I would first highlight the tension between PoliticalProf’s first two paragraphs. I say “tension” rather than “contradiction” because I mostly agree with these first two paragraphs.3
The Taliban are unspeakably vile. So are the Lord’s Republican Army in Congo. The Assad regime in Syria. The monstrosities that run Equatorial Guinea and Burma and North Korea.
It is simply not the United States’ job—nor is it within its capacity—to fix all the evils in the world. More, the notion that we have a sacrosanct ability to understand what is best for others is a trope at best, and colonialism at worst. In any case, there are going to be lots of evil places in the world the US doesn’t try to “fix”; Afghanistan doesn’t have to make the special list of beneficiaries of American wonderfulness.
The Taliban are unspeakably vile but we don’t have a sacrosanct ability to understand what is best for others? It’s true—we need to be extremely careful when passing judgment on other countries and other cultures. Not everyone does things the same way we do. Self-determination is important, even when it doesn’t reach the conclusions we would like.
But with that said, the Taliban are unspeakably vile. We can practice some level of cultural humility in accepting some practices we’re uncomfortable with. But we can draw a line before “unspeakably vile.” We may not know what is best for Afghanistan—but it’s not the Taliban.
I think we can agree that all else equal, the world would be a better place without the Taliban running Afghanistan. The part of PoliticalProf’s argument I don’t understand is why the existence of other horrible regimes affects our obligations toward the regime in question.4 If continued intervention in Afghanistan were acceptable if the Taliban were a singularly evil regime, why does it become less acceptable because there are other regimes that are comparably evil? If PoliticalProf were to say that the opportunity cost of fighting the Taliban means that we can’t take any action against the Lord’s Resistance Army, I would understand his argument.