More on Afghanistan

The following was a “comment” in response to Heather Cox Richardson’s latest newsletter (8/18/21).

It was written by Linda Mitchell, “a Professor of medieval history, feminist, ally and supporter of causes of right, equity, and justice.”

She addresses several issues that personally, I had not considered — primarily because, as a rule, I pay minimal attention to happenings in other countries until they become, as Afghanistan has done, “newsworthy.”

In any case, from what I’ve read so far in various news and “opinion” sources, I found Linda’s outlook spot-on.

1. The US military establishment lied and lied and lied when they talked about the combat readiness of the Afghan army. They have done so for 20 years. They even admitted that they lied a number of times when pressed. Their motive in lying was to present the military trainers as competent, when they were not. If this sounds familiar to those of us who lived through the Vietnam era, well, there you go.

2. There is not a single US administration that behaved proactively in Afghanistan. There has not been a single congressional “class” that has behaved proactively in Afghanistan. Plenty of academics–from historians to economists, to anthropologists, to sociologists–have been saying over the last 40 years that the West’s way of dealing with Afghanistan was going to fail and was wrongheaded from the start. But the last 20 years has also seen the dumbing down of the federal government, the glorification of ignorance and prejudice and jingoistic idiocy. So the people who actually had a clue were ignored or vilified. QED.

3. If the people of Afghanistan had cared about the pro-Western cultural institutions that western money propped up in their country–education and rights for women, a government elected through a democratic and transparent process, an economy based on capitalism–they would have embraced this idea beyond the few elites and the dedicated female teachers of girls and women. But they did not. Because Afghanistan is not a country. It is a delegation of provinces with intimate and historical ties to traditions we dismissed and ignored. We did not make them care about women and girls. THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT WOMEN AND GIRLS. The hollering going on now about “how do we save the women and girls” is laughable because the people who should have been asking those questions are the ones who embraced TFG’s jingoistic and autocratic foreign policy, who are determined to police women’s bodies and criminalize women’s bodily autonomy in the USA, who claim religious exceptionalism, who say NOTHING about the abuse of women and girls in their favorite countries, like Saudi Arabia, where al Qaeda came from. They are our Taliban: they just wear suits and talk about the “rights of the unborn,” and claim that their militant death-cult brand of Christianity is the “true” one. And they are winning here in the USA: take a look at the judicial decision to ban certain abortions in TX.

3. We had the chance to do the ONE THING that would have broken the economic back of the Taliban: stop the growing of opium poppies and the opium trade–the market for which is THE WEST–and replace it with well-constructed, carefully planned alternatives that the people in the south and west of the country (where poppies are grown) could manage THEMSELVES. We did not consult with the people whose lives were at risk if they did not grow opium. We did not ask them what THEY wanted to do, what THEY wanted to grow. We just went in and behaved like the boorish mo****f***ers we are and claimed to know better. We did not.

4. Why are all media outlets losing their s*** trying to blame SOMEONE for this horror show? Because they think it will help their ratings. Because as institutions the commercial media are all idiots and ignoramuses, led by suits who like their corporate bonuses no matter their political stripes. Because the last person in the room is the one they blame. Why don’t they instead do something useful, like re-animate the pages from the RNC website that praised TFG’s “brilliant and groundbreaking deal” with the Taliban? Which they scrubbed as soon as the debacle occurred.

I could go on but I won’t. Sorry for my rant of the day. I admit that I don’t understand why anyone is surprised by any of this.

As always, your reactions/opinions/disagreements are welcome — so long as you don’t go off-topic or become insulting of others’ viewpoints.

39 thoughts on “More on Afghanistan

  1. We did not go into Afghanistan to save the women and little girls. As usual, they are an afterthought. Good talking point. We have stayed there to satisfy the military-industrial contractors. The Afghanis were not the only people getting big money from the US taxpayers. Lots of brothers-in-law and cousins suddenly opened construction companies.

