Philosophically Speaking; Maybe the Afghan People Don't Want The US Version of Freedom



Written By: Anton Sawyer

Taliban Fighters on a Truck in Kabul, August 17 2021
Taliban Fighters on a Truck in Kabul, August 17 2021 VOA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Everything you are about to read is all a philosophical viewpoint. I've done this before (Philosophically Speaking, The DNC Could Be The More "Evil" Of The Political Parties), and if you read that piece, you will know that though I may use some facts to back up my assertions, these are all just observations.


As such, it’s important to get a few things straight off the bat. I completely understand the counterpoint to my argument. I get that almost any level of the freedoms we enjoy in America being given to a country that has been embroiled in strife for so long would exponentially lift the human rights that are missing from that part of the world.


This article is also going to be devoid of finger-pointing. I’m not going to rip into Biden about the entire Afghanistan debacle of 2021. I’m also not going to say something like “Republican X engaged with foreign nation Y, and this led to outcome Z,” either. This is about the psychology behind what can lead an entire army to fall to a less superior force in every conceivable way in such a quick fashion. But first, I need to introduce you to the story of Army Officer Roger Goodfellow*, and his story about being involved with the invading of Iraq.

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I met Roger as a teenager while working in outbound sales for a film company. We were the same age and had the same sense of humor. Within the first hour of meeting each other, we formed a close friendship. His level of importance in my life cannot be understated. He wanted to make something out of his life. About six years into our friendship, he joined the Army, and we unfortunately lost contact for a couple of years. One evening while feeling nostalgic, I played “Where Are They Now?”—Facebook edition. I stumbled on Roger’s page and found that after two tours in Iraq, he had returned and lived less than 10 miles from where I did. I got in contact, and we set up a date to meet for lunch and catch up. The stories he shared were mind-blowing. From combat zones to watching IEDs blowing up in front of him less than 100 yards away. His platoon was one of those who got to spend the night in Saddam Hussein’s palace—with gold toilets and the like, every bit of opulence that comes to mind was present. Eventually, I asked him how long he thought the United States would be in the Middle East in general (it was around 2007 at this time). His answer chilled me to the core.


“Forever.”


When I asked what he meant, he explained how different war is perceived in that part of the world. In the US, we go to war with an objective. World War II: kill Hitler, stop the spread of the Nazi ideology, bring the troops home. Operation Desert Storm in the early ’90s: assist our Kurdish and other allies in the removal of Hussein’s occupation, get the troops home. When it comes to almost every Middle Eastern country, the terrorists don’t think in those terms at all; they see conflict as generational. He went on by telling me tales of seeing young boys being indoctrinated in every way possible. This was done so as soon as they were physically able to, they would be able to join the front lines. This is why the Soviet-Afghan war went on for so over a decade, with the Soviet Army eventually fleeing. There were between two or three generations involved in the conflict … especially when the conflict turned to guerilla warfare. Roger told me that during his service in Iraq, there were at least two generations he encountered fighting overseas.


In terms Americans could more easily digest would be this:

  • You join the Army.

  • You go to war in another country for half of a decade.

  • When you return you take the children you have (or make some if you don’t have any), and train them as soon as possible into the nuances of battle against a specific enemy.

  • You train them until they can carry a gun, and then join them in battle when you return with them to the front lines.


One of the most telling statements regarding the thought of generational war was reiterated recently by Carter Malkasian, a longtime Afghanistan observer and author of “The American War in Afghanistan. When explaining what caused such a dramatic fall in the Afghan army, he pointed to a few different factors. The chronic challenges that plagued the Afghan military from the outset, from illiteracy to corruption to incompetence to one of the key problems: a lack of faith in the Kabul government. Knowing this lack of faith in said government, the Taliban leaped. "It animated the Taliban. It sapped the will of Afghan soldiers and police. When they clashed, Taliban were more willing to kill and be killed than soldiers and police, at least a good number of them," Malkasian said. Even with these apparent deficiencies, the fall of the country was still stunning to many, including the Pentagon's top military officer, Gen. Mark Milley. He told reporters in August 2021 that the US intelligence community estimated that if US forces withdrew, it would be weeks, months, even years before the Afghan military fell to the Taliban. Instead, it was just 11 days. But taking what we know about the Taliban’s training tactics, the Afghan army knew in the backs of their minds that even if they defeated the forces that were approaching at that time, in 5 to 10 years there’s just going to be another (younger) wave that’s even more ruthless that they’ll have to defeat. I think it’s knowing how warfare looks in that area, that there’s a bit of the “devil you know” going on.

I do not think anyone over in Afghanistan, or anywhere in the Middle East where human oppression is the “du jour,” has Stockholm Syndrome in any way. Whenever I have seen the news of when a terrorist regime takes over a government, the people are there cheering and hugging the jihadists. Stockholm typically manifests as a “love” for their captors. In these areas of constant war, there is no love, only fleeing. With that said, I do think there is such a palpable terror thereof the unknown—including the freedoms America is trying to “bestow” on those nations.


Everyone who has been in, or known someone who's been in, a toxic relationship knows where I am coming from. The couples who yell, who scream, cry, call the police on each other, etc. the number one question everyone asks is why they stay together. Fear of the unknown. Just like the American people embraced the Patriot Act after 9/11. I know that there is a massive difference between some hacker-for-hire NSA creep trying to mass-search every citizen emails for naked pictures, and the slaughtering of the tens of thousands of innocents. But the very real fear of the unknown comes from the same emotional place in the human brain, the amygdala. That kind of fear makes the irrational seem completely rational. That’s why I don’t think it matters whether it’s freedom, human rights, food, shelter, that is being offered. The fear of the unknown and potential retribution that will come in a generation or so against you or your family for accepting anything from anyone will make a person think twice. What is happening in Afghanistan as the fall of 2021 approaches is horrific. The death, fear, turmoil, none of it is good. And I don’t want to say that we should just let whoever run amok in that region either, that will help no one. What I am saying though is that if the US is going to continue to fight wars in the Middle East, we need to understand that this mentality is as important to the boots on the ground as anything else.


*name changed to protect the innocent

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