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Do you remember Afghanistan?
Three months ago, that was all the news. The Biden administration’s disastrous withdrawal strategy was criticized from the left, right and center. Veterans organized themselves into a “digital Dunkirk” to try to coordinate Allied safe passage when the government could not do so.
Eleven Marines, one soldier and one sailor lost their lives in a suicide attack.
After the United States officially left, the news cycle shifted. Of course, there were a few prayers for the nation around its 20th anniversary on September 11, 2001. But by and large, America has moved on.
We have infrastructure bills and “Build Back Better” to worry about. And November election to collapse. And Thanksgiving on the horizon.
And that is precisely why our efforts in Afghanistan – ending with Biden’s foolhardy retreat – were in vain.
As we return to entertainment, “Ted Lasso” is one of the most acclaimed shows on our streaming devices. He begs his players to “be a goldfish” or have short memories. Although scientifically suspicious, his motto encourages people to forget their mistakes and move on.
America is a goldfish.
Afghanistan was described as our “longest war”. Some of the Marines who died in August were infants on September 11, 2001. In essence, all their lives they knew only one America with thousands of personnel deployed to Afghanistan.
Now, three months later, it is barely detected on our radar screen.
Car bombs kill people on the streets of Kabul. The UN claims the country is on the brink of the “worst humanitarian catastrophe we have ever seen.” Young girls are sold into slavery.
But we are goldfish.
Now there are horrors that occur every day all over the world, including in the United States. As a nation, we cannot fix them all. It would be silly to try.
Still, after the attacks on the Pentagon and the Twin Towers, we made an affirmative decision to enter Afghanistan. We did not have to do that. But like seeing someone drown while you may not have a responsibility to swim out to rescue them, you need to see it through once you take on that responsibility.
Afghanistan drowns. But we are goldfish and we have forgotten it.
This is not a call to invade Afghanistan and bring the fight to the Taliban. Jekyll and Hyde’s foreign policy is a recipe for disaster. To be completely honest, I’m not entirely sure what viable options are available to help those we left behind without making more mess.
But do not be a goldfish. Remember Afghanistan.
The world is a dangerous place. Russia continues its efforts to re-establish itself as a great power on the global stage. China’s progress continues; Hong Kong’s “special status” has been subject to the will of the Chinese Communist Party. They have designs on the territorial claims of their neighbors, not to mention Taiwan.
At some point in the future, America will be drawn into violence on foreign shores. Young men and women will carry rifles in an inhospitable place. Some may be killed in action.
When we get there, we have a responsibility to leave it better than we found it. That means education for girls. This means that hunger is no more. This means that slavery has been abolished.
As we approach Thanksgiving, it is important to put our position in perspective. We have real problems at home that need to be solved. We are never goldfish with these challenges because they meet us every day. Yet it is easy to be a goldfish with regard to other parts of the world; when the bright lights have gone on, we forget it.
But please: remember Afghanistan.