Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

Nominalism and the Defeat of Afghanistan

One point that Bill Lind makes in this piece that I think is particularly relevant to the future of the US is that his description of present day Iraq is very similar to what I have long believed the future of the US will look like. Bill writes:

We see nominalism running all through American policy-making. Washington nominalists think Iraq is a state. It isn’t, because real power is in the hands of ethnic and religious militias. The state is merely a facade, but since it has a parliament, elections, cabinet ministers, etc. it is real to nominalists. Not surprisingly, our policy there has been a series of disasters ever since the initial disaster of invading the place.

It is quite possible that in the future the US will retain its formal governmental system (President, Congress, Supreme Court), but that these institutions will have lost most of their powers (like the British and other European monarchies) or will simply president over a trade federation (like the EU or maybe the Schengen area). The real power will have devolved to the regions and localities (like the Holy Roman Empire or ancient Greece), polycentric legal frameworks (like the Ottoman millet system), consociational representative systems (like present-day Lebanon), and a range of non-state actors representing a vast range of interests: political parties, ideologies, religions, ethnic groups, gender groups, causes, businesses, unions, gangs, militias, communes, seasteads, mercenaries, etc.

By William S. Lind, Traditional Right

Republicans are trying to blame President Biden for the defeat in Afghanistan while Democrats are pointing to President Trump’s peace deal with the Taliban as the cause.  In fact, a Taliban victory became inevitable when, early in the war, the U.S. expanded its objectives from driving out or killing al Qaeda to turning Afghanistan into a modern, secular democracy.  That objective was unattainable no matter what we did.  If we want to blame Presidents, the culprits are the idiot George W. Bush and the empty suit Barack Obama.  The first allowed the mission creep and the second presided over its continuation, content to kick the can down the road.  It is to the credit of both Biden and Trump that, after nineteen years of failure, they made and stuck with the decision to pull the plug.

But how could the whole Washington defense and foreign policy establishment get it so wrong?  One answer is that, if you want to become and remain a member of the establishment, you must never make waves.  Since almost all the people in question want to be something, not do something, they follow that rule regardless of where it leads.  A defeat in war is but a small matter when compared to a risk to their careers.


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