Good Old Afghanistan, What’s Old Is New Again

Trumping Alexander


The last successful would be conqueror was Alexander the Great and he did it by assimilation, he married into its royalty.  Roxana, the Sogdian princess of Bactria.  Ahhh, love at first sight.  Who can say such a campaign was a failure.  Still, the campaign apparently sapped his strength, both military and moral, and initiated his demise.

Perhaps that’s the problem.  No other would be conqueror, not the British or the Russians or the Bushes or Obama have considered that strategy.  After all, they say love conquers all.  And something different needs to be tried, … again.

Still, if Alexander could not survive his success in Afghanistan, mightn’t that, shouldn’t that be a warning to the United States as a whole?  Afghanistan recently destroyed the indestructible Soviet Union.  Are we to be next or will our hubris, like that of Alexander require that we succeed there, even at the cost of all we’ve attained over almost two and a half centuries?  Two and a half centuries certainly not characterized by virtue or by justice or equity, either internally or externally, but by collective success, unequal success, but success just the same.

Somehow Napoleon and Waterloo come to mind.  One wonders why.

Afghanistan, the gift that keeps on giving, like herpes or AIDS.  It’s been sixteen years and we are apparently still infatuated, but with what?

A bit of introspection.

We are a “would be nation”, never having quite coalesced, so polarized that those out of power would rather see failure than progress if others would receive credit.  We are a country that has abused our military personnel for almost two decades with continuous deployments and during the past eight years, inadequate resources for the foolish adventures on which we’ve demanded they embark.

Does anyone understand why?

Well, actually, perhaps we do know why.

In the past, not as distant as we might hope, pillage and rape were the rewards extracted by conquerors but shared with their troops.  Today, of course, we are much too sophisticated and enlightened for that (no, don’t mention Abu Ghraib).  Much too efficient as well.  Instead of pillage and rape shared with the troops we have corporate profits shared among corporate executives and investors (forget the workers or the soldiers; done).  And those profits depend totally on wars.  And it’s more efficient to have endless wars than having to find justification for new ones, although that too is an option, kept on the middle burner in the hope that the United States citizenry can be fooled some more.

Forever war, as George Orwell presaged, requires not only a tame mainstream media, but one totally controlled, one where truth is merely a sometimes unavoidable convenient coincidence, one effective and efficient in its mission to sell the unsellable to a perpetually gullible public, a public set to fighting amongst itself while it is fleeced and manipulated and drained.  We may not be there yet but it seems we are well on our way.  On the other hand, it just may be that we’ve already arrived and just don’t realize it.  That is the way it’s supposed to work.

So, ….

One-hundred-and-fifty-two-years after the end of the Civil War we can still pull some hate and polarization out of its long dead embers, like some evil sorcerer from a Tolkien novel: Sauron rising anew.  The same is true of World War II, now seventy-two-years in our rearview mirror, but zombie-like Nazis (of the “neo-clan”, whatever that means) can still be conjured in order to give us violent distractions, distractions such as stage magicians require to pull off their sleights of hand.

Why, … while we watched the violent reality show productions in Charlottesville, our wallets seem to have been picked, but not to worry, there’s another old standby on the horizon, …. The show’s the thing, forget about old wallets, they were almost empty anyway.  And the revival of an old hit is about to hit our screens.  Old faithful Afghanistan, now that the Ukrainian cat seems to have fled its bag, Syria is not going our way and the Russiagate production seems to be falling flat.

Good old reliable Afghanistan.

New secret plans for victory, … again.  And they’re bound to work.  It just depends on how you define victory.  Victory for whom and how.

Wonder how it’ll end?

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2017; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia although he has primarily lived in the United States of America (of which he is a citizen).  Until recently he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at or and much of his writing is available through his blog at

2 thoughts on “Good Old Afghanistan, What’s Old Is New Again

  1. When I heard last week about the latest and greatest plan, I thought, “You guys never learn.” The joke about stupidity being “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” seems to be the truth here. One commentator said it might be a generation before Afghanistan was ‘won”. Crazy!


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