Hustling the East

One disabled vet’s recollection of his tour in Afghanistan.

In his piece on the latest proposed withdrawal from Afghanistan, Charlie Pierce recalls a wounded veteran’s bitter assessment of his time in-country.

The disabled vet was Dr. John H. Watson, soon to be introduced to Sherlock Holmes, speaking in “A Study in Scarlet.” The tale was published in 1887.

The Holmes stories, which I first read in the 1960s, may have served as my introduction to warfare in Afghanistan. Later, there was Rudyard Kipling and his “epitaph drear.” The Soviet debacle I observed from a series of newspaper copy desks. Our own I read about courtesy of journalists like C.J. Chivers. A time or two I spoke with American vets about their own experiences.

Very little of what I read or heard inspired confidence in the ability of the American military-industrial complex to effect change — “Peace through superior firepower,” as the old joke goes — in a place where so many armies had had their asses handed to them. Nobody seemed to really want Afghanistan except the Afghans, and only a few of them wanted it badly enough to fight for it.

So here we are, nearly 20 years later, with 2,400 U.S. service members in their graves and $2 trillion pounded down various ratholes. And for what? Another epitaph drear.

Will we ever get the message that no matter how hard we sell it, “democracy” will never be America’s biggest export? When it hits the doorstep it often looks a lot more like vengeance.

God is said to have made us in His image. If so, He likewise has been compelled by circumstances to live with disappointment in His creations.

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6 Responses to “Hustling the East”

  1. Shawn Says:

    Have you ever wondered why we do a poor job of honoring the diplomats and ambassadors of our country? We honor the veterans who serve and are utilized to defend our country. Why don’t we honor the individuals who in many cases keep those veterans from being needed? It seems that if we developed a culture of education in honoring the peace and diplomacy philosophy, perhaps those episodes of forceful invasion or defense may not be needed. I certainly feel we failed when we invaded Iraq (aka: Cheney Retirement Adjustment Project). I don’t recall if I was vehemently against invading Afghanistan, but I was knowledgeable of the previous centuries old history of attempted rule of the region. I did believe that with the support of most of the world after 911, we had an opportunity to perform a task that may not have needed full scale invasion. We’ll never know about that option. Be we of course know the results of the option that we did choose. Many lives lost and enough money to rebuild our infrastructure. But then those in an investment and decision making position relating to war time defense contracts, would not have been able to create their family’s nest egg legacies.

    How was it said about the use of military force? Oh yeah:

    https://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/eisenhower001.asp

  2. khal spencer Says:

    Heh. We helped the Afghans drive out the Soviets, and they were a lot more ruthless than we were willing to be. What made us so sure we would succeed where the Brits, Russkies, and everyone else failed?

    Meant to send you the link to the Pierce story but guess you found it.

  3. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Well, it’s past time. I hope Joe and Kamala can do it.

  4. DownhillBill Says:

    Back when the Russians were taking their shots at the Afghanis, I worked with one. He was a former university administrator who had fought with the mujahadeen. He gave up because all they could agree on was killing Russians. His attitude toward Russians was exactly like ours toward cockroaches. He said his former comrades didn’t have actual food and subsisted on grass and the leaves of trees. “But don’t send them money for food. Send them money for bullets.”

    When that’s what the intelligencia are like….

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      The place just seems like a sort of laboratory for the design and production of badasses, like Salusa Secundus or Arrakis. A meat grinder running 24/7. That said, I expect there are plenty of other places well-suited to the hatching of plots against the Great Satan, and we can’t possibly keep a military presence in each and every one of them.

      Shit, we’ve got an insurgency or two right here at home, if you can believe what you read in the newspapers.

  5. Dale Says:

    I hate to lean on Wiki, but sometimes I feel lazy. Here is how it goes:

    Conquest of Afghanistan by Alexander the Great (330 BC – 327 BC)
    Muslim conquests of Afghanistan (637–709)
    Conquest of Afghanistan by the Mongol Empire (13th century), see Mongol conquest of Central Asia
    Mughal conquests in Afghanistan
    Anglo−Afghan Wars (first involvement of the British Empire in Afghanistan via India)
    First Anglo−Afghan War (1839–1842)
    Second Anglo−Afghan War (1878–1880)
    Third Anglo−Afghan War (1919)
    Panjdeh incident (1885), first major incursion into Afghanistan by the Russian Empire during the Great Game with Britain
    Afghan Civil War (1928–1929), revolts by the Shinwari and the Saqqawists, the latter of whom managed to take over the capital city for a 9-month period.
    Saur Revolution (1978), communist insurrection against the Republic of Afghanistan government
    Soviet–Afghan War (1979–1989), war between the Afghan mujahideen and Soviet Union following Soviet military intervention in support of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan government
    First Afghan Civil War (1989–1992), collapse of the communist Afghan government of Mohammad Najibullah
    Second Afghan Civil War (1992–1996), expansion of the Taliban across most of Afghanistan and establishment of the Taliban-ruled Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in 1996
    Third Afghan Civil War (1996–2001), lead-up to the 2001 United States-led invasion of Afghanistan, during which the Taliban controlled most of Afghanistan, with the Northern Alliance controlling northern Afghanistan
    War in Afghanistan (2001–present), post-American invasion and campaign against the Taliban and al-Qaeda with the International Security Assistance Force (a coalition of countries including all NATO members); later with post-2014 phase consisting of anti-insurgency operations against the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIL.

    Looks like an opportunity for another foreign power.

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