Predictable instability: Afghanistan
United States failure or ethnos history?
Several days have passed since the moment when the Taliban took control over the entire territory of Afghanistan. World community is discussing the current event in every possible way, but the prevailing opinion is that it was the largest geopolitical defeat for the United States in recent years.
Indeed, the longest war in American history did not end brilliantly. The footage of falling Afghanians from the American plane, who desperately want to save from Taliban has gone around the world and cause understandable horror. In just one week, the long-term efforts of the four administrations became worthless, costing American taxpayers nearly $2 trillion (Forbes, 2021). Taliban got warehouses of modern weapons, a 300 000-strong army that went over to their side and renewed military bases. The press is full of comparisons of this situation with the defeat in Vietnam in 1975 — the most difficult episode of post-war American history. I would say that the current failure is even more painful: back then America opposed almost the entire communist bloc, and now only to one radical religious group.
Third world country?
It seems to me that the West (and the USSR in the 1980s) were seriously mistaken precisely in assessing the modernization potential of Islamic societies. Nowadays, you can often find photographs of students of Kabul and Tehran universities of the 1960s in short skirts drinking coffee in city cafes.
But the history of the late 20th century illustrated that elites of Afghanistan began to lead an attempt to find the country self-identity through a return to original cultural and social structure. Moreover, even the general public began to find this cultural step back as a perfect solution to fight Western modernity.
Only a few Muslim countries that have made significant progress in modernization — such as the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait or Bahrain, and in Southeast Asia Malaysia — did not turn to a conservative Muslim identity in those years. At the same time, the West (in the broadest sense of the word, including Israel and the Soviet Union) made political Islam, as it were, a trend that defends itself from external forces by its foreign policy — and the more significant the external modernization pressure was, the stronger the opposition also became.
The time has long come to leave this region “alone”, giving its peoples the right to live as they want; the main task of the United States, EU, Russia and all other developed countries is to protect their own citizens, and not build modern nations where they cannot exist.
There is another important point: many who have seen footage of Afghans who do not want to live under the Taliban say that the United States and its allies should not have abandoned their associates the way they did. One can agree with this — now the image of America as a reliable ally has been seriously compromised for a long time.
We know that in recent years more than 5 million people, almost 1/6 of the population, have immigrated or fled from Afghanistan. It is common to characterise refugees as “old people, children and women,” but this is not the case. The largest cohort is males between the age of 18 and 50; the elderly among Afghan refugees around the world is about 2%. These couple of million men, who apparently did not want to live under the Taliban, could stand up to its successes with arms in hand — but they preferred to solve their own problems, not the country’s problems.
The same applies to Syria and Algeria, and to many African countries mired in dictatorship and corruption. Therefore, I will express a seditious thought: if the West wants the global periphery to be more “civilized”, it is unlikely that millions of refugees from disadvantaged countries should be accepted. If these people, long before August 15, 2021, had realized that their future could only get better together with the future of their own country, they would probably have acted a little differently.
Never-ending love story
The Afghan story didn’t end last weekend. The war did not end, the conflicts did not end, the confrontation between traditions and the desire for change did not end. And so we all need to comprehend what happened to avoid the same mistakes.
Actually, such ethnic trends are seen all around the globe. In Latin America, born of the caudillo Bolivar, all countries revolve around caudilism as a system — some at what stage richer, some poorer. China, going through the most severe crises and stubbornly returns to the Confucian system of “many rules — many officials — obedient people.” Western Europe, which arose 1500 years ago with the mixing of the Roman ethnos with the Germanic tribes, either falls into tribal leaderism (similar to the Roman imperial period, oddly enough), then builds two-party systems and gravitates towards the triumph of law and democracy on the Roman model. Russia has always been a country of one man and dictatorship and every attempt to build democracy failed.
So when you see the Taliban taking over control all over again, do not be surprised that the US mission was unsuccessful. History has a great characteristic — it repeats itself.