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American debacle

Commentary by Alexander Tomský

The fiasco of the 20-year US occupation of Afghanistan is unprecedented in the world. After the relatively quick victory over the Islamist Taliban and Al-Qaeda in 2004, how could the world power ever think that it could create a cohesive (national?) society in a mountainous country of primitive and savage warrior tribes. Did the American experts and military strategists know nothing of the failure of the British and Soviet attempts to impose their imperial order on that poor country?

Even at the beginning of the American invasion, a British general warned them: if you want to colonize a country, you must declare that you are there in perpetuity. And you'll never win against a fanatical guerrilla that takes refuge in a neighbouring state.

Where does the naive notion of American politicians that they can establish constitutional and secular government, if not democracy and human rights, in a foreign country of a completely different civilisation come from? Everyone in America is now dissecting the strategic mistakes of politicians and soldiers, but the essential point is being missed by many. The shameful and tragic end of the American anabasis for Afghan allies and society is perhaps the last straw for the naive belief that the Western liberal model of limited state power, individualism, freedom of expression and political tolerance, an independent judiciary, an uncorrupted bureaucracy, etc. is universal. The Western political regime, undoubtedly the best, has proved impossible to enforce by force.

It is amazing that the American Constitution postulates the equality of all men before their creator, that Americans have created the freest and most economically successful society in the world. Over two centuries, they have provided hundreds of millions of poor immigrants with a livelihood and unprecedented personal freedom, saved democratic Europe in both World War I and World War II, and defeated the Soviet Union. They became the hegemon and their ancient messianism messed with their heads. They have had it encoded since the famous speech by the Protestant preacher John Winthrop (1630), "We have founded a city on a mountain that is the light of the world and cannot hide." And almost every president, regardless of his political orientation, has subscribed to it, albeit in a non-religious sense.

"Let every nation realize that we will pay any price, bear every burden and hardship, support our friends and stand against our enemies to secure the victory of liberty." (John F. Kennedy)

Liberals don't like to hear that democracy originated in Judeo-Christian civilization and is not sustainable without its roots, as the American culture war proves. Not so long ago, they believed that the introduction of a market economy would necessarily lead to individual freedom and democracy. And Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan served as examples for them. And lo and behold! Backward communist China has risen and has already reached the US GDP by purchasing power parity (PPP) in 2014 and is consolidating its dictatorship with the help of modern technology. Proving that capitalism and tyranny are not mutually exclusive, nor does a free market mean freedom.

And the West is already capitulating in advance, having invented the ideal of a zero-carbon economy, supposedly so that poor countries do not suffer from global warming. It is developing clean technologies at astronomical cost, which China will playfully appropriate and become even more powerful, and it does not intend to damage its economy by hastily destroying fossil fuels.

Today, American society is disintegrating, with hateful expressions of racial identity breaking a multi-ethnic nation into tribes, destroying reason and education, and threatening freedom of speech. Support for capitalism among the younger generation is declining, while the rest of the world is happily embracing the market economy.

The flight from Afghanistan put an end to one great illusion, but the insane ideology of "social justice" is a greater threat than Islamic terrorism. It is high time for liberal conservatives to man up and go on the offensive.

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