This isn’t a rerun of Saigon. It’s way, way worse.
The impact of America’s failure, of the slow, tragic journey from Operation Enduring Freedom to those images today of desperate Afghans clinging to the undercarriage of the last US military airplanes to leave Afghanistan, will be dire and long-lasting. Most immediately the US has shown itself to be an untrustworthy ally. Which nation or people in need of help would align with this supposedly freedom-loving superpower that abandons its allies to their fate when the enemy comes knocking? Who now will trust the US to assist in the building of new institutions given the rotten fruits of its multi-billion-dollar, 20-year ‘nation-building’ project in Afghanistan – a calamitously weak Potemkin government that capitulated instantly when the Taliban hit the streets of Kabul?
This geopolitical disaster for the US will also strengthen the hand of its opponents, most notably China. China is already moving to consolidate its relationship with the Taliban and to assert its authoritative influence in the new Afghanistan. Islamist forces will take succour from the victory of the self-styled Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, too. Both regionally and among aspiring jihadists in the West, the victory of the Islamist side in the ‘war on terror’, the return to power of the movement that was hosting al-Qaeda when it visited its barbarism upon the infidels of New York City and Washington, DC, in 2001, will inspire confidence and action. Israel must be incredibly worried right now, knowing that Islamic extremists are again in the ascendant, and that its one-time chief supporter walks away from wars on terror.
Yeah, well, I’d say Israel will have to look after itself for the foreseeable future, as will the rest of the once-free world. We have knitting of our own to tend to at the moment, and plenty of it.
The Afghan humiliation is not only a military failure – it’s a political and moral one, too. Extraordinarily bad political decisions have been taken by the US, including its willingness to trust the Taliban and its belief that this brutal, misanthropic, misogynistic movement could be a player in the ‘international community’. Even now, Washington seems completely out of touch with events on the ground in Afghanistan. Its intelligence officers said the Taliban could take Kabul within 90 days. That was four days ago. They know nothing. One gets the impression of a confused, decaying empire looking with bamboozlement upon even those parts of the earth it rules.
But above all of that, above even the political and military incoherence of the American empire, there is the corrosive cultural dynamic. This might just be the most important factor in the Afghan humiliation – the fact that the US, and the West more broadly, clearly lacks the cultural resources necessary for a clash of civilisations. This wasn’t just a territorial battle, a fight over the land of Afghanistan. It was also a cultural clash. It was a war between one side that has very strong beliefs and is more than willing to die for them, and another side that doesn’t know what it stands for anymore and would rather avoid risk and self-sacrifice if at all possible. I’ll leave you to decide which of these is the Taliban, and which the US.
This was always the West’s problem in Afghanistan: it lacked faith in the very values it claimed to be delivering to that benighted country. We will liberate women from life under the burqa, Western officials said. But isn’t it ‘Islamophobic’ to criticise the burqa, or any other Islamic practice for that matter? Our elites have insisted for years that it is. We will replace your intolerant Islamist system with a civil society fashioned by clever professors, the West promised. But isn’t it judgemental and possibly a tad racist – certainly an offence against the ideology of multiculturalism – to imply that Western democracy is superior to Islamist theocracy? As one British think-tank says, in its definition of the term ‘Islamophobia’, it is wrong to suggest that Islam is in any way ‘inferior to the West’. The West’s post-9/11 bluster was continually undermined by the West’s broader descent into moral relativism. How can you assert the civilisational authority of Western values when your entire educational and university system is devoted to questioning and demeaning Western civilisation? You cannot partake in a clash of civilisations if you loathe your own civilisation.
Anyone who thinks the Taliban did not pick up on all of this, on the Potemkin nature not only of the Afghan government but also of Western civilisation itself, is kidding themselves. The Taliban will have watched as the mighty American military became bogged down in discussions of critical race theory and the problem of ‘white rage’. They will have clocked the British army’s recruitment drive that was aimed at ‘snowflakes’ and ‘me me me millennials’ – for real – on the basis that such people have the ‘compassion’ necessary for the touchy-feely wars of the 21st century. They will know that the contemporary West is shame-faced about its history and its civilisational values and lacks ideas for how to turn its fragile youths into a fighting force, and they will understand their own life-and-death devotion to Sharia as being the opposite to all of this. They know this was a cultural clash as well as a military fight, and that they were by far the stronger side on this front.
