“The President – whoever he is – has to decide. He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That’s his job.” – Harry S. Truman
The sound that you hear is the crumbling of a great nation. A precipitous fall, not the slow fade out of the Roman Empire, or the much faster dissolution of the British one, but something more akin to the breakup of the Soviet Union. Or the fall of the two towers on 9/11, when the descent began in earnest.
“Precipitous” certainly describes the American retreat from Afghanistan, which was carried out in the middle of the night and without even ensuring the safe exit of all American citizens there, not to mention the thousands of Afghans that had worked with them as interpreters, drivers, mechanics, and so on, who will certainly face vicious retaliation by the Taliban who now control the country. Tens of thousands of weapons, thousands of vehicles, and several hundred aircraft have also fallen into Taliban hands.
I write often about the Israel’s cognitive war with her enemies, which I believe is as important to the ultimate outcome of her struggle to exist as her periodic kinetic battles, but clearly America too is under attack in this realm. The information warriors of Teheran, Beijing, and Moscow – as well as al Qaeda and Hezbollah – have already made use of the catastrophe. I expect that the incidence of terrorist attacks against Americans and even America herself will rise sharply in the near future, encouraged by what they are being told (I think correctly) is an indication of the suicidal weakness of her leadership. And what will those who depend on the US, in Taipei, Seoul, Amman, Tokyo, and – yes – Jerusalem think?
President Biden has blamed his predecessor, but regardless of any commitment made by Trump, the manner of the withdrawal was up to this administration. They screwed up beyond belief, and Biden – personally – bears responsibility. President Truman famously had a sign on his desk stating “The Buck Stops Here.” Biden, regrettably, is an empty shell, propped up by unknown elements who are making critical decisions but taking no responsibility for them. Today, there is no place for the buck to stop. The full dimensions of the catastrophe of the election of a man who suffers from dementia (and who was never more than a mediocrity before) to the highest office in the land are still not known, but this fiasco is a harbinger of worse to come.
I’m not an expert on the military aspects of the US involvement in Afghanistan. But if I had to say when things began to go wrong, I would point to the battle at Tora Bora in December of 2001, when excessive dependence on Afghani and Pakistani “allies” allowed Osama bin Laden to escape into Pakistan. The dash into Afghanistan to capture bin Laden was the right thing to do, and the miscalculation of what was necessary to do it was tragic. Soon after, the processes that would lead to the disaster that is unfolding now became apparent. The unnecessary invasion of Iraq in 2003 was massively expensive and increased America’s foreign debt dangerously. Almost 4,500 Americans were killed and 32,000 wounded, many seriously (the numbers of Iraqi casualties are in dispute, but far greater). The war also greatly increased the influence of the Iranian and Syrian regimes in the region.
At the same time, the psychological and spiritual decline of the US was accelerated by the wars and the financial panic of 2008. While President Bush’s heart was in the right place, his administration displayed a lack of competence in dealing with both foreign and domestic affairs. President Obama was also incompetent, but in addition held the view, now popular on the Left, that America was fundamentally defective in the way it treated its minorities and in its actions in the world (Newt Gingrich called him “the first anti-American president”), and needed to be radically changed.
Since the 1970s, when the real income of the American middle and working classes stagnated, the economic situation of the majority of Americans has become progressively worse. The disappearance of so many jobs in manufacturing, mining, and other blue-collar professions, has been painful. In Tony Horwitz’ book “Spying on the South,” the author asks a resident of a depressed East Texas town “what do people do here?” The answer: “oxy and meth.” The 2008 financial panic struck them badly, with many families losing their homes to foreclosure while the financial sector received bailouts.
Obama’s “they cling to guns and religion” comment was salt in their wounds, as was his encouragement of the spread of pathological political correctness from the academy into everyday life. In a surprising, even revolutionary move, in 2016 the Americans whom Obama disparaged elected Donald Trump.
Former President Trump is admittedly a flawed individual. It’s impossible to defend his personal behavior and his dishonesty. But unlike Obama, he had a good sense of who America’s friends and enemies were, and he went ahead helping the former and hurting the latter. Like the 1977 election of Menachem Begin here in Israel, Trump’s victory stunned those who felt themselves entitled to rule. With the media and the increasingly powerful tech companies who control social media, they orchestrated a massive campaign to portray Trump as a racist, a would-be fascist dictator, and a danger to American democracy. Information about corruption close to Democratic candidate Biden was brutally suppressed on social media, while anti-Trump hyperbole reached stratospheric height.
Of course, Trump was defeated, whether the election was stolen (as he insists) or not. But the man that became president was at best an empty suit, and at worst a puppet. And after the disaster of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, everyone knows it, from America’s allies all over the world to her enemies.
There is a lesson for Israel here, too, if we are ready to learn it. It is nothing new; I’ve been saying it for years: America is a very slender reed to lean on. Our survival depends on our own strength.