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Opinion

Abdicated

FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno - The Philippine Star

The quick collapse of the Western-backed government in Afghanistan is the tremor. The tsunami it caused will be felt in the world of diplomacy and international relations.

In Europe, the phrase “strategic autonomy” is quickly gaining currency. The concept implies the European countries must become more assertive in global affairs to conserve the values-based global order fostered by the West since the end of the Second World War.

Underpinning “strategic autonomy” is the conviction that the US had abdicated the role of leading the world towards a future of democracy, human rights and fair trade. The drift of domestic American politics dictates this abdication. As the US implodes, Europe must move quickly to fill the void.

“Strategic autonomy,” however, means the Europeans must step up their spending to beef up their military and diplomatic capacity. Not many European nations are prepared to do that. And so the concept of “strategic autonomy” is confined largely in think pieces, away from the real world of policy.

What this means, in turn, is that the world drifts rudderless into a perilous future of fanatical terrorist networks and autocratic rulers. There is no power to serve as cornerstone for the free and prosperous global order that seemed to be the promise of the postwar order.

The European dilemma is concretely expressed in the situation at Kabul airport. The Europeans, led by Britain, want the evacuations to continue until everyone who needs to leave is able to do so. Washington, on the other hand, reeling under domestic political fallout from the fiasco, wants all operations to end by Aug. 31.

When the Americans leave on that appointed date, the Europeans will have no choice but to abandon the airport as well. The Europeans have neither the military nor the air transport capacity to continue on their own.

Beyond Aug. 31, Afghanistan could well descend into chaos. Isolated, the country faces the prospect of famine. Without the skilled talent lost to evacuation, the country cannot muster a semblance of modern government. They cannot run airports or operate sophisticated technology. The WHO estimates there is only a week’s worth of medical supplies in this forsaken country.

When chaos breaks out, the Taliban will rely on the only asset they have: illiterate fighters awash with rifles and abundant ammunition. All promises of a kinder and gentler Taliban 2.0 will melt like ice in the desert.

Retired Gen. David Petraeus, who once commanded Western forces in Afghanistan, blamed the fiasco on Trump.

When Trump opened negotiations with the Taliban in 2018, the US made it clear they wanted to leave. There was therefore no need for the Taliban to make concessions.

The talks excluded the US-backed government in Kabul. That signaled to the political leaders there and the national army that they are excluded from the future of the country. On that signal, local warlords cut their separate deals with the Taliban.

As a concession to the Taliban, Washington pressured Kabul to release 5,000 Taliban fighters held in their prisons. The freed fighters led the final offensive.

Distracted

Manny Pacquiao is not being forthright about his health after that crushing defeat to Ugas.

A photo released by Jinkee Pacquiao no less shows her spoon-feeding her husband, whose puffy eyelids impair his sight. The Filipino boxer’s recovery might take longer and his return to the country delayed from the battering he received.

It is clear age took its toll in that important match. Pacquiao did not have the knees to penetrate Ugas’ defense. But on top of that, it appears that Pacquiao was also a distracted fighter when he entered the ring. That is a fatal, self-inflicted error. A fighter of his caliber should know that boxing at this level requires no less than total focus.

Video footage taken by a Fox crew tells us much about Pacquiao’s mental and psychological state on the day of the fight.

Instead of reviewing footage about his unknown opponent and devising tactics for the fight, Pacquiao hung around with his political cronies over a long breakfast. The conversation was entirely political. They were busy scheming about how they could inflict damage on their political rivals back home.

At one point, the conversation centered around fantasizing about sending Energy Secretary Al Cusi, his main rival for leadership of the PDP-Laban, to jail. That was entirely trash talk – at a time when he should be plotting his moves against Ugas.

Any serious boxer on the morning of a big fight would have been running combinations in his mind, practicing the right footwork and deciding on the proper counterpunching. Pacquiao’s mind was clearly somewhere else. He wasted crucial time before the fight with people who could not possibly help him win – in boxing or in politics.

It could be overconfidence. Pacquiao seriously underestimated his opponent. He did not bother to study him and devise the right tactics to use. He did not watch old fight videos as Ugas did of Manny’s previous fights.

Overconfidence is not mere lapse. It is a statement of the man’s quality of judgment. Wasting precious time with his political cronies on pointless banter right before a vital contest is poor judgment.

Pacquiao is a public servant. Filipino taxpayers pay his salary. His absence alone is already an anomaly.

Whenever his whim dictates, he will return home. He will not wear a champion’s belt. All he will have is that faulty judgment that contributed to a crushing defeat.

It is that faulty judgment he will rely on to be president.

AFGHANISTAN US
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