I’m pretty sure that long before American troops set foot in the mountains of Afghanistan, that the people of that country already suffered from post-traumatic-stress-disorder. Another ten years of war stacked on top of the decades of war and theocratic tyranny there has only made matters worse.
When we talk about the failure of the American military to do things like improve maternal mortality rates, or build schools, or significantly improve the lives of Afghanistan’s population, we miss a larger point: we didn’t even have ruins to rebuild when we came there, and we’ve done little more than spread rubble since we arrived.
The Taliban were and remain monstrous and I shed no tears at their upheaval. Same for Al Qaeda. But the Taliban took power in the first place was because that country was already shattered when they got there . They took advantage of a power vacuum. The uneasy peace between the Taliban and the warlords was the first real stability the country knew since the Russians invaded, and a brutal stability can sometimes be better than the chaos it replaces – or at least a tempting bargain.
What we’ve done is bring back the chaos. Maybe our intentions are noble. Maybe we really would like to bring in people and cash to help pave some way toward a functioning civil society there, but it’s becoming more and more apparent that this is just fantasy.
We hear pundits talk about all the good things Americans have done in Afghanistan, how certain living standards have improved. I can’t help but think it’s an illusion and transient and doomed. You don’t rebuild a society that was never built to begin with. You certainly don’t do it with bombs and drones and American and Afghan lives.
This latest massacre of Afghan civilians at the hands of an American soldier is just a symptom of a larger problem. How many of our troops there are suffering from mental illness? Drug addiction? Something like two thirds of the country itself is said to suffer from some form of stress-related mental illness. I can’t imagine anybody there isn’t suffering some form of PTSD, from the orphans to the politicians. Roadside bombs are indiscriminate. Nobody can look at this mess and see some hopeful outcome. Either Americans stay forever and the war rages on or the Americans leave and the power vacuum opens up.
No good will come of either option.
(image via Wikipedia)