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Cold in Gardez

Stories about ponies are stories about people.

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On Afghanistan · 5:49pm Aug 14th, 2021

So, those of you following the latest from Afghanistan may have seen this item, reported by CNN:

Taliban claim to have captured provincial capital of Gardez

From CNN’s Tim Lister in Spain

The Taliban says it has captured another provincial capital, Gardez, on Saturday. If confirmed, the capture of Gardez — which is the capital of Paktia — would occur as the Taliban advances to the national capital of Kabul.

Afghanistan has 34 provincial capitals.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said that the governor's office, police headquarters, intelligence center and all its facilities had been seized.

“A large number of weapons and equipment fell into the hands of Mujahideen,” he tweeted.

The spokesperson said the Taliban were now advancing towards the base of the 203rd Thunder Corps, the army unit that was defending Gardez.

There's been no word from the government on the Taliban's claim, but images and video from the city show Taliban fighters on the streets. Video also showed dozens of men running from the city's prison.

I know all those places. The governor's office, the police headquarters across the street, and the 203rd Corps headquarters, which was located on the former FOB Lightning, which was across the Khowst-Gardez highway from our base, FOB Gardez. FOB Gardez was by far the smaller of the two bases, holding only a few hundred US troops, including my provincial reconstruction team. We spent over a year in Paktia, lots of it in Gardez, taking the governor around all the districts, contracting and paying for reconstruction projects, mentoring the ANSF, all those good things. It was a long, hard, cold year, but I was grateful for it.

Many veterans of the Afghan war are being asked how they feel about how it's all ending. I can't speak for all of them, of course, but I think my perspective is widely shared, and this: we did our best, and for a while it accomplished some real good. For 20 years Afghans have had better healthcare, more prosperity, their girls have received educations, and they've had the chance to travel around the world. And, while those days may be coming to a close with the return of the Taliban, that does not detract from the fact that they enjoyed twenty years of a better life.

Would I have rather lived in a world where the Taliban didn't come roaring back as soon as we left? Sure. Do I think we could've stayed longer, maybe even forever? Yeah -- the truth is the costs of the Afghan war in terms of blood and treasure have been minimal for the past seven years. No American servicemember has died in combat in Afghanistan in over a year. We haven't been doing the fighting ourselves for years, just supporting the Afghans who are. But, that said, I understand why people felt it was time to leave Afghanistan, why people have felt this way for years, and why they felt it was time to extricate ourselves from our nation's longest conflict.

I also get asked, fairly often, if this was the way it would always end, once we left. And I think the answer to that is probably yes. Too often, Americans (including myself for many years) think of the Taliban as a sort of exogenous force, a malignancy not natural to Afghanistan, that simply appeared one day in Kandahar and murdered its way to power. And while there is some truth to that statement, in that the Taliban as a political movement and military force drew a lot of early support from Pakistan, the duller, baser truth is that the Taliban appealed very strongly to the conservative Pashtuns that make up about 40 percent of Afghanistan's population. The Taliban fighting their way across Afghanistan today are not the same people who took over the country in the mid-90s. Those fighters are all old men now-- the ones you see in pickup trucks or on mopeds today were all children back then, or possibly not even born. But the same culture and society that gave rise to the Taliban in 1996 still exists in the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan, and I have no reason to believe that it will ever stop existing.

I have also heard people say, usually in articles trying to find somewhere to lay blame for this mess, that the Afghan people are not responsible for this, not even the Pashtuns from whom the Taliban draw their ranks. They point to polls saying that 85% of Afghans disapprove of the Taliban and don't want them to rule. And, certainly, I will not blame an entire society for what some of its members do. But to this point I propose a thought exercise:

1. Imagine there is a country with 100 people -- 50 men and 50 women.

2. This country has many ethnic groups. Ethnic group A has 40 people, B has 25, C has 20, and the remaining 15 all belong to a variety of others.

3. In ethnic group A, there is a group of 10 men who believe their group should rule the country. These 10 men have guns and are willing to kill anyone who opposes them, and they're willing to die for this as well.

4. There are 30 men in the other ethnic groups who, obviously, don't want group A to rule the country. But they don't have guns, or don't know how to use them, or simply aren't willing to kill, or would rather live under group A's rule than risk their lives.

