For LR1

It is interesting that they call the various academic fields "disciplines," just as you say. Fencing, horseback riding, but also the more intense disciplines make a very fine companion to academic study. 

Hurricane Damage

Hurricane Fred rolled over us last week, dumping a massive amount of rain and wind on the mountains. I cleared a fallen tree with a chainsaw and worked a medical call, and the dirt roads are pretty badly washed out up here, but it was not too bad. However, in the middle of the storm we got an emergency alert that anyone along the Pigeon River should head to higher ground immediately -- even though it meant leaving shelter in the storm. I went through that valley today, and I can see why. 

I passed a barn that had floated off its foundation and that was deposited by the roadside some distance away. Cars were overturned by the flooding. Crops were destroyed. The water at Sunrise Falls in the mountains got so intense as to fill the whole culvert, overflow the bridge, and destroy the whole side of the mountain on the other side.

US 276, a Federal Highway, is closed at the intersection of NC 215 and 110. The local Sheriff's department is stopping every traveler to ask where they're going and to try to suggest a route that might still get them there eventually. Many of those alternative routes are closed as well, but most people out here have 4x4s and can handle a washed-out road. The cops are suggesting officially closed roads and ignoring people using them if they're able. Where bridges are out, it's a bigger deal.

Power is out, water is out, roads are out. It must have been an unimaginable amount of water that came down through there that day.

“The Black Face of White Supremacy”

Can you people not hear yourselves?

Against Cultural Imperialism

Jamaicans are upset with America's embassy for pushing gay pride on their country.

Trusting the Taliban

As the President of the United States abruptly ended and fled from his press conference on Afghanistan, a reporter yelled out the question: "Why do you continue to trust the Taliban, Mr. President?"

It's an excellent question. One of the problems with the Biden administration's "strategy" of trusting the Taliban is that the Taliban forces are irregulars. Even if a Taliban leader promises something, he has no mechanism to ensure the forces on the ground know about his promise -- let alone abide by it. Even if the leaders that the State Department are talking with are sincere, they aren't able to discipline their forces well enough to ensure compliance. 

The situation is bad enough that even ABC News and NPR are turning on the administration. CNN is allowing their in-country correspondent to point out that the evacuation ground to a halt overnight, Qatar is refusing to take any more refugees, and that there is simply no way that they will be able to evacuate the planned numbers in the allotted time.

Their tribal ties persist, but they are under intense strain because of the horror the administration's actions have provoked. You can tell that CNN Correspondent Clarissa Ward thinks of herself as part of the team: even in her hostile interview with John Kirby, she speaks as 'the one who has to look them [i.e. Afghans] in the eyes,' meaning that she feels she is in a way a spokesperson or a symbol of the American administration. Yet she is doing her best to tell the truth, and being genuinely brave in a situation that very suddenly became unstable. 

Meanwhile, a new report shows that the Biden administration promised allies we would leave a stabilizing force in Afghanistan as recently as June. Even the British were given no warning that we had changed our minds and were pulling the rug out. 

Also, the Pentagon is openly contradicting the President on the facts on the ground. The Pentagon is being honest: al Qaeda is definitely still there, contra what the President told the press, and Americans are definitely not getting to the airport without difficulty. They're admitting that Americans are being beaten by the Taliban's forces and driven back in some cases.

It's not clear if Biden has lost his mind or is simply lying, but even his own appointees and favorites among the press can no longer stand to lie for him. That suggests the end is near for his Presidency.

Luke 22:36 / Havamal 38

Elite Education

My own has not been elite, but public state school, except for two years. In the early 1990s I attended the Paideia School in Atlanta for my last two years of high school, and that is very much a feeder school for elite education (although my family could not afford to send me to such). The youth I encountered there were completely different from anyone I had ever known before; the education included exposure to the progenitors of Critical Race Theory, and Critical Theory in general, to alternative religions including Wicca (then a tiny minority, now bigger than Presbyterianism), and of course to intense forms of feminism. 

So I read this essay from Swarthmore with a kind of interest. He is arguing that elite education is, on its own terms, despicable and impermissible. 
Surely there is no credible theory of social justice, or at least no view that would attract Swarthmore professors, according to which it could count as just to spend so much more on educating our students than on the rest of their cohort. In a just world, a college like Swarthmore simply wouldn’t exist. The mere possibility would be regarded as obscene.

