President Joe Biden places his hand over his heart as a carry team moves a transfer case with the remain Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Neb., during a casualty return at Dover Air Force Base, Del., Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021. Credit: Carolyn Kaster / AP

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Remember Afghanistan?

Three months ago, it was all over the news. The Biden Administration’s disastrous withdrawal strategy was criticized from the left, right and center. Veterans organized themselves into a “digital Dunkirk” to try and coordinate the safe passage of allies when the government could not do so.

Eleven Marines, one solider and one sailor lost their lives in a suicide attack.

Then … nothing.

After the United States officially left, the news cycle shifted. Sure, there were a few paeans to the nation around the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. But, by and large, America has moved on.

We’ve got infrastructure bills and “Build Back Better” to worry about. And November elections to break down. And Thanksgiving on the horizon.

And that is exactly why our efforts in Afghanistan — concluded with Biden’s foolhardy retreat — were all for naught.

As we pivot back towards entertainment, “Ted Lasso” is one of the most acclaimed shows on our streaming devices. He implores his players to “be a goldfish,” or have short memories. While scientifically suspect, his motto encourages people to forget their mistakes and move on.

America is a goldfish.

Afghanistan was described as our “longest war.” Some of the Marines who died in August were infants on Sept. 11, 2001. Essentially, their entire lives only knew an America with thousands of personnel deployed to Afghanistan.

Now, three months later, it barely registers on our radar screen.

Car bombings are killing people on the streets of Kabul. The United Nations claims that the country is on the brink of the “worst humanitarian disaster we’ve ever seen.” Young girls are being sold into slavery.

It’s horrific.

But we’re goldfish.  

Now, there are horrors occurring every day throughout the world, including in the United States. As a nation, we can’t fix all of them. It would be foolish to try.  

Yet, after the attacks on the Pentagon and the Twin Towers, we made an affirmative decision to go into Afghanistan. We did not have to do so. But like seeing someone drowning, while you might not have a responsibility to swim out to save them, once you take on that responsibility, you have to see it through.

Afghanistan is drowning. But we’re goldfish, and we’ve forgotten.

This isn’t a call to invade Afghanistan and bring the fight to the Taliban. Jekyll and Hyde foriegn policy is a recipe for disaster. To be completely candid, I’m not entirely sure what viable options exist to help those we left behind without making more of a mess.

But don’t be a goldfish. Remember Afghanistan.

The world is a dangerous place. Russia continues its drive to reestablish itself as a great power on the global stage. China’s ascendency continues; Hong Kong’s “special status” has been subjugated under the will of the Chinese Communist Party. They have designs on the territorial claims of their neighbors, to say nothing of Taiwan.

At some point in the future, America will be pulled into violence on foreign shores. Young men and women will carry rifles in an inhospitable place. Some may be killed in action.

Once we get there, we will then have a responsibility to leave it better than we found it. That means education for girls. That means starvation is no more. It means that slavery is abolished.  

As we approach Thanksgiving, it is important to place our position in perspective. We have real problems at home that need addressing. We’re never goldfish with these challenges, because they face us every day. Yet it is easy to be a goldfish with respect to other parts of the world; once the bright lights have moved on, we forget.

But, please: remember Afghanistan.  

Michael Cianchette, Opinion columnist

Michael Cianchette is a Navy reservist who served in Afghanistan. He is in-house counsel to a number of businesses in southern Maine and was a chief counsel to former Gov. Paul LePage.