    I notice the same bigots who voted against bringing those Afghans who assisted Americans out for resettlement are now leading the chorus against Biden. The same people who want American women and minorities forever under their thumb. The hypocrisy and hubris are endless. Ms. Mitchell has delivered an excellent rant. I say rant on.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. None of what Linda says surprises me, and it is indirectly right in line with comments I made on your “Look at American Values” post. If she is American (though it really doesn’t where she was born) I congratulate her for not being blinded by all the propaganda that the American media love to promulgate. (For all you Republicans out there, that means the bullshit the American news outlets feed you day after day after day.)
    Now, I will purposely go off topic because I think it is related: Why is the world media not telling we the people about the “lambda” and “doomsday” Covid variants that are currently being spread while the “delta” variant is spotlighted endlessly as the major pandemic threat. If what I read is even half true, “delta” is a pussycat in comparison. What I have read is that neither of the two new variants are stopped by any of the vaccines we presently have. Masks and social distancing still work, apparently, and the vaccines do mitigate the harsher effects SOMETIMES, but people are infected by them no matter what! Why is the media downplaying them? BECAUSE THEY DO NOT WANT TO CAUSE A PANIC, I don’t think we need to panic, but we do need to be VERY CONCERNED!

    Or maybe these new variants are yet just another conspiracy, like climate change. Everyone knows there is no such thing as climate change! Yeah. Right.

    Liked by 1 person

    • She’s American — lives in Kansas.

      As for the other COVID variants, there has been some mention of Lambda, but so far, I don’t think it’s been the primary culprit in the reported cases. As for the “doomsday” variant, it was my understanding the powers-that-be decided to use the Greek alphabet as identifiers for any new variants … ??

      BTW, I’m answering your question for informational purposes only — NOT to start a new discussion related to the virus. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “We had the chance to do the ONE THING that would have broken the economic back of the Taliban: stop the growing of opium poppies and the opium trade–the market for which is THE WEST–and replace it with well-constructed, carefully planned alternatives that the people in the south and west of the country (where poppies are grown) could manage THEMSELVES. We did not consult with the people whose lives were at risk if they did not grow opium. We did not ask them what THEY wanted to do, what THEY wanted to grow. We just went in and behaved like the boorish mo****f***ers we are and claimed to know better. We did not.”

    Not factual. Not true. This is the kind of ‘opining’ I’m talking about, an opinion based on belief and not fact. This kind of of counter-factual belief I call “bullshit” – for that is what it is. This author apparently has no clue about the facts on the ground in Kandahar – where the vast majority of poppy production is based – over at least the past 15 years. There is zero recognition in this bullshit of just how much work was actually done, how much change was actually affected, how much cooperation and relationship building was actually carried out by the Canadian Forces in charge of this most dangerous region. There is no recognition of the 4 fold decrease in infant mortality, no recognition of improved healthcare, transportation, education, local representation, reduction in poverty, and the increasing presence of women in both the judiciary and local politics. There is no recognition of successful agricultural transition away from highly lucrative poppy production through co-joining the transition to other crops and profitable products with all kinds of other programs and improvements. IN FACT these are EXACTLY the kinds of “well-constructed, carefully planned alternatives that the people in the south and west of the country (where poppies are grown) could manage THEMSELVES.” But notice that this is what the author claims was NOT done; she then supplies us with a reason that simply is not just not true but intentionally done to paint those who were there in as negative a light as possible – that “We just went in and behaved like the boorish mo****f***ers we are and claimed to know better.”

    Look, I understand few people reading this want to have their negative beliefs challenged (they are SO much easier to hold than positive ones, I know, because much research has been done on exactly this). Many want to believe ONLY the worst about their kin and kith. Strange, but true, but that’s what it amounts to when military service is done on a volunteer basis by local friends and family.

    But here’s the thing: if you talk to people who actually served in Afghanistan and in Kandahar and LISTEN to what they say, you’ll become aware that highlighting only the problems and failures and difficulties especially in safe hindsight is an insult to those who tried their best in very difficult circumstances to address these problems and failures and difficulties in situ in order to try to help, to set an example of what sacrifice for the good of others looks like in practice. This is by far the main reason why so many people volunteered to do this hard work in Afghanistan in both military and NGO roles, one of the most dangerous places in the world for a Westerner, these “boorish mo****f***ers.”

    So yeah, I have a problem holding up simplistic bullshit criticisms like this in high regard as if they reflect something important to consider, something that I think does a direct and intentional disservice to those with the physical courage and mortal fiber to serve in such a hellhole that is Kandahar. I do not think is right or proper to say nothing, do nothing, police my tone, in the name of being more concerned for the feelings of those who only wish to tear down with what reads to me to be self-assigned smug self-righteousness than those who put their lives in real jeopardy to try – and often fall short – to build something better for others who were not privileged by birth to be a citizen of a Western country.