Guess who's going to rule the country? And who the real losers are?

I'll end by saying that this is not, in fact, the end of Afghanistan's story. The Taliban only ruled the country for five years, originally, before their spectacular mismanagement resulted in being overthrown by the US. They are, as a group, far far better at fighting an insurgency than trying to run a country. And, once international aid departs, so does 95 percent of Afghanistan's GDP. I don't believe the misery that will ensue is any more sustainable today than it was in 2001.

So, this is not the last chapter in Afghanistan's story. But I cannot hazard a guess as to what will come next.

I guess I should mention, since this is a website dedicated to pony fanfiction, that a lot of my stories had their genesis in Afghanistan. They were either written while I was there, or based on my experiences, or just inspired by my time in the military. A lot of who I am as a writer descends from the years I spent in Afghanistan. So, while I am not particularly sad today, it is noteworthy, and I will continue to follow the saga of this poor nation for the rest of my life.

Comments ( 61 )

I was in Iraq, and when I read reports of ISIS coming near our old base, I always wondered if we even made a difference for being there.

At the personal level, I do believe that we did some good for those that we could help.

Sadly, I was in the Pacific(Navy). We did very little to help from where we were, though we did do some. Still, I wasn't there, so my opinions don't have the weight as those who were, but I can't help but feel we could have done more if not for the petty bull shit between the squabbling children in the capital.

Arxsys #3 · Aug 14th, 2021 · · 1 ·

The US left hundreds of billions of dollars worth of gear in AFG, the vast majority of which is now in Taliban hands. Countless pallets of guns, thousands of vehicles, drones, those blimp tracking systems, artillery, etc, etc.

Just like we did in the 90’s, we trained and armed the Afghani fighters all over again. Especially since the ANA is defecting to the Taliban in huge numbers.

AFG has been a war torn region for the vast majority of history. Only an idiot or politician (I repeat myself) would think going in, slapping them, and walking away would solve anything. We were the big warlord in charge. Now that we’re gone, the next biggest dog takes over. History rolls on.

It’s been a pathetic and sad waste of blood, tears, and lives, but the rich and powerful got richer and more powerful from it.


I guess I should mention, since this is a website dedicated to pony fanfiction, that a lot of my stories had their genesis in Afghanistan. They were either written while I was there, or based on my experiences, or just inspired by my time in the military.

To echo a great writer I once knew, whose name for some reason escapes me, "Stories about ponies are stories about people."

Georg #5 · Aug 14th, 2021 · · 2 ·

We've been there so long the people doing the fighting now were born after the US had been there a few years. How long would we need to stay before the culture changed to something less violent? We may never know.

Modern US military interventions are never about actually helping the lives of those in other countries. They're about stamping out powers who could challenge the imperialist war machine, or ensuring said machine continues to grind away mankind to sate the greed of oligarchs.

If there is hope left for us, then the next time we return there, it won't be with arms.

Afghanistan was actually the study of my dissertation. It's a fascinating albeit fundamentally tragic country. I remember reading a book written by an Iranian called Afghanistan, where God comes to weep, which I found aptly named.

I think it was preordained that when Western support was withdrawn that the country would slip back into it's old ways. Afghanistan has always reacted poorly to foreign interventions and even at the height of their power, the British and the Russians both failed to implement a lasting stable government there. I suppose it was destiny that it would be the US's turn.

I think the work on human rights and women's issues is a lasting good, more women are engaged in Afghanistan than many Islamic dominated countries even though that now faces an uncertain future. Fundamentally, there will be questions about whether it was worth it, only history can judge, and unfortunately following precedent things look grim.

I only hope that Afghan people one day don't have to suffer anymore. Because in the end they are the only true losers.

"Even if it were desirable, America is not strong enough to police the world by military force. If that attempt is made, the blessings of liberty will be replaced by coercion and tyranny at home. Our Christian ideals cannot be exported to other lands by dollars and guns. Persuasion and example are the methods taught by the Carpenter of Nazareth, and if we believe in Christianity we should try to advance our ideals by his methods. We cannot practice might and force abroad and retain freedom at home. We cannot talk world cooperation and practice power politics."

