Sunk costs are sunk costs

Making peace with the Taliban would be to sacrifice 20 years of blood and treasure
Biden’s peace deal represents a betrayal of Afghanistan, and of the hundreds of British soldiers killed there

“So, what do we do now?” is the only interesting question…..

18 thoughts on “Sunk costs are sunk costs”

  1. Indeed. And I have commented on the article to point this out.
    But what interests me is that Biden is apparently taking responsibility for this.
    I anticipate this will upset a portion of the coalition that got him into the white house.
    I predict that he will eventually upset many parts of that coalition, as their only point of agreement is “Orange Man Bad”

  2. But what interests me is that Biden is apparently taking responsibility for this.

    Biden isn’t compos mentis, I doubt he’s making any policy decisions when his handlers don’t even feel confident enough to wheel him out to read a state of the union speech.

    It is interesting tho, because we know from separate sources that the Pentagon persistently lied to keep the Afghan war going for nearly 20 years:

    * A magnificent piece of investigate journalism that appeared in WaPo late 2019 and was completely ignored

    * at the bitter end of the Trump interregnum some of his staffers were boasting to the press about how they lied to their commander in chief about troop numbers in Afghanistan to frustrate his desire to withdraw

    So, what’s changed? Biden’s secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, is a fully paid up Neoconman, which means he’s as trustworthy as a box of snakes.

  3. Going into Afghanistan to unsettle the Taliban and deny al-Qaeda a safe base of operations was a reasonably credible plan as a short sharp strategic raid; after which point Afghanistan goes back into “failed state, ignore anything that doesn’t cross its boundaries” category.

    Trying to do a bout of opposed nation-building was a Bad Idea, and one that screwed up our exit from Iraq (lots of the resources we were intending to use to leave our part of Iraq in working order, so there’d be a decent enough gap between us handing over and a Shia coup or other mayhem, were abruptly yanked to send to Afghanistan) in a way that still echoes now – we screwed up the endgame in Iraq massively because politicians and senior military were “bored” with it and Afghanistan was the new opportunity to show off.

    To draw on everyone’s favourite dead Prussian (much quoted, little read, less understood) – what does “winning” look like in Afghanistan, and how do we get there from here? If the answers are “we aren’t sure” and “we have no idea” then walk away and just shoot anything nasty coming out of the place.

    There’s a philosophical point about how these days, so few are, have been, or have family in the military; which makes it very easy to wail that “something should be done!” without any fear of consequence: they won’t have family or friends re-enacting Kipling’s “Arithmetic on the Frontier” and the Government won’t make trade-offs like “Okay, but this means no NHS pay rise this year…” clear.

    It also blinds folk to the reality that the Government go from being guilty of crimes against humanity (the Taliban are oppressing innocent Afghans, something must be done!) to being guilty of crimes against humanity (Private Knuckfuckle of the 13th Loamshires shot an Afghan civilian, something must be done!) because the military solve problems by killing people and blowing sh!t up, and if you don’t like the threat or reality of that as a part of your solution you shouldn’t be using the military.

  4. Various Great Powers have attempted to successfully invade Afghanistan over the past two centuries, and all have failed. Just leave them to it.

  5. What do we do now?

    Deport known subversives, impose very strict border controls, and then rejoice at all the distance and seawater that separates us from the place.

  6. Bloke in China (Germany province)

    Why should we care about whether we are at peace or war with the Taliban? What can they do in terms of acts of war against us? Drive their Toyota-mounted Kalashnikovs up to the Pakistani border and fire into desolate tribal wastelands?

    We retain (just about) the ability to carpet-bomb any camps where they might start training mobile jihadis, western airliners cross the country unmolested every day, or used to before the current unpleasantness that has nothing to do with Afghanistan. The Taliban must be one of the most pathetic and irrelevant enemies we have ever faced. A bit like Coronavirus.

  7. If the twenty year conflict had cost the lives of hundreds of UK journalists, lawyers, MPs, etc instead of hundreds of soldiers, would it have lasted twenty years?

  8. Jason

    “….Kipling’s “Arithmetic on the Frontier”.”

    There’s more strategic truth in that short poem than in the combined output of the world’s armchair strategists.

  9. @ Steve.
    I agree about Biden’s mental condition, and see him as a figurehead.
    However the administration is making a move that will split off a part of the behind the scenes coalition that got them into power.
    I suspect that they will continue to flake off small parts of the coalition, as said coalition is united solely in opposing Trump, and their reasons for opposition vary considerably.

  10. Do a deal with the Taliban? Before they agree to sign any peace deal, ask them what “Taquiyya” means.

  11. A scrimmage in a Border Station-
    A canter down some dark defile
    Two thousand pounds of education
    Drops to a ten-rupee jezail.
    The Crammer’s boast, the Squadron’s pride,
    Shot like a rabbit in a ride!

  12. Jason Lynch,

    “Trying to do a bout of opposed nation-building was a Bad Idea, and one that screwed up our exit from Iraq (lots of the resources we were intending to use to leave our part of Iraq in working order, so there’d be a decent enough gap between us handing over and a Shia coup or other mayhem, were abruptly yanked to send to Afghanistan) in a way that still echoes now – we screwed up the endgame in Iraq massively because politicians and senior military were “bored” with it and Afghanistan was the new opportunity to show off.”

    You can’t fix either Iraq or Afghanistan that way.

    Countries get the systems of government they get because of the level of industrialisation vs natural resources. It’s a pattern that not only fits modern countries, but you can even see historical changes. Countries become democratic as they become more industrial, like the UK, Taiwan and Korea.

    It’s why all those countries in the Middle East are about war and torture. You get rich by taking the oil and you stay rich by torturing anyone who wants to replace you. It’s why one bunch of bastards takes over from another in these places. Even if they get democracy, it never lasts.

    The only way you change this is by finding a way to make them more industrial. Like build a canal so that Afghanistan can ship goods around the world. Then you can get sweatshops in Kandahar. Maybe Starlink will have people doing software work from these places.

  13. “You can’t fix either Iraq or Afghanistan that way.”

    I think that is kinda not our problem. We only have interests, not humanitarian duties. There’s no strategic interest in Afg any more, hasn’t been since 1947.

  14. White Man’s Burden – long out of fashion.
    Leave ’em to it, and bomb the shit out of anyone causing trouble outside the border.

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