    The true test of character, I think, is not the mistakes we make but how well we respond to them. Believing this kind of bullshit to be true, to be worth serious consideration, I think is a mistake (not because I say so but because its claims and assumptions do not align with reality).

    Liked by 1 person

      • And here’s the tactic once again: I call bullshit on some quoted comment, provide facts that reveal why the quoted comment is bullshit (and so all the support and admiration and kudos for it is also deeply suspect), and the facts I provide are waved aside to criticize something about the person providing them or how they’re presented. It’s a dismissive tactic, a way to wave away legitimate contrary content. The inevitable result will eventually be an echo chamber. This experience for me is no different than trying to argue with creationists; when belief is the primary driver of commentary immune from reality’s interference then it’s time for me to move on. I’m just wasting my time.

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        • I have no doubts that what you offer/present is based on your extensive reading and research. But it gets a bit frustrating when you disagree with (“call bullshit on”) nearly every topic that I post. Are we that much on opposite sides???

          Re: this particular post — nearly every person that responded to Linda’s comment was in agreement and she received (at last count) 160 “likes” to her remarks. It would seem her “take” on the situation was shared by many. Are they all part of the “echo chamber”?

          Liked by 1 person

        • Fact by popularity? This is how Facebook algorithms work, sending ‘suggested’ news to users, and why it’s such a rich source for disinformation. This is a problem. Not a solution.

          If people don’t recognize why the claim is not true, isn’t it even MORE important to read why it is not than post another 160 comments in ignorant agreement?

          Liked by 1 person

      • He does, doesn’t he? Why is he a blogger and a commenter? He should be Secretary of State at a minimum!

        I mean, the crop replacement strategies and economic development plans in other areas dependent on (some) drug production have all worked so well. Look at Peru and Columbia. Amazingly peaceful places now engaged in producing semiconductors and “green” technologies! And Mexico! They have discovered they have no need for drug production! Avocados are the future! Better than plastics, even.

        Besides, the big banks and vampire squids of the finance world DON’T WANT the drug trade to stop. As with weapons, it’s too profitable. Look at HSBC (Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank). it was FOUNDED for the specific purpose of funneling drug profits. Now, of course, when dinged for…similar…activities they are too big to fail and to big to punish.

        So sure, we should have just wished away with tiledb’s magic wand of liberal western values a millenia-old trade that actually supplies mostly addicts and legal but iffy pharmaceutical producers in the vaunted, liberal “west”

        Liked by 1 person

    • Tildeb , I wish Linda Mitchell was here to defend all that she has said. I’m sure she feels she has done much research over the years and is associated with others who also have and is well educated enough to make statements that she probably can back up with facts.

      What is your background with all this? Were you over there in Afghanistan? And what news sources do you rely on? This all works both ways, you know.
      I’m not saying you are wrong, but it seems you only allow for your opinions, your facts, your research to be viable and strongly oppose other views in a very angry way. And I have read Nan’s blog long enough to see you always oppose her and her followers. What’s up with that?

      Liked by 3 people

    • I know a couple of Finnish guys who served in Afghanishtan. From what they have told me, I gather their impression was, that the entire mission there was doomed from the get go, because one can invade a country like Afghanishtan easily, but holding a grip is pointless, inevitably impossible and ridiculously expensive. A very similar estimation as that of an Estonian guy I know, who served there during the Soviet occupation.

      For the Soviet occupation of Afghanishtan, zero recognition has ever been given “of just how much work was actually done, how much change was actually affected, how much cooperation and relationship building was actually carried out by the … Forces in charge of this most dangerous region. There is no recognition of the … decrease in infant mortality, no recognition of improved healthcare, transportation, education, local representation, reduction in poverty, and the increasing presence of women in both the judiciary and local politics. There is no recognition of successful agricultural transition away from highly lucrative poppy production through co-joining the transition to other crops and profitable products with all kinds of other programs and improvements. IN FACT these are EXACTLY the kinds of “well-constructed, carefully planned alternatives that the people in the south and west of the country (where poppies are grown) could manage THEMSELVES.”