Well, indeed: this is what the Marxists (or Hegelians) would call an internal contradiction, the sort that will ultimately force you to evolve to a new plane of understanding. But all of reality is supposed to be like that, if you read Hegel.

He's read Marx, anyway.

On my first day of teaching at Swarthmore I was asked if I would serve as faculty adviser for the Conservative Society. This came as a surprise. I was just about to publish a book called Plato as Critical Theorist, my job talk had been about the ideal of socialism and I had recently voted for Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. Did the students know something I didn’t? The answer was yes. They knew that student societies can only exist if they have a faculty adviser, for one thing, but they also knew there was no one else they could ask. The fact that I had written an article called “Why Conservatives Should Read Marx” was sufficient to demonstrate my interest in engaging with conservative ideas and, given the political climate at Swarthmore, that was all they felt they could ask for. “You could give us a critical eye on our activities,” the society’s president wrote, “and help us come up with hard questions for our guest speakers and for ourselves.” I worried about my reputation on campus but decided I couldn’t let the students down.

Good for you. It's a start. 

It's a hard question, though. There really aren't any schools for ordinary people that are even capable of aspiring to the level of education you'd want in whomever you put in charge. There should be; Catholic schools should teach Aquinas and Aristotle, and even Avicenna and Maimonides. They should be able to train you in the modern and Enlightenment theories without committing to them, showing you where they are strong and where they might be weak. 

Ultimately the goal has to be training those few of the ordinary people's children who have both the interest and the aptitude, that they might be raised to the Guardians (as Plato put it -- and in no way endorsing Plato's totalitarian model). The governing system needs to be voluntary, so that no one makes money off of command of others. You have to make your money off of service to others. That's the only moral way, the only way to avoid the corruption that Weber points out is a necessary feature of constant government (see the archives on Weber). 

This is also Aristotle's insight, re: his decision that only the middle class can be trusted with political power because they'll want to politics to the bare minimum so they can get back to earning their living on their private economic activity.

Yet someone ultimately must exercise political power, even if as a volunteer; and they need to be virtuous, and they need to be educated. The elite generally are not virtuous because, for reasons of their class, they live in luxury and ease. Virtue requires practice, and practicing in circumstances of hardship. It cannot be cultivated to a great deal in luxury.

But education requires ease, as Plato and Aristotle note: you cannot sit and study if you must work all the time. The elite thus easily build a surplus of education, but a deficit of virtue as compared to ordinary people.

A strenuous education was Plato's response: put them to hard training, military training, so that they cannot avoid developing the difficult virtues. Yet they will also be subject to education, and provided just enough ease for that. Theodore Roosevelt argues for the strenuous life on similar terms, although he was himself too much an elite to understand how his beloved cowboys were unlikely to have the leisure to grasp Plato at length.

It is a very difficult matter. Some combination of hardship -- war, ideally, if Aristotle is right; training for war at least, if Plato is right -- and leisure has to be made available, and for everyone who shows the potential to understand. Yet the hard work also has to be done; firewood has to be cut, or pipelines run; water must be carried from the river or the well, or plumbing maintained.

We have not reached any kind of ideal. Rule by the educated is enervating because they lack virtue. It is what is killing our society right now. Rule by the virtuous is right and proper, but they also need not to be ignorant of the knowledge that the wise of endless generations have produced. That requires education, of some kind and to some degree.

Pause and reflect on this. 

Goodnight, Sonny Chiba

The martial arts film star has died at 82. Quentin Tarantino was impressed with him; not only was he featured in Kill Bill (Volume One), as noted, his Street Fighter films were introduced in the opening scene of True Romance (an underappreciated movie). Here are some of those scenes.

He might also have been influential in William Gibson's choice to set the opening of his breakthrough novel, Neuromancer, in Chiba City. 

West's Founding XI: Honor and Shame in Politics

This is an underappreciated area of philosophy, though it is where I have spent an awful lot of my time. West points out that political power is insufficient to actually govern, and as such that what the Founders called the "law of fashion" (see prior posts) ends up being the most important law of all. What people happen to honor, or are willing to shame, ends up governing a great deal more of human behavior than the positive law -- and can even alter whether or not the positive law can be enforced, or upon whom, as we saw in the non-prosecution of last year's BLM riots (versus the objectively similar behavior on display on 6 January, which are being aggressively prosecuted because of the comparatively unfashionable nature of the perpetrators).

