Posted by Ada Coddington

The failure in Afghanistan is a rude awakening for America 20 years too late.

A U.S. Chinook military helicopter flies above the US embassy in Kabul on August 15, 2021. (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images)

How do empires end? The answer seems to be what Mike Campbell says in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises when he’s asked how he went bankrupt: “gradually, then suddenly.”

We’ve known for years that our wars overseas aren’t accomplishing their missions, that in Afghanistan we’d eventually have to settle for something less than total victory. Routing the Taliban and growing a Madisonian republic out of the desert sand long ago proved futile. Yet the images that emerged last weekend, helicopters rising portentously over Kabul while Afghans begged for mercy, have jolted the national consciousness all the same. In an instant, whatever remained of our imperial mirages blinked into harsh reality.


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