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The fire in the ashes of America’s Afghanistan defeat

The fire in the ashes of America’s Afghanistan defeat thumbnail

America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan has ended.

U.S. President Joe Biden eloquently defended the withdrawal by chiding U.S. proteges in the collapsed Afghan government for their failure to fight for themselves.