As the United States and its Western allies beat a hasty and shambolic retreat from Afghanistan, it is clear the wheels of history have turned again. This ignominious end to nearly two decades of American occupation has demonstrated that despite trillions in funding and thousands of lives lost on both sides, the promised remaking of Afghanistan as a liberal Western democracy was not even close to being realized.
The humiliating scenes of American aircraft scrambling to evacuate stranded citizens was the crescendo in a veritable symphony of foreign policy disasters that have been mounting since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The fall of Afghanistan does not simply represent a withering rebuttal to American interventionism, liberal democracy, and the notion of universal human rights; it also quite possibly heralds the end of American hegemony, and by extension, the globalist world project.
At first sight, this may perhaps seem like a bold claim. Though the American defeat in Afghanistan is a severe blow both to national pride and to US prestige around the world, in isolation it is by no means a fatal wound. Many have drawn comparisons with the Vietnam War abound – yet decades after that failed conflict, the US remains the unipolar anchor of the world. The strength of American soft power and cultural appeal allowed it to triumph in the ideological war between Communism and liberalism.
Some have pointed out that the Soviet Union collapsed only two years after its own defeat in Afghanistan. But the collapse of the USSR was not the result of a military failure, but because many of its citizens wanted the freedoms and living standards of the Western democracies. Similarly, the unending stream of refugees and migrants to the West indicate that the First World’s living standards are still sought after, even as the West’s ideological and moral standing is growing ever more infirm.
More and more nations are simply opting not to follow the Western liberal democratic model. Just as the US failed to topple Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, America has been impotent in its efforts to reverse the Russian annexation of the Crimea, to enact regime change in Iran, and to browbeat leaders in Belarus and Hungary into liberalizing. Some commentators may chalk this up to a resurgent Russia and a rising China rebalancing the global geopolitical dynamics and limiting the US’ foreign policy, but while this does partially explain the changing nature of international relations, the US has deeper and more fundamental flaws both in its ability to project its military might abroad and in the allure of its soft power.
From a purely military point of view, the war in Afghanistan is a stunning defeat for the world’s premier technological power at the hands of a nation whose entire GDP is several orders of magnitude less than America’s military budget. While the Viet Cong received arms and training from both the Soviet Union and China, the Taliban has had little in the way of foreign support. Many nations have been accused of providing them with funds — including Russia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the US itself — yet the Taliban never possessed a single tank or aircraft, let alone hypersonic missiles or drones.
The Western view of war has become an extension of its view on everything else: war is a technocratic and technological “problem” to be solved by rationality and cold calculation. While the American drone operators sat detached and disinterested as they killed from thousands of miles away, the Afghan warrior fought with ruthless determination for hearth and home. For every American technological innovation thrown at them, the Taliban found a homespun solution. The armored vehicle was defeated by the improvised explosive device (IED), and the eyes in the sky were rendered useless by intimate first-hand knowledge of the rugged terrain.
War is not simply a rationalistic calculation based on which nation has the most firepower and most advanced armaments. In national life-and-death struggles there is a Nietzschean will to power and an ethnic collective self-preservation instinct. After over forty years of near-continuous war, the population of Afghanistan has exploded, and the total fertility rate in the country is one of the highest in the world.
Conversely, white Americans have declined in absolute numbers in the US for the first time ever. The Taliban are guided by a metaphysical and fanatical worldview in which the prospect of dying did not intimidate them. They demonstrated an incredible willingness to throw their lives away for the collective good, secure in the justness of their cause and the righteousness of their God. Meanwhile, American public and military morale has atrophied completely. It’s gone from the jingoistic flag-waving patriotism of the post-9/11 years to the statue-toppling self-hatred of the George Floyd era.
Even as its weaponry continues to advance, the US has poured a massive amount of sand into the gears of its own military-industrial complex. As General Mark Milley pontificates on critical race theory and “white rage,” the American military has been hobbled by a mammoth affirmative action program, the lowering of standards, and wokeness. It is popular for conservative commentators to highlight this as the downfall of America’s ability to project its power across the globe and win wars. Yet the issue of military competency sidesteps the void at the heart of those fighting for America: the question of what they are fighting for. The fact that America’s armed forces are increasingly manned by transsexual soldiers, feminists, quasi-Cultural Marxists, and disinterested recent arrivals is not accidental, but reflective of the global elite’s worldview and that of modern America itself.
As liberalism’s social engineering has radicalized, it has alienated much of the population in its heartlands. Moreover, the more LGBTQ+ rights, diversity, and atheistic hedonism are pushed, the less attraction liberal ideology holds for other nations around the world. As Western countries fragment and collapse under their own contradictions, those nations that haven’t yet trodden the progressive path have been granted a glimpse into their potential future and have found the results rather unedifying. Just as loss of the martial spirit and a moral purpose has undermined America’s capacity to wage successful wars, the increasingly extreme impositions of the new American ideology have galvanized its traditionally-minded opponents.
It is likely that President Trump’s circumspect and largely conciliatory foreign policy was an admission that the dreams of the neoconservative and neoliberal war hawks had already reached their zenith. It is not that there was no longer any appetite among the elite to engage in foreign meddling; it has simply become clear that the US has a rapidly diminishing ability to engage in it. In the vast game of geopolitical chess, President Biden’s only move was to concede defeat and leave the match. It is possible he may attempt to use this period to regroup and re-arm for the next “forever war,” yet America’s collapsing internal coherency and its threadbare and morally bankrupt ideology seems to make this an ever more remote prospect.
Hope in the modern age is like the Edelweiss flower: It blooms in mysterious and odd places. The shock of America’s defeat at the hands of the supposed Afghan “barbarians” is comparable to ancient Rome’s horror when it lost its legions to Arminius’ German “barbarian” warriors to an ambush in the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD. The coming seismic shift in the balance of global power represents a chance for patriots to reshape the current dysfunctional world order into a saner one.
Yet liberalism is nothing if not an adaptive, corrosive, and implacable enemy. The fact that the Taliban is holding press conferences in which it cloaks itself in the rhetoric of respecting women’s rights and exercising restraint and inclusivity speaks to the continuing hold liberal ideology has on the world’s zeitgeist.
Despite the Left’s vitriolic insistence, Western traditionalists and the Taliban cannot be conflated. While we can respect the Afghanis’ heroic resistance to occupation, their dogged will to survive and to flourish in accordance with their own customs, and their metaphysical sense of purpose, we must chart our own path. The repressive, vicious, misguided, and totalitarian agenda of remaking states that have no desire to be remade has collapsed. It is now our turn to show that we will also refuse to be remade in the elite’s dysgenic and profane image, just as those abroad have resisted it.
While our enemies are distracted by the chaotic collapse of their campaigns abroad, we must work to undermine these corrupt regimes at home. The example of a foreign nation wresting control of its destiny back from those who seek to dominate it should serve as a beacon of hope for us. Our opponents have never been weaker, and though the apparatus of repression they preside over ratchets up the pressure daily, they are losing control – both of world events and their own citizens.
We should be inspired by the fact that the USSR disintegrated so quickly after the failure of its own Afghan adventure. The process of disintegration which began in the faraway mountains of Kandahar has come to the Western heartlands now — and it is up to us to shape the coming chaos to our advantage.
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