Opinion | As the Afghanistan Deadline Arrives

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To the Editor:

Re “Let’s Not Pretend That the Way We Withdrew From Afghanistan Was the Problem,” by Ezra Klein (column, nytimes.com, Aug. 26):

Many members of my extended family and former clients are from Afghanistan, and it is concerning that the prevailing wisdom has now become that we should never have tried to help them in the first instance and never should again. Saving a nation from tyranny is a herculean mission, but we should not be so quick to conclude that it is unachievable.

Mr. Klein notes that poor execution should not be blamed for bad ideas. I would posit that the reverse is equally true. Casting the endeavor as inevitably doomed should not absolve repeated failures in execution and mistakes in political and military decision-making.

We cannot with certainty say there were no alternate decisions that could have been made over the last 20 years that could have led to a better outcome. Perhaps Afghanistan could never have been the ideal version of a Western liberal democracy, but something short of that and better than the current outcome is not unimaginable.

Simply because we failed does not mean that success was never possible. Simply because nation-building is hard does not mean it cannot be done. Simply because we floundered does not mean we should never have tried.

The price of defeat has been steep, but the reward of salvaging a nation of 39 million and the lives of generations of women and girls was worth the attempt, even if the possibility of success was remote.

Aris Daghighian
Toronto
The writer is an immigration and refugee lawyer.

To the Editor:

Re “American University of Afghanistan students and relatives trying to flee were sent home” (Live Update, nytimes.com, Aug. 30):

As a lecturer of public policy at William & Mary, I am embarrassed that our nation abandoned American University of Afghanistan students as they tried to flee the Taliban. The school has been captured; students have been massacred there before, in 2016. The students’ only crime was to be educated in classrooms funded by the United States.

Among those students now in hiding from the Taliban in Kabul is the sibling of a friend, who has not slept in days. He has called members of Congress. He helped other family members leave Afghanistan. But my friend is losing hope for his sibling, now trapped because of names on a list given to the Taliban to enable evacuation, only to be left behind as U.S. soldiers fly away.

The Afghanistan war is lost. But the United States must do everything possible to save the students.

Alan Kennedy
Williamsburg, Va.

To the Editor:

Re “‘I Won’t Go 20 Years Back in Time’: Young Afghan Women Speak Out” (video, Aug. 29):

This video contradicts the current conventional wisdom that the war was a mistake, since these women could not have tasted the freedoms they’re about to lose had it not been for what George W. Bush did in 2001. At the same time, it seems that these women enjoyed privileges and opportunities denied to the vast majority of Afghan citizens, who even in recent years would never venture into careers in music, boxing or journalism. It feels like a story as much about class and culture as it is about gender.

Perhaps instead of complaining that the United States is abandoning them, they should be thanking us for going there in the first place, which will hopefully inspire them to take the fight for their freedom into their own hands.

James David Jacobs
Arlington, Va.

To the Editor:

Re “Rescue Flight to Germany Inspires Name for Newborn” (news article, Aug. 28):

I loved reading about the baby girl born after fleeing from Afghanistan, whose mother named her Reach in honor of the plane that carried them. However, I was dismayed by the comments of Gen. Tod Wolters: “It’s my dream to watch that young child, called Reach, grow up and be a U.S. citizen and fly United States Air Force fighters in our Air Force.”

My hope for her is that she never experiences another war, and that by the time she grows up, there will be no wars for her to fight.

Marge Kennedy
New York

How Companies Can Fix Labor Shortages

To the Editor:

Re “How Not to Create Jobs,” by Paul Krugman (column, nytimes.com, Aug. 24):

States canceling the $300-a-week pandemic-related unemployment insurance wrongly blame “generous” benefits for current labor shortages, and companies claim that access to benefits keeps workers away. However, their argument is wrong and disingenuous.

Data confirms that benefits do not discourage work. Rather, people want to work but poor health, lack of child care, low wages, unsafe working conditions, sexual harassment and, more recently, fear of Covid stand in their way. While labor is temporarily in short supply, labor market problems run deeper.

Greedy corporations invest too much in mergers, acquisitions and stock buybacks and too little in job creation. Seeking to lower labor costs, business and industry turned to technology and production abroad.

Workers do not need incentives to work. Corporations that pay well and reimagine work attract workers. Covid-related labor shortages have provided workers with the leverage needed to press for change. Corporations that invest in more jobs with high pay, shorter hours and healthy working conditions — and that come up with interesting new ways to organize work — will not face labor shortages and labor unrest.

Mimi Abramovitz
New York
The writer is a professor of social policy at the Silberman School of Social Work, Hunter College, and the CUNY Graduate Center.

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