Written by Peter Smith
Idiocracy, Evil Cabal or Foreign Intrigue?
It is difficult to accurately parse how much of the spiraling dysfunction and gross incompetence that is currently on display within our institutional and governmental entities can be attributed to ‘natural causes’ such as bureaucratic bloat or the organic outgrowth of “Civilizational Decline,” versus what one could reasonably assign to malign intent or deliberate “enemy action,” be that by a “shadowy cabal,” foreign power(s), or domestic enemies. Or, as is more likely in this hyper-complex global environment, a multifactoral often dynamic combination of all of the above elements.
The Long View
The latest debacle – the rapid collapse of our puppet government in Kabul and the resulting botched and humiliating withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan – marked the official loss of this ignominious twenty year war. Leaving aside the tragic cost in human life and suffering, the price tag of this 2.3 trillion (net of CIA opium sales) boondoggle is a testament to the immense scale of structural corruption and self-dealing by the congressional military industrial complex. Such epic dysfunction can certainly be attributed to the organic consequences and processes of the decline of Empire and serves as a textbook example of the “Senility of the Elites.” This conceptual turn of phrase was eloquently elucidated by John Michael Greer in his seminal 2014 essay Dark Age America: the Senility of the Elites, which captures the dynamic of structural incompetence as a function of mediocrity and self-perpetuating conformity of thought and “problem solving” within aging and sclerotic institutions. While the term “Senility of the Elites” is mostly metaphorical, it is not hard to see its literal implications when witnessing the glaring cognitive decline of Biden and the less frequent but no less obvious gaps of competence on both sides of our Octogenarian-heavy elite “leadership.”
“…Every group of social primates has an inner core of members who have more access to the resources controlled by the group, and more influence over the decisions made by the group, than other members. How individuals enter that core and maintain themselves there against their rivals varies from one set of social primates to another—baboons settle such matters with threat displays backed up with violence, church ladies do the same thing with social maneuvering and gossip, and so on—but the effect is the same: a few enter the inner core, the rest are excluded from it. That process, many times amplified, gives rise to the ruling elite of a civilization.” – John Michael Greer
Still, despite the obvious structural dysfunction plaguing the decision-making in Washington, the level of tactical incompetence displayed in the withdrawal and evacuation of Afghanistan was so stupendously awful with elements of timing and sequencing diametrically opposite to military best practices as to give credence to the theory that it amounts to intentional sabotage.
But to what end? Cui Bono? There are many entities both foreign and domestic that benefit. China, Russia, Iran – even EU Integrationists such as Macron with his push for an independent EU military force – are among the international entities that benefit geo-strategically and economically from America’s humiliating denouement in Afghanistan.
Certainly, there is likewise no shortage of political rivals and agendas domestically in the cutthroat byzantine world of DC politics that could stand to gain from Biden’s humiliation in what from all appearances will likely prove to ultimately be a mortal political wound.
The Manchurian Candidate?
Despite the reflexive popularity with the Conservative Right to pin Biden’s moves on his past “Association” with China, I would not look to subterfuge from China in this instance. It is true that they have motive, and a history of successfully compromising corrupt members of our political class, including the “Big Guy” himself. However, the rewards of amplifying what was already an inevitable defeat and withdrawal from Afghanistan don’t nearly justify the risks of actual tampering.
To the extent that he ever was, Biden is effectively burnt as an “asset” given the exposure that he received during the election cycle and the hard security re-pivot to Asia underway. Moreover, the Biden Administration’s decision to follow through with Trump’s original initiative to withdraw troops has all the hallmarks of being motivated by self-interested domestic political considerations, positioning for midterm elections in a cynical effort to co-opt the populist peace vote and shore up their legislative control. At least until such time as they’ve structurally altered the electoral system to achieve an unassailable permanent “Democratic” majority.
China’s actions regarding Afghanistan have been overt, consisting of fostering diplomatic relations with the Taliban and neighboring states in preparation for the US’ inevitable withdrawal and a post-US Central Asian order. In addition to the windfall of strategic and economic benefits that a cooperative alliance with the Taliban brings them, they are motivated to use their increased Central Asian influence to check importation of radical Jihadists to their gas-rich, far-northwest autonomous region of Xinjiang.
