Illustration: Liu Rui / GT
Twenty years ago, at the start of the war in Afghanistan, I was a reporter in New York.
One Sunday in late fall, I was driving with a friend in Newtown, a small town in Connecticut. The editorial called me and told me that American troops were already on the ground in Afghanistan. They asked me how the locals reacted. The quiet life in this small town stands in stark contrast to the war thousands of miles away in Afghanistan. I even remember when I interviewed two high school kids in New York, they couldn’t even find Afghanistan on a map.
But in keeping with President Bush’s strategic vision, the fight against Al Qaeda terrorists was designed to ensure that Americans can have the calm and peaceful lives that I have seen. The American elites have not even hesitated to call it a “war of faith”. Why? Because they believe that only a radical change in the beliefs of what is considered a low level civilization can eradicate the soil of terrorism. The small town quickly faded from my memory. That was until one day in 2012 when I suddenly heard the news that there had been a shootout at the town’s middle school. A 20-year-old named Adam Lanza shot dead 26 people, including 20 children between the ages of six and seven, as well as six adult staff members. Reports at the time described the incident as “a dark cloud over this area forever.”
In Afghanistan, the death toll of US troops has exceeded 2,000. In addition, tens of thousands of Afghans are dying or being displaced, struggling between life and death.
From the perspective of the United States, the war may not have been a complete failure. At the very least, the war that lasted two decades crushed Al-Qaeda and ensured that there were no more attacks here by outside terrorists like the attacks of September 11, 2001.
But the gunfire in Newtown is a good illustration of the abandonment of Afghanistan by the United States. Quiet life in the United States has been disrupted by threats from outside, as well as dangers from within. Such shootings are a microcosm of the growing problems in American society.
A country powerful enough to send troops to fight two world wars at the same time is incapable of dealing with its own social problems. An empire that was desperately trying to spread its faith to the world through wars, looked back and found it could no longer hold its own.
Afghan politics have been in disarray for a long time since 1978. This is mainly due to the state’s inability to reach consensus among different ethnic groups and tribes on the basis of political dialogue. This is of course linked to the religious beliefs of the local ethnic groups.
It will be a slow process to change the political ecology of Afghanistan. The intervention of outside forces by military means will only make the process more complicated and difficult. Empires in geopolitical competition always focus only on their own interests and security – this is one of the reasons they are so deeply trapped in this “graveyard of empires”.
As US troops retreat from Afghanistan, opinion columnist David Brooks published an article titled “The Crisis of American Identity” in the New York Times, in which he said: “We probably won’t. not fighting well for hearts and minds if we see ourselves abandoning our allies in places like Afghanistan. ”
The sentiment expressed by the author vis-à-vis the American withdrawal once again proves three facts. First, the propagation and expansion of Western civilization over the past 500 years relies on the support of the power of capital. The decision to withdraw from the Biden administration is made based on the ability of the United States to know how much it can financially afford to be involved in Afghanistan. Two decades of war in Afghanistan cost the United States more than $ 2 trillion. Over 2,400 American soldiers have been killed and over 20,000 injured.
Second, Brooks regretted that the United States could no longer continue to spread its ideals in Afghanistan. He seems to have deliberately forgotten that the US military diffuses values through wars. During this 20-year war, more than 47,000 Afghans were killed or maimed, according to incomplete statistics. It is even more difficult to count the number of displaced refugees.
Third, to spread faith and beliefs abroad, the United States must strengthen the cohesion of its own beliefs. People will not believe that a United States that is full of sweeping conflict, heavy gunfire, and seeing a growing gap between rich and poor could become a “beacon of faith.” So-called claims that the United States wants to spread faith or universal values are just excuses to cover up the war.
The author is editor-in-chief at People’s Daily and currently a senior researcher at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @dinggangchina