West points out that politics not only ends up depending on these forms, it can influence them as well. Funeral orations, speeches in general, the granting of and celebration of military awards and decorations, and political symbolism are all ways of using honors to hold up ideals for aspiration. West has an extended discussion of the Great Seal of the United States that intends to show how the Founders held up the Roman model as a kind of ideal, and likened their project especially to Virgil's heroic treatment of the founding of Rome. 

To some degree this underlines a problem with this approach, which is that fashions change and therefore honors of prior generations wash out. The Founders may well have been just as careful in their construction of the symbolism of the Great Seal as he says; and perhaps it had their intended message, down to the untranslated Latin references to Virgil, in their own generation. No one except a few specialists now reads Virgil in Latin; almost no one reads Virgil at all. The symbolism is lost, the honors are not noticed, and the symbol now looks just like a weird pyramid with an all-seeing-eye atop it.

Similarly, the fashion of respect passed that caused the daughters and granddaughters of Civil War Veterans to erect so many monuments to their fathers and grandfathers at the close of those mens' lives -- the great period of Civil War monuments is 1900-1920, when a youth of 20 in 1860 would have been 60 to 80 years old. The Daughters of the Confederacy knew their fathers and grandfathers, as did the parallel Union organizations. They honored them as much for the men they had been later in life, acting as fathers and grandfathers, as for what they did in the great and terrible moments of their youth. But they also honored that, because they had grown up hearing the stories of sacrifice and suffering from their elders. 

None living today knew the men, nor heard their stories from them. And so, to us, the monuments -- which are honors -- are important only for our own purposes. Few of us care for them even for their historical interest; almost none care for honor itself so much as to revere the impulse to honor one's elders for its own sake. Therefore our present generation destroys such monuments for their own internal reasons, honoring themselves instead (and not apparently even caring whose monuments they are, or what they did, as witnessed by the destruction of monuments to Lincoln and Grant as well as Lee and Stonewall Jackson). 

These are titanic matters of the first importance to human society; few understand how powerful or how deep they are. West's chapter is a little dry, but at least its presence shows that he is cognizant that it is a topic that deserves discussion. 


Lee Smith and Rod Dreher are making an explosive charge about the CIA's operations in Afghanistan.

The reality is that America lost its war in Afghanistan more than a decade ago, roughly around the time when CIA officers began bribing aging warlords with Viagra. The Americans knew all about the young boys the tribal leaders kept in their camps; because the sex drug helped Afghan elders rape more boys more often, they were beholden to America’s clandestine service. Losing Afghanistan then is the least of it. When you choose to adopt a foreign cohort’s cultural habits, customs for which the elders of your own tribe would ostracize and perhaps kill you, you have lost your civilization.

This is part of an overarching analysis of why the American elite has comprehensively failed, and why the barbarians in Afghanistan found them easy to beat. 

Dreher warns that he thinks the likely outcome is a totalitarian system, such as the one that replaced the Russian Empire after the fall of the Tsars. I think that's wrong; the totalitarians are the ones in the elite now. What's likely here -- as R. E. Howard wrote -- is likewise the return of barbarism. Our barbarians are healthier, though: strong, honest, and with a love of liberty enforced with arms. 

The French, Too

Under the commander in chief, our military is less daring and capable than French police. C’est dommage

That Was Four Days Ago, Five

People are pointing out that it was only two days ago — Monday — when Afghans desperate to flee the Taliban were falling to their deaths from American planes. Fair; apparently the President has lost track of time. 

In two or three days, though, it will have been four or five days ago. Had he given the answer then, when it was accurate, it would have been a horrible thing to say. How can you trivialize this, least of all by suggesting that the passage of a few days should put us beyond it? On 9/11, twenty years ago, we saw people choosing such a death over the horror of their situation; and it remains deeply tragic after all this time. 

PRC Funded China Trips for Anti-Audit Dems


Hey, why would Chinese Communists be aligned with those trying to suppress audits of the election? Coincidence?

State Dept. Bureau In Charge of Afghan Evacuation Defunded

Trump's State Department -- which chafed under his authority the whole four years -- never really wanted to establish the Contingency and Crisis Response Bureau, but Trump wanted it to prevent Benghazi-style embarrassments. Biden's team defunded it in June, so it wasn't there to help evacuate Americans in Afghanistan.

Communists Outed by Communist Purge

Current Affairs is a lefty magazine that extends even to outright Communism at times. For example, from their current edition here is an argument that you should be breaking things at work (to keep your capitalist bosses from replacing workers with machines); and here is an argument that gay marriage was secretly just a plot by the wealthy to obtain benefits for themselves (one that, along the way, celebrates the descent of American sexual culture into complete chaos). 