Nailed it, clean and tight. I’ve said over and over again: Amerika v2.0 has absolutely, positively NO business involving itself in any conflict, major or minor, that can’t be resolved by pimple-faced doughboys sitting at keyboards in an air-conditioned trailer somewhere in Arizona, launching missiles from drones at high altitude. If that won’t fix it, we need to mind our own business from here on out.
The point about Amerika v2.0 being a wholly unreliable and faithless ally is an apt one, too. But as with so many of our other current woes, that hardly began this past week either.
In 1972, Church and Senator Clifford Case of New Jersey were able to push through the Senate an amendment to foreign-aid legislation that would end funding for all U.S. military operations in Southeast Asia except for withdrawal (subject to the release of all prisoners of war). Senate passage of the legislation, with the amendment, marked the first time that either chamber had passed a provision establishing a cutoff of funds for continuing the war. Though House and Senate conferees failed to reach an agreement on the measure, the support for the amendment was seen by the administration as another sign that antiwar forces were gaining strength. The McGovern-Hatfield amendment was enormously popular with the public. A January 1971 Gallup poll showed that public support for the amendment stood at 73 percent.
During the final negotiations with the Vietnamese over ending the war, culminating with the 1972 Christmas Bombings and the Paris Peace Accords in January 1973, the president knew that he only had a limited amount of time before Congress finally used the power of the purse to bring the war to an end — regardless of what the administration wanted. Indeed, to make certain that the president could not reverse course, in June 1973 Congress passed legislation that included an amendment sponsored by Church and Case to prohibit the use of more funds in Southeast Asia after August 15. Sixty-four senators voted in favor. When the House assented, its vote marked the first time that chamber had agreed to cut off funds, too.
Most importantly, Congress passed the War Powers Act in 1973 over Nixon’s veto. The legislation imposed a series of restrictions on the executive branch to ensure that the president would have to consult with the House and Senate before authorizing the troops for long periods of time.
For the remainder of the decade, congress continued to legislate its ideas about U.S. conduct in the Cold War and to restrict the authority of the executive branch. In 1975, Congress refused President Gerald Ford’s last-minute request to increase aid to South Vietnam by $300 million, just weeks before it fell to communist control. Few legislators had taken the request seriously; many conservative Republicans and hawkish Democrats agreed by then that Vietnam was lost and that the expenditure would have been a waste.
Congress also tackled the important national security issues of covert operations and intelligence. Hearings by Church pressured Ford into issuing an executive order that imposed restrictions on the CIA, including a ban on assassinations. Ford agreed to issue the order, rather than waiting for inevitable congressional reforms, after then–Chief of Staff Dick Cheney told him such action would protect the CIA from “irresponsible attack” and protect presidential authority. In 1978, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which required court-supervised monitoring of domestic surveillance operations by the federal government. The reforms were a response to revelations that the government had rampantly abused its power throughout the Cold War.
In sum, Congress played a very important role in building opposition to an unpopular and failed Cold War intervention. Legislators emerged as major voices of skepticism, criticism, and outright opposition to Vietnam. They checked the hawks in the administration who refused to believe the facts on the ground. Congress was ultimately pivotal to placing pressure on the Nixon administration to end a conflict that cost approximately 58,000 American lives.
Today, members from both parties would benefit by looking back at the history of Congress in the Vietnam era.
Wouldn’t they just, though; in fact, the American people as a whole would. It’s the intentional failure of the government school system to expose the impressionable young minds in their charge to proper, truthful and complete history and civics instruction that’s the primary cause of the catastrophe we’re seeing unfold all around us now.