20 years later

Charles Sheeler (1883–1965), American, oil on canvas, 121,9 × 91,4 cm, 1931.


The same Afghanistan and the new USA on 11/XNUMX

In a few days, next September 11th, it will be 20 years since the United States suffered the biggest terrorist attack in its history. Considered the most serious failure in US security since Pearl Harbor, 1942 (which cost Japan two atomic bombs), it is necessary to put into context that the “11/2001” of 50 was more than a social trauma to the US, it was an unacceptable demonstration of vulnerability in the country that has invested a third of its budget over the last XNUMX years in defense.

The entire US defense strategy revolves around the principle that its territory is inviolable. The country that was never invaded and that, with the exception of the naval base in the pacific, has no history of damage caused by the enemy in its physical space and in its civilian population – even being in practically all the wars of the last hundred years – had the feat of having a consolidated security system; with the enviable and effective intelligence system in the search for preventive information as in Cuba in 1962.

Having broken the paradigm of this containment strategy, the failure of “11/XNUMX” made the country review all its security protocols and considerably change the way it treats its defense, including new forms of war and new non-state threats in its manuals. .

Provoked by a small group, from a derisory country in North Asia, Al Qaeda hidden by the Taliban in the government of Afghanistan violated the most sophisticated defense system in the world and precipitated not only the change in relation to the security protocols of the United States, but it also contributed to the end of an era of capitalism.

Assuming that the results of a War against Afghanistan consisted of the westernized discourse of democracy, human rights and modernity is a mistake. We must assume here that the US, when it goes to Afghanistan, is not only looking at the enemy, but at itself and its vulnerabilities. Obviously, when reacting to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, it was not supposed that some internal structures would be so affected; as the very stage of industrial capitalism in its financial phase known as neoliberalism.

When the Twin Towers collapsed, the hegemony of the financial system that sustained New York's delirious society of yuppies began to fall. 20 years later, when the Taliban returns the government of Afghanistan, we can say that this transition phase is well advanced and without a point of return.

For those who assume that the US lost the war against Afghanistan and the Taliban, it is important to consider that the objective was never to win or subdue the country, but to correct national security flaws that allowed the attack; in addition to imposing a certain cruelty on enemies that is typical of empires. If we understand that the purpose was that, the presence or absence of US soldiers is as ridiculous as saying “won” or “lost”. The relevant fact is that today Afghanistan under the Taliban does not constitute a terrorist threat to the United States and the path that was followed so that this could happen is as important as this result.

The sophistication of the US defense system has gone through heavy investment in technology and changes in the pattern of its espionage. People leave and machines enter. This changes the pattern. Let's remember that in 2001 the fashion phone was the Blackberry, and its keyboard attached to a larger screen allowed access to the internet. In 2006, the Google search engine only appeared – an appetizer to find out what people want and are looking for. The smartphone appears only in 2010 with Apple. And the NSA's sophisticated spying and monitoring systems focus on hijacking data from these companies that was revealed by Snowden is part of the effort described here as changing US security and defense protocol.

The investment in technology, the participation of private companies, the sophistication of data collection and analysis. Considering political groups, however small they may be (rather than national governments) as a threat to security is not trivial and relied on the public and private sectors to subvert the flow of capital in the economy.

In the 20 years that the Taliban were ousted from power and international society experienced a new system of communication and data processing that brought revolution after revolution, significant changes in our way of life; It has also given governments and companies in the US technology sector a never-before-imagined refinement of knowledge about each of us as citizens, as consumers; our habits, our tastes, our routine, the places we go to, the experiences and plans we create. Everything is recorded or leaves a trail to be pursued in virtual fields.

The system created by the NSA made it possible to map who and where the threats are. Not only. Also to business. After “11/XNUMX”, people gave way to artificial intelligence and soldiers are now less responsible than drones for the surveillance system. This alteration of the military protocol, sophisticated companies, generated resources for new businesses, opened up a whole field of bidding and many researches emerged. There was a national effort that transferred a significant part of intelligence and resources to the digital world.

