The Last Crusade

Virtually nothing about the Afghanistan War was inadvertent.

August 26, 2021, was not a good day for America. On that date in Kabul, a suicide bomber killed thirteen U.S. troops supporting hastily arranged evacuation operations from Hamid Karzai International Airport. An estimated 170 Afghans also died. 

August 26 was also not a good day for foreign policy analyst Robert Kagan. On that date, Kagan published a column in the Washington Post in which he offered an upbeat assessment of the ongoing Global War on Terrorism. Disregarding the torrent of bad news pouring in from Afghanistan, Kagan wrote that despite “inevitably mixed and uncertain results,” the overall enterprise “has been successful—astoundingly so.” 

Kagan was perplexed that others might entertain a different view. “Why does every American setback have to be a morality tale,” he wondered, “a search for scapegoats and an indictment of American foreign policy in general?” Why, he asked, had disappointments in Afghanistan “been treated by so many as a tale of sin and hubris?” That the war on terror had “come to be viewed as a symptom and for some the source of much of America’s troubles today” was altogether mystifying. 

That same day, retired Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, a distinguished army officer who served a brief, unhappy term as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, appeared on MSNBC to offer his own assessment of the Afghanistan War. Unlike Kagan, McMaster was not going to pretend that the war’s outcome was anything other than a humiliating defeat. 

Read the full article in The American Conservative.