At the beginning of the summer, we saw many Americans calling for intervention in Cuba, some even calling for airstrikes on Havana. It’s worth noting that Cuba is a majority Mestizo and Black, and those calling for a U.S. invasion of the island are white.
Similarly, Afghanistan is a majority non-white country as are the nations America likes to push around. The negative responses to foreign policy based on forcing Western ways by the barrel of a gun have been loud enough to quickly shut down State Department propaganda in the media.
As soon as Cubans, Caribbean Islanders, Latin Americans, and countless other citizens of nations around the world speak out against the decrepit policy agenda of the U.S., media in the United States goes silent. Even when local news outlets spoke to Afghans in their respective cities, the response was not what they expected. While many showed obvious concern for Afghan women and girls, the overall messaging revolved around the full expectation of a Taliban takeover as soon as the U.S. walked away.
In the 21st century, countries around the world are showing reluctance to reach out to the U.S. for assistance. When nations like China and Russia —who don’t fear sanctions— come to the rescue after the United States imposes economic penalties and embargoes (that only serve to hurt the people of any given nation), policymakers are creating anti-American animus around the world. China’s approach of not getting involved in the internal politics of the countries they financially support has become the preferred method for nations who favor self-determination over having Western life forced upon them.
Citizens around the world want the ability to determine their leaders and elect proper representation but no one wants leaders imposed on them. Something the United States does all too frequently. Looking back at the elections for both Iraq and Afghanistan, their leaders were mostly selected and approved by the U.S. State Department prior to running for office. What American intelligence, the media, policymakers, and pundits all get wrong is assuming other countries want to live in a corrupt capitalist society such as the U.S. and much of Europe.
Arie Perlinger, the Director of Security Studies and Professor of Criminology and Justice Studies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, argues the following: “It may be attractive to think that promoting democracy in occupied foreign countries is a morally justified and effective path for restoring security and stability. But political reform is more successful when it originates from the local societies and political cultures. In Tunisia, for example, local political movements were able to transform their government, a success due in part to a lack of foreign involvement.”
The omission of culture, religion, and different societal makeups is yet another failure born of forcing assimilation to whiteness. Assuming people who live thousands of miles away want anything to do with how we live is both arrogant and one of the biggest drivers of white supremacy overseas. Looking at other so-called wealthy nations abroad who the United States dares not mess with is the only proof anyone needs of other cultures not being interested in our ways of life. And that’s just fine. At least it should be.
The swift takeover of Afghanistan came as no surprise. While every American had something to say about the U.S. military’s withdrawal from the country expressing concern for Afghan women, one has to wonder where all the concern was before recent events. The women of Afghanistan haven’t had it much easier since the U.S. invaded the country. The Taliban has had years to prepare for the nation to be cut loose from Western entanglement and it seems that people on the ground knew Afghanistan would fall as fast as it was taken over.
Gordon Adams, Professor Emeritus from the American University School of International Service, says, “I’d argue that no one who was paying attention should be surprised that the Taliban swept back into Kabul in a nanosecond. Or that a failed enterprise like the Afghan national army collapsed. Army and special operator trainers who went there could see the corruption, the personnel who left in the night and the disdain for corrupt political authorities in that army.”
Americans made their disapproval well known and the overall lack of concern is the biggest factor in the so-called “war on terror” becoming so unpopular. For over a decade, many have expressed their desire to end the war in Afghanistan. Barack Obama promised to end the war by the end of 2016 and withdraw most U.S. forces. Just months after the announcement, the signing of the Afghanistan National Unity Government by Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani took place creating an improvised solution with assistance from Secretary John Kerry.
As the Taliban patiently waited for years to commit to a full takeover of the country, the Trump administration empowered them and gave them plenty of time to develop their strategy. The deal between the Trump administration and the Taliban left the government out, sending a mixed message to the Afghan people. In February 2020, Trump stated, “Time for someone else to do that work and it will be the Taliban and it could be surrounding countries.” Ghani also stated that Afghans were “looking forward to a full ceasefire.”
Despite the failures of his predecessors, the fall of Afghanistan to the enemy rests solely on Trump’s shoulders. Retired Naval Chief Warrant Officer Jim Wright writes, “As soon as it became certain that he would have to leave office, Trump ordered American forces out of Afghanistan. Trump and Pompeo invited the Taliban to Camp David—not the actual government of Afghanistan and our alleged allies, but the Taliban. And he turned thousands of Taliban prisoners loose, one of which is now the de facto president of Afghanistan.”
The Trump administration subverted the Afghan government and struck a deal with terrorists, releasing 5,000 fighters and some of the most well-known and difficult to apprehend Taliban leaders. Mr. “I know better than anyone else” showed the level of incompetence in the Trump White House. Ignoring intelligence to deliver on one of his campaign promises and undermine the incoming president. Not because it was Joe Biden but because he lost. He would have done the same thing to anyone that wasn’t him.
Women in Afghanistan have struggled throughout the last 20 years despite what media pundits say. As Abdulkader Sinno, Associate Professor of Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies at Indiana University, points out, “The situation of women and children in Afghanistan has not improved much. The rate of maternal mortality, with 1.6 women dying for every 100 births, has hardly budged since the Taliban ruled in the late 1990s. On the other hand, more women joined the labor force and more children, particularly girls, have had access to primary education in the past 20 years. Still, only 1 in 10 Afghan children finish high school.”
Something no wannabe foreign policy expert has spoken out on until last week.
We can assign blame for the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan 20 years after we sent them running to the hills until we’re blue in the face. Could Biden have done more to protect U.S. civilians and the Afghans who helped U.S. troops? Absolutely. Logistically, we should have been more prepared for the troop exit from Afghanistan. But the reality is, Trump purposely tied Biden’s hands forcing him to contend with the Taliban and watch the Afghan government fall.
Additionally, U.S. foreign policy of forcing how we live on others needs to change. If you can’t hear the rest of the world standing up to corporate-driven imperialist policies, you’re not listening. The narratives provided by U.S. media are lies by omission. The stories they tell are purposely pro-U.S. regardless of what foreign nationals think. As with Cuba, the calls for humanitarian assistance with COVID were drowned out by far-right rhetoric demanding some form of U.S. intervention. This effort to silence the real story was perpetrated by every big media outlet regardless of their political leanings in a show of how the State Department operates.
Even now, after America’s failures in wars from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans are calling for similar actions in Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba to which the citizens of those countries balk at. Yes, the regimes in these countries are oppressive. But Cubans, for example, support their government more than U.S. interventionism. No one in any of the above-mentioned countries is interested in going to war with their own people at the behest of U.S. corporate interests powered by the U.S. military-industrial complex. Yes, people around the world hate us that much.
And that’s something Americans must come to terms with.
Arturo Domínquez is a first-generation Cuban American father of three young men, an anti-racist, journalist, and publisher of The Antagonist Magazine. If you’d like to learn more about the issues covered here, follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can also support his work here and here.