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Afghanistan: America’s Worst Defeat Yet

Afghanistan: America’s Worst Defeat Yet

As I have noted in previous commentaries, America – with the world’s most powerful military — has not won a war since World War II.  In fact, our diplomacy has not worked well either. 

We are still officially in a war footing with North Korea since that ended with nothing more than a cease fire.  North Korea never surrendered.  But at least we held on to South Korea as a strong ally of the United States.

We completely lost in Vietnam – losing the south to the Communist regime. 

But at least Vietnam did not remain in a permanent anti-American position.  In fact, our relationship with that country is rather good today.  Americans visit there – and American enterprises do business there.

In the Middle East, we pushed Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.

But we did not topple his regime at the time. When we later did, we allowed American adversaries shape post-war Iraq.

We demanded the ousting of Syrian strongman Bashar al Assad and then walked away. We left the resistance fighters to be slaughtered.  This clearly established that Russia is a better friend than the United States to a lot of folks in the region.

As bad as those were, the Afghanistan war is arguably the worst and most humiliating defeat in American history.  While no surrenders will be signed, we have waved the white flag, tucked tail and ran. 

After more than 16 years of warfare, we have only been able to hold the Taliban to a stalemate – if even that. 

And now we will leave that country to the unrestricted power of the Taliban and ISIS.  We will leave behind a nation that may well be completely taken over by the Muslim extremists who will have enhanced resources and locations from which to launch terrorist attacks on America and the western world.

Like Vietnam and Syria, we will leave behind friends and allies who fought side-by-side with the United States only to be left as cannon fodder for the ruthless Taliban.

The attack on the girl’s school in Kabul is both a real and symbolic example of what is in store for the people of Afghanistan – especially the women.  All the progress we may have made in bringing Afghanistan into the family of civilized nations will be completely lost.  After so many years of conflict – at enormous costs in lives and treasure – we will have gained nothing.  Things may even be worse than before the Afghanistan war commenced.

We need no better example of the Taliban’s and ISIS’ plans for the future than the bombing of a girls’ school. 

Imagine that.  Targeting a bunch of innocent little girls to underscore the Taliban’s oppressive policies toward women. 

In terms of Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and even Syria, to some extent, we were not faced with massive attacks on the United States in the aftermath.  Afghanistan promises to be quite different.  The Taliban hates those they consider infidels with a greater passion and determination than ever.

Appearing on “Morning Joe, General James Stavridis – former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe – said that the United States and our allies were still supporting the government in Kabul.  Really?

Stavridis noted three ways America is helping.  We are still funding the Afghan military to the tune of $4 billion dollars a year – and he thinks we should increase that amount.  Hmmmm.   Let’s get this straight.  Stavridis is saying that we have been sending them $4 billion dollars every year in military aid AND had hundreds of thousands of American troops engaged in the fighting – and we lost the war.  Now, we are to believe that sending the money without boots on the ground will do the trick.  I am dubious.

Stavridis said that we are still providing them with intelligence through the CIA.  This includes air and satellite surveillance and double agents.  I have heard other military leaders say that intelligence operations in the Afghanistan war are very ineffective because it is virtually impossible to penetrate the Taliban forces – and the mountainous regions are difficult to surveil from the sky.

Finally, Stavridis said that we still have the capability to perform surgical strikes from bases outside of Afghanistan.   That may work to occasionally take out a leader or hit a headquarters – but unless we provide continuing bombing – in other words, re-engage militarily – a symbolic attack is not likely to do much to change the trajectory of the war.

Such attacks are only effective in achieving a short-term goal.  President Reagan got Muammar Kaddafi to stop funding international terrorism after U.S. planes bombed his home in Tripoli.  President Obama killed Osama bin Laden.  And President Trump used a surgical attack in Syria to stop Bashar al Assad from using chemical weapons on his own people.  Surgical strikes do not seem to be as effective against a pernicious and vicious terrorist organization like the Taliban.

Ending the war may sound like good policy to many, but it is never good to end in defeat. 

Sixteen long years,  thousands of lives (including my grandson) and trillions of dollars … for what?  What did we gain?

And it is not just about losing the battle.  It impacts on diplomacy. Which third-world nations are going to side with the United States in the international political and economic competition?  Russia and China have been expanding their influence throughout the world as America’s diminishes.

