Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): When two of the greatest generals in American history talk, you should listen.
The breathtaking devolution of our Afghanistan exit plan stunned the world. In the blood soaked aftermath, 13 American servicemen and women perished, thousands of American citizens remain stranded, and countless Afghans allies face almost certain extermination.
Calls for Executive branch resignations have rained down.i ii iii iv As of yet, no one has “fallen on their sword” for this incomprehenisble disaster. Without fail, the Executive branch leadership team excused the catastrophe as unforeseeable or predestined.v vi vii Interestingly, a flood of journalists, professionals, and experts have rushed to defend this assertion of blamelessness, or disperse the blame so widely to make it impossible to hold anyone accountable.viii ix x xi
One such professional is Elizabeth Shackelford, an author, former foreign service officer, and fellow at foreign policy think tanks.xii Ms. Shackelford recently penned an op-ed, leveraging her experience to diffuse criticism for this disaster away from the Executive branch.xiii Shackelford certainly has an impressive resume and is a compelling appeal to expert authority. However, peeling back the onion reveals more to the story.
A Creature from a Dank Lagoon…
Shackelford is a career denizen of the State Department, resigning in protest in 2017 following President Trump’s election.xiv This raises the very real question of whether she’s mortgaging her credentials to paper over a titanic blunder by her political fellow travelers. Whatever the case, it is clear she is aligned with the same cabal at State & DoD who both hamstrung Trump’s efforts at Afghan withdrawal last yearxv and were responsible for either errors of omission or commission in this current fiasco.
Shackelford also worked for Booz, Allen, Hamilton, a DC area consulting firm who shifted their business focus to government & military contracts following World War II.xvi Bloomberg has called BAH “the world’s most profitable spy organization” because of the huge number of former intelligence officers on its payrollxvii and over 10,000 employees with TS/SCI security clearances.xviii Whistleblower Edward Snowden was a former employee who exposed the existence of a mass NSA surveillance program.xix BAH has funded both political parties & politicians such as Barack Obama and John McCain who are supportive of the surveillance state, resulting in a steady stream of business.xx BAH aggressively expanded its footprint in the Middle East and North Africa in 2012.xxi Notably, this was immediately after the clandestinely U.S.-supported Arab Springxxii & attendant refugee crises in Libya & Syria. Whether or not there’s a connection is debatable, but the timing and location of this business expansion was clearly fortuitous for BAH. Shackelford’s association with BAH indicates she has extensive experience with the people in and out of government commonly referred to as the “Deep State.”
Ms. Shackelford is a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. This think tank formed in response to isolationist attitudes in the U.S. after World War I.xxiii It appears to view the U.S. through a globalist lens and not as a unique, exceptional, distinct nation state in its own right. In 2017, the Council released a report supportive of immigration due to population decline.xxiv While likely factually correct, it could be viewed as an attempt to oppose Trump Administration policies to control illegal immigration. The Council’s president, Ivo Daalder, led efforts to involve NATO and the U.S. militarily in the Libyan Civil War,xxv ultimately ousting Qaddafi (who posed no threat to the U.S.)xxvi and kicking off the aforementioned refugee crisis. Far from the non-partisan organization they claim to be, Shackelford’s current employer has an agenda appearing counter to the primary responsibility of a nation state to protect its own interests.
In her piece, Shackelford blames the Afghan disaster on the U.S. not controling Kabul, thus making the evacuation a chaotic nightmare. This is true, but ignores a triumvirate of facts: 1) the U.S. gave up the much more secure and remote Bagram AB; 2) the U.S. did not take up the Taliban’s offer to stay out of Kabul while the evacuation proceeded; and 3) the U.S. then ceded airport access control to the Taliban, resulting in navigating a terrifying gauntlet of Taliban thugs to escape the country. Shackelford blame shifts, saying all Americans were warned for years to avoid Afghanistan. This destroys her credibility because, as a former State Department employee, she likely advocated for greater non-governmental organization involvement in war zones such as Afghanistan.xxvii Her railing against the SIV program is similarly odious. She wants to diminish U.S. citizenship to the point where everyone who applies will be quickly admitted as a future citizen. Furthermore, she ignores the fact that nearly all Afghans who rode C-17s out were NOT SIV applicants, but economic migrants looking for opportunity.xxviii The only thing she gets right is the troops and civilians on the ground in Kabul last month deserve our unending gratitude.
Whispers from History
In his farewell address, George Washington cautioned against “overgrown military establishments” as an extant threat to liberty.xxix Over 160 years later, President Dwight Eisenhower similarly admonished the nation to be wary of “unwarranted influence” of the military-industrial-congressional complex in creating a “disastrous rise in misplaced power.”xxx
Americans rightly deserve a sober, detailed, and thorough accounting of what led not just to the events of the past month, but of the previous 20 years before it as well. Determining the root cause of this failure, and, more importantly, how to not repeat it in the future, should be every American’s objective.
Experts, such as Shackelford, both in and out of government, appear to want to move past this sad epoch and continue with business as usual. Given the public’s penchant to focus on domestic issues, they may succeed. Nonetheless, Shackelford’s piece, and the event it absolves, indicates Washington and Eisenhower were correct in their assessment. It is thus incumbent upon us, the true power within our nation, to demand a reckoning.
Steve Canyon is a retired military officer.
The Language of Liberty series is an outreach project of the Center for Self Governance, a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization, dedicated to training citizens in principles of liberty. The views expressed by the authors are their own and may not reflect the views of CSG. CenterForSelfGovernance.com
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