No, Afghanistan is NOT a humiliating defeat.

We have heard a lot of overheated rhetoric about America suffering a humiliating defeat in Afghanistan. Among the many commentators are those who should know better than to characterise the end of the conflict as a humiliating defeat. 

When compared to *any* previous humiliating defeat, America’s withdrawal from Afghtanistan after 20 years of war, at a time, place, and pace of its choosing, is anything *but* a humiliating defeat. To argue otherwise, is to be intellectually dishonest and to dishonour those who have suffered a humiliating defeat. 

  1. France 1940 is a humiliating defeat. France (and its allies) was defeated in six weeks. A well equipped, well trained, modern, experienced army was steamrolled in six weeks by the Nazis.  
  1. Dunkirk 1940 is a humiliating defeat.  Britain had to evacuate most of its troops but still left behind all their equipment and 40,000 men. They fled under an improvised evacuation under continuous fire as the remaining French and British troops fought a valiant, if ultimately futile, rearguard action. Nothing was negotiated and France and Britain surrendered on the Nazis terms.
  1. Burma 1942 was a humiliating defeat. As General Joseph Stillwell put it bluntly, the Allies (British, Chinese, and American) were run out of Burma by the Japanese. He had to fight an exhausting regard action holding off the Japanese while he walked out of the Burmese jungle leading his men in one of history’s greatest retreats.  

“I claim we got a hell of a beating. We got run out of Burma and it is as humiliating as hell. I think we ought to find out what caused it, go back and retake it.”

  1. Singapore 1942 was a humiliating defeat as the Japanese overran the British and conquered what had been considered a defensive bulwark in seven days. The Japanese were outnumbered and bluffed the British into surrendering even though Churchill had told the local commander, Percival, to fight to the end. As a result, 80,000 British, Indian, and Australian troops were captured. It is the largest surrender in British history. Once they surrendered the local population was subjected to horrific treatment by the Japanese military.
  1. The fall of the Philippines was a humiliating defeat for the United States as the Japanese who were outnumbered defeated the Americans and the Philippine armies. It is estimated that 23,000 Americans and 100,000 Filipino soldiers were killed or captured.–1942)  
  1. Berlin 1945 was a humiliating defeat.  Nazi Germany was crushed into dust by the Red Army. (The Allies defeated Germany overall but the battle of Berlin was done by the Red Army.
  1. Tokyo 1945 was a humiliating defeat. The Japanese signed an unconditional surrender after being firebombed for months and having two atomic weapons used on them.
  1. The Arab countries losing the 6 day war was a humiliating defeat. The Israelis using a decisive opining air attack to wipe out the Egyptian airforce on the ground in one strike and the next day took out the Syrian airforce. 

The United States had been in Afghanistan for 20 years and had done as it pleased throughout the country. At no point was it close to being militarily defeated nor was any area off limits to a determined effort to reach it or patrol it. 

When the United States agreed to leave, it negotiated its withdrawal because staying served no strategic purpose. In other words, it chose to leave. When you choose to leave, instead of being forced at gunpoint or pain of death, you are hardly humiliated. You retain your agency. A surrender means you have no say in the matter because you cannot resist. 

As for casualties, the figure is even more extreme and demonstrates the disparity of other defeats and battles. In 20 years of war, the United States lost 2,401 servicemen. By contrast, Britain on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 lost 19,240 killed in action and 38,230 wounded.   In less than 12 hours, the British lost 8x as many men as the US lost in 20 years in Afghanistan.

To choose the time, place, and pace of your withdrawal is not a humiliating defeat unless you are arguing in bad faith about what constitutes a defeat.

It is time to stop arguing in bad faith and begin to be honest with the American public. If you believe America was humiliated in Afghanistan, you are lying to the American public. If you believe what is being said, the you are being taken for a fool and you owe it to yourself to get an education. 


About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
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2 Responses to No, Afghanistan is NOT a humiliating defeat.

  1. flynnroad says:

    regarding your statement on casualties, Over the last 5-6 years or more, more US military were killed during training than in Afghanistan.

    • That is a good point. I would imagine that any of the commanders who faced those defeats would rather have been in the position of the USA in Afghanistan to choose their time, place, and pace of disengaging.

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