There is a sense of déjà vu in the events that took place in Afghanistan, reminding us of what happened in 1975 when the United States was defeated in Vietnam. However, the outcomes are as different as chalk and cheese. If the outcome in Vietnam was a socialist government, which nationalised resources and cared about its people, what happened in Afghanistan during the last fortnight is a nightmare.
After spending trillions of dollars towards the occupation, and bombing Afghanistan to eliminate the Taliban, what has happened is that the country is going back to square 1, with the Taliban coming back to power.
This proves that imperialism has never solved any problem, it only exacerbates them. Arundhathi Roy once said, “War is terrorism on a larger budget.” There can never be a solution to terrorism using the same methods; and war is the biggest act of terrorism.
These wars and military spending have been the reason why empires collapsed. As Engels pointed out, “a nation cannot become free and at the same time continue to oppress other nations.” The force needed to oppress others in the end will turn against them. The Roman empire collapsed under the weight of maintaining a big army to control vast areas of land. The British empire, on which “the sun never set,” lost its past glory after the two world wars, which happened as a result of the greed of imperial countries in dividing the world into colonies among themselves.
The US aggression after 11 September 2001 could be the beginning of the end to its hegemony. The occupation of Afghanistan was not based on love for the Afghan people, which was evident when the American plane took off with innocent people clinging on to it. In fact imperialism has no regard for people above the ground: it has only an obsession with resources under the ground. It would rather support Talibans or fascist forces than a socialist government that uses the resources for the benefit of the people.
Imperialism is always under the compulsion to create enemies to justify the military budget. If the “threat” was cold war in the 1960s and 70s, it was the “war on terror” after 2001; and the latest enemy is China.
The United States is never a good model of democracy, as it claims to be. Apart from the discrimination against black people, the American public has no say in military spending (eight hundred bases around the world), which drains the citizens’ money to oppress the people of Africa, Latin America and Asia to extract the surplus for transnational corporations. Those trillions of dollars could be spent on education (which causes a debt trap for people), health services (which were exposed during the covid pandemic), providing housing and investment in green energy.
The solution would be an anti-war movement ignited in the imperialist countries to employ the resources for the people’s welfare and working-class support towards that movement from other countries by creating a network of co-operation.
As far as Ireland is concerned, the increasing alignment with NATO forces and using Shannon Airport as a base should be questioned. When the planet is on the brink of environmental disaster as well as pandemic, we can’t afford to waste resources that are limited.
For the first time in the history of the planet, a single species is responsible for climate change; and, shamefully, it is the humans. And military logistics is the greatest cause of carbon emission.
We have enough ammunition to destroy the planet many times over; why spend more? And during the pandemic, when health services need more attention, why spend less?
“The invasion was supported by ‘neutral’ Ireland which supplied military personnel and invited US planes, flying to and from the war, to re-fuel at Shannon. Over 14 years, some 226 Irish troops served under Nato command.”—Patrick Murphy, Irish News (Belfast), 28 August 2021.