I wonder how confident the leaders of Ukraine are in America’s pledge of support.  Even Israel has cause for concern – especially with the rising pro-Arab caucus within the ranks of the congressional Democrats.  Does Hong Kong have confidence of our lip service support for the democratic movement?  Does Taiwan really trust us to defend them if China invades the island?

Germany pleads for U.S. money and troops to protect their Republic from the evil and aggressive Kremlin.  And yet they cut a deal to pipe in Russian oil and gas – a major economic and diplomatic coup for President Vladimir Putin.

Stavridis was correct when he said that the bombing of the girls’ school was “only a taste of what is to come” in Afghanistan.  My prediction is more Taliban violence – and that they will eventually take over the country.  I also see a Syrian-like migration of Afghan families escaping the terror on the horizon – especially for the sake of the women.

I always had a very simple belief.  Have a real good reason to engage in war – and then fight it to win.  Since 1945, America has done neither.  Cease fires and withdrawals are merely euphemisms for defeat and surrender.

The Bible posed the rhetorical question: Who will heed an uncertain trumpet?  The answer is, no one.  And America has become an uncertain trumpet to too much of the world.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. Ben

    Dear Leader’s comments on Cheney and the War Machine;
    “She is a talking point for Democrats, whether that means the Border, the gas lines, inflation, or destroying our economy. She is a warmonger whose family stupidly pushed us into the never-ending Middle East Disaster, draining our wealth and depleting our Great Military, the worst decision in our Country’s history. “

    So ‘tis

    • Christine

      Good point. The war was never “Bush’s War”. The war was designed and orchestrated by Cheney and Rumsfeld. You must remember how they snuck it in. President Bush started by talking about ousting Osama bin Laden. All of a sudden he began saying Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. This war was manufactured by two old men who could not care less about the thousands of young American lives that would be lost. It was all a tragedy.

  2. Ben

    During the war in Afghanistan (2001–present), over 31,000 civilian deaths due to war-related violence have been documented;[1][2] 29,900 civilians have been wounded.[2] Over 111,000 Afghans, including civilians, soldiers and militants, are estimated to have been killed in the conflict.[1] The Cost of War project estimated that the number who have died through indirect causes related to the war may be as high as 360,000 additional people based on a ratio of indirect to direct deaths in contemporary conflicts.[3] These numbers do not include those who have died in Pakistan.
    Plus the roughly 2300 American troops that have died, not including the suicide rate of the soldiers that returned home from war damaged and broken.

    How much more “help” do we need to give the Afghan people?

  3. William Hawkins

    Afghanistan is not a defeat, it was a mistake in strategy from the start. The U.S. went into Afghanistan with the just and urgent mission to punish al-Qaeda for the 9/11 attacks and the Taliban for protecting them. Afghanistan has not, however, been the model for fighting terrorism. Instead, it has become an expensive and inept “nation-building” project detached from our security needs. Meanwhile other threats, of much graver importance, have been building elsewhere. My National Interest column looks at how our strategy needs to evolve.

  4. Elder George

    The reason we lost in Vietnam is because the enemy was fighting for their country. The Koreans were fighting for their country as are the people of Afghanistan.

    How would be react if enemy soldiers were on our land killing our people?

    Elder George

    • Ben

      Exactly. My oldest son’s friend is a die hard trumpet. As we sat around the camp fire drinking beer and enjoying the evening, he mentioned how upset he was that they were blowing up our soldiers over there. I mentioned, imagine if Afghan troops stormed out back yard, roughed us up , yelled at our women, tossed our house and laughed at us… what would our reaction be? He didn’t understand the thought exercise.
      Then again, my son was in the national guard at the time, his buddy didn’t have time to fight in the war he was so adamant about supporting

  5. Tom

    The bible also says, “To everything there is a season.” Afghanistan was just another season.

    • Ben

      Tom, religion has been used as an excuse to justify horrific acts throughout history.
      Thankfully we are a nation of laws, not religion. I will give trump a shout out, he is the first Republican President not to start a war during his tenure since the early 80’s

  6. Edward Nolan

    Since WWII we have allowed the politician to dictate the terms of a conflict. Rules of Engagement are idiotic. Sending in troops with restrictions on the way they should fight is suicide. The reason troops are sent should never be to “police” a region, let the CIA or FBI do that. Military personnel are not trained for that mission. They are trained to kill the enemy, destroy their infrastructure, and attempt to win over the civilian population to realize the people we are there to destroy are bad for them and we are good. Kinda simple until the civilian suits get involved. Kind of like having a head coach of a football team go in to play quarterback instead of the regular guy, coach has the plan, but, not the ability and is unable to improvise, adapt and overcome.