The magazine just fired almost all of its staff because they were trying to organize a worker's co-op.

Not a surprise for those who read the history of actual Communist states.

UK Forces Still Running Patrols into Kabul

Apparently hotly opposed by the US commander, the UK's 2Para are running patrols to pick up and transport citizens -- theirs, Irishmen, but also others who want to be moved safely -- to the airport. Read this exclusive thread on the topic.

Czech Republic Enshrines Right to Arms in Constitution

The language is peculiar to my ear, but it's an honorable action all the same.
The amendment states that “the right to defend one’s life or the life of others, even with the use of weapons, is guaranteed.”
Read about how this came to be at the link. 

The idea, according to one person quoted in the article, is to form a civilian militia. 
Maybe you ask why this additional constitution law helps us to secure our civil gun ownership against EU restrictions, because EU restrictions are more powerful than basic laws of EU countries – this constitutional right is just first step. The second step, which will follow and already is in our parliament and senate for discussion is, that the our government – especially our Ministry of Interior affairs in, collaboration with Ministry of Defense, make a project which is called “defined state backups” and that means that all gun owners can sign to a special training with guns covered by state armed forces. This course should deepen the civil gun owners skills to defend lives before special police forces arrives. It is our reaction on terrorism and the cases with active shooter in schools, public areas, etc. We know that the police cannot be everywhere. That means that all the gun owners which undertake this training and make a promise, will become let’s say part of interior security. The interior security is one of a fields where EU has no rights and then we can say – OK, you cannot tell us which kind of guns or size of magazines we can have, because this is strictly in our competition for our internal safety.

That's precisely correct both conceptually and as a means of execution. 

A Happier Topic

Here is a collection of online, searchable 18th and 19th century cookbooks. One of them is a treatise on brewing beer from 1795, which points out that even in those days government was screwing up basic things: brewhouses were required by law not to move their coolers without notifying the excise official, but brewers in private homes could move them about the house as conditions warranted. 

Lars Walker on the State of the World

Our old friend Lars Walker, translator and author of numerous books (some of which we've delved into deeply here), has thoughts about the future
I don’t want to write about the state of the world. I’m not very happy about the state of the world, or the nation, or the state, or the community.... At bedtime, I’ve been reading Jeremiah. Appropriate, in a tragic way. There’s Jeremiah, this young man who loves God, and what job does God give him? “Tell the people to repent or they’ll be punished. They won’t listen to you, but tell them anyway.”

“God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” The problem is, His idea of wonderful is different from ours. From mine, anyway.

If I didn’t have a strong impression (very likely wrong) that I have a Calling to finish my Erling saga before I die, I’d be strongly considering taking up an even more unhealthy lifestyle, just to avoid the disaster that seems inevitable now.

One might reasonably take up riding motorcycles, which brings joy even in times of crisis. Alternatively, one might stick around in the hopes of dying honorably in battle -- it seems more and more likely that we might get a chance. 

The important thing is to live and die with honor. If you want advice I would say to finish your saga, but practice with your sword as well.  

Austin Bay: Afghanistan Debacle Inexcusable

 It didn't have to be this way. A well-executed withdrawal would have saved their lives and perhaps saved the anti-Taliban government. The acronym is NEO -- Noncombatant Evacuation Operation -- "the departure of civilian noncombatants and nonessential military personnel from danger in an overseas country to a designated safe haven ... "

The U.S. military is highly skilled at NEO. Even a NEO involving an area as large as Afghanistan could have been planned and prepared in 30 to 45 days if the Joint Chiefs of Staff had coordinating power and the State Department arranged for temporary refugee housing in third-country safe havens. The decision to withdraw from the huge air base at Bagram was utterly stupid, at least until threatened Afghans were extracted.

President Joe Biden gave his withdrawal speech on April 14. There was time. Incompetent, arrogant and oblivious White House leadership compounded by obscenely bad interagency planning created the horror we witness and the slaughter to be.

UPDATE: Hey, how about Ryan Crocker

 “I’m left with some grave questions in my mind about his ability to lead our nation as commander-in-chief,” Crocker, who led the U.S. Embassy in Kabul from 2002 to 2003, then again from 2011 to 2012, told The Spokesman-Review.

“To have read this so wrong – or, even worse, to have understood what was likely to happen and not care,” he added.

