By Branko Marcetic The Jacobin
In Afghanistan, as in Vietnam and Iraq, US elites sold us a vision of the world in which the United States alone has not just the power but the duty to forcibly reshape the world how it sees fit. They have again proven utterly incapable of doing so.
To look at it one way, the Afghanistan War was a great success. If you think of the perpetually grinding US war machine as one great big funnel through which public money is turned into corporate profits, then the war’s more than $2 trillion worth of spending has been a boon for a variety of business interests, from the private military contractors who outnumbered US troops seven to one by the war’s end, to the various companies arming, supplying, equipping, and constructing for the war effort, to the private investors who own the majority of US debt, and have benefited from the more than $500 billion of interest the government has paid on its war borrowing so far.
But there is another, more earnest side of the Washington foreign policy establishment, one that genuinely believes the United States’ position as the global hegemon allows it to limitlessly reshape the world in whatever ways it sees fit, for the sake of its own interests. And Afghanistan’s swift collapse over the past week in the face of a Taliban onslaught is just one more case from a lengthy history that proves this wrong.
The United States is, of course, still an enormously powerful nation. It has the world’s largest military, the capability to annihilate all life on the planet many times over, the power to cripple its adversaries’ economies, influence other nations’ elections, and inflame political unrest within them — as it has demonstrated in Venezuela, Iran, and Cuba, to name a few. But the ability to destroy is not the ability to control, any more than the thrashing of a bull at a rodeo means it won’t end up locked in a pen at the end of the day. And it’s hard to square this latest failure with the story US elites tell their people and the world about “the indispensable nation,” using military force wherever it likes to remove bad governments and spread democracy.
Categories: Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy