The Internet and television news are awash in stories about our debacle in Afghanistan. Just yesterday I counted upwards of forty news accounts and reports in my inbox, and they are only the ones I noticed. Among the so-called “conservative” commentariat, Fox News continues to beat the drum of how “America has been unnecessarily defeated and shamed,” and, indeed, somehow if we had just stayed and finished the goal of “nation-building” (militarily and socially), we might have avoided this humiliating and embarrassing disaster.
In other words, despite the past twenty years with boots on the ground and several thousand American lives lost, and over one trillion dollars in American (taxpayer) funding—and nothing accomplished, if only we would have stayed a little longer, everything would have come out right. Thus, a full-fledged liberal democracy, complete with the full panoply of women’s rights, abortion, protection of LGBTX rights and social advancement, same sex marriage for all, immense welfare programs, diversity and equity programs in those to-be-built Afghani schools, the fruits of American television programs like “The Bachelorette” –all that and more, plus the wonders of American-style elections (a model of probity and honesty!), would have transformed that woebegotten country.
How foolish, how fatal!
Our foreign policy elites, the State Department, the Pentagon, and most of our national political class apparently have learned nothing. Not with Vietnam, not with Bosnia, not with Somalia, nor with Iraq, Syria, and now Afghanistan. With each disaster it is simply on to the next involvement, the next venture which puts Americans on the ground, dying in some remote desert or forlorn oasis, with the major corporate suppliers of military hardware and weaponry continuing to amass fortunes, while our boys perish, lose limbs, and suffer conditions that will mark them—and their families—for life. And all in the name of “democracy” and “human rights.”
Since the end of World War II our foreign policy has been dominated by a resolve globally to deter perceived enemies. At first there was some real urgency and rationale for that: we were facing an insatiable and dangerous enemy, Soviet communism. And at times it looked like we might succumb. But after 1991 and the ignominious fall of the Soviets and the advent of a new Russian government intent on recovering its pre-revolutionary traditions and religious heritage, that threat disappeared.
Yet our foreign policy elites, now emboldened by the rise and influence of the Neoconservatives, those former Marxist internationalists who had made the long pilgrimage to the conservative Right, continued to look for ways to assert American hegemony in the world. With a fervor inherited from their days militating as Trotskyites (as many of them had been in the 1930s and ‘40s), the Neocons deployed the linguistic template and ideas associated with “American exceptionalism” to signify the universal superiority of their conception of the American experience over all other cultures. A Neoconservative-favored political thinker Allan Bloom summed this view up succinctly in his The Closing of the American Mind: “And when we Americans speak seriously about politics we mean that our principles of freedom and equality and the rights based on them are rational and everywhere applicable.” Americans must engage in “an educational experiment undertaken to force those who do not accept these principles to do so.”
Thus, each time we fail in a foreign venture, as we have done consistently over the past fifty years, our foreign policy wonks and Neocon experts and publicists push forward: there must be some other backward country that needs American guidance and just maybe some troops on the ground, and millions of dollars of American aid and military equipment?
But the real issues related to Afghanistan, Islam and various remote locations on the map of the world get lost, essentially ignored by Foggy Bottom. And there are indeed major issues and questions that we should examine, especially pertaining to Afghanistan and particularly to the Middle East.
There is a fascinating movie, "Day of the Siege: September 11, 1683," which portrays in some detail the Muslim siege of Vienna in 1683, specifically making reference to the final climactic battle on September 11 (!), when the Polish Lancers of the Christian hero, King Jan Sobieski defeated the forces of Islam. But there is the prophecy of the Muslim Grand Vizier, Kara Mustapha, that even if the Muslims did not take Vienna then, that a future generation would "water their horses in the Tiber River" and "convert Notre Dame Cathedral into a mosque." Is that not happening now? There is a DVD of the movie (also a much longer version). Apparently it is out of print but can be obtained in decent used copies.
I think the essential point here is that unlike the Crusaders and the Christian defenders of Christendom at the Battle of Lepanto or at the two sieges of Vienna, we now face the Islamic threat for the wrong reasons. We seek to impose "liberal democracy" and (secular) "human rights" on essentially primitive countries that are far more in tune with the orthodoxy of Islam than to LGBT rights and women’s "liberation" (which is about all I hear being spouted by the likes of vicious anti-Confederate Brian Kilmeade on Fox).
Instead of crusades for our historic faith and Western Christian civilization, we offer the venomous infection of "American exceptionalism," which is now an olio of the secularist globalist virus which is destroying us here at home.
Thus what we have seen in Kabul, or in Iraq, or in Somalia, or in Bosnia, or in Syria, when our nation has attempted to impose a secularist framework, and is opposed by a concerted and fanatical religious opposition which has popular support.
In effect, we have become an agent of modernist destruction. Oftentimes we may indeed be opposing an evil, but for the wrong reasons, and thus opposing one evil with one, in some ways, even more evil and fearsome.
After World War II we imposed the very worst features of "liberal democracy" on what was left of traditional Europe via the Marshall Plan. Anything that smacked of "traditional" was either disauthorized or discredited (as "fascist" or pro-Nazi). We sent our agents to infiltrate and control new, liberal democratic political parties...and very soon they controlled and dominated Europe. And, yes, we see what the result of that has been. Now we wish to do that in Hungary and Russia.
Cardinal Pedro Segura in Spain, back in 1953, sternly warned General Franco NOT to open the door to "the panoply of novel and noxious American secularist culture"--that Spain would absorb it and eventually "lose its soul." That indeed happened, as I observed first hand while completing my doctoral dissertation in Pamplona (1972-1975). The tawdry worst of America was injected into Spanish society, and eventually it destroyed much of historic Spanish tradition, like a virulent cancer.
And we continue to seek that in regard to Hungary and Russia. Why? Because they limit and prohibit LGBT "human rights" and favor the traditional family over what now prevails here in the USA, that they formally oppose "Coca-Cola Culture." Most establishment conservatives now accept--even defend--same sex marriage and transgenderism (did you see Turning Point USA's Charlie Kirk dancing with a "conservative" drag queen? Fox touts its openly gay and same sex married pundits, such as Guy Benson and Tammy Bruce).
Our conservative and Republican leadership takes pains and great effort to protest how much they love Martin Luther King (and his radical views), the Civil Rights revolution, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and how much they loathe the “traitors” Robert E. Lee, John C. Calhoun and Nathan Bedford Forrest. Oh, yes, they call a halt when it comes to maybe Washington or Lincoln, but only because they can use them ideologically in their own form of "conservative" progressivism.
So, I am happy we are getting out of Afghanistan; we shouldn't have been there, just like my cousin-by-marriage wondered why we were in Bosnia fighting Christian Serbs, and allied to Muslim extremists in Kosovo. We are either in such places for the wrong reasons, or we are in the wrong places to begin with. Period.
The one thing that is tragic is, of course, the bungling by the Biden administration getting us and our citizens out. That is worthy of sharp criticism. That should make us re-examine our wrongheaded foreign policy of the past 50 or 75 years. But I doubt strongly that it will...as we are no longer a truly Christian nation and our leaders are in no way like King Jan Sobieski or Don Juan of Austria at Lepanto....far from it. How in the hell can we compare a witless Joe Biden or the empty-suit Kamala Harris to them?
Until we have leaders leading a nation committed to our traditional and Christian principles, what happened in Afghanistan will continue to happen.
More likely, what we behold is a continuation of the sputtering end of the "American empire," and, in the long run, maybe that is a good thing?
Boyd D. Cathey holds a doctorate in European history from the Catholic University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, where he was a Richard Weaver Fellow, and an MA in intellectual history from the University of Virginia (as a Jefferson Fellow). He was assistant to conservative author and philosopher the late Russell Kirk. In more recent years he served as State Registrar of the North Carolina Division of Archives and History. He has published in French, Spanish, and English, on historical subjects as well as classical music and opera. He is active in the Sons of Confederate Veterans and various historical, archival, and genealogical organizations.