Liz Cheney was on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd this morning. Chuck Todd likes to show that bipartisanship is still possible and that he can get Republicans to offer opinions that are outside the cult talking points. Liz Cheney has been in trouble with her Republican colleagues because she refuses to act in lockstep with the Trump cult. She admits that ‘the big lie’ is a big lie, that Trump was not cheated out of winning the 2020 election by fraudulent voting, and that what happened on January 6, 2021 was an insurrection. She is on the bipartisan committee investigating the activities of January 6 th, Trump’s ties to the violence, and the attempt to overturn a valid American election. Cheney shows us an integrity that is missing in most Republican behavior recently. She is certainly not the most frustrating Republican Chuck Todd has forced Americans to listen to in the interests of restoring cross-the-aisle discussions and legislative compromises. So far, his attempts at both-sides-ism have been less than effective and are hardly welcomed by his audience.
In today’s discussion of Afghanistan Liz Cheney said that our troops were in Afghanistan to keep it from becoming a ‘safe haven’ for terrorists and extremists. While that rationale might have been apparent right after the actions against America on September 11, 2001, very little is made of this as a reason for still being in Afghanistan 20 years later. Once Americans get involved militarily in a nation that is struggling, where people are poor and the government seems far away, too corrupt and disorganized to provide help, we start to believe that there is a humanitarian aspect to our sacrifices. This makes losing our soldiers seem to be an act of grace with a purpose beyond our own interests. In the case of Afghanistan when we were seeing positive changes in the lives of Afghan people, especially women and girls, it was easy to forget that this was only true in a small cordoned off piece of Afghanistan that was temporarily being remade in America’s image. It was easy to forget the poverty in far-flung villages where the government held little sway.
Republicans do not like getting distracted by humanistic concerns. They don’t like it at home, and they really don’t like it abroad. The world is just a surface without boundaries for American troops to roam at will. The world is full of deadbeats to Republicans. If you are poor, you did something to deserve it, or you didn’t do the things necessary to avoid it.
It’s possible Republicans once had a heart that could still be moved to tears, but the party decided along the way that compassion was something they could not afford. Being in Afghanistan to prevent it from becoming a terrorist safe haven is not necessarily a bad reason to be there. Perhaps it should just not be the only reason. There are still forces that would love to topple America, although they can sit back and watch us do that for ourselves in 2021. Our divisiveness about masks and vaccines is so powerful that we cannot act in unison, even to beat a disastrous virus that is changing America even more than our political divisions have managed to change us.
It seems as if someone came up with this ‘no safe haven’ motive for staying in Afghanistan just to spite Biden’s removal of our troops and to make Biden look incompetent. If keeping terrorists at bay was the most important reason for being in Afghanistan all along, why weren’t we constantly reminded of that mission. Instead, the mission got more and more muddled, until it seemed like a rescue operation and another nation building project. People are saying that we are once again peddling democracy to a nation that has no democratic traditions. Trying to sell democracy in a world that is becoming increasingly authoritarian may be unrealistic, but it is understandable. Republicans used to be focused on selling both democracy and capitalism.
Republicans certainly don’t need to come up with more ways to push us all to believe that Biden did not have a good plan or a clear understanding of how many people did not want to live under the Taliban. The ‘no safe haven’ rationale is overkill at this point. But it may be the one that sticks. Republican have discovered and exploited the power of fear for at least the past two decades. Striking fear in people’s hearts is not the same thing as striving to lift human hearts.