Homeless, Tempest-Tossed

Afghanistan, scattered thoughts

[Addendum: Since publishing this post, I’ve seen news from a friend that someone he knew well has been beheaded, wife and daughter abducted. Remember.]

My first hot take on Afghanistan was that I had no hot take. With everyone and his second cousin suddenly an expert on the business, I doubted mine would be any hotter (or any more relevant) than anyone else’s. So I tweeted that I had nothing original to say. I was just sad. This proved to be exceptionally popular. Apparently many people feel the same way.

Naturally, I would be back with my Actual Right Take, which was something along the lines of “Nation-building was a bad idea, but since we built a thing, and since there were people in that thing who loved us and vice versa, we had duties, which duties we are now shirking, humiliatingly and unconscionably.” A few disagreed with this take, objecting that we owe nothing to people we were helping in the first place.

This, to me, seems to miss the point. Like many people of my generation, I was too young to have much of an opinion on the beginning of the war, but I’ve grown up with a general sense of weariness around the idea of making militaristic investments with diminishing returns. I was never a paleocon, but I thought they sometimes made, er, isolated good points.

But the issue at hand, now, is a very specific issue, namely that we carved out a space and told innocent people it was safe, including our own citizens, including Christian missionaries. If at some point we decided the whole nation-building thing wasn’t working out after all, it was incumbent on us to figure out some way or other of retreating without betraying these numerous innocents. As it is, little as I know, I perceive that the bureaucratic mentality is the only constant in the universe, and we appear to have on our hands a bureaucratic SNAFU of epic proportions. If there was any helpful preemptive measure we could have taken, it appears we went out of our way not to take it. As of yesterday, we were being informed that everything is now under control, though our Pentagon spokesman “would not comment on any arrangement that the United States may have with the Taliban.” Ah.

And the hot takes keep coming, so colossally stupid they numb the mind. There are the “They’ve got a Taliban, we’ve got a Taliban, everyone’s got a Taliban” takes with pictures of January 6th. Then there are the “Well maybe the Taliban aren’t so bad really” takes, going all the way up to the top with the UK’s chief of defense ‘splaining that the Taliban are essentially “country boys,” and yes they have “a code of honor, and a standard,” but “It may well be a Taliban that is more reasonable. It’s less repressive. And indeed, if you look at the way it is governing Kabul at the moment, there are some indications that it is more reasonable.” Which definitely explains why men were literally clinging onto our plane and falling from the sky as it took off from Kabul, and definitely explains why we are now bribing away half the national debt just so that we can evacuate our own diplomats and their families. Meanwhile, Twitter is apparently allowing Taliban fighters to keep posting, as long as they don’t say Laurel Hubbard is a man.

Then, not to be left out, there are the alt-right takes, or if not technically alt-right we could just call them the “generic racist schmuck” takes. These are the sort who can look at the heart-stopping viral photo of about 650 desperate Afghans jammed like sardines into the hold of a cargo plane and say “Raise your hand if you want this plane landing in your neighborhood.” Also spotted in the wild, the “No but seriously, most of these refugees are probably really low IQ” take. And under a tweet unironically celebrating the win of the evacuation with some wholesome speculation about what the children in the picture might grow up to do with their lives, someone countering that probably they would be and do nothing extraordinary. Just wash cars and sell bikes and open small restaurants, or whatever else it is Afghans do in America (we’re not really sure—this is Twitter). Look, I myself have tended to hawkishness on immigration issues. I would also say if these people could build lives for themselves in another neighboring safe country, this would be ideal. But, once again: Now is not the place or the time. Though, really, no time is a good time for takes from those who quietly or openly wish we could just decrease the surplus population of “undesirables.” (A photo-journalist has given his account of that flight to The Guardian, meanwhile.)

There will be those who don’t make it, of course. Most people have probably already read this harrowing Atlantic piece, but it’s a must-read for those who haven’t yet. Some of the things it details are almost blackly comic, like the image of one desperate father and his young family searching for a place to take COVID tests before they can escape from a terrorist coup. I also said on Twitter that some of the best journalism on the crisis at the moment is coming from Christian outlets like WORLD magazine and CBN. This is because explicitly Christian outlets are some of the only outlets that care about what’s happening, and what will happen, to the church in Afghanistan. My heart is heavy for the church as a Christian, but her plight should stir any humane and honest observer. In the past week, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about something a Nigerian Christian once said to me: “For me, it does not matter how I die, only why I die.”

Why, indeed. Pray for Aghanistan, if you are one to pray.