Crocker, who also represented the U.S. in Afghanistan under the Bush administration from 2002 to 2003, said the collapse of Afghan forces amid the U.S. troop withdrawal was the result of “a total lack of coordinated, post-withdrawal planning on our part.”

“That’s why this is all so sad,” he added. “It is a self-inflicted wound.”

A Modest Proposal on Afghanistan

People are treating the Taliban like they're ten feet tall, but they haven't actually won a gunfight with us in twenty years. Why not take Bagram back by force, and stage a proper retreat action once we've secured Kabul? 

We wouldn't have to stay any longer than necessary to pull out the eleven thousand Americans there, plus our soldiers and Marines. We also don't have to accept letting the Taliban roll over us or dictate terms to us.

Sweden and Its Example

Sweden's seven-day moving average of deaths has been zero for a little while now. Two weeks ago, people were critical of the government's 'laxity' given the new variant; but it's still zero two weeks on. 

Our county locked down way back a year and a half ago, but has been back to normal for quite a while. Almost no one wears masks, restaurants are open for in-room dining, businesses are back open. I gather that's typical for rural America. I keep mentioning that we haven't had a death since February, but I got to thinking maybe that's just good luck. Maybe deaths are higher in other rural counties; surely they are in the cities. 

Now if you go to the CDC website to look at county-level data, here's what they'll show you first: 'community spread.'

Looks terrifying, right? But you have the option to select for 'deaths,' and in rural America deaths are at zero in much of America; in some places there are still single digit or low-double digit deaths.

So rural America is less prone to death; that makes sense because of less crowding and so on. It's almost the same for the metro counties, though, with a handful of exceptions.

It seems as if there's plenty of room here for a Sweden-style solution to most of America, at least. 

Of course, you could take the position that 'even one death is too many,' and lock down like New Zealand at the first confirmed case. But they're a remote island nation where keeping cases to zero is an imaginable goal, even if it's probably impossible in the long run. That's not true of the United States, where international commerce is centered. Even if we had control of our southern border, we'd still have a lot of people coming and going at ports and airports across the country.

Ten Thousand Journeys

The approximately ten thousand American civilians left in Kabul have been told to head to the airport, but they’re on their own getting there. 

Hope the women had the foresight to buy burqas. 

West's Founding, X: Sex and Marriage

West points out that there is little in the Founding core documents on these topics because they were quite uncontroversial matters in the Founding era. Nevertheless they are so important to our own time that he decided they merited a chapter. He had to dig deeper to come up with material, looking at state and local laws, legislative statements and debates, court cases and rulings, even personal correspondence between John and Abigail Adams. 

The findings are not very surprising. The Founders endorsed a rational, reasoned account of traditional Judeo-Christian moral views on sex and marriage. They rejected Islam's approach by name (235), not because of prejudice but because they felt it degraded women's natural right to equality and reduced them to near-slavish status. They approved of monogamous marriage, barred polygamy, sodomy, and bestiality; they banned prostitution and pornography as being contrary to the success of marriage, which they viewed as a fundamental institution of a natural society -- as well as a natural right of men and women, provided they took only one spouse of the opposite sex and with due reflection.

West finds that the laws on sex were very strict, but barely enforced. In principle sodomy was a capital crime in many places; Jefferson proposed to reduce the penalty to castration for men and nose-piercing for women. Massachusetts' adultery law prescribed public display on the gallows followed by whipping of up to 39 stripes, plus imprisonment and/or fines. In fact, though, there is no evidence that these corporal penalties were carried out, and there are only two recorded capital cases West could find. One of these was in a case of sodomy against an unwilling youth, and as a result the death penalty might have been as much for the rape as for the homosexuality. The other might have been a bestiality case, but it is not clear. (230-1)

This was how Georgia handled sodomy cases even in my own lifetime. In principle it was a felony, whether the sodomy was oral or anal, homosexual or otherwise. In practice almost no one was ever prosecuted for such a thing; the only case I know of was of a guy who admitted to it on the stand in the course of his divorce case. He ended up going to prison for what he'd confessed to under oath, but his wife (an equal partner in theory) was not prosecuted because she had not confessed.

