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The Return of the Taliban
Reflections on what it means to be a leftist
The withdrawal of American military power meant the return of the rule of the Taliban.
That presents a dilemma for a leftism which opposes the use of American military power but also is concerned about a country of 37 million human beings becoming subjected to the rule of an organization that stands against any, and possibly literally every, value any leftist would endorse.
But if the rule of the Taliban is so inimical to anything a leftist would value, why is this a dilemma at all?
For President Biden, as president he is obligated to weigh all kinds of prudential matters, such as cost and the national interest, as opposed to taking a stand purely on the moral concern for the lives of the people of Afghanistan. But what leftist is willing to say the people of Afghanistan should be subjected to such rule simply because of the cost?
Most have simply refused to confront the stark choice the withdrawal presented: American power backing up a weak, but real, civil society—or the rule of the Taliban. The national leadership of the DSA wrote: “The collapse of the government in Afghanistan and capture of Kabul by the Taliban showcased the destruction caused by US interventionism.”
The US intervention, however flawed, offered a respite from the rule of the Taliban. This the DSA national leadership cannot confront, because it wants to both oppose American power and to think it is absolved of any moral responsibility for the return of the Taliban to power.
Rep. Barbara Lee, retweeted by Rep. AOC, implied the US is responsible for the rise of the Taliban in the first place. That’s not true, but worse, if it were true, the conclusion should then be that the US has even more responsibility to stay and to do something about it.
Another example: Ben Rhodes said: “Look at the countries in which the war on terror has been waged…Afghanistan. Iraq. Yemen. Somalia. Libya. Every one of those countries is worse off today in some fashion.”
Afghanistan was better off without the rule of the Taliban. People returned. They’re fleeing again now.
I ask again: What is the dilemma here? There could be prudential reasons it was necessary to withdraw, but then the decision would be tragically necessary, not simply “courageous,” as Rep. AOC described it.
So the question remains: why is this a dilemma for the left? Why could the left not express the simple moral solidarity of wanting Afghanistan to be free of the rule of the Taliban?
The answer is partly historical, given the left wasn’t always quite so one-sided, but the dilemma strikes me as so stark and obvious that something deeper is going on here.
Perhaps the left doesn’t value what it claims to value. Perhaps ideological abstractions like anti-Americanism demand leftists be for the withdrawal, and so lives are sacrificed on the altar to prove how righteous they are.
Most telling: they will be more angry at me for saying that than they are at the extinguishing of civil society in Afghanistan and Hong Kong and other places outside the American defense umbrella.
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