Two decades of post-9/11 warfare are ending with the United States effectively handing back Afghanistan to the same fundamentalist power, the Taliban, that was in control when it started. The war in Iraq, fought on false pretenses, not only distracted from the Afghanistan War but turned into a costly, morale-sapping disaster. A US-led bid to prevent genocide in Libya left anarchy behind. The campaign to crush ISIS in Syria saw the US ultimately deserting America’s Kurdish allies. And ex-President Donald Trump’s whole term alienated America’s friends and offered legitimacy to its autocratic foes. No one is now sure which path Washington will pursue in the world more than four years in advance.
The world is a different, more volatile place than it was after the Cold War. And US military might still offer a security umbrella without which its allies in Europe and Asia cannot thrive. There’s unity on the next big challenge — confronting a rival superpower, China — if little agreement on how to do it.
But the democracy-threatening political and cultural battle tearing America from within has cost the power that guaranteed stability for 70 years, the capacity to exert coherent, consistent leadership in the world.
‘You have been accused of helping the Americans’
The letter underlines the risk that thousands of Afghans have undertaken to help US troops over the past two decades — and contradicts assurances that Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid made last week, as the group tries to project a more moderate image to the world. “Nobody will be harmed in Afghanistan,” Mujahid said. “Of course, there is a huge difference between us now and 20 years ago.”
‘You are not a horse. You are not a cow’
At last, some rare good news on the pandemic.
Of course, the politics of a pandemic that has unleashed an ideological culture war on the right have not abated. More science won’t change minds made up for political reasons. But vaccine rates are rising as the Delta variant rages across the heartland, especially in conservative, Southern states where inoculation rates were low. At a rally in Alabama on Saturday night, even Trump advised fans to get the shot, which his administration helped develop. But boos from his crowd mean he’s unlikely to spend political capital to push vaccines hard.
And get this crazy twist. Following crank “cure” claims for substances like hydroxychloroquine and Trump’s infamous musings on disinfectant, some people have been tempted by ivermectin, a drug used to deworm livestock, which was featured on conservative and social media. While some Americans are loath to take an FDA-approved drug, it seems they’ll happily gobble down medicine for animals.