West says, "For the most part, this de facto 'don't ask, don't tell' policy on sexual misconduct continued from the founding until... the 'surge of interest in victimless crime, in vice, in sexual behavior, at the end of the nineteenth century," i.e., the rise of the Progressive age. West documents that it was the Progressives who banned birth control, and pushed for aggressive enforcement of sexual morality laws. He quotes one of the Progressives on the subject, who wrote that the "purpose of the state... [is] the perfection of humanity;... the perfect development of the human reason, and its attainment to universal command over individualism[,]" (234) The 1910 encyclopedia article on crime praises the apparently rising crime rate because "it is almost in every case due to the enactment of new laws, police regulations, etc., with the stricter enforcement of social and hygienic regulations -- an indication, therefore, of social progress rather than the reverse." (ibid)

The common law inherited from Britain that continued at the Founding did place a significant limit on women's equality if and only if they became wives: their legal personhood was collapsed with their husband's ('one flesh' and all that), and he was therefore in charge of any money and property they held in common. Single women and widows had the same civil rights as regarded owning property or businesses (witness Betsy Ross), but this was not true for married women whether or not they had children. (237). 

These laws were not immediately changed at the Founding, because the status of the family was uncontroversial in the society of that time, but they did begin to change in ways that asserted women's natural rights after 1776. Courts as early as 1816 held that, though a wife could not make a legally binding contract under the common law, husbands were bound to obey any contract their wife made provided that it was reasonable. (238) Courts also departed from the English common law that permitted husbands to "moderately chastise" (i.e. beat) their wives, holding that "the right of chastising a wife is not... recognized by our law." (ibid) The continual evolution of the laws after the Founding was in that direction, until we arrived where we are today. 

Another thing that changed after 1776 was that American women no longer were expected to abide by their parent's wishes on whom they should marry, but were free to choose their husband. (241) West claims that "After 1776, the American family was increasingly based on a new view of wives as equal partners with their husbands, although men and women were still expected to occupy partially separate spheres in life." (ibid) He cites a number of publications from the period that praised women as the moral center of the family as evidence that women were increasingly entrusted by society with the right to make decisions about what morality required of their families as well as themselves. "Historian Linda Kerber has called this new idea of women's role 'republican motherhood," West notes, citing her work Women of the Republic. (ibid)

Once again West cites Locke mostly to point out that he has seen little evidence that the Founders read him on the subject; once again he does not cite Kant, whose work is quite close to the approach West attributes to the Founders. Kant, just as West says the Founders did, essentially endorsed the Judeo-Christian traditions on sex and marriage but put a coat of 'practical reason' paint on them rather than citing the tradition or the Bible. Kant also reasoned that marriage was a natural right of individuals, so much so that any individual had a right to insist that a society that had somehow not made legislation permitting marriage must do so on demand. Kant likewise reasoned to the conclusion that sex was only permissible in marriage, in a 'natural' way (i.e. one capable of producing children), and that marriage was a natural law institution consisting of exactly two parties of the opposite sex from one another. The Kantian project and the Founding project are quite different, but they are both expressions of the Enlightenment in this way (although, as you will recall from earlier sections of this review, West thinks the Founders were fairly suspicious of the Enlightenment's claim to rely on reason alone as a guide).

In any case, this chapter is unsurprising but was worth putting together. This is true even though I imagine it was a lot of work, compared with other chapters, because it required a lot more digging. Still, it is helpful to have it all spelled out.

Harmless enemy, treacherous friend

Mark Steyn.
The world-record brokey-brokey-brokeness manifested by the current spending bills is only possible because the US dollar is the global currency. When that ends, we're Weimar with smartphones. Clearly, Chairman Xi and his allies occasionally muse on the best moment to yank the dollar out from under. If you were in Beijing watching telly today, would you perhaps be considering advancing those plans?

The President's New Statement on Afghanistan

The President's speech today was (a) preposterous and (b) discouraging. It was preposterous to claim that we will now focus on the counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan, which we have just lost all capacity to perform at all. It was preposterous in the extreme to claim that "We planned for every contingency!" in the wake of the obvious failure of military planning for this retreat.

It was discouraging because the President chose not only to accept no responsibility for himself ("The buck stops here!" he said, before walking away without taking a single question). He also chose not to ask anyone on his team to accept responsibility. Every officer involved in the planning of this withdrawal should be cashiered, and some might reasonably be prosecuted. Instead, it sounds as if the President intends to push the blame as far away from his team as he can, so that no one will actually be held accountable for this massive failure. 