— Republican Rep. Howard Buffett (father of Warren Buffett)

All these years following you and reading your stories, yet I never knew Gardez was a place in Afganistan. Explains a lot.

Were I to go into my thoughts and opinions about the US, Afganistan, Syria, Iran, Israel and the rest, I'd probably get banned from the site. All I can say is that I'm very sad about how things are going over there, and how us folks in the EU are once again left to pick up the pieces.

No offense, but with the state of the EU military, they aren’t capable of picking up a box of spilled cereal, let alone significant combat deployment anywhere near the force the US can put up.

Last I heard, Germany has around 73 tanks with (if memory serves) 34 of them being combat capable. The Brits are having the French defend their carriers, etc.

None are meeting their NATO obligations because the US picks up the slack.

Sure, they could certainly deploy a strike package, but actual numbers of boots on the ground, supplies to keep them going, sustainment, etc, the EU is a paper tiger.

Personally, the US needs to get out of playing world police. The more we project force globally, the worse things get at home because the politicians push their garbage when everyone is distracted. So who knows what’ll happen in the future. Probably nothing good though.

A little louder for the people in the back!

The Soviet Union supported the Northern Alliance against the Taliban. And Najibulla held well until that support stopped. And he could still hold - but the US supported the Taliban. First against the Soviet forces and the Northern Alliance, and later just against the NA. And then the US had to fight against the Taliban. I cannot understand - it is some kind of the US tradition? To feed up some morons and terrorists first - and later fight against that their fosterlings? Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS... Who is next? Where the Russians will have to clean up after Americans again? We are already fighting in Syria - and better than the US and its vassals. Afganistan?

I'm sorry, but you seem to have misunderstood me. I'm not saying the EU will take arms to fix the situation in Afganistan. We aren't the US - we don't solve all our problems with more dakka. I mean the refugees, the rising internatinal tensions, international finance, the foreign aid... THOSE are what the EU will have to pick up after the US has gotten tired of their world police thing.

How do you think the US would react if a foreign power decided to bring "peace" to Southern America, for example China assaulted Brazil or Argentina for some reason, causing everyone there to flood to the US? It'd make the current US border crisis ten times worse. You think people fleeing poverty and the cartels is bad? What if a whole nation is running for their very lives. That's what US keeps doing to the EU. over and over again. Kuwait, Iraq, Syria, Afganistan...


"Even if it were desirable, America is not strong enough to police the world by military force. If that attempt is made, the blessings of liberty will be replaced by coercion and tyranny at home. Our Christian ideals cannot be exported to other lands by dollars and guns. Persuasion and example are the methods taught by the Carpenter of Nazareth, and if we believe in Christianity we should try to advance our ideals by his methods. We cannot practice might and force abroad and retain freedom at home. We cannot talk world cooperation and practice power politics."

I am neither christian nor a republican but these are the wisest words I can imagine being said in regards to this situation. Thank you for them.

(Edit: not to sound like I’m endorsing missionaries going around converting people, but if I had to pick between armed intervention and door-knocking mormons I’ll go with the latter.)

Arxsys #16 · Aug 14th, 2021 · · 15 ·

Most European ‘crisis fixing’ has ended up with complaints to the US until we get involved. That’s skipping the WWI/WWII era. Europe absolutely fixed Croatia/Yugoslavia/Bosnia/Herzegovina, Chechnya, etc. All tiny countries smaller than most states in the US. Hell, it has taken how long to deal with the IRA?

Talk only works when both parties want to talk. Statistically that’s unlikely if one side or the other feels slighted, has an ideological difference, etc. As you can tell by the ‘totally not Muslim’ burning of Notre Dam, knife and acid attacks, insane increase in raids and other violence across the EU.

I’m not saying talk is useless. I’m just saying the EU needs to learn to talk softly and carry a big stick. Realistically, you guys will be on your own in a decade or two. I doubt talking it through with the Russians, Iranians, etc will go well, and we’ve all seen how appeasement works.

And you’re forgetting the near civil war in Venezuela, the Argentinian civil war, Brazil’s police state and obscene violence issues, Mexico’s corruption and cartel control, etc. Let alone that our politicians are actively screaming about covid while gesturing to have utterly open borders despite mass arrests of terrorists trying to cross the border.