      The problem is, it was never enough. Not by the Soviets, not by the US, not by the Canadians or the Finnish, or anyone else involved. Quite possibly it could never be enough, as we have no way of knowing what an alternative history would look like. We can list things that could have been done differently and point out things that clearly were done badly, because something was obviously done badly, as the project failed, but we can not say, that the different approaches would have worked, because we did not test them.

      Linda is propably right about the incompetence of the military trainers, but the real reason for the rapid failure is not that the military was badly trained. Not in Vietnam and not in Afghanishtan, rather that the trained military was not motivated to fight the Taleban by anything and eventually abandoned by the western allies. The fact that the Afghans could build non-existant military units and pocket the money, is a clear and ridiculous example of just how incompetently the US military supposedly controlling the situation and alledgedly training those non-existant soldiers handeled things.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, now they’re blaming all this on the FEMINISTS. I read this article somewhere else (can’t remember) earlier today … & it’s all BS. But expect to hear more of this.

    https://lithub.com/how-the-war-on-terror-became-americas-first-feminist-war/

    I’ve been a feminist since I was TEN YEARS OLD (that was 1970) & I was against this war from the very beginning. & every women’s study class I ever took (before taken over by “gender studies”) stressed anti-war, anti-capitalism, anti-patriarchalism, anti-torture …

    The war in Afghanistan WAS NOT the first feminist war. Just because some women signed up to be warriors does not make them feminists. Working for the patriarchal powers is the antithesis of feminism.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I agree with a lot of what Linda says. However, I’m skeptical of her view on opium. It is not that simple. We should never have gone into Afghanistan in the first place.

    As for lying about the preparedness of the Afghan forces — well, yes, they did lie. However, it was easy enough to read between the lines and see that things were not as described. The Afghan forces were never up to the job of what was expected of them.

    The mistake was to presume that we could impose western democratic values on the Afghan culture. Will we ever learn that lesson?

    Liked by 3 people

    • IMO, nothing anyone says — whether it’s about the troops, opium, government, women — will detract from the fact we spent beaucoup bucks (as we seem to do quite regularly) to accomplish … what?

      Liked by 4 people

  6. Hello Nan. As I understand it the country is broken up into tribal areas, where family and tribe is far more important than other considerations. The US wanted to make it one country under one government when we would have been better to make it different countries, each independent of each other. We might have had a chance then to bring some of them into modern times. We also could have helped defend the few that might want to stand up to the Taliban while letting those who welcome them do as they wish. I think the biggest mistake the US makes is our arrogance of thinking our way is always the best way. What we do is what others need to do. It is like the person who claims what ever car they drive is always the best and you should drive that make also, or whose appliances are a certain brand and everyone should use that brand also. The US doesn’t even follow our own ideas of democracy anymore much less the government taking care of the people, so how can we demand other people form a government like ours and expect them to keep it when we leave? Hugs

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    • Why do so many Americans forget all the other invested partners and think it’s all about the US?

      For example, Trump yanked all US support for the Kurds who were then subject to mass killings by Islamicist paramilitaries supported by and given free reign, equipment, and funding by Turkey. The US media promptly seemed to forget all about this betrayal and Trump warmly welcomed Erdogan to the White House. It probably has gone unnoticed by most Americans that the Kurds have managed to take on Turkey and the various Islamic forces arrayed against them and are still a stable presence in a volatile region.

      What has really gone on is that Canada was asked by and responded to Kurd requests for aid and has quietly gone about the business of supporting the Kurds with everything from military hardware to ongoing frontline ‘training’ by Special Forces to maintain some semblance of regional balance. Canada is quietly trying to bring about a federal state in Iraq. This approach takes decades and is highly incremental and most importantly is not a zero sum endeavor assumed to be the only practical metric by the vast majority of Americans.

      It’s not all about the US. And it’s not all about colonialism and imperialism and oil. Sometimes it’s about humanitarian aid and strategic alliances which include military involvement. You put your money where your mouth is.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hello tildeb. Sorry but when the conversation is about the US government and the US people, the US military, how the US people feel, and what the US presidents are saying to the US people it is very much about the US. When we get around to talking about the Canadian governments actions, the Canadians military … and so on, I will include them in my comments. Hugs

        Liked by 2 people

        • Thanks, Scottie. Yes, I know it can appear this way when talking about Afghanistan and the decision to invade but let’s remember our history: when the US was attacked, it automatically invoked the NATO dense pact and under this banner, the US then led the response. Responsibility for different areas was divided up among those member states very much like the invasion of Normandy under overall US leadership but each invasion point divided up among different nations. So the issue of Afghanistan is very much an international issue but done under overall US leadership.

