In the Irish poet William Butler Yeats’ “The Second Coming,” the “widening gyre” of a falcon has disconnected the bird from its trainer. Is it because the falcon has flown too far or that the trainer’s voice has grown too weak or ineffective? The poet doesn’t say because Yeats is focused, not on causes, but effects: “The falcon cannot hear the falconer;” which casts a wider ripple. “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”
Sure sounds like Afghanistan today, where, as Yeats wrote it just over a century ago, “anarchy is loosed,” “innocence is drowned” in blood and
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
After 20 years of America’s self-defined “best intentions,” the last three presidents have shared a single conviction about the U.S.’ “longest war,” best to leave it.
Just like the one from Viet Nam almost 50 years ago, America’s “second going” from Afghanistan leaves a mess and a mass of ruined lives behind, with an imbalance of “passionate intensity” on the enemy’s side.
Pamela Constable is a staff writer for The Washington Post’s foreign desk. She completed a tour as Afghanistan/Pakistan bureau chief in 2019, and served as a South Asia bureau chief based in India from 1999 to 2005. She also reported from Iraq in 2004 and 2005. She previously covered immigration issues and immigrant communities while based in Washington for The Post. Before joining The Post in 1994, she was a reporter, editor and foreign correspondent for the Boston Globe from 1982 to 1994, reporting mainly from Central and South America and the Caribbean. She was a reporter for the Baltimore Sun from 1978 to 1982. She is an author and has held writing fellowships at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Alicia Patterson Foundation and the Pew Journalism Program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and president of the Afghan Stray Animal League.