How “Cups” is Actually About the U.S. War in Afghanistan

It seems just the other day that the song “Cups,” as sung by Anna Kendrick in Pitch Perfect, was all over every radio station in the country. Now, it barely comes on over the waves. Not unlike another old forgotten favorite: the war in Afghanistan. Not only is it in the news less, it literally received no treatment during the Republican debate last week. That’s right, in a litany of shouting, America’s longest war didn’t even get a grunt (as opposed to the word “win,” which was said forty-two times; there’s an irony in there somewhere).

That’s zero out of zero hits. In hours of talking. Iraq at least got one mention.

But that’s okay, because America’s new sarcastic sweetheart, Anna Kendrick, has, unwittingly, propelled U.S. involvement in Afghanistan into the American consciousness with her song, “Cups.” And she did it so sneakily, we never even noticed. Until now, that is.

I’ve got my ticket for the long way ’round
Well yes, Afghanistan is quite a long way from the U.S., and many of us did get our free ticket to take a tour of it. And, because Pakistan doesn’t like to play nice, we do take the long way round; through Kyrgyzstan or Romania.
Two bottle whiskey for the way
This could refer to pre-deployment activities. And there’s usually more whiskey. Once you get to Afghanistan, General Order 1 is in effect. Which is pretty much the saddest general order ever. But Anna is most probably referring to the difficulties of logistics in southwest Asia, where you really should pack two of everything.
And I sure would like some sweet company
Man, you know what would make this whole thing great? A coalition. Hey, NATO, busy right now? No? Cool.
And I’m leaving tomorrow. What d’you say?
Pleassseeeee, NATO, pleaseeeee? We promise to continue providing the backbone of this alliance if you just join in to make it look like more than just the U.S. and U.K. smashing things.

When I’m gone, when I’m gone
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone
Isn’t that just the truth. After thirteen years of fighting, the U.S. ended its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014. GIROA (Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) has been secretly missing that sweet U.S. combat power ever since. As “Cups” first debuted in 2012, Miss Kendrick could clearly see the writing on the wall.
You’re gonna miss me by my hair
This one’s obvious. Who has great hair? Pilots. Who loves close air support? Everyone.
You’re gonna miss me everywhere, oh
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone
Oh yes, we are missed. That’s the benefit of going into a foreign country, smashing some terrorists, trying to build a government, and then slowly backing away: someone will always miss you.

Clearly singing about the limits of U.S. power and the emotional ties between Kabul and Washington, D.C.

I’ve got my ticket for the long way ’round
The one with the prettiest of views
I remember looking out the tiny porthole of the C-17  and being like, “Damn, that’s a pretty view!” as we flew over Afghanistan. Well-played, Kendrick, well-played.
It’s got mountains, it’s got rivers
Lots and lots of both. Mainly the former.
It’s got sights to give you shivers
That’s the understatement of the year. Afghanistan was and still is the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in the global war on terror. And I’m not talking Anna’s hair fierce, I’m talking close-in ambushes with rocket propelled grenades fierce. Although, when the light hits it just right, Anna’s hair is a force to be reckoned with. Combat multiplier.
But it sure would be prettier with you
Aw, thanks, Anna, but we see your attempt at coalition building. Haven’t you heard that there’s a resurgent Russia?

When I’m gone, when I’m gone
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone
You’re gonna miss me by my walk
Patrolling (i.e., walking) being key to security, yes, Afghanistan does indeed miss us when we’re gone. Presence and security patrols have dropped in that country, leading to a rise in violence from the Taliban.
You’re gonna miss me by my talk, oh
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone
Oh that talk, though. Talk is cheap, they say. Not when it comes from four-star generals or from a horde of diplomats. But what we do miss is hearing anything about Afghanistan in the current news. Well over 6,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan, but once again it risks slipping back into its status as America’s “forgotten war.” Maybe if Anna Kendrick sang an actual song about it, people would remember it a little more…

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