          So it is this vein that the collapse of Afghanistan today can be viewed as a US ‘failure’ but what I’ve attempted to do is reveal it to be far more an international issue where appropriate blame for failure belongs first and foremost with Pakistan, not the US. The US was highly constrained by its alliance with Pakistan, who funded, equipped, and trained the Taliban during the military occupation. I read almost nothing about this central issue by Americans quick to assign imperialistic and oil-driven motivation to various US administrations when in reality the main reason to destroy the Afghan government was the 9/11 attacks that activated the Alliance that then successfully invaded Afghanistan. What undermined the mission from the beginning was Pakistan and so each US administration had to decide whether or not the Pakistani alliance outweighed the Afghanistan campaign.

          Like ripples from a stone dropped into still waters, the considerations by US administrations for the larger picture, the outer rings involving China’s and Iran’s increasing regional power and influence and keeping Pakistan on board outweighed the desire to crush the Taliban in northern Pakistan. This was the same consideration when bin Laden was located in Pakistan and the US wanted to send in a strike team. Different administrations apparently made different decisions in this regard.

          So the role of Pakistan is the lynchpin in understanding what was going on and what the results are today in Afghanistan. And this is why I continue to say it’s not all about the US. But when I keep reading these criticisms posted on social media excoriating the US alone, or the comparison with the Russian invasion in the 80s, I cannot stay silent at the gross unfairness.

          What I think really matters most is that people remember that the US responded to an act of war with invasion of a rogue nation state that promoted it. Remember that the Alliance worked as planned. That the US has committed allies who will take up arms to defend the US on foreign soil. And that many allies will tolerate significant casualties and costs and political ramifications to do so. But the long term results we see today is far more complex than framing it as only a US versus Taliban conflict. This si what happens when one tries to have one’s cake and eat it, too.

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  7. For many many years I have stopped watching, reading, and listening to U.S. bias or Jewish and/or Christian bias about American involvement in the Near and Middle East, particularly when it is 100% military intervention. But also too its (biased, religious-based) intervention in humanitarian ways, I usually do NOT want to watch, read, or listen about humanitarian help because 99.9% of the time the Western Hemisphere’s bias is glaringly obvious as well as hints of arrogant because Christian values reign supreme in the entire Universe! 🙄 And that’s another major issue for me.

    Since the Catholic “Christians™” pushed out the Moors of Spain in the 15th-century, the violent chasm between Islam and Catholic/Protestant Christianity had been relatively peaceful for 700 years. Then after the expulsion of the Moriscos of Spain the cluster-f*ck that is Abrahamic authoritarian monotheism, holy wars have been waged ever since under mythical gods of self-appointed global authority. Meanwhile, more and more human deaths and atrocities from these holy wars or their derivatives continue.

    Nonetheless, I essentially agree with Linda Mitchell’s five points, primarily because the vast majority of modern voting religious-conservative Americans know far too little about their own religious-political beliefs, origins of their religious-political beliefs, and that they operate from an entirely fabricated, FALSE foundation of said beliefs and worse, refuse to equitably reexamine them.

    Meanwhile, the USA just keeps going its merry Protestant Christian ways falsely presuming the rest of the world should applaud their/our values and methods around the world… at the expense of middle- and lower-class American military lives. 🤦‍♂️😔

    Liked by 4 people

  8. I have a very mixed reaction to this rant.

    When I read things like, “The US military establishment lied and lied and lied when they talked about the combat readiness of the Afghan army.” Please. People lie (once is enough). Not “establishments.” How does she know they lied? Prove it. But yes, we said the same BS about the Army of South Viet Nam.

    In my last response I wondered about critics who never been in the boots that are on the ground. Fighting in any war takes something very few of us feel any more. The South Viet Nam army did not feel it, nor did the Afghan army. It is not detectable or measurable. What cause are you willing to die for?

    All that said, I agree with her premise. Maybe with less emotion and more facts this rant would have more value.

