City on a Hill
As we watch the disintegration of Afghanistan in recent days, it is easy to start pointing fingers, at Biden, Trump, Obama, Bush. But in reality, there is a lot of blame to go around for both parties, all administrations. It was destined to get very ugly very fast in Kabul as soon as we left. The biggest problem is that Biden was doing what he always does, hiding; displaying a level of weakness that we never want to show to the rest of the world? He had no plan to get the tens of thousands of American citizens out, and is now doing what he has done since the day he took office, putting America and Americans last. The White House is not prioritizing American citizens in their rescue operations out of Afghanistan. This is where you end up when your only political strategy is be the opposite of Donald Trump, and his America First agenda.
The most pressing question about Afghanistan is, what were we doing there? Not, why did we invade in October 2001? But, why were we still there? We went into Afghanistan 20 years ago, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, because we believed that the Taliban had given Al-Qaeda a “safe haven” to train their terrorists, and a place to launch their operations. We took over the country in short order, and the Al-Qaeda terrorists were either captured, or they escaped into Pakistan. Why did we stay when the original objectives of the invasion had been met? What were the revised objectives that kept us in Afghanistan for the next 20 years? And were those objectives truly in America’s interest?
It is apparent that the decision makers never learned the lesson of Vietnam. The French had fought the Vietnam War for 15 years before we stepped in thinking we could succeed where they had failed. The Russians had fought in Afghanistan for 11 years, and pulled out in defeat, but somehow, we thought we could succeed where the Russians had failed.
In order to defeat your opponent, you must know your opponent. The Taliban had a saying, “America has all the watches, but we have all the time.” They sat back, played the long game and waited us out. Like the Viet Cong, they were in it for the long haul. It is their country, so they view Afghanistan in terms of centuries while we view it in terms of 4-year election cycles.
We wanted a quick fix so we threw money at the problem. Indiscriminately tossing money or bombs at a situation always ends up disastrous. This is the way we handle many of our problems, believing injecting money into a situation without much planning or forethought is enough. If our intentions are virtuous, then anything we do stemming from our virtue has to be good.
Many of our interventions both international or domestic have created more harm than good. Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” was one of the biggest government intrusions into the American private sector, designed at pulling us out of the Great Depression, but only served to extend the Depression for almost a decade. Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” and “War on Poverty”, made every problem it intended on solving worse; crime, poverty, drug addiction, out of wedlock births. Government expansionist and intrusionist policies tend to destroy what they touch.
So, what did we gain in Afghanistan? The answer, nothing. The Taliban is letting the Al Qaeda prisoners out of jail, so they can go back to committing terrorism against us or our allies. So, everything we attempted to accomplish there, even our initial objective, has been lost. It is not unreasonable to believe that in the future we may be hit by a major terrorist attack orchestrated by one of the Al Qaeda prisoners the Taliban just released.
We gained nothing because for 20 years we never had a clear objective, or a defined end game. To certain people in our country, not having a defined “end game” in Afghanistan was a good thing. It benefitted them. In his farewell address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of what he called the “military industrial complex”, those people who make millions and billions of our tax dollar while thousands of our soldiers die. The only ones who gained from the war in Afghanistan were the munition manufacturers, and those who received campaign contributions from them.
Afghanistan became an unholy alliance between the war profiteers, and the leftist nation-builders; a coalescing of American greed and hubris. We turned a search for Bin Laden and Al Qaeda into a 20 year, multi-trillion-dollar nation building exercise, imposing our values, our system on a country stuck 500 years in the past. The United States has become the helicopter or the snowplow parents to the third world, trying to do for them what they need to do for themselves. There is an old saying, ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will appear’. When the country is ready, the revolutionaries will appear. Afghanistan was not yet ready for the revolution we wanted them to have.
Successful revolutions, whether they be cultural or political, arise organically from within, they are not imposed artificially from without. This is why our CIAs history of overthrowing third world governments to install democracies throughout the 20th century have all ended disastrously. That is human nature, countries and people will always gravitate back to their culture, to their natural inclinations, to what they truly want to be, or are capable of becoming. Most revolutions are more like evolutions.
The Taliban is now imposing their beliefs on the people in Afghanistan, just the CCP has imposed its beliefs on the Chinese people ever since Mao’s Cultural Revolution. But the United States, the bastion of free speech and free thinking, tried to impose our beliefs and our culture on the people of Afghanistan. It seems strange that the people who keep telling the world how bad America is, are the ones imposing our culture and values on other countries. But these are the same people who tell us that America is the most racist country in the world, and are importing millions of people of color into systemically racist America.
How arrogant do you have to be to impose your beliefs and your culture on others? Are our leaders much different than the Taliban or the CCP? The same people who wanted to impose our culture on the Afghans, are the ones who want to indoctrinate the youth of America in their radical ideologies like, Critical Race Theory, and radical gender theory, using our public educational system and cancel culture in the media to impose their beliefs on the rest of us.
Honest debate no longer exists in America. People are now being forced to believe and espouse certain left wing ideological talking points for fear of being canceled or losing their job. Social media will shut down accounts of people who believe the “wrong” things. Americans are no longer convinced or persuaded by fact-based logical arguments, we are bullied and threatened into complying with the “official” narrative. People are mandated into taking experimental medicine that they have reservations about. Rather than presenting the medical facts and evidence proving the vaccines are safe, effective and beneficial using hard science, we are simply told shut up and take the vaccines, or you lose your job. They no longer try to convince us of their position, they simply bully us into compliance.
There is a reason why millions of people want to come here, it is perceived that America is the freest and fairest country in the world. And there is not a shortage of people wanting to live in a free and fair country. But that freedom and that fairness is being strangled by the vice grip of arrogants who think they are right, and you are wrong, and they are obligated to force you to believe what they believe for your own good. But that is not what America is, or ever was.
America can and should be, what the Governor of Massachusetts Colony, John Winthrop called it to be in 1630, “a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are on us.” Let our example lead the way. We should not impose our system, beliefs and way of life on other countries at the barrel of a gun, nor should we bully those within our country to believe a certain way. We will never be able to force change in another country, in a community, or in a person. Change must come from within. Change can only happen if it is internally motivated through outward inspiration, not imposition. Maybe, just maybe, if the leaders in our country didn’t act as authoritarian as the Taliban and the CCP, we would inspire the rest of the world to our example, and America could be that “shining city on the hill” to which other countries and their citizens long for, strive for, and fight to become.
Judd Garrett is a graduate from Princeton University, and a former NFL player, coach, and executive. He has been a contributor to the website Real Clear Politics. He has recently published his first novel, No Wind.