He was strident on the non-issue: almost everyone agrees that it was long past time to leave Afghanistan. He had nothing at all to say about the actual issue, which is a titanic failure of military order. This mismanaged retreat is an issue in and of itself. We had a perfectly good airfield at Bagram we could have used to handle the withdrawal, which is highly defensible and without a large civilian population around it. Instead we've got 6,000 Marines and Paratroopers trapped on a single runway, overrun with civilians who are trying to climb on the plane, endangering all of our forces and also all of the civilians. It's a complete military failure; again, every officer involved in the planning should be cashiered. 

Retreat is one of the most basic military maneuvers, so central to the reality of military life that it had a bugle call that everyone was once supposed to know how to fall in on when it was sounded. A strategic withdrawal is different from a tactical withdrawal in scale, but not in substance. The line of retreat is established, rear guard forces form up to defend the retreat, falling back when a new rear guard is ready to protect them as they fall back. (A sort of reverse of the bounding overwatch maneuver used to advance under fire.) We should have fallen back in stages onto Bagram, evacuating as we went until everyone was gone. The embassy could have been abandoned long ago, before the military withdrawal began. Any civilians we wanted to take out could have been taken out before we pulled support for the Afghan forces, and before we pulled out our own people. 

What I heard President Biden say today was that he was right about everything, brave to take on this difficult decision, and steadfast in the face of all criticism. What that means is that he has learned nothing, is determined to learn nothing, and insists on no one else learning anything either.

The Girl I Left Behind Me

They were mostly males, this time. There's a lot of sadness among those who were in Afghanistan for the ones they got to know, whom they cannot save.
I remember an Afghan kid who worked in the DFAC (cafeteria) who we called Cowboy. He always wore this cowboy hat and an “I’m with stupid” t-shirt someone had given him, always with a big smile, high school age.

Cowboy was a good student. His family, who all worked on base, was incredibly proud of him. He wanted to go to college in America. But there weren’t colleges that took Afghans, the education system was too shit. No program to help kids like him. I looked.

I wonder if he’s dead now, for serving us food and dreaming of something different.

But if Cowboy is dead then he died a long time ago, and if Cowboy is dead it’s our fault for going there in the first place, giving his family the option of trusting us when we are the least trustworthy people on the planet.

We use people up and throw them away like it’s nothing.

And now, finally, we are leaving and the predictable thing is happening.... 

You can’t keep lying to yourself about what you sent us into. No more blown up soldiers. No more Bollywood videos on phones whose owners are getting shipped god knows where. No more hypocrisy.

No more pretending it meant anything. It didn’t.

It didn’t mean a goddamn thing.

It's not just veterans. Here's a staff writer at The Atlantic, the kind of person who has contacts he can call on at the Open Society. They have almost infinite resources. They could have helped, if only they'd had time. Why didn't they have time?

In recent days Bard and Open Society have appealed to universities in the region to host Afghan evacuees, and to foundations and board members to pay as much as $400,000 to charter flights out of Afghanistan. “In many cases we have institutions to host them. Colleges, universities, and funders are stepping up,” Becker said. “That is not a problem. The challenge is the time to get people out and get them visas into those countries.”...

At the travel agency Khan heard that there were no seats left on any flights before August 27. By then his wife would be unable to fly, the government of President Ashraf Ghani would have fled, the Americans would be in full evacuation mode, and Kabul would lie open to the Taliban. But on Saturday morning in the U.S., Julie Kornfeld, the pro bono lawyer who has been advising Khan, found three seats on a Turkish Airlines flight and an organization called Miles4Migrants to pay the cost. Khan and his family were scheduled to leave Afghanistan on Tuesday and arrive in Houston on Thursday. With the U.S. visas and tickets in hand, Khan told me that Saturday, August 14, 2021, was the happiest day of his life. He sent me a video of his 3-year-old son in their rented room, dancing an Afghan dance of celebration.

Today, Sunday, the Taliban are in Kabul. President Ashraf Ghani has reportedly fled to Tajikistan. American officials are burning sensitive documents and evacuating the embassy for the airport. All the Western diplomatic missions are being abandoned. The neighborhood where Khan was renting a room has become dangerous, and he and his family have fled, walking six miles to another hiding place. He needs to find a facility that will administer the COVID-19 tests required by the airlines. He needs to get his family to the airport. He needs two more days.

Saturday was already too late. Let's have one more, from Bari Weiss' contacts.

We met in 2011, when we were both working for an Afghan news organization. He was 19 then and had never known a country at peace. He was also very cute, and the other American girl and I would anticipate prayer times because he would roll up his sleeves to do his ablutions. We surreptitiously called those moments “muscle o’clock.”

