Kevin Drum has had it with pundits arguing that the withdrawal from Aghantistan damaged American "credibility."
The rest of the world doesn't believe in this alleged issue of credibility. They believe that the United States acts in its own self interest. We enter wars if we think they're in our interest. We leave wars if we think that's in our interest. And everyone knows we have the power to make our threats good if we feel like it. We hardly have to prove that more often than we already do.
On the one hand, Drum is correct that no one really takes America less seriously because we pulled out of Afghanistan - if anything, they no longer have an excuse to laugh at our folly.
On the other hand, he's absolutely wrong saying "everyone knows we have the power to make our threats good if we feel like it".
It's not that we have the power to make good our threats; it's that we have the sheer bloody-mindedness to TRY to make good on our threats, even when that clearly isn't possible. Afghanistan itself is perfect proof - we didn't and never could make good on our threat to "fix" the country, but we sure did waste twenty years, countless lives, and a massive amount of wealth and resources trying to magically force an impossible outcome.
It was never American "credibility" that was in question - it's American sense that people all across the world doubt. No one was surprised by our idiotically rushing into war, given what they know of us, they just knew better than to imagine that any such war could possibly be won.
We should have known better ourselves. It was only twelve years since the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in disgrace before we tried our own ill-conceived invasion and pointless unending occupation. It's a country aptly nicknamed "The Graveyard of Empires", for crying out loud. But even if that weren't the case, did we learn nothing from Vietnam? When a war has no clear goals, no achievable objectives, or objectives which won't actually cause the opposition to stop fighting, such a war cannot be won. Afghanistan was a war where all three of those things were true - it was doomed from the start, and plenty of perceptive people said so, they just were drowned out by overwhelming jingoistic sabre rattling and a collective barbaric third for vengeance to soothe a bruised national ego.
Alas, we're collectively still decades off from being able to admit, as a nation and a society, that the entire thing was not just a colossal mistake, but also a moral failing and a crime. There's no shortage of people who still feel like we were totally justified in our actions, and that we absolutely could have won (somehow, magically) - as Drum has noticed by the ubiquity of oblivious pundits worrying about entirely the wrong things.
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