The Afghan campaign is this nation’s longest war — and our longest un-won war: That’s to say, nowadays we can’t even lose in under a decade. I used to say that, 24 hours after the last Western soldier leaves Afghanistan, it will be as if we were never there. But it’s already as if we were never there: The last Christian church in the country was razed to the ground in 2010.
At this point, Americans sigh wearily and shrug, “Afghanistan, the graveyard of empire,” or sneer, “If they want to live in a seventh-century s***hole, f*** ’em.” But neither assertion is true. Do five minutes’ googling, and you’ll find images from the Sixties and early Seventies of women in skirts above the knee listening to the latest Beatles releases in Kabul record stores. True, a stone’s throw (so to speak) from the capital, King Zahir’s relatively benign reign was not always in evidence. But, even so, if it’s too much to undo the barbarism of centuries, why could the supposed superpower not even return the country to the fitful civilization of the disco era? The American imperium has lasted over twice as long as the Taliban’s rule — and yet, unlike them, we left no trace.