by Ryan Girdusky
Wednesday, 25
August 2021

Pat Buchanan was right about Afghanistan

The Republican had grave reservations about US wars
by Ryan Girdusky
Patrick Buchanan in 1999. Credit: Getty

Pat Buchanan, paleoconservative and three-time Republican Party leadership hopeful, hasn’t yet faded into obscurity. Last week, the Conservative blogger Rod Dreher stirred up controversy on Twitter after posting a tweet stating ‘He told us so’. Why was Buchanan, long since marginalised from mainstream conservative spaces, back in favour? The answer is simple: the fall of Kabul to the Taliban.

By mid-July 2002, nearly two decades prior to the humiliating US exit, Pat Buchanan had already seen the writing on the wall in Afghanistan.

“Clearly the days of easy victories are over,” Buchanan wrote. U.S. forces were destroying Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters at Tora Bora through Operation Anaconda, yet it was obvious that America’s mission in the region was about to change. The war that President Bush sold to the American people would not be the one they’d be fighting for much longer.

Buchanan knew this was a fool’s errand. “No nation has ever done the ‘final chapters’ of Afghanistan well, as the Afghans tend to want to write those chapters themselves, and turn savagely on outsiders who come to teach them how to live,” Buchanan told Senators, who were calling for further military investment into Afghanistan.

The year prior, Buchanan had given an interview to Jake Tapper saying that the U.S. should help anti-Taliban forces with economic and humanitarian aid but have no troop presence in Afghanistan. “I don’t think we ought to have them there. We’ve made these commitments to the Paks about the Kasmir thing. Plus commitments to the Uzbeks and Tajiks. I mean, there are four nuclear powers over there and no vital interests to the U.S. in that area of the world to justify [our] presence.”

Pat’s statement was a bold one for the time. Neoconservatives were at the apex of their political influence, and a terrified nation still in shock over the terrorist attacks of 9/11 fell quickly under their spell — as did nearly every Republican and most Democrats in Washington. Buchanan and his ilk were labeled “unpatriotic conservatives” for daring to speak up.

Buchanan may have appeared to lose the argument, but two decades later he looks ahead of his time. Somewhere over the last two decades, between $8.5 trillion spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, and nearly 7,000 American soldiers dead, America finally caught up with him. Voters have handed the presidency to the candidate who promised to bring the troops home from war in four straight elections since 2008. When Biden finally withdrew from Afghanistan, Americans overwhelmingly backed the decision.

Buchanan insisted that we lost the mission to remake Afghanistan in the image of Delaware because “the Taliban’s God is Allah. The golden calf we had on offer was democracy. In the Hindu Kush, their god has proven stronger.”

This mission was doomed from the start, though few recognised it. But to Buchanan, the parallels were clear enough: “If we don’t stop behaving like the British Empire, we will end up like the British Empire”.

Join the discussion

  • Buchanan was right and so were many other conservative opponents of liberal imperialism and the deluded “neo-con” movement. A quick in and out of Afghanistan to deal with Al Qaeda made sense, but not staying for 20 years to make the world a “better place” or whatever the goal of the moment was.

  • You forget some fairly salient points, here. In the first place, France even more than Britain was scarred by the first world war. Fifteen hundred thousand dead from a population of just 40 million. Think about that. She had only just rebuilt the territories ravaged by the western front and malicious German occupation by the time the second war loomed into view. In the thirties, births were down because many of the young men who would otherwise have had children were dead. And America was conspicuous by its absence in offering the support promised in 1919. Indeed, between the wars, isolationist America ratted on the peace treaties so comprehensively, it all but guaranteed their failure. To call France an “enabler” in this context is malicious and ignorant. You should withdraw the accusation.

  • I hold it all as France’s Fault. They had the common border with Germany, they held the treaty rights to stop Germany re-arming, and had vast military superiority – BUT DID NOTHING.

    If Germany was the cause of WWII, France was the Enabler.

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