    I keep waiting to hear from the far left regarding this religion. Crickets!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Bill. I was in agreement with you until you got to the last line. The left has been very vocal on what is happening to rights for women and other minorities. The left has been very vocal on the hypocrisy of the Taliban. How do I know? Because I post on the subject every morning in my editorial cartoon roundup with comments. If you think in anyway the left is giving a pass to the Taliban, the way the withdrawal of the US / Afghani assistance providers has gone, or to Biden you are very wrong. Unlike the right wing the Democrats in congress have 4 or 5 committees investigating the withdrawal plan and the military intel. In a way I admire the lack of tribalism of the Democrats and in another way I hate to see Democrats attack their own party when so much is at stake in the next election. Hugs

      Liked by 3 people

      • Thanks, Scottie.
        Good to know. I stand corrected.
        I assume the critics of the “Taliban” are as vocal regarding the “religion” (Islam).
        I’m not sure I would call the group efforts of the Democratic Party tribalism. Yet, I agree that while we don’t eat our young to the extent the right does, it happens. As a moderate atheist living in the Texas, I worry a lot about the next two elections. I also worry about political violence. We have seen some crazy shit in this state. Hugs back.

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  9. Nan, well said. The only thing I would add, in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq, we never stated what success would like going on. As a result, we never clearly defined a mission. But, even if we did, we would have failed as we did not understand the lessons of history. What ticks me off most is when so-called leaders send our and allied troops to die for a cause, we owe it to them and their families to get it right beforehand and exhaust all other courses of actions. The troops know what to call this – it starts with the syllable “cluster” and ends with a term for a sexual act. Keith

    Liked by 2 people

  10. From Antonio Garcia Martinez on why the US is no longer a serious country but “an unserious country mired in the most masturbatory hysterics over bullshit dramas….” and an article too well written and on point not to consider. Christianity, for Christ’s sake! My eyes bleed.

    For example,

    “This is the true privilege of being an American in 2021 (vs. 1981): Enjoying an imperium so broad and blinding, you’re never made to suffer the limits of your understanding or re-assess your assumptions about a world that, even now, contains regions and peoples and governments antithetical to everything you stand for. If you fight demons, they’re entirely demons of your own creation, whether Cambridge Analytica or QAnon or the ‘insurrection’ or supposed electoral fraud or any of a host of bogeymen, and you get to tweet #resist while not dangling from the side of an airplane or risking your life on a raft to escape.”

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    • I read the entire article plus MANY of the comments. I’m now re-reading the article for full comprehension because, in contrast to many who write on serious matters, there is much “below the surface.”

      For those who don’t have the time or interest to read the entire article, I felt he pretty much summed up his perspective at the end:

      What we should have been asking ourselves through four presidents’ worth of Afghanistan involvement, and 2,400 American lives (and God knows how many maimed and traumatized), and almost a trillion dollars, is this: what is our role there? What was the plan, if there ever was one? More specifically, how much are we willing to pay, in American lives and tax money, to impose (for imposing is what we’ll have to do) something vaguely resembling a liberal order in a country more than a few milestones behind us in the real-world Civilization game we’re all playing.

      In any case, he does provide some “food for thought.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • Have you read the intelligence report of an ISIS attack against the people outside the airport? ISIS=Sunni=Iran (supporting the Hazaras in the west). al qaeda =Shia=Pakistan=Taliban (supporting the Pashtun in the south and central). Of course, I predict with high confidence that Western media will present such an attack and the casualties as all the fault of the West generally and Israel in particular. Somehow.

        I mention this because there’s a direct link between what I talk about – enlightenment principle – and real world results like Afghanistan when the link is not recognized or supported or followed. Without recognizing the link and where its chains are broken, we end up where we are and that’s not a good place to be.

        The central feature of enlightenment principle is about the supremacy of individual autonomy in law. Enforced by courts and its officers. That means institutionalized. That means upheld by military and civilian authority alike. That means FROM THE GROUND UP. No exceptions. Legal equality in principle AND as part of its institutions. What has come before if not liberal must be torn down and replaced with what IS liberal.