Honestly, barring some miracle, I expect the US to be a completely different and highly Balkanized country in the next 20 years. We’re on the bread and circus stage of Rome’s fall, and Congress just figured out how to bribe the people with their own money. Irreconcilable differences and their disagreement are coming. Almost 2/3 of Americans (if not more at this point) think it’s coming to blood soon, as of last summer wasn’t proof.

To my knowledge, nation-building from outside has never worked historically. Change needs to be organic and come from within, led by people with a claim to the land who have no obvious ulterior motives. With most people in the country more supportive of the Taliban than of the US-backed regime, the only way to keep the regime in power is by force that denies the will of the people and turns them increasingly against what the US is trying to do.

It's sad because people will suffer under the Taliban, but there isn't another way to get rid of them without outright imperialism, and what the US has been doing has, at best, been holding off this inevitability. We left them with an army and (I think, read this recently) most of their army surrendered to the enemy because they didn't want to fight. If that isn't a clear indication that we don't really belong there, I'm not sure what is.


Were I to go into my thoughts and opinions about the US, Afganistan, Syria, Iran, Israel and the rest, I'd probably get banned from the site.

Banned from the site, no. Bullied off the site, maybe.

I know enough history to be relatively certain the most powerful countries in the EU share quite a bit of blame with the US for the mess that is the Middle East, and I'm not sure what they plan to "clean up" in Afghanistan without US support. When the Allies went in there after WWII and drew national boundaries with neither regard for sectarian ties, religious beliefs, holy sites, ethnicity, nor even spoken and written language; propped up dictators that the people who live there hated; gave them insane amounts of armaments to fight proxy wars with Russia; looted the place; and made deals with bloody murderers which we continue to honor to this day, the outcome should be less surprising than some seem to find it.

Not a Christian either, but "the Carpenter of Nazareth" is the point where I decided he's worth paying attention. So many people nowadays forget that Jesus was a complete nobody before he started rabble-rousing, and he roused the rabble so hard that his brutal execution only emboldened them. That is an ideal more people nowadays could stand to strive towards.

Oh yeah, when I look at the things Jesus apparently said and did (as opposed to what has been said and done in his name) I find there is a lot to admire!

From what I can tell the Jesus depicted in the bible would not have been in favor of spending so much more on warring with other countries than on feeding and housing people at home, no matter what our reasons are for believing those other countries deserve to have war waged on them.

Apparently it’s being reported Mazar-i-Sharif has fallen, along with the airbase and aircraft being claimed by the Taliban. So there’s a rumored B-52 package inbound to level the airbase.

A minimum of 20 Mi-17V-5s, UH-60A+ BlackHawks, MD-530F(G) helicopters as well as Cessna 208Bs, AC-208Bs & A-29B S Tucanos.

I had thoughts on this, but then I found a bottle of wine, and we all know how poorly thoughts and that mix.

China is currently thinking it can step into the void left by the US withdrawal and repeat its belt-and-road initiatives, in a region that appears to be particularly hostile to any sort of sustained infrastructure... thingnening. They probably think they can transpose the same general strategy they've employed in their African colonies (and there's no mistaking their expansion into africa as anything other than colonisation), but they're going to face the same problem every empire has faced when trying to pacify the afghan core: It's too big and the wrong shape. It's like a giant, inverted Switzerland,consisting almost entirely if near-impenetrable mountain ranges, with an interior only accessible by extreme means, with a whole shitton of arms and armaments just lying around everywhere and a bunch of people willing to make them go bang in interesting ways if they feel inclined.

The British thought they could pacify it with bribes, trade, and occasional displays of force. The Russians thought they could pacify it with escalating brutality. America thought she could pacify it with money, roads and the blood of her children. The Chinese think they can pacify it with the promise of integration into their economic sphere, along with a healthy dose of patronisation and possible enslavement.

I personally wonder what India will bring to the table. Probably in the early 2060s, when China has declared victory over the Qadiri, left their crumbling, half-finished bridges and ghost cities collapsing in the desert, and gone home.

Or perhaps Princess Twilight will turn up and show everyone that there is but one truth: that there is no philosophy before friendship, and Starlight Glimmer is its guidance counsellor.

