|Pic courtesy Al Jazeera|
Some elements of the old joke hold in relation to Afghanistan, but the good news pales somewhat in relation to the cost of the twenty year commitment.
We lost forty-one Australian soldiers, and that will always be the greatest cost. The damage done to all who served there, and the aftermath of the defeat also comes at enormous cost.
Frankly, the reputation of the US is neither here nor there. That reputation was permanently damaged in March 2003 when the Neocons invaded Iraq on a lie in order to "get square" for 9/11. What was David Kilcullen's reaction?
There has always been something entirely childish about US responses to terrorism, which in the final analysis, ensures that it will continue to be a problem into the future. Arrogance and ignorance creates its own issues.
All presidents since Bush have been trying to extract the US military from Afghanistan, and it would not have mattered in the long run who was in the White House when it happened. The fact that the deal that Trump "negotiated" included no consultation with the people or government of Afghanistan is more than a little responsible for the chaos we have seen during the last week or two.
But there is some good news.
No more American or Australians will die in Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan we know now is a very different country from what it was twenty years ago. There is a generation of young Afghans who have known a different experience.
Afghani women know a different way of life, and most young women have had some experience of schooling.
How these changes will play out will depend on a whole heap of imponderables, most of them poorly understood by westerners.
There is very little we can do about it, so pragmatic optimism is as viable as despair.
What is absolutely essential is that we don't treat Afghanistan veterans in the same shabby manner as Vietnam veterans were treated, until they took reconciliation into their own hands with the 1987 Welcome Home march.
The other essential is that we treat Afghan refugees as generously as we treated the Vietnamese in the late seventies and early eighties. Since the poisonous atmosphere created by the Tampa incident in August 2001, I sincerely doubt that possibility.