        Incompatible with this principle is the idea of groups and group rights, the essential ingredient into making an Us v Them requirement for driving conflict. It takes two to have armed conflict. Not one people who share liberal values but two… one of whom does not! We are, in fact, helping this conflict deepen and widen by supporting the division of Us v Them itself, supporting the viewpoint that this notion of ‘groups in conflict’ is a good way to view issues, a doubling down on our actions to cement these group-based divisions especially in law when we pick and choose our preferred groups to support or vilify. Lo and behold, we soon encounter the unfair treatment of individuals. And here is EXACTLY where the rubber meets the road, where EACH of us have to answer whether or not we are e pluribus unum liberals or are we not? There is NO middle ground to be had. One or the other.

        The principle behind this tribal mindset is not equality through legal process (as in something pursued through the legal system as being achieved over time but as equity imposed right now. (Equity is the 7th century tribalism reworked into something more glossy, more modern, and then assigned virtue for its proponents.)

        So here’s the thing: without individual autonomy in law and enforced by the state, you CANNOT have a liberal state. You can only have a tribal state. To avoid the either/or case, far too many people believe there can be a middle ground called ‘democracy’ as if this works to correct the slow pace of liberalism but softens the imposition of tribalism. This is the false narrative people who don’t like conflict thinks is a suitable alternative. It’s not. It serves only tribalism.

        A democracy without liberalism IS mob rule. And this is what has happened in every case where some previous authoritarian regime is toppled and a ‘democratic’ state is imposed (quick, let’s get everyone to vote on something and show the world how democratic we are!); one person from the mob rises to the top by using his group affiliations to gain support, and replaces the figurehead previously toppled in the virtuous name of democracy with the new authoritarian leader! That’s trribalism in democratic garb; the loop continues while our media pushes the narrative that it’s all the fault of liberal states, liberal democrats who have interfered (no matter what the reasons may have been), that the failure of democracy demonstrates the failure of the liberalism and so let’s get on board the group-based train and start picking our champions.

        Identifying the problem is the first and necessary step to finding and implementing real solutions, the difference between treating symptoms and going after the disease. And the problem, no matter what the guise may be, is illiberalism.

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        • You are going considerably over my head (and maybe others?) with this latest rant. I know this kind of stuff is near and dear to you, but I think many (most?) of my followers look at things from a much more surface view. Whether that’s good or bad really isn’t for you –or me– to say. Many simply don’t have the time –or interest– to delve this deeply into issues.

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        • You are probably right.

          As an art teacher once explained to me when I couldn’t see the point of why we were studying something, she said you’re only going to get out of it what you’re willing to put into it. That resonated with me because I knew I was ignorant enough to know my critical opinion had little merit just because it was mine and therefore valid or useful in any way. To presume otherwise would rather stupid and egotistical of me. So I did the work grudgingly at first and then, surprising only me, received ample reward with a much deeper appreciation that has never left. I have tried to do that with anything and everything that affects me.

          Also, I worked with a brilliant and incredibly creative guy and asked him in exasperation one day after slogging through something just to reach a base level of understanding of how he ever got so smart. He laughed at me and said the only difference was that he was able to first see and then draw on connections he had already learned in other areas (whereas it seemed I had to reinvent the wheel at each and every stage) and so thought this notion of ‘intelligence’ I credited to him was really all about making the effort to find connections that led to insight in some other area.

          I have used exactly this approach teaching math: the students already know what I’m about to teach them; they just don’t realize it yet. I’m a big fan of understanding that ‘learning’ is really synonymous with ‘recognizing’.

          So I try to combine these two ideas – putting in some work to understand the basics and then finding these connections by recognition to deepen them – whenever I think there’s a problem in need of a solution that affects me. And the rapid decline throughout the West and a lowering of the intellectual tide driving it downwards affects me. And that’s what I think is important enough for my attention: through my efforts, am I part of the problem or part of the solution? Notice that understanding the problem precedes informing the solution.

          So going along to get along is not an indication of understanding or offering much value; very often it is not. And often it is an impediment to contributing something more, something meaningful, something critical, something challenging, something insightful. And so that is where I tend to make my effort: trying to raise the tide of understanding complex issues by trying to get people to think about something in a different but connected way, by challenging claims that I have good reasons to doubt are true and seeing how that changes the conclusion. Is supporting the conclusion predicted on something not true a good idea… just to get along?

          So whether or not those efforts will almost always be in vain isn’t the point… it’s that it may work sometimes. I understand that’s as much as I can do… if I want to do my part in trying to raise that tide rather than admire its recession with a virtual group hug. And I know I appreciate it when someone does the same for me.

          Liked by 1 person

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