THREAD: 5 Bad Afghanistan Takes you should Ignore

1. Tragic: ‘What about all we lost there?’

If Afghanistan collapses this fast, there wasn’t actually that much there to lose. If anything, the rapid collapse indicates just how accurate were all those leaks over the last

decade, including the A Papers, about how little progress we were making, how corrupt the government was, how soft its military’s independent capabilities were, and so on.

2. Demagogic: ‘Did our soldiers die for nothing?’

That is an emotionally manipulative version of the

sunk cost fallacy. We cannot bring back our war dead. If we must stay in an unwinnable conflict to ‘honor their sacrifice,’ then we condemn more to die later. That’s immoral. The logic of this argument means also we can never leave a commitment, no matter misconceived, which

leads to imperial overstretch. We’d still be in Vietnam, Somalia, Lebanon, and Iraq.

3. Histrionic: ‘America has lost its credibility’

No, relax. This is one small conflict in the wide range of US commitments. It was widely understood to be unwinnable, yet we fought for 20

years anyway. That signals a lot of resolve. Also, not all US commitments are the same. Just because the US withdrew from A does not imply it will abandon Taiwan, S Korea, the Baltics, and so on. When the Russians and the Chinese say this now, that is obviously motivated

reasoning you should ignore. Allies just as likely to think Biden was wise to end an unwinnable war.

4. Declinist: ‘How did a superpower get defeated by a bunch of medieval hillbillies?’

This is not how counterinsurgency works. The conflict was not a stand-up comparison of

military capabilities – insurgents rarely fight openly in the field - and the US cannot just ‘bomb the hell of out ‘em’ to win. The point is to win hearts and minds of course, and in that we needed a reasonably non-corrupt and competent local partner. We had that neither in

Vietnam, Iraq, nor Afghanistan. Other powerful states have lost insurgencies and retrenched without a wider unravelling. Think Rome and Scotland/Germany/the Middle East; or Britain withdrawing east of Suez. This is not the end of American power.

5. Hypocritical (Trump/GOP):

‘Biden is an incompetent overseeing a failure greater than Saigon’

Gimme a break. GOP takes are wholly in bad faith. A GOP president started and then ignored this war. Another GOP president, who claimed to want to leave, was too weak-minded and conflict-averse to fight the

blob to push through a withdrawal. Until a week ago, the GOP also wanted to get out of Afghanistan. All this sudden concern for our credibility or Afghan human rights is entirely situational and exploitative. Fox caring about Muslims? Are you kidding me?

The rapidity of

the collapse strongly suggests Biden was right to withdrawal. If Afghanistan fell apart this fast, then it almost certainly would have done so too in another 5 or 10 years. Even America makes mistakes. Don’t let American exceptionalism blind you. Sometimes we don’t win;

sometimes we make errors. And sometimes it’s wise to cut our losses and retrench. That’s all this is. There is no greater lesson to be drawn, and once this is off TV in a week or so, a lot of this hysteria about a US ‘fiasco’ will fade.


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More from @Robert_E_Kelly

15 Sep
THREAD: Why there is No Korean Peace Treaty (It wouldn’t Change Anything)

Much of the linked thread is highly contestable:

A. Korea obviously is not a 'forever war'

This is a grossly inaccurate description. 'Forever war' implies sustained kinetic activity in an unwinnable

quagmire with no obvious endpoint. That is not K at all. The war has been over since mid-1953, and it is NK, not the allies, who provokes. The lack of paperwork - a formal peace treaty - has no bearing on the empirical situation on the ground which is far from open conflict.

B. A 'War-Ending Declaration' (종전선언) is a legally bizarre neologism which no one really understands

The only reason this strange language is used is bc the Moon government's first effort to get a 'peace treaty' failed, as did its second, vaguer 'peace regime' effort. So

Read 18 tweets
11 Sep
THREAD: Strategically, 9/11 was a one-off sucker-punch. That’s it.

1. 9/11 did not ‘change everything.’ In fact, it changed surprisingly little

This language was deployed to create political space for a vast expansion of US coercion, especially in the Middle East. If all the

rules have suddenly changed, then all sorts of behavior are suddenly permissible – like domestic spying, torture, and Iraq. But strategically, 9/11 did not change that much: US GDP continued to expand; US military power was scarcely affected; US alliances did not fracture; the

stock market re-opened after a few days and did not crash; gas prices did not spike; the global Islamic revolution Osama Bin Laden hoped this would ignite did not materialize:

2. 9/11’s big change was psychological – our shared national trauma fully

Read 17 tweets
10 Sep
THREAD: Post-'War on Terror' Restraint

If the Afghan withdrawal & 20th anniversary of 9/11 can wind-down our big foot-print 'war on terror' (for a more measured counter-terrorism), here is a quick case for greater restraint:

1. Strategic: Over-Extension

A well-known problem

of empires/hegemonies is too many commitments and too few resources. We should, obviously, avoid such overstretch, & given rising China, US commitments in the Middle East particularly (Afghanistan, e.g.) should be re-considered

2. Domestic/Democratic: Blowback Militarization

The post-9/11 militarization of US foreign policy has come home: in the torture debate (yes, we actually 'debated' torture), domestic surveillance, endemic governmental secrecy, near reverence on military and police issues (just watch Fox for 5 minutes),and the militarization/

Read 6 tweets
25 Aug
The biggest surprise, revelation even, of Afghanistan’s fall is not that the Taliban are bad or that the departure is messy. We knew that already

It’s how belligerent, even militaristic, the American and British media are, how totally captured by blob talking points about the

‘necessity’ that America fight all over the place and that it’s always ‘defeat’ rather than retrenchment or cutting your losses.

Two weeks ago, there was almost no reporting on Afghanistan. Suddenly a few days of inevitability chaotic imagery, and America is abandoning its

responsibilities in a fiasco.

And it was all hawks all the time on-air to comment. No retrenchers or restrainers to place the withdrawal in greater context.

Even in academia, a lot of international relations scholars have deeply soured on the war for more than a decade. But

Read 4 tweets
14 Aug
THREAD on South Korea as a regional geopolitical pivot or broker arbitrating between the US and NK, or the US and China.

This is not true.

I’ve reviewed repeated journal articles during the Moon years making this argument, and my comments are always the same. So to the left-

wing SK scholars who continue to push this (bc SK hawks never say this), please consider how obviously falsifiable this idea is:

1. SK is a formal, MNNA US treaty ally. That right there makes neutralism more a normative desire than an empirical claim.

2. There are emplaced

US bases, equipment, warfighters, and consultants all over the peninsula. Not that many US allies or partners actually have as much stuff as the US parks here.

3. USFK is pretty integrated with the ROK military. The relationships with Japan and NATO are more siloed.

Read 13 tweets
1 Jul
Rumsfeld pushed a war of choice on evidence he knew was thin, catastrophically mismanaged the war’s follow-up, then embraced torture.

That puts him at the bottom among SecDefs along with McNamara, who at least had the humility to eventually publicly apologize.

Rumsfeld had a few good ideas domestically:

Like McNamara he strongly asserted civilian control over DoD. You may not have liked the choices he made, and he should have listened to the generals more on troops numbers to stabilize Iraq, but reinforcing civilian control

was valuable after President Clinton let DoD operate too freely (bc he was worried about being criticized as Vietnam draft dodger).

Rumsfeld also - again like McNamara - sought to bring some discipline to DoD procurement, trying to end the Cold War inertia buying of the 1990s

Read 7 tweets

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