With respect to Afghanistan, the puppeteers waggling the dead husk that is Joe Biden have made a political calculation - that, on the home front, the fact of departure will count for more than the manner of departure. Joe's not a ubiquitous figure in the news cycle the way Trump was, so he can sit in the basement for a few more days - and, in electoral terms, America's total humiliation in its umpteenth unwon war in some krappistan no one can find on a map will ultimately work for the Dems.
The Taliban, for their part, seem happy to play along. The BBC reports that the female anchors are back on Afghan telly! They were hurriedly yanked from the screens on Sunday morning, presumably because the execs feared the ladies would be damned as whores of the infidels and taken off to Herat and Kandahar never to be seen again. But "Taliban 2.0" (as they're being called in all apparent seriousness) are playing a subtler game this time. So the Rachel Maddows and Joy Reids of Tolo News are back on air - and, with bare-faced cheek, quizzing the fiercely bearded jihad boys about their plans for the restored Islamic Emirate:
This is Kabul, of course, where the savvier Talibs are in charge. Out of town, things might play out more traditionally: The BBC reports that in Jalalabad the local holy warriors are already firing on protestors, and al-Jazeera says Khost, too. In Taleqan, in the far north near the Tajikistan border, a woman was reported to have been shot dead for not wearing a burqa.
Even so, even in Kabul, why would the Taliban be giving cordial interviews to non-burqaed babes? Why aren't they getting back helter-skelter to the good old days of head-chopping and child sex-slaves and crushing homosexuals under walls constructed specifically for that purpose?
Short answer: They're not as stupid as we are.
What's the big takeaway from Sunday? That a bunch of psycho decapitators are back in the saddle in Hoogivsastan? Or that "a pitiful, helpless giant" (in Nixon's famous phrase) is on its back having lost a war even more stupidly than it lost all the other wars?
You don't have to be a graduate of some Ivy League madrassah to figure that one out. Yesterday I quoted the Taliban presser:
Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid says 'We have defeated a great power.'
Why step on that message by taking the cat o' nine tails to uncovered women?
Mr Mujahid grasps the key point:
America lost. All the rest is details.
We are playing Strong Horse/Weak Horse, as articulated by Osama bin Laden twenty years ago, and as quoted shortly thereafter in the front of America Alone:
When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.
Strong Horse/Weak Horse is a subtler concept than you might think: for example, waddling down an Afghan street in the full Robocop is not a Strong Horse thing, not when you've been occupying the country for twenty years and the guys you're losing to ride around in the back of pick-ups with no body armor other than a full beard and a shalwar kameez.
Osama may even be overstating things: you don't have actively to like the Strong Horse; you simply have to recognize that the other guy is the Weak Horse, and therefore a bad bet for your future. And Weak Horse status can get conferred incrementally:
~China swallows Hong Kong with nary a peep of protest from the west: Weak Horse;
~The Wuhan Institute of Virology infects the planet and pays no price from America and Europe: Weak Horse;
~Washington approves Russian pipeline to Germany while canceling Canadian pipeline to America,and then begs the miraculously resurrected Opec to increase production - which they decline to do: Weak Horse.
Western analysts often purport to be baffled by Islamic support for China when Beijing is putting hundreds of thousands of Muslims in concentration camps and harvesting their body parts. I even mention it in our Chinaman song, as one of the only available rhymes for "Uighur":
Global Muslim complaints are meagre
- at least when compared with continuous denunciations of western "Islamophobia". To be sure, a lot of the more ramshackle Islamic backwaters have simply been bought off by Chairman Xi, but if it were just about the benjamins the profligate Yanks would have won: on Sunday the "President" of Afghanistan flew the coop with $169 million.
He would have taken more, but he couldn't jam any more cash into the chopper.
Being unable to buy an Afghan "president" for less than a fifth of a billion is a pitiful Weak Horse thing. By contrast, the Chinese spend cautiously but, to the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, Chairman Xi's brutal chastising of domestic opposition (even Muslims) signals he's a serious Strong Horse.
And, of course, to Biden the Uighur genocide is merely different cultural norms.
The Taliban have had a lot of time to think about this. Khairullah Khairkhwa, the alleged brains of this spectacular operation, spent over a decade at Gitmo, where the Great Satan flies in a former Ritz-Carlton pastry chef to make the post-Ramadan baklava (I'm being serious; I met the guy in 2006) and is so solicitous of jihadist feelings that he hangs every new inmate's complimentary Koran in a surgical mask on the cell wall so Ahmed will know his holy book is perfectly hygienic. Thereby teaching the jihadists that we implicitly accept Islam's critique of us - that we infidels are unclean.
Mr Khairkhwa had twelve years of that tender regime before Obama swapped him and four other A-listers for the traitor Bowe Bergdahl, whom the 44th President then chose to honor in the Rose Garden as a returning hero. Between them, Bergdahl and Thoroughly Modern Milley couldn't organize a piss with a self-lubricating catheter. But the five guys (and many more) returned east with something the Taliban had never previously had: years of valuable insight into the psychology of the Great Satan.
You can sort of deduce that from Zabiullah Mujahid's press conferences, which, whatever one feels about the chap, are way better than Jen Psaki's. I mentioned last night that, when asked about free speech, he replied that that question should be directed at Facebook - which is funnier than anything Jimmy Fallon, Trevor Noah and the other leaden jesters of American late-night telly have said in at least five years, and he didn't need thirty-seven writers, either.
But Mr Mujahid's bon mot also hints at another leg of Weak Horsiness. We are not who we were twenty years ago:
The Taliban's strictures upon women - cover your face, don't leave your home - are now routine throughout the "free world".
In Western Australia, a lady has just appealed a prison sentence she was given for taking her dying father for a last picnic on a Bunbury beach.
In Victoria, if one wishes to "hook up" and make the beast with two backs, one has to register online the name of the other back.
In New York City, restaurateurs who serve unvaccinated persons will be fined $2,000. Yes indeed, under Bill de Blasio, the deep south has moved north, and Democrat rednecks are once again denying service to their Negroes, three-quarters of whom have declined to get jabbed.
Oh, but the Taliban are savages! Yeah, but in the lawless precincts of Woke America a customer can be attacked inside a bank ATM lobby by a man wielding a hatchet. Just for the record, it was an Hispanic chopped up by a black guy - so it even has the whiff of the same irredeemable tribalism as Pushtuns and Uzbeks.
I'm interested in urgency. On Sunday, some guy wanted me to help get his hashtag "trending": #F**kTheTaliban.
Er, hashtags aren't a thing; they're a way of pretending you've got a thing, when in fact you're just a big nothing. Try using a hashtag against a hatchet, in Manhattan or Mazar-i-Sharif, and let me know how it goes. Likewise, these "owning the libs" points about Twitter banning Trump but letting every firebreathing imam have the run of the joint are pathetic. If that's "conservatism", you'll be transitioning your son and marrying him to Mullah Bigbeard.
The Taliban guys think our moral preening is a joke, and they may not be wrong about that. Beyond the more lurid contradictions of our position, this is an existential crisis. America came to global dominance not as an imperial power but as a good neighbor happy to bankroll global community infrastructure projects. So it set up not district commissioners in pith helmets, but transnational institutions under the UN.
How'd that turn out? Well, the World Heath Organisation is an instructive example: we pay for it, but it's under the total control of our enemies.
Strong Horse/Weak Horse, even in public health.
The Taliban wags get the grand comedy of that, even if court eunuchs like Jimmy Fallon don't.