Once, when we thought there was a Taliban threat to our office, he told me not to worry. “I will protect you,” he said then. “And Allah gave me the heart of a lion.”

The Taliban didn’t hurt us that day, but on Sunday they took over his city. “I cried so much,” he told me.

He was trying to get a visa to leave — everyone in his neighborhood knew he’d worked for the Americans, it was only a matter of time before the Taliban learned it, “and then you know what will happen to me.” He needed one more document: a letter from a supervisor who had stopped returning his emails. On Saturday, I got help from some D.C. friends to track the supervisor down. The supervisor responded immediately, saying the young man had “worked tirelessly to help the U.S. mission in Afghanistan,” and had “regularly placed himself in harm’s way without any objection.” 

I was relieved he’d gotten this ticket out. But by Sunday it was clear it was too late; the Taliban weren’t letting anyone leave.

Why didn't they have more time? Because of yet another cascade failure of our systems, a story that is becoming very commonplace. Planning a retreat is a basic military function. It's not magic. At one time any student of West Point could have done it, would have known when and how to do it. 

Now apparently whole bureaucracies of West Point students can't manage it, not with all the resources in the world. Not with four years of time to plan under the previous Commander in Chief, whose intent to withdraw they resisted so thoroughly as not to make a plan; not with seven months under the current one, whose intent proved ultimately the same.

They failed us, and they failed those some of us came to care about. They placed themselves above the elected leadership, assumed their own superiority, and consequently left thousands at the mercy of the merciless. 

The President's Statement on Afghanistan

The situation in Afghanistan is currently complete collapse, but we are about to insert five thousand Marines and Paratroopers to try to restore control over the airport. At that point we will be facing a situation worse than Saigon in 1975, and potentially as bad as Xenophon's Anabasis (should there not be enough jet fuel at the Kabul airport to manage the evacuation, and resupply proves unrealistic, and the brigade or so of American forces thus have to evacuate overland) or Teutoburg Forest (should the Taliban manage to overrun and destroy our forces, which is unlikely given that these are regular forces with air support -- but also not impossible). 

This is an inexcusable disaster brought on by a complete failure of military leadership and the intelligence community, but also by the civilian leadership's failure to take it seriously or to hold their bureaucracies' feet to the fire on honest information. 

Indeed, the President issued a statement yesterday that has already been completely passed over by reality.
First, based on the recommendations of our diplomatic, military, and intelligence teams, I have authorized the deployment of approximately 5,000 U.S. troops to make sure we can have an orderly and safe drawdown of U.S. personnel and other allied personnel, and an orderly and safe evacuation of Afghans who helped our troops during our mission and those at special risk from the Taliban advance.

It is too late to help anyone at risk from the Taliban advance. They've taken the presidential palace and the US embassy in Kabul.

Second, I have ordered our Armed Forces and our Intelligence Community to ensure that we will maintain the capability and the vigilance to address future terrorist threats from Afghanistan.

Too late. We will have no foothold in Afghanistan, or near Afghanistan, from which to maintain the vigilance that might underwrite any capacity to act against terrorist threats there. 

Third, I have directed the Secretary of State to support President Ghani and other Afghan leaders as they seek to prevent further bloodshed and pursue a political settlement. Secretary Blinken will also engage with key regional stakeholders.

Ghani fled the country this morning.

Fourth, we have conveyed to the Taliban representatives in Doha, via our Combatant Commander, that any action on their part on the ground in Afghanistan, that puts U.S. personnel or our mission at risk there, will be met with a swift and strong U.S. military response.

They appear completely unconcerned about that, having taken Kabul in spite of these threats.

Fifth, I have placed Ambassador Tracey Jacobson in charge of a whole-of-government effort to process, transport, and relocate Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants and other Afghan allies. Our hearts go out to the brave Afghan men and women who are now at risk. We are working to evacuate thousands of those who helped our cause and their families.

You'll be lucky to evacuate your embassy employees and the Marines and Paratroopers you're deploying. If you fail at that, there will be female State Department employees turned into Taliban wives and we will lose thousands of the best men remaining in American life. 

That is what we are going to do. Now let me be clear about how we got here.

You can read that if you want, but it's not worth the candle. He isn't clear; and he thinks it's everyone else's fault. 

UPDATE: The top American diplomatic official, the Charge d'Affaires, has been evacuated. We did not have an ambassador because the Biden administration never bothered to nominate one.