According to reports, Gen. H. R. McMaster convinced President Trump to give up his longstanding opposition to the Afghan war by showing him this photograph, below, of Afghan women in what the media are describing as "miniskirts." As the Washington Post put it:
One of the ways McMaster tried to persuade Trump to recommit to the effort was by convincing him that Afghanistan was not a hopeless place. He presented Trump with a black-and-white snapshot from 1972 of Afghan women in miniskirts walking through Kabul, to show him that Western norms had existed there before and could return.
The irony is that, in 1972, when this photo was taken on the grounds of Kabul University, Afghanistan was firmly in the orbit of the Soviet Union, as it had been since 1953, when Prime Minister Mohammed Daoud Khan rose to power and instituted a series of progressive reforms, including equal rights for women. The next year, Khan deposed King Mohammed Zahir Shah, and Soviet aid poured in, alongside the Red Army.
More irony: it was the United States, alongside Washington's then-ally Osama bin Laden, that overthrew the communist regime, and conducted a guerrilla war against the Afghan government and their Soviet sponsors. The last Soviet troops left in 1989 — and there were no more miniskirts to be seen anywhere in Afghanistan.
Gen. McMaster knows all this: our President does not. Does McMaster think he can bring communism back to Afghanistan? I jest, but with serious intent. Because the commies attempted what our President has vowed not to do in Afghanistan: they sought to create a nation out of a collection of mountain-guarded valleys, isolated bastions untouched by time or the vaunted ambitions of their many would-be conquerors.
Here is Trump, trying to justify the prolongation of the longest war in our history:
I am here to talk about tonight, that nearly 16 years after September 11 attacks, after the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure, the American people are weary of war without victory.
Nowhere is this more evident than with the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history – 17 years. I share the American people's frustration. I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money, and most importantly, lives trying to rebuild countries in our own image instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations.
How to reconcile this abjuration of hubris with that photo of mini-skirted Afghan women? It can't be done, but then again Trump is all about contradictions:
Shortly after my inauguration, I directed Secretary of Defense Mattis and my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of all strategic options in Afghanistan and South Asia.
My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts. But all my life, I have heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the oval office. In other words, when you are president of the United States.
Has such a confession of betrayal ever been uttered by a public figure? For years he told us Afghanistan was a waste of lives and treasure, and that we had to get out. And now he's flip-flopped because McMaster showed him a photo of Afghan women in mini-skirts! Oh, how easy it was – too easy!
"So I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle," he claims. Really? Did he study it enough to realize that no one has ever conquered Afghanistan? Did he contemplate the storied history of that unforgiving land, which caused even Alexander the Great to turn back? Did he study the provenance and context of that photograph, in which Afghan women dared to show their knees?
Of course not!
"After many meetings over many months," Trump continued,
[W]e held our final meeting last Friday at Camp David with my cabinet and generals to complete our strategy. I arrived at three fundamental conclusions about America's core interests in Afghanistan.
First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives. The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory. They deserve the tools they need and the trust they have earned to fight and to win.
What is the moral meaning of this? That lives wasted in a futile crusade must be matched by yet more sacrifices on the altar of the war god? We are told that Trump met with five enlisted soldiers before making his decision to go along with the generals' war plan: I'd like to know what they said. The White House won't tell us.
From this moral inversion Trump descends into an inversion of the facts:
Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable. 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists. A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11.