Subcontinental Divide - 2021

Warfare 2.0 - The Rise of Machismo-Lite

By Ahsen Jillani

You are probably reading this a few weeks after the fall of Kabul, but I am willing to go out on a limb on this one, so bear with me. The first few days of this so-called invasion was a blur of videos of bearded guys hugging on streets and then drinking tea. They supposedly moved into various regional cities without firing a single shot. Then the mysterious airlifts at the airport started. Seems the US and many allied countries are just casually landing soldiers and planes to evacuate their citizens and even those 18,000 plus locals and their 50,000 family members who helped during the 20-year war effort. We will see how those visa applications go.

The brutal Taliban of 20 years ago? Instead of beating men without beards and stoning women like before … they are now still drinking tea while US C-17 aircraft are packing people like sheep and flying them out night and day. This new face of the fearsome warrior is actually becoming the new normal. Former President Trump launched about $50 million of the American taxpayers' money into Syria while eating chocolate cake with the Chinese prime minister at Mar-a-Lago. The problem was this: A couple of Syrian guys were sitting on this abandoned airfield – also probably drinking tea.

The White House and the Pentagon were all shocked at the two-person death toll. The billion-dollar satellites should have detected that two guys were sitting in the desert. After all, this was a reality TV president launching a reality TV spectacle, and nobody was supposed to die. The show of force was more akin to a July 4 fireworks display. Nobody wanted to kill people, or even damage any new stuff that had just arrived from Amazon via a hyperactive UPS truck that chucked ten boxes of bullets into the airfield, ran over the mailbox, and then sped off after sending a cell phone shot of the packages to the ISIS warriors.

The Taliban know the story we all should now know. Warfare is nothing more than a video game for the massive trillion dollar superpower militaries of today. The formula has become so simple that it is downright silly now. The B-1 bombers take out the radars from 60,000 feet. They are out of reach of any small country's air force or missiles. Then the AC-130 gunships and the A-10 Warthogs come in and destroy the entire city or military base in 20 minutes by raining pure hell full of 40mm bullets and 105mm rockets. Their sensors can practically see a pistol in a person's pocket, day or night, from 25,000 feet. There is no place to run from 2,000 rounds of bullets a minute that can chop down an entire forest in a few seconds.

So, in a sense, this concept of “the mother of all battles", as Saddam Hussain warned, is a sad joke. The US took his entire military out flying at a leisurely 275 knots five miles up in the air. This harkens back to the escalating Cold War in the 60s, when the concept of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) played a major part in nuclear deterrence. If both sides could destroy each other, there would be no war. Today, the technology is so one-sided, that you can just call it Assured Destruction (AD).

And the word “Ad" can explain a lot about today's global warfare. The Taliban are back after 20 years, but they have arrived in a world of social media and Netflix. While you are solar charging your new beard trimmer from Amazon sitting on a mountain north of Kandahar, you have other major issues. Doordash is delivering kabobs shortly, but you are two miles from the village and can't find your mask; there is that other issue with the cellphone network being down so you can't spool the next episode of “Vikings." And what's really chapping you while rubbing retinol and then sunscreen on yourself on this brutal summer day at 13,000 feet is that the local village Starbucks, called Crescentbucks here, has run out of goat milk – and you need that morning triple mocha chai latte, or you are really grumpy while polishing your AK-47 and the bullets.

Truth is that the Taliban, and most of these guns waving 15th century organizations, know that the US will knock out their cell towers and destroy their convoys of pickups with machine guns mounted on them in about 15 minutes. These groups don't have any air forces, not that it even matters to most superpowers, and don't have any missiles that can battle what descends on them from thin air. Why, they could be knocked into the pre-social media stone age of 20 years ago in minutes. No pre-ordering lamb shank ahead of the invasion. No selfies in front of burned signs of uncovered vulgar women selling toothpaste. No exchanging videos of fake mad max type, high speed chases of sheep and shepherds in the open tundra. Life can get very hard very fast.

So, as of this writing, Taliban 2.0 are still following the rules of Warfare 2.0. Lay low. Browse the Walmart website for Black Friday deals. Drool over the latest shoes from China. The new and improved warriors. We saw them right here on January 6 in camo and well-armed – people living in their parents' basements and crying in front of judges while their lawyers argued that they were mentally deficient and duped by a con man. That kind of warrior. Pass the frothed milk, please. This tea is potent.


Ahsen Jillani a former editor and publisher, is originally from Islamabad, Pakistan, and now lives in Mint Hill. He owns Must Media, a PR company focusing on both political and corporate clients.