The second element that favored the subversion of the US economy to impose defeats on neoliberalism was the 2008 crisis itself. If we look at the ranking of the largest companies at the beginning of the 20th century, we will find oil and finance companies. If we look at the same ranking today, we will find financial capital companies in smaller numbers, giving space and leadership to technology companies (some with less than XNUMX years of existence). What is the old Ford, icon of the XNUMXth century, compared to Microsoft?

September 11th on the side of investment in digital monitoring data processing systems and the 2008 Crisis exposing Banks for the damage caused by the real estate bubble precipitated the US entry into the digital race. And without these two events they would be caught absolutely off guard by the pattern of the Chinese economy.

As an exogenous element to the process, China's recent trade leadership, its investments in technology and the expansion of the country's direct investments drew attention to the fact that the US could lose world economic leadership. Another unthinkable element at the beginning of the 5st century, but which has taken over the sensationalist pages of newspapers with the XNUMXG disputes.

These three apparently dispersed and causally unrelated elements form the storm of events that led the US (and in tow the western world) to economic reconfiguration and somehow remain in the international dispute for hegemony. Few people have realized that the correlation of political forces in the US has changed and economic changes have accelerated the country towards new patterns.

Note that although Obama spent $3 trillion to bring the US financial system out of bankruptcy, he beat Hillary (Wall Street's representative in the Democratic Party) and restructured the military to modernize its technology. Obama used digital media, created a fundraising system on social networks, knew how to use the most modern technology resources. The NSA gained power under his administration. Power and resources. Obama watched from the White House the operation that assassinated Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011. Finding Bin Laden required a complex espionage system using the most modern database models. Over the past twenty years, the US has avoided so many other attacks and has sophisticated its system to prevent attacks by cells linked to international jihad that the security protocol has won. It is not necessary to be in Afghanistan to be in Afghanistan. It is no longer necessary to be anywhere in the world to spy.

Thanks to protocol changes, political changes also came: Trump also did not represent the financial system, he came from the productive sector and defended that through precarious jobs he would face China. Now, more than Biden, Kamala Harris represents and uses technology companies. Representatives of the financial sector on the east coast left the White House to take over those linked to silicon valley on the west coast.

Therefore, contrary to what has been discussed in general, the US has already achieved what it wanted with its incursion into Afghanistan. They mapped the terrain, regained control of the situation, created new protocols, weakened their enemies and potential threats, and ruled out any possibility of a new breach of their internal defense system. In addition, the anticipated shift in the correlation of forces in the White House allows efforts to confront technology to gain the upper hand.

The Taliban, the fundamentalist groups of the Islamic State and the situation in the Middle East present less of a problem for the US at the moment. The region is less interesting. Obama, with his shale oil program, has undertaken to reduce energy dependency. Now it's time to turn off the spending faucet to other priorities. In addition, the US will be much more comfortable in its natural position in North Asia: as saboteurs it can finance rival groups so that nothing happens, so that the interconnection, the trade corridor that China wants does not take place and the internal disputes drag on for years on end, with expense and effort in vain on the side of the Chinese and Russians. It's time to kick the ladder.

It may be that, as has been predicted, in 15 or 20 years the US will be far behind the Chinese. This does not necessarily mean good or bad news for us Brazilians. In this new form of dispute between the world's main powers, the most strategically fragile and weakest region is Latin America, which has dealt badly with the interests of all sides. Our situation gets even worse when we misread the situation: the withdrawal of the US army and the retaking of Kabul by the Taliban after 20 years does not mean the omen that it is claimed to. It is not a tragedy or sign of the times.

What the US wanted twenty years ago was not a sweeping victory of Western civilization over barbarism. It was just revenge and defense tests. It was known in advance that it was unlikely to find peace in Afghanistan. But it was a war that sensitized public opinion and became a good strategy for changing procedures and accelerating changes in the deep state.

*Luis Fernando Vitagliano is a political scientist and university professor.


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