What the Afghan failure reveals about the U.S.

In and of itself, the collapse in Afghanistan, in and of itself, is not a total disaster for the United States.  Our government, our economy, our military forces are still intact.

True, we Americans as a nation sacrificed the lives of thousands of patriotic young men, took the lives of hundreds of thousands of Afghan people who did not threaten us and spent trillions of dollars (we’re not sure of how many trillions) only to suffer defeat by an enemy most of us think of as primitive.

But we are still rich and powerful enough to absorb the cost in blood and treasure, just as we did after the collapse in Vietnam.

The significance of the defeat is that shows us something about ourselves that is hard to face.  After all the lies, graft and incompetence, continuing over decades, how can we have any confidence in any of our institutions.

When I was growing up, the one thing the overwhelming majority of Americans believed in was America itself.  I don’t think the majority believe that anymore. 

We have a Constitution, which is supposed to be a check on unaccountable power.  We have a democratic form of government, which is supposed to reflect the will of the people. 

We have a free enterprise economy, which is supposed to make competition serve the common good.  We have military officers, civil servants, judges, intellectuals, physicians, lawyers and journalists, all with traditions and codes of conduct that are supposed to guarantee integrity.

All of these things really exist, at least in weak or latent form.

None of these things has been strong enough to save us from crime, failure and humiliation.  Unless things change, we’re on track for more crime, failure and humiliation.

The Afghanistan failure was a case study in failure to deal with reality.  Will we do better in dealing with the coming climate-related crises? pandemics? the breakdown of globalization? China?

As the saying goes, if something cannot go on forever, someday it will stop.  The USA cannot go on forever as it is, under the leadership it has.  So it won’t. 

I have long felt that something new is coming.  I don’t know what it will be.  It may be better; it likely would be worse.  I both hope and fear I will live long enough to see it.

LINKS

Assabiya Wins Every Time by Lee Smith for The Tablet. 

Assabiya is an Arab word, used by the historian Ibn Khaldun, which means bravery and patriotism.  He wrote that nations and peoples rise when they have it and decline when they lose it.  The Taliban have it; the U.S ruling elite lacks it.  Unless we Americans as a people have it, our future is dim.

Farewell to Bourgeois Kings by Malcom Kyeyune for Power & Politics. 

Kings claimed a divine right to rule, based on lineage and ideals of honor.  Our meritocratic elite claims a pragmatic right to rule, based on their mastery of reason, science and modern technique.  What happens to their legitimacy when their supposed mastery is shown to be fake?

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