This is a really powerful essay about the American response — or lack of it to the news that the Taliban have taken Kabul. The author, Antonio García Martínez, contends that Americans are “no longer a serious people” and spend too much time manufacturing reality.
You see, in the Before Times there was a reality ‘out there’, peoples and cultures unlike ours that stubbornly refused to think and act as we did (and we knew it); facts on the ground that were immune to social-media spirals of bloviation and simply could not be ignored (and we knew it). We grappled with them, debated them, rallied consensus around them, and just dealt with reality however poorly perceived it might have been. And leaders who could not deal with inarguable realities, such as Carter with his botched Iranian rescue operation, did not stay leaders for very long.
The war in Afghanistan cost a trillion dollars over 20 years, thousands of lives, and was ultimately an exercise in futility:
This might seem flip and ‘too soon’, but the irony highlights the real civilizational difference here: one where combat is via prissy morality and pure spectacle, and one where the battles are literal and deadly. One where elites contest power via spiraling purity and virality contests waged online, and where defeat means ‘cancelation’ or livestreamed ‘struggle sessions’ around often imaginary or minor offenses. And another place where the price of defeat is death, exile, rape, destitution, and fates so grim people die dangling from airplanes in order to escape.
In short, an unserious country mired in the most masturbatory hysterics over bullshit dramas waged war against an insurgency of religious zealots fired by a 7th-century morality, and utterly and totally lost.
And all we can do in the wake of it, with our brains melted like butter in a microwave by four years of Trump and Twitter and everything else, is to once again try and understand in our terms a hyper-violent insurgency of fanatics, guilty of every manner of cultural barbarism, now running a country with the population of Texas.