America has suffered a defeat of military and psychic proportions that have yet to be measured.
I once thought that future historians would be likely to use 9/11 as the date that marked the end of the American era, the one that started with the end of the Second World War and represented the flowering of one of the greatest national colossi in history, the nation and time that gave us (for good or ill) atomic energy, men on the moon, and the most incredible consumer culture ever seen.
But now I think that the date they will use will be 31 August 2021, the day a senile man who was never more than an empty suit sustained by narcissism at his best (and today he is definitely not at his best), placed America’s tail between her legs and told her to run.
It’s hard to list all of the diplomatic consequences of the failure (but see this analysis by military historian Victor Davis Hanson).
After 9/11, the jihadists pretended to have won a great victory, but they were actually scared to death. America’s military machine was the most powerful in the world, and President Bush promised to hunt down the perpetrators, warning that he would “…make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.” They had yanked on the tail of a dragon that was now turning its smoking head in their direction.
Or so they thought. In the immediate aftermath, while “Ground Zero,” the site of the World Trade Center was still smoking, American and British special forces chased Osama bin Laden into the caves at Tora Bora. But Bush’s people made a serious tactical error: rather than risk the casualties that they feared would ensue from a direct assault by allied operators, they depended on local Afghan allies for the pursuit, and on Pakistan to seal its border. Bin Laden escaped; he would live almost another ten years until Navy Seals caught up with him in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
While the US was able to remove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, it was never able to defeat them. The war dragged on to become the longest war in American history, five months longer than the Vietnam war. In the meantime, the US invaded Iraq for no clear reason, and after defeating the supposedly fearsome Iraqi army in short order, managed to lose 4,500 men (32,000 were wounded, many seriously) over almost 9 years of insurgency. The number of Iraqi civilians killed was enormous; estimates vary from about 110,000 upward. The cost of the war and the occupation that followed has been estimated as close to $2 trillion! It didn’t bankrupt the nation, but it hollowed it out, burdening it with new debt, a large chunk of which is held by China.
The ultimate result of the war in Iraq was an Iranian foothold there by way of Shia militias that it controls. Biden plans a final withdrawal of American troops from Iraq as well, and at that point it will become a full-fledged Iranian satellite. From Israel’s point of view, Iranian control of Iraq will tighten the ring of rockets and drones surrounding her – including high-precision missiles that can hit critical points in Israel, such as airfields, military bases, strategic roads, electrical generating plants, refineries, and so on. This is a critical danger, no less so than a nuclear weapon in the hands of the Iranian regime.
I suspect American analysts are coming out of the numbness brought about by the sudden collapse in Afghanistan, and realize the danger their nation is in. They must realize that at some point the various terrorist groups will begin to absorb and master at least some of the sophisticated weapons and equipment that is at their disposal. It will take a bit longer for them to learn to fly the aircraft than it did for them to put on American uniforms – it was telling that this was the first thing they did, a primitive way to absorb the power of their defeated adversaries – but they won’t have any trouble driving the vehicles and using the hundreds of thousands of assault rifles that are now in their possession. Many of these weapons will find their way to terrorist groups that are probably making plans at this very moment to attack the American homeland in order to demonstrate the superiority of Islam to the decadent Crusaders. Thousands of terrorists were imprisoned at Bagram who are now free, in case there is a shortage of personnel. And I doubt that Europe or Israel will be spared either.
It’s too late to stop them. The Taliban and their ilk are not afraid of the Americans any more. They believe that they are on a roll, a historic comeback for the forces of Islam after their defeat at the gates of Vienna – on 11 September (!) 1683.
What compounds this disaster is that today America is internally divided, politically and culturally. Its intelligentsia are suffering from the collective insanity of postmodernism, obsessed by issues around race and gender; and now, like Covid-19, this virus has escaped from the academic laboratory and is infecting the rest of the educational system, the media, the business community, and even the military. Now is not the best time to deal with terrorism. But America will have to.