Discourse Report: The Fall of Kabul

~ 5 minutes read

The world has watched the conflict in Afghanistan escalate over the past weeks. Now, the Taliban control a majority of Afghanistan’s provincial capitals, including Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city. President Biden is scheduled to speak on the situation in Afghanistan today (August 16, 2021) at 3:45 pm ET.

Rather than a right-left comparison — which does not fit the discussions at hand — we have compiled a summary of the different conversations happening on social media, as well as some opinion pieces that flesh out some positions.

By highlighting the different angles people are taking on this story, we can observe how different people, with different backgrounds, world views, and values focus on the components that are most important to them.


One cluster of discourse asks the question: Who’s to blame?

“President Biden is to blame, since he orchestrated this effort.” See tweets from Geraldo Rivera and Rep. Andy Biggs.

“Biden’s silence over the past few days is a complete failure in leadership.” See tweet from Emerald Robinson and opinion article “Worse Than Saigon” from Senator Ben Sass in National Review.

“So, should he be pulled from office using the 25th Amendment?” See pro-25th amendment tweet from Carmine Sabia and anti-25th amendment tweet from Sean Kent.

“Military leaders are also to blame.” See tweet from Jesse Kelly.

“Trump is to blame, since he initiated the withdrawal from Afghanistan.” See tweets from Parker Butler and Jon Cooper, and opinion article “President Trump’s Disgraceful Peace Deal with the Taliban” from David French in Time.

“There’s plenty of blame to go around.” See tweet from James Stavridis.


Another cluster of discourse focuses on the Afghans desperate to leave now that the Taliban is in power.

See tweets from Saleem Javed and Nicola Careem.

“We need to be actively taking in and supporting refugees.” See tweets from Rep. Joe Neguse and Khaled Hosseini.

“We shouldn’t compromise our national security and accept a flood of refugees.” See tweets from Jack Posobiec and Steve Cortes.

“Taliban rule will have horrific consequences for women’s rights.” See tweets from Kamran Khan, Elif Shafak, and Liz Wheeler.

“After all, there’s no such thing as women’s rights under Sharia law.” See tweet from Taslima Nasreen and this tweet with instructions for treatment of women under Sharia law.


A further cluster of discourse asks the question: What was the right approach?

“We should have left the troops we had in Afghanistan to keep the peace.” See tweets from Rep. Adam Kinzinger and Richard Haass.

“Pulling out of Afghanistan was a good idea, but this was poor execution.” See tweet from Byron Donalds and opinion article “Biden could have stopped the Taliban. He chose not to.” by Frederick Kagan in The New York Times.

“The current situation is ugly and tragic, but we had to leave sometime.” See tweets from Will Ruger and Brett Meiselas, and opinion article “The Tragedy of Afghanistan” from The New York Times Editorial Board.

“After all, Afghans are not stepping up to preserve their country, so why should we?” See tweets from Malcolm Nance and the Columbia Bugle, and opinion article “Taliban victory? Despite collapse in Kabul, withdrawal was the right course in Afghanistan” by Daniel DePetris in USA Today.

“The whole war in Afghanistan was a mistake, and we butchered pulling out.” See tweet from David Rothkopf.

“20 years of effort was erased in weeks because the effort to pull out was botched.” See tweet from @DeOne___.


An additional cluster of discourse critiques how the media is covering the events.

“The media has their own agenda.” See tweets from Will Bunch and Ayesha Hashem.

“Imagine if this happened under Trump.” See tweet from Jack Posobiec.

“Media bias isn’t just happening in the US.” See tweet from Rahul Roushan.


Takeaways

One thing sticks out from all these conversations: concern for the people of Afghanistan is near universal. But the cause of concern varies. 

To some, the material well-being of Afghans is of primary concern. Others are concerned about the people of Afghanistan’s right to be free from occupation (by the US, Taliban, or both). Still others are concerned about putting the lives of US soldiers on the line for a war with no end in sight. 

None of these concerns are irrational, and some may stick out as more important than others to you. Other people will reach a different conclusion based on their unique experiences and background. 

When we understand each other and see each other as human beings, it’s a lot harder to take up arms and a lot easier to solve problems peacefully.

This is easier said than done, but certainly worth the effort.


Further reading

Journalist Bari Weiss put together a set of opinion essays from key thought leaders in the right-leaning and libertarian space on her Substack.

There’s a lot of conversation around public support for pulling the troops. According to a May 2021 poll, 66% of Americans supported Biden’s timeline for withdrawal of troops by September 11: “38 percent said they strongly support bringing the troops home by the Biden administration’s announced deadline, while 28 percent said they somewhat support doing so.” Another poll from the Chicago Council from July 2021 found that 70% of Americans support withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, with Democrats supporting the move at higher rates (77%) than Republicans (56%).

For more information on women’s rights under Taliban rule, see “Taliban back to old ways in newly seized Afghan territory” (France 24).


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Anna Tyger, Shaun Cammack, and Sofia Sedergren-Booker August 16, 2021