Also neither, but I more or less agree with his sentiment. Not literally sending out missionaries, which I don't think was the point of his speech anyway, but to improve life in the world by improving life in America. If we can get an A+ in civil liberties (and in my lifetime we very much haven't imo) then we might inspire others to do the same. Any situation where true freedom perishes is a pretty dire one.

The thing about imperialism is that no matter how genuinely altruistic you're being, no matter how many tender loving hugs you give to the downtrodden, no matter how many good photo ops you do of soldiers helping civilians, you're still an imperialist. You're still a foreigner acting in the interests of a foreign power. We Americans blow a gasket if we sense even the remote possibility of a politician acting as an agent for foreign powers, yet we cannot comprehend the possibility of ourselves being equally as unwanted in foreign lands. The Taliban gaining ground with virtually no resistance speaks more damningly of the U.S. than anyone. Our imperialist venture here was basically all for naught, as it was always going to be. History would not be defied this time.


Thank you. I've been wondering how you're doing in light of those recent news.

Yeah, no. Maybe don't assume that in a country that is Constitutionally areligious "our" values and ideals are necessarily Christian. We could do with fewer of the things Christian ideals have historically supported: Crusades, forced conversions, torture, inquisitions, etc.


I'm fine. Glad to see people upholding the internet tradition making grand statements on topics as though they are acknowledged experts in the field, rather from their personal experience.

Afghanistan can probably just become the next Sentinel Island. It seems like everyone that "visits" gets shot at until they leave. The only difference is what's being fired.

In all honesty though Afghanistan is the nation breaker. Everyone goes in expecting that if they just show that there's a better way the people will embrace it whole heartedly and some will. Enough to give people hope, enough that at the end of the day they can't be abandoned but they will be.

Next time can we try keeping our promises to the Kurds? Let's give them a chance.

I feel like here is a not terrible place to talk about a former coworker I had who's family moved from Afghanistan to Canada when she was a kid, she was the friendliest and sweetest girl I'd ever worked with. She had a sort of discrete sarcasm that would leave you questioning if she meant it.
We talked a few times during slow periods about how things were "back home" for the rest of her family, this was back in 2005. She flew out for her brothers... birthday (I think?) and was critically injured at a wedding. She was fired before she even woke up since she left without booking it off then vanished for 3 months.
I would have gotten to know her better probably if my girlfriend hadn't been paranoid with low self esteem.

It ended the way any of us who've been there knew it was always going to. I've been extremely lucky not to have known anyone personally or had anyone in my company get hurt or worse during the GWOT. If you have, especially while you were there, I hope you're doing well.

First of all: thanks for your sacrifice and service.

Now, I wish to share somethings I´ve seen ´bout the matter.


This a tweet from Jennifer Cafarella. Jenny works at NSA...wich, as you know, is responsible for the security of american citzens. Thos are Jenny´s advices on the Afhegab situation:

Do not share images or links to images that likely to cause trauma, including such scenes as (potentially) the fall of Kabul, killing of senior Afghan leaders )or Afghan forces), or saigon-like images.

Consider what you actually NEED to know about the situation in Afghanistan as it unfolds. Try to avoid consuming large amounts or media simply because it is avalaible.

Pay close attention to your well-being. The symptons of secundary trauma can be very subtle. If you start to feel tired, unfocused, or pulled constantly towards your social media feeds, please step away and take a break.

Reach out. Share what you´re experiencing with anyone whom you fell confortable with. O am avalaible any time, Seriously. Any time. There is strength to be found in solidarity even when none of us can fix this horrible situation.

So, America went from taking care of its enemies, to discuss "feelings", while it shiver in terror in a dark room. And this is not from common people, but from NSA. The people that should be able to do something to protect you.


Former Ambassador Ryan Crocker said:

"Of courser the Republicans will have a field day with it", Crocker said. "But for a whole of other Americans, you have to look at what´s happening and think, ´This is the commander in chief, this is the who´s responsible for the security of the nation, and what an incredible mess he´s made of it in his first time out of the blocks."

