The Biden Skedaddle

by G. Murphy Donovan (September 2021)

Will Evil Voltage Rise in the 21st Century?, Ichiro Fukuzawa, 1986


Back in the day when American generals knew the difference between a win and a loss, a running defeat was called a “skedaddle,” a rout so humiliating that the vanquished would drop their weapons and kit and flee the battlefield at a gallop.

        No horses in evidence this week. Americans are fleeing the Taliban fight in USAF cargo holds. Afghanistan is Joe Biden’s big skedaddle.

        And yes Joe, Kabul is not Saigon; the Afghan humiliation is much worse by any measure. Like Vietnam, Afghanistan is now compound evidence of both failure and strategic incompetence; to many observers like China, Russia, and the Ummah, clear omens of American national decline.

        Let the hand wringing and recriminations begin.

        Poor military leadership and even worse Intelligence, again, top the usual suspect list. We were led to believe that American Intelligence speaks truth to power. Alas, candid Intelligence left the station at the end of WWII. Recall that the Korean War, unresolved to this day, was characterized as a “police action.” Ever since, both the Pentagon and Intelligence Community have been cooking the strategic books at will. Afghanistan just continues a late 20th Century tradition of strategic mendacity.

        Words matter.

        Without rehashing all the warning and/or analytical failures from Korea to Cuba to Vietnam on through 9/11 let’s review the most recent Intelligence fictions; the fake “Intelligence” that led to the humiliation underway in Afghanistan today.

        Strategic illusions are both probative and predictive, harbingers of even worse humiliations to come. 

Nationhood Fiction

        Afghanistan was never a nation, in any sense of what sovereignty means in the secular world. Afghanistan is a toxic mix of ethnic, tribal, and family affiliations; aggravated by a lack of a common language, illiteracy, and political fanaticism wearing a religious burka. Factions are indeed divided by a common religion, Islam; where most militants believe they are “mujahadeen” of one sort or other; in short, god’s warriors.  

        As with Iran, toxic theocracy is the only realpolitik truth in Afghanistan. With the Taliban victory, political Islam and Islamofascism gets another big win.

Mujahadeen Fiction

       Before the Soviet departure in 1989, CIA was running a closet war in Afghanistan with some success, exploiting Tajik mujahadeen. Unfortunately, Ahmad Shah Masoud, putative leader of the “Northern Alliance,” was always viewed by the Pashtun majority as a CIA or American stooge. Masoud was assassinated by the Taliban a few days before 9/11. The so-called Northern Alliance evaporated after the Pentagon took the point in Kabul in 2001.

        The Panjshir Valley, under Masoud’s son may continue to be a locus of resistance to Pashtun rule. But this time around, CIA Mujtahids will have fight without Charlie Wilson and Gust Avrakotus.

        At this point, it is instructive to compare the manner of Soviet departure in 1989 to the American skedaddle today. The 40th (Soviet) Army, even in defeat, literally paraded out of Kabul, flags flying, equipment and most of their military honor intact.

        Knowing when to furl your flag or spike your guns are military options lost on woke warriors at the Pentagon today. No army wins anywhere with clueless brass.

 Timeline Fiction

        The White House continues to date the Afghanistan War to 2001, as if it were a modest 20 year debacle, when the true narrative covers almost 40 years. Charlie Wilson’s War, run by a Democrat congressman and the CIA, commenced shortly after the Soviet invasion in 1979.

        Facts matter. America was poking the bear, and Islam, long before 9/11.

Petraeus Fiction

        We are now told by the White House that the mission in Afghanistan, or any of the Islamic wars in progress, is not “nation-building.” Really? If true, that would make US Army Field Manual 3-24 a fantasy and Generals Petraeus and Milley liars. If our “laser focus” is now only on tactics; then we are back to another lame euphemism, that pyrrhic “War on Terror.”

        Waging a war against a tactic is the kind of operational nonsense that now passes muster in the woke warrior school of military arts and sciences. A war on terror is the semantic equivalent of “Islamic freedom fighter” or “Islamic republic.”

War Fictions

        We are now told by the White House that Afghanistan is a “civil war” where American troops have no constructive role to play. Really? By that metric, almost every small war where American troops are deployed is a waste.

        Indeed, in countries like Iraq, Syria, and Libya; America created or enabled civil wars that persist to this day. If the truth be told, America has positioned itself betwixt Shite and Sunni religious fascists where the only sure outcome is Yankee road kill.

        Mohamed now has Uncle Sam by the operational short hairs. Better that America should now think of all those small wars in the Ummah as Muslims do, as local theaters of the larger global jihad.

Quantification Fictions

        We end the Afghan adventure as we began; putting lipstick on a pig.

        Vietnam veterans will recognize the statistical hair spray now being laid on by the Pentagon; a mist of numbers about American lives lost, tax dollars invested and the salutary troop redeployments, sorties, and passenger loads coming out of Kabul; the kind of bravo sierra meant to cover or distract from the ugly strategic truth of failure.

If they are watching, Robert McNamara and Daniel Ellsberg are probably having hot flashes of déjà vu.

Blame Fictions

        A stand-alone Kabul “government” and the Afghan “Army” were always fictions and now they are handy scapegoats. Spiffy uniforms and guns do not an army make. Even lap dancers on Wisconsin Avenue know that a puppet regime and a nutcracker militia would not survive without Intelligence and close air support. Bagram Airbase was abandoned by Americans surreptitiously, at night, without consultation; leaving our Kabul “partners,” Afghan ground forces, and the American embassy up the proverbial creek. 

        Blaming Afghans for the military collapse and impending national rape is an insult to dead and wounded US Marines still coming home in bandages and body bags. 

Ally Fictions

        Pakistan, not Afghanistan, is host to the various headquarters staff of the Taliban and al Qaeda in South Asia. Bin Laden had to be killed, by Americans, in Pakistan. Islamabad tolerates terrorists because accommodation is an existential matter for the fragile Pakistan janissary, always one bullet away from the Islamic abyss.

        Trusting Pakistan on Islamism is like confusing Covid-19 symptoms with a head cold.

Withdrawal Date Fictions

        The withdrawal date for the American troops was set by Trump administration for 1 May, mid-way through Ramadan, when jihadists might not make mischief. Team Biden extended the deadline to September hoping to take a political victory lap on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

        God save America from political fakirs.


G. Murphy Donovan writes about the politics of national security.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast
2 Sep 2021
Send an emailGraham
They focus on metaphors like "nation-building" and "war on terror", or "police action" or "humanitarian intervention" whether understood as complements or opposites, because they have forgotten and are unwilling to remember more useful phrases like "war" or "punitive expedition", which convey scale with greater practicality.. Similarly, they seem unwilling to remind citizens that while there can be national security policy and living in a western country can be [and is] quite safe, there is not and never has been total absence of threat to that safety. And there will always be slightly greater perils when abroad. And perhaps one should not reside in a war zone when one has options. And, last but not least, that the problem with all these civil wars abroad is only when they generate something that threatens us, which can be identified and managed separately. The wars themselves, kept within bounds, are not inherently problems for us.

3 Sep 2021
Send an emailG. Murphy Donovan
Amen. A plethora of polite euphemism is usually a symptom of an underlying ugly truth.

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