  7. Lfty64

    This is what we do, invade or start a war under the disguise of helping our Allies. Thank we dump a whole boatload of money there, promise the people of those countries we will be there to protect them and bring democracy to that country. After we disrupt and kill and get killed thousands of people civilians included. We turn around and say, “Ok we had enough, we are pulling out” leaving the people in worse shape than when we came in. Now they are at the hands of their adversaries, who walk in and create havoc and death, thanks to our “help”. Now we go back home and have to treat our own military who we exposed to all the hazards of war. I mean really, we are run by a nation of idiots (politicans). Thing is most of these politicans never served one day in the military and have no idea what was is all about. It is a lot more than guns and bullets……. VietNam Vet.

    • Edward Nolan

      EXACTLY…………..Welcome Home brother

  8. Robert6391

    There are some who think that wars can be fought like in the past, well that is not going to happen any more that is exactly one of the reasons the UN was set up with its rules of war fare and countries set up their ROE. Before you can bomb you have to do a critical assessment as to what the human cost will be for the non military, and you have to make every effort to notify the enemy if there is a Civilian element involved.
    Exactly why US will never bomb Iran or North Korea. Now complain all you want about the UN but it has had control of over 70% of conflicts in the past 60 years, and the rules were actually written by mostly American commanders at the time.

  9. Lawrence Foster

    The history of our engagement with Muslim “Pirates” (which is essentially what the Taliban is) goes back to the days prior to our independence. After independe3nce, when US ships could no longer have the protection of the Royal Navy, we paid off the pirates, until Jefferson became president, and ended the “tribute payments. He sent the US Navy and Marines to “the shores of Tripoli”, and won several victories, but due to the decentralized nature of piracy, agreements with o ne leader would not stop another from acts of piracy. The only solution for Piracy is the one the Romans used – kill or capture them, and if you capture them, put them somewhere where they cannot carry out piracy.

    Our approach in Afghanistan (and other places, where it also failed miserably) was to try and take illiterate peasants under the influence of equally illiterate Mullahs, an d turn them into a modern, democratic society. Afghanistan is not a nation – it is several nationalities dominated by the Pashtuns, and was a moderately successful kingdom in the 50s and early 60s, under Zahir Shah, but even he got tired of the incessant infighting, intrigue and treachery, and went off to Italy, leaving his cousin in charge. That did not last long, and soon the mullahs were going into the Soviet Union, preaching uprising and rebellion, and provoking the Soviets to try their own takeover. They failed as badly as we did.

    The solution, in my opinion, is to take one Pashtun tribal group, put them in charge, and tell them as long as the US and its interests are not attacked they will be safe, and have the backing of the US. Should they allow Afghanistan to become a haven for any group like the Taliban or ISIS, swift destruction will follow.

  10. steve

    When you go into a fight , combat if you will , you cannot have “rules of engagement” to abide by when your enemy has no rules to play by. Our great military and our brave soldiers , sailors and airmen have had their hands tied since WW2 in every conflict since. You cannot win any fight with rules to follow , else one faces prosecution and loss of ones freedom if rules are not followed. This is ludicrous, you can’t win a fight with rules for you and none for the opposition. These rules of engagement are obviously dictated by people with NO military experience. Most have probably never even been in a fight in school. These are elite , or so they think , over-educated beyond their intellect , that have no practical experience in the real world . They send others out to do their fighting for them and then want to punish said individuals for not adhering to the rules They dictate , even though themselves don’t have the balls to engage in combat themselves.


    interesting article at the top, not sure the point though. My point is we should have never gone into any of those countries mentioned to begin with. The dictators we took out of the mid east were the only strong men who could keep those countries under wraps, how or why, not our concern. The world does not have to look like the USA.

  12. Ben

    Dang Larry,
    Seems your readers don’t have the same war hawk mentality as you. That’s 3 pro war articles and all three received an overwhelming negative response in the comments.
    Combined with your anti trump stance you seem to be out of step with your target audience. Maybe it’s time to put away the old typewriter and leave politics to the true believers. There’s no room in your party for an old man with principles and nuance to his thought process. Give it up old man.