This is congruent with their cultural and historical emphasis on long horizon decision making and their demonstrated strategic MO which, like that of Russia, has been consistent in avoiding and minimizing risks of direct confrontation with the US, with its potential for escalation outside of all but their immediate sphere of territorial and critical “Red Line” interests.
Simply put, they are content to let the US and its flailing machinery of empire continue to score “own goals” while they run out the clock and continue to make steady, incremental progress winning geopolitical hearts and minds with diplomacy, economic, technological, and military aid initiatives.
This is not to say that they are a benevolent force for good! The CCP is as inherently good as you might imagine any totalitarian State might be. Or, that they are not engaged in a major power competition (war) with the US across a full spectrum of domains. They clearly are. It simply means that any assessment of their culpability for an alleged behavior or potential future actions (Taiwan invasion) in the geopolitical sphere needs to reconcile with a realistic cost-benefit risk analysis that makes sense from their demonstrated cautious long-term strategic perspective.
In addition to China, I would rule out any of the other non-empire aligned foreign interests as having significantly influenced the withdrawal debacle – for the simple fact such parties lack the levers of power and influence that would extend deep enough into the intelligence and military command apparatus that control events on the ground in a theater like Afghanistan.
There is however a class of ‘suspect’ that does have those levers of power and influence at that operational level. Not coincidentally, they are the same cast of characters which brought us the original invasion of Afghanistan and the rest of the “Global War on Terror.” I speak, of course, of the Neocons, whose influence and presence in the permanent bureaucracy (Deep State) of our governing institutions – particularly within the CIA, State Department and Pentagon – remains a pervasive cancer on the body politic.
It is worth noting that most of the dysfunction on display in Biden’s withdrawal debacle could be attributed to intelligence and communication “failures.” As bad as it was, the tactical withdrawal plan, timeline, and sequence was predicated on grossly incorrect assumptions about the staying power and motivation of the Afghan army and government in Kabul. It is clear that both political and military leaders were operating from an information deficit which led to the cascading failures and resulting chaos. The operative question is whether that intelligence deficit was, in part, intentional.
If there was “sabotage” or malign intent amplifying and exacerbating the manifest incompetence that is so evident, it would most likely be the aforementioned Deep State elements who are responsible. Either in the hopes of derailing the withdrawal, or at a minimum, to set a “Disaster Precedent” to handicap Biden and stymie future withdrawals from Iraq and Syria by him or any future successor who might be so inclined.
There is certainly a history of these same Deep State elements obstructing Trump’s efforts to end occupations and withdraw troops from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. There is a litany of evidence of them slow walking or directly ignoring orders, concealing actual troop counts, leaking “faked” intelligence reports (Russian Bounties), etc.
What is evident now is that these elements within Biden’s State Department leaked embarrassing memos that discredit Biden and Blinken’s evacuation narrative and the CIA News Network (CNN) itself – along with other stalwarts of the establishment media – have broken rank with Biden on the issue. That tells us that there are some “philosophical differences” between the administration and the National Security State and special interests that actually run things. Not coincidentally, given the make up of Biden’s team, we saw similar frictions when Obama pushed back against the “security” agenda and pushed through the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). It is also notable that, even before the blood was dry on Biden’s chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal, he received a visit from Israel’s new Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, who “..wanted assurances that the US will not withdraw its remaining forces from Iraq and Syria and would support Israel fully if it should choose to attack Iran.” Watching this unfolding dynamic and how it resolves will be very telling.
Regardless of palace intrigues and even without the humiliation component, the loss in Afghanistan is hugely significant. It is the first major retrenchment from the keystone occupation of the ostensible “Global War on Terror.” But in reality, it marks the likely beginning of the end for “American Global Dominance.” It is analogous to losing a valuable chess piece positioned in the center of the board – or in this case, a country that is central to the most strategic position of “The Great Game”—the ongoing struggle for world dominance by securing control of Mackinder’s “World Island,” the strategically and economically critical population and resource rich land mass of Eurasia. Given the strategic significance of its location, it is no coincidence that Afghanistan is known as the Graveyard of Empires.
The humiliating way that the West retreated from Afghanistan compounded the loss and amplified that signal to friends and foes alike, no doubt hastening the inevitable realignments that will flow from here. Saudi Arabia was busy signing a military cooperation agreement with Russia on Aug 23rd, even as the chaotic retreat unfolded. The first of what is a now a trickle, but will over time turn into a flood of similar events for an empire in decline.