AMAC Exclusive By: Cal Palmer
Some events are so dark that they become illuminating.
Say what you will about our unconditional military surrender in Afghanistan. Say what you will about hastily abandoning tens of billions of dollars’ worth of high-tech military equipment to an enemy eager to use it against us and our allies. Say what you will about this betrayal of America’s friends. But you can’t say this defeat doesn’t capture where we stand as a nation. These are the worst of times.
Of course, it’s foolish to say things can’t get worse. They can, especially with a president allergic to coherence, let alone competence. But this feels like a low point because it is one.
Not just because an enemy with the blood of American civilians on its hands is humiliating us. And not just because everyone on Earth with a smartphone can watch the 21st century United States military lose a war to a seventh-century enemy.
In truth, the Afghanistan debacle is a symbol of a larger problem. For two decades, we have allowed our failed political class to lead our nation down the tubes.
For more than 20 years, we have watched them outsource good, middle-class jobs to other countries, even adversaries, and hope Silicon Valley saviors will make up the difference and spread the wealth. They haven’t, and they won’t.
We’re also a decade into learning that our elites prefer bailing out each other to having the backs of ordinary Americans. And we’re eighteen months into a pandemic which has validated every bit of skepticism toward the class of so-called “experts.”
Our schools, once great stewards of Western culture and American values, now teach our youth to hate their country and judge one another based on arbitrary categories of “privilege,” threatening decades of hard-won progress. Corporations have abandoned hard work, integrity, and merit as their guiding principles in favor of woke virtue signaling to appease the liberal mob.
Eight months into a new presidential administration, seemingly every major American institution is more concerned with creating an imagined Jim Crow crisis out of election integrity reforms than solving the border crisis, the urban crime crisis, the welfare crisis, or the inflation crisis.
After all that, the world watched Afghan youths cling to an airplane with “U.S. Air Force” written on its fuselage and then fall to their deaths.
It takes a pain that sharp, in a darkness that deep, to certify that our fear of American decline was justified. It’s not a monster under a child’s bed. It’s an actual predator in the night slowly creeping its way up the stairs.
The hope provided by the Trump administration makes our present predicament all the more frustrating. It looked like America might beat these trends and once again recapture its characteristic optimism, prosperity, and strength.
But the Biden presidency has undone those gains and aggravated our underlying condition.
America has hung its head before. The period between 1968 and 1975 lends itself to the most clear-cut comparisons. Race riots. Surging crime. Traditional values under attack. And US Army helicopters lifting off an embassy in Asia.
Politicians have and will use such low points as fodder. As Ted Cruz often said, after eight years of Barack Obama, it took Jimmy Carter to get Ronald Reagan.
He was right. And the smart money is on another American resurgence. In our history, the worst of times have often led to the best of times. After the War of 1812 came a long period of expansion and growth that set the stage for America’s emergence onto the world stage. After the Great Depression and World War Two came another boom that made the United States the richest country in the world and sent ripple effects around the globe that lifted billions out of poverty. And after the turbulence of the Vietnam War and the economic strife of the Carter years came a decade of unprecedented peace and prosperity under President Ronald Reagan. Betting against America wasn’t wise then, and its not wise now.
But, as Charles Krauthammer once wrote, “history is tragic, not redemptive.” History—even American history—doesn’t owe us anything. The successes of our past have been thanks to a long tradition of Americans who were determined to seize their own destiny and create a better future for their children. No matter how Barack Obama used to draw it in speeches, the future will not move in some preordained “arc.” The “future” is just a word we give to an uncertain landscape that it is up to us in the present to shape.
Like 1968-1975, this period of history can become just another proving ground for an American resurgence, if we make it so.
Yes, these are the worst of times. But we will get another chance to write the future.
(Cal Palmer is the pen name of an analyst and fellow at a national think tank. He is an attorney and officer in the US Army Reserve.)