And, finally:


"US intelligence agencies who said just 4 days ago that Kabul could fall in 90 days have revised the figure to 72 hours"

It is important to remeber that the whole withdran strategy started with Trump. The Iraq withdraw was an awfull mess too, being so hirried that a LOT of material and equipament was left behind. We´ll never know if Trump would do things different in Afghanistan...maybe he would wait a little more...would wait for a better moment. Would inform the afghan governament earlier.

Probably nothing would make any difference. The moment the american forces were gone, things would go to hell. But while I write this, 5000 american troops are running to protect embassies in Kabul, while the fight already started in the city in a "saigon-like" scenario (hi Jenny !). And, yes, the last time something like that happened, was in Saigon.

So, congratulation, Biden..you have your very special little Vietnam in hands. And before even the first year of your mandate went through. I can't wait for what's next.

You are right. Germany has no capacity, at all, to protect thenselves, even less interfere in other places. They have a lot of great gear...but 90%+ are not ready to be used. Last time I checked in speclized sites, they had like, 6, SIX, fighter jets combat-ready. All the others were in various levels of update or maintenance. The investment in the military forces dropped so low in the last years, they can barely keep what little they still have.

First off, Thank you for your service, I myself might have joined the Navy had it not been for some medical stuff going on back when I was in HS.

I will not pretend to be very knowledgeable about any of the topics you are discussing so I will ask instead how your writings coming along. I really enjoy a lot of your stories and will always be eager to read more when given the opportunity.

Georg #31 · Aug 15th, 2021 · · 2 ·

To be perfectly fair, very few fimfiction writers own horses, either.

Good to hear from you! I hadn't heard anything about this but it's interesting to have it explained from someone with a personal stake and experience.

Just a little correction: the whole "facist brazilian president", and "police state" is a midia campaign. Yes, our president is an idiot...but there is no police state as the midia claims.

Do I think we could've stayed longer, maybe even forever? Yeah -- the truth is the costs of the Afghan war in terms of blood and treasure have been minimal for the past seven years. No American servicemember has died in combat in Afghanistan in over a year. We haven't been doing the fighting ourselves for years, just supporting the Afghans who are. But, that said, I understand why people felt it was time to leave Afghanistan, why people have felt this way for years, and why they felt it was time to extricate ourselves from our nation's longest conflict.

A couple friends of mine do foreign policy, one for the Patterson School, the other at Georgetown.

I was talking to them the other day, and they basically said (paraphrasing strongly here):

"There's a compelling practical and moral argument that Pottery Barn rules (you break it, you bought it) apply here; that we have assumed responsibility for the situation and that given that, the costs are not excessive enough and the consequences horrific enough to justify our bailing. If we need to stay there forever, a South Korea style situation, then so be it. We find this compelling...


"The number of commentators and FP community experts, including some of our colleagues, suddenly latching onto this argument now, twenty years later, is fucking disingenuous in the extreme. NOBODY with real power or influence on the pro-intervention, pro-war side dared to ever, ever, EVER mouth the words 'We'll be there forever' before now, when we're pulling out and they're looking for someone or something to blame. It was two decades of 'as we stand up, they'll stand down' and 'six more months' and 'surge!' and plan after scheme after wishful hope all sold to both the American people, and the policymakers they were supposedly being paid big money and granted unlimited access to in order to advise well, under the auspices of 'one day, we will be able to leave and it won't all fall apart.'

"And now, finally, in the last extremity, as they see the looming specter of what they view as defeat crest the horizon, they embrace an argument that, had it been made as little as three years ago, would have gotten the person making it fucking DESTROYED. Branded as unserious, conspriatorial, unworthy of being taken seriously. Exiled to the ranks of us anti-war simps.

"It should therefore not come as any surprise that the US government, which very occasionally, when it has exhausted all other possibilities, turns to basic reason and logic, has decided 'We don't believe you anymore. You're either so wrong, or such liars, that on this topic you have less than zero credibility. We view your 'we broke it, we bought' argument not as a reasoned call to action, but as a last, desperate way for you to not be wrong. Fuck you. We're gone. This forever war is ending right now.'"

I can't say if this is wrong or not, although I personally found it compelling enough to share.

I was in the Navy during some of this. More Syria and ISIS than Afghanistan. I never supported any missions directly (I wasn't deployed there), but we kept the comms up and running and doubled our effort in cyber security during that time.

