that the Taliban had promised (not threatened) that any plane taking off after 1 September would be shot down. But by getting a deadline out of the Taliban, he was able to put together an airlift that evacuated, according to reports, 120,000 people, and the 13 U.S. personnel killed from a terrorist bomb was a remarkably small price.

But let’s suppose Trump was in charge. Shuddering yet? Dismissing the scenario where the Taliban force out the U.S. three days after a premature withdrawal announcement, we return to this last month, to the rather sudden Taliban takeover, and hundreds of thousands of desperate U.S. sympathizers besieging the U.S.-held airport.

How long would Trump have ruminated over what to do, considering he would have thought one of his options to be razing a couple of square miles of the city from the air to relieve Taliban pressure on the refugees; or that it was crucial that none of the people evacuated be considered a threat to the U.S. way of life by his supporters, and thus severely restrictive bureaucratic procedures had to be set up at the airport, with specific orders that they be backed up by lethal arms. Lemme see, undermanned U.S. troops forced to fire on thousands of unarmed refugees while the Taliban launch mortar rounds in retaliation, or just for the fun of it. You could always count on Trump to be entertaining.

Three things are for sure. The U.S. had to lose, because people who believe they are defending their own country against the threat of subjugation will never stop fighting. Trump would never have gotten 120,000 people out of Kabul. And you cannot criticize Biden for getting everything he could out of the Taliban, yet still suffering casualties and not getting everyone out, because currently in Afghanistan any man carrying a rifle and ammunition is gong to do whatever the fuck he wants to do, and the Taliban can go fuck themselves, too.

It’s just that kind of country. Alexander of Macedon could tell you that.

Published by Stephen McClure

I'm a Canadian writer and editor who divides his time between Tokyo and Vancouver. I like a good laugh, because laughter is indeed the best medicine.

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