Never attribute to malice what can be explained by sheer stupidity. Except on those occasions when it’s actually both.
Yet when confronted with states organizing in blocs to execute tasks reserved to itself — the so-called “Western States Pact” comes to mind, as do the various states sending forces to the U.S.-Mexico border — the federal government seems strangely passive and inert. Perhaps that’s to the good.
It’s tempting to look at unforced errors like this in isolation, just one episode among many. We shouldn’t. The truth is that Afghanistan is part of a larger pattern. Pull the camera back a bit, and the picture becomes more disturbing than even the grim images from Kabul’s beleaguered airport. The incompetence on display in that country is just the latest episode of blundering from a federal government that increasingly cannot do anything it should.
It’s the inevitable end stage of a federal government forever extending its reach to do much more than it should, including many things it is specifically forbidden to do, thereby increasing its own scope, wealth, and power. The irony is that eventually, the monstrous greed and egocentrism driving the actions of over-ambitious despots is also the very thing that dooms them before all is said and done—a cycle that has repeated itself so reliably throughout the history of human civilization as to make one suspect it may be encoded in our DNA somewhere. I repeat: He who tries to control everything, controls nothing.
The national government as envisioned and established by the American Founders has just one purpose, succinctly set forth in the Declaration of Independence: “to secure these rights.” Since then, Americans have come to expect federal governance in Washington, D.C., to fulfill an array of roles. For most of American history, it did a credible job of meeting those expectations. Americans of my parents’ generation, for example, reasonably expected the federal government to successfully defend them from enemies abroad and secure law and order at home. They expected it to meet the challenge of public health crises, and run an efficient immigration system. They expected it to assert a monopoly on national authority, and to promote and defend a common American civic narrative.
Which is precisely the point at which things began to unravel. As the American Sheeple grew softer and more complacent, they lost the thread of the Founders’ vision completely. The clamor for ever-more perks and “protections” bestowed by Mommy Government opened a door that ought to have remained securely closed and locked, thus offering our would-be masters all the invitation they’d ever need to insinuate the tentacles of tyranny into every nook, cranny, and corner of American life.
They expected these things because it routinely delivered on those expectations. No longer. Suddenly, catastrophically, the recent past reveals that the federal government in Washington D.C. cannot be relied upon to do any of these things.
It’s a shocking realization for Americans who grew up secure in the promise of American governance. It’s less shocking for those of us who have been watching the erosion of civic order for some time. For the past half-century, the defining phenomenon of American civics has been the collapse of institutional trust. Americans who used to believe in the mediating institutions of society, from the presidency to the Elks Club to the U.S. Postal Service to organized religion and beyond, no longer do. That isn’t because the people have failed the institutions. It’s the other way around. The only institution that survived the generational collapse in popular trust was the military. It remains to be seen whether the blundering end to the Afghanistan war changes that. My guess is Americans will continue to respect and admire the men and women who choose to serve — and cast an increasingly skeptical eye on a class of generals and admirals who haven’t delivered a definitive American wartime victory in over 30 years.
In the 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway has Bill Gorton ask Mike Campbell how he went bankrupt. “Two ways,” comes the answer, “Gradually and then suddenly.” The diminishment to impotence of the federal government is like that. We’re in the “suddenly” phase now. One moment you’re a citizen of a well-running republic. The next moment you see that the federal government seems unable to fulfill its most basic responsibilities. Confronted with aggressive attacks on the common civic narrative that is the prerequisite for any national existence, it can’t seem to do anything but capitulate to the attackers. Confronted with the very same people who attacked America on 9/11, it can’t seem to figure out how to avoid yet another humiliation at their hands.
If the federal government can’t win a war, can’t preserve law and order, can’t secure its own seat of governance, can’t control the border, and can’t defend the idea of America, then what can it do? Well, it can collect taxes. It can also guarantee lucrative employment for a class of elite mediocrities who will never endure consequences for their growing list of failures. As I write this, the president is reported to have refused to fire anyone for the Afghanistan disaster. That isn’t because the buck stops with him; sacking someone would just be, as Axios reports, “tantamount to admitting a mistake.”
It’s hard to blame President Biden. If the administration admits one mistake, where will it end? Its list of mistakes is long, and acknowledging them all would constitute an existential threat.
Ahh, but can we be entirely certain that they really ARE mistakes? Or mightn’t there be something bigger, more complex, more sinister going on here?
If you take the time to piece together the puzzle, you begin to see a very disturbing picture. In seven short months, the Biden administration hasn’t only, via policy and executive decisions, precipitated a dire crisis on the U.S. southern border and an unforced debacle in Afghanistan — the latter with dark strategic implications vis-à-vis the PRC, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, along with an anticipated resurgence in terrorism but appears to seek to break the American spirit.
The picture emerging strongly suggests that demoralizing Americans isn’t merely a consequence of bad policies, poor decision-making, and incompetence.
We know this: control requires submission. Saul Alinsky summed up the argument for demoralization to achieve control: “Rule 3: Whenever possible, go outside the experience of an opponent. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.”
In a nation of 330 million souls, accustomed as a birthright to independence, submission must be exacted through the threat or use of force and through the enervation of spirit. A beaten-down people are an acquiescent people. Go ask Russians — those still living who endured the Soviet era and who suffer under Putin’s authoritarianism.
As to the continuing disaster and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, when has a U.S. president abandoned countrymen to fates that will surely involve imprisonment, torture, and death at the hands of an enemy? Including Afghani loyalists, the scope of the depravity and carnage to come will be mind-numbing.
Biden has rendered our world-class military impotent in Afghanistan. This imposed feebleness is bad enough, but it sends another message to Americans: “The United States is no longer the world’s dominant power. We’re capitulating to an irregular army of mostly Pashtun tribesmen. We must accept their terms and abide by their directives. The vanquished must submit.”
Which brings us back to a people’s submission. That’s indeed a goal of the elites who underwrite the Democratic Party, the left that provides votes and muscle, and the establishment players who profit from it. It’s easier to conquer the downtrodden.
Whether or not this sinister Biden-fronted coalition succeeds is in our hands — the hands of tens of millions of patriotic Americans. Our spirits can only break if we allow it. Unbroken, we can — we must — defeat this gathering tyranny.
Indeed we can, and must. The very first step along the road back to reclaiming our lost liberty and natural rights, however, is a blunt acknowledgment that it will never—CAN never—be achieved via political, legal, or rhetorical methods alone. In truth, it will mean fighting. And, as the world’s foremost cavalryman famously said, fighting means killing.