Personally I'm glad it's over. But I'm saying that as someone who wasn't there. Way back in the early 2000s lots of people were saying it was "Vietnam all over again." And they were kinda right if you look at it from a broad enough lens. But this isn't the 1960s, and I'd like to believe, based on people I personally know who've been there, that they did indeed make a difference.


I think that's about right on all counts. But then, I've been grumbling that it was a fifty or hundred-year project since 2003 or so. Any real nation-building is. You have to impose a structure until there's no one left who remembers it being any other way, and you have to do that without creating an endless stream of martyrs (for purely practical reasons, if you're trying to convince someone who won't listen to the moral argument for not making martyrs). And that basically means waiting it out.

But that's a lesson the US has been struggling to fully internalize since 1865.

Thank you for providing your perspective here.

or magical miniature equines... But if any do, I'd like to know about it.

I uphoofed this because I love the sentiment, but I'm not quite this cynical personally. I'd rather people try to inform themselves and express an opinion on foreign affairs than have them not give a crap about what we send our kids overseas to die for. It's not a bad thing that people are engaged.

Also, personal experience is very valuable here, particularly concerning the sacrifices we've made. I put a lot of weight on anything Cold says regarding his experiences in war. If he says we made a difference for twenty years and the Afghan people were better off during that time, I believe him, both because he's always seemed very honest and direct (which is one of the reasons we almost click personality-wise) and because he actually knows. So hearing from him makes me sad that we're withdrawing, sure. That said, the ethics of what we do overseas depend on more than just direct results.

St. Thomas Aquinas was one of the first prominent philosophers to argue for a "just war", in his Summa Theologica. He used three criteria: it must come from the "authority of the prince" (which today would mean, it has to be a legitimate state actor which represents a body of people, not a corporation or Elon Musk), it must only be waged against somepony who has committed an injustice and in the interest of correcting that injustice (which implies a humanitarian cause is necessary, though this may be indirect), and it must be waged with minimum suffering, which I think implicitly requires an exit strategy with the goal of eventual peace.

The United Nations, on the other hoof, says war is only justified in self-defense as a last resort. That's pretty narrow, but it's also a rather squirrely definition (no offense to squirrels). Was Russia acting in "self-defense" in taking Crimea, under the argument that its people were Russian in heritage and their rights were being violated as they overwhelmingly did not want to be part of Ukraine? Were the Allies acting in "self-defense" when they launched attacks not only on captured territory, but on German soil at the end of the war? Is a weapon that kills mass numbers of civilians ever "self-defense"?

Ultimately I'm a utilitarian like Jeremy Bentham, as many modern Westerners are. I want whatever will prevent the most pain, and I care about the pain of people from other cultures with different values who I'll never meet, even if it won't affect me in any way. I just have no idea how to determine what will help or hurt the most other than looking at the slim data we have historically on what has worked and what hasn't, and I'm loathe to take dangerous actions when all the evidence suggests it's going to be worse in the long run.

I'm not an expert, though, and I'm often wrong. I'm just one voice here in a chorus discussing what I know and what I think I know, and I'm glad this has created so much positive discussion. People need to be talking about what happened today in Afghanistan for a long time to come.

First, thank you: you've worked harder and longer at something more important and dangerous than most of us ever have or will.

Second, you are able to regard defeat with a clear eye and a level head. That's a virtue. It will serve you well in future defeats, of which there must be some in even the most fortunate life.

I've often thought Afghanistan would end the way the Civil War did: with victory in the field, but with the bad old ways we fought to defeat coming back once occupying troops were withdrawn. Still I never thought Joe Biden would play so well the role of Rutherford B. Hayes (right down to the disputed election).

When you hazard your ideals in war and lose, those ideals suffer. So does idealism. Ambrose Bierce, himself a combat veteran, had a few thoughts on the matter:

When I was young and full of faith
And other fads that youngsters cherish
A cry rose as of one that saith
With emphasis: "Help or I perish!"
'Twas heard in all the land, and men
The sound were each to each repeating.
It made my heart beat faster then
Than any heart can now be beating.

