Resistance, And Reactance

With a hat-tip to Bill Vallicella, we have an essay by David Gelernter on the “Resistance” to Donald Trump, a term embraced even by some “conservatives”.

We read:

I’d love for him to be a more eloquent, elegant speaker. But if I had to choose between deeds and delivery, it wouldn’t be hard. Many conservative intellectuals insist that Mr. Trump’s wrong policies are what they dislike. So what if he has restarted the large pipeline projects, scrapped many statist regulations, appointed a fine cabinet and a first-rate Supreme Court justice, asked NATO countries to pay what they owe, re-established solid relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia, signaled an inclination to use troops in Afghanistan to win and not merely cover our retreat, led us out of the Paris climate accord, plans to increase military spending (granted, not enough), is trying to get rid of ObamaCare to the extent possible, proposed to lower taxes significantly and revamp immigration policy and enforcement? What has he done lately?

Conservative thinkers should recall that they helped create President Trump. They never blasted President Obama as he deserved. Mr. Obama’s policies punished the economy and made the country and its international standing worse year by year; his patronizing arrogance drove people crazy. He was the perfect embodiment of a one-term president. The tea-party outbreak of 2009-10 made it clear where he was headed. History will record that the press saved him. Naturally the mainstream press loved him, but too many conservative commentators never felt equal to taking him on. They had every reason to point out repeatedly that Mr. Obama was the worst president since Jimmy Carter, surrounded by a left-wing cabinet and advisers, hostile to Israel, crazed regarding Iran, and even less competent to deal with the issues than Mr. Carter was—which is saying plenty.

But they didn’t say plenty. They didn’t say much at all. The rank and file noticed and got mad. Even their supposed champions didn’t grasp what life under Mr. Obama was like—a man who was wrecking the economy while preaching little sermons, whose subtext was always how smart he was, how dumb they were, and how America was full of racist clods, dangerous cops and infantile nuts who would go crazy if they even heard the words “Islamic terrorism.” So the rank and file was deeply angry and elected Mr. Trump.

Read the whole thing here.

One point of disagreement: it should be obvious by now that the notion that we are ever going to “win” in Afghanistan, which has for centuries been the graveyard of empires, is an arm-chair fantasy, a universalist’s pipe-dream. Fourteen years into this pointless and impossible war, what, exactly, do we imagine we will “win”?

Eight years ago, on the morrow of then-President Obama’s announcement of a new troop buildup in this untameable place, I wrote:

The problem is that the situation is impossible; there simply are no good options. Never have I felt more pessimistic.

In brief:

If we leave, the Taliban will overrun the country again, al-Qaeda will set up shop as before, and nuclear-armed Pakistan will totter. The world will know, with certainty this time, that America (and the West generally) is a fickle ally that has no real stomach for a fight. As night falls, those in Afghanistan who have put their trust in us will find they have backed the wrong horse, and they will pay. The brave women and girls who have risked all just to go to school, to read a book — and who have been, for their trouble, beaten and murdered and burned with acid — will be ground into dust.

If we stay, we will never “win”. Afghanistan will be our tar-baby forever. We will never install a functioning democracy there, or a government free of corruption, or a reliable military dedicated to its preservation: these things cannot be done, any more than you can teach wolves to knit, or make butter from stones. We will fight and spend and bleed and die there forever.

Recognizing that we are now of modest means, and so cannot afford to hold our tar-baby forever, we have announced that we will begin leaving in the middle of 2011. This makes things easy for the Taliban, who have all the time in the world; they simply need to harass us patiently for 18 months, and then, as we step back, they will step forward.

We fight an enemy that is utterly unafraid to die, but we, good souls that we truly are, are afraid to kill. Our military is by far — by light-years — the strongest, best-trained, best-equipped, most sophisticated fighting force the world has ever seen; no enemy on Earth could hope to face us in full-scale conflict and live. But no army has ever won a war this way. Neither will we.

So: We have three options, none good:

A) We can leave now. B) We can stay and bleed forever. C) We can stay and bleed for 18 months, then leave anyway. (The fourth option, to cry “Havoc!”, and unleash our colossal war machine in all its incandescent fury, is not an option.)

Envelope, please?

C) it is.

I was mistaken about one thing. We appear to have chosen B).

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  1. JK says


    Posted August 5, 2017 at 5:34 pm | Permalink
  2. Magus says

    “Winning” if defined as “Afghanistan resembles something like Switzerland” is impossible (short of genocide).

    “Winning” defined as stability as trivial cost (Heck profit) is trivial. Do the Erik Prince and appoint a de facto colonial governor:

    But that will never happen because progs/Cathedral won’t allow it.

    So, winning is impossible.

    Posted August 6, 2017 at 5:25 am | Permalink
  3. Whitewall says

    “But that will never happen because progs/Cathedral won’t allow it.”
    Even if this model was allowed a try, any success beyond what the Pentagon managed would be cut short by Washington. Can’t have that sort of thing as it makes Washington look bad.

    Aside…I remember Blackwater from a few years back when they were HQ’d in eastern North Carolina–a desolate steamy hot corner near the Great Dismal Swamp. You had to want to go there unless you were lost.

    Posted August 6, 2017 at 6:59 am | Permalink
  4. Bluefin Tuna says

    We have already punished the Taliban pretty harshly for their sponsorship of Bin Laden. If we left, and they did take over the country again, would they really be stupid enough to go back to hosting Anti-American terrorist groups? With a national average IQ of 84, and a native culture so warped and dysfunctional that Sharia law represents an improvement, I guess it’s quite possible they would, but given the costs of remaining, there’s no disadvantage in our taking the chance. We can always go back and smack them around some more if they’re dumb enough to sponsor our enemies us a second time. Blasting their country to smithereens once every ten years is much easier and more efficient than occupying it continuously for a hundred or more.

    Posted August 8, 2017 at 4:33 pm | Permalink