For the world is old and the world is gray--
Grown prudent and, I think, more witty.
She's cut her wisdom teeth, they say,
And doesn't now go in for Pity.
Besides, the melancholy cry
Was that of one, 'tis now conceded,
Whose plight no one beneath the sky
Felt half so poignantly as he did.

Moreover, he was black. And yet
That sentimental generation
With an austere compassion set
Its face and faith to the occasion.
Then there were hate and strife to spare,
And various hard knocks a-plenty;
And I ('twas more than my true share,
I must confess) took five-and-twenty.

That all is over now...

...O Son of Day, O Son of Night!
What are your preferences made of?
I know not which of you is right,
Nor which to be the more afraid of.

The world is old and the world is bad,
And creaks and grinds upon its axis;
And man's an ape and the gods are mad!--
There's nothing sure, not even our taxes!
No mortal man can Truth restore,
Or say where she is to be sought for.
I know what uniform I wore--
O, that I knew which side I fought for!

But I wouldn't consider Bierce a prophet. He was wrong about the Statue of Liberty.


I upvoted you because you are correct. Bolsonaro is--please pardon the judgement of a foreigner--a bad man governing badly, but there is nothing like the SS or the Stasi operating in Brazil right now nor is there likely to be.

"Police state" is a common American term for "Government by a faction I don't like." We tend to use it a lot because very few of us have ever lived in an actual police state, or know anyone who has.

Do not put words in my mouth. I chose the exact verbiage I wished. If I say ‘police state’ I mean exactly that. Or is Brazil not known for excessive force by the state police, including torture and disappearing people, the government stomping on speech rights, journalists, and activists, etc?

Per wiki:

Originally, a police state was a state regulated by a but since the beginning of the 20th century it has "taken on an emotional and derogatory meaning" by describing an undesirable state of living characterized by the overbearing presence of civil authorities. The inhabitants of a police state may experience restrictions on their mobility, or on their freedom to express or communicate political or other views, which are subject to police monitoring or enforcement. Political control may be exerted by means of a force that operates outside the boundaries normally imposed by a constitutional state.

Comment posted by Gofer deleted Aug 16th, 2021

You have strong opinions on the matter, and I can't say I disagree with most of them. It's just that I mostly avoid such topics online or try to at least keep myself from commenting too much because it inevitably leads to hurt feelings on all sides, especially when dealing with a mostly left-leaning liberal snowflake subculture as we have here. At least this thread seems to have the more rational people, thank Celestia. I just don't want things to devolve into yet another nazi hunt when someone doesn't praise multiculturalism and uncontrolled religious expansion at the top of their voice.

What CiG said in the opening post was still pretty eye-opening. I don't know how I'd feel if I had to watch from the news how the things I worked for years and years had apparently come to naught and I was left thinking if I'd made a difference. Sure, we've all dealt with situations like that on a far smaller scale, but the veterans put their lives and limbs on the line to protect people they didn't even really know. The way he deals with it is probably far better than what I'd be able to do for sure.

Aré you from Brasil ? Do you live here ? No ?

I do. Que have a Lot of problems and violence, and the presidente os an asshole. Trump-level asshole. Still, there os none closing mídia outlets, killing jornalista ir nothing alike. Só don't come "police state" on me.


If I say ‘police state’ I mean exactly that.

Okay then, you're just wrong, and you like being wrong, so go ahead.


excessive force by the state police, including torture and disappearing people, the government stomping on speech rights, journalists, and activists, etc?

I’m American and this sounds kinda similar to whats going on here, minus the “disappearing people”... at least that I know of. Come to think of it the recent attacks on journalists, speech rights, and activists might mean I wouldn’t know if people *were* being made to disappear by the government.

If you'll forgive my potential ignorance concerning the political situation, and entertain a question I have, I would appreciate your opinion.

In our pulling out from the country, we left a lot of hardware behind. It could be said we massively upgraded the Taliban's ability to wage war. Now, I've heard recently that the Taliban and China are not on good terms with eachother, but I hear from other sources that they are.

So my question is, was the leaving-behind of large amounts of weapons something you think was just a major blunder on our part, or do you think it was at least somewhat planned so as to arm the Taliban in any future contentions with China (since open support of the regime by the US government would be political suicide in the West)? Were our leaders trying to secretly support a thorn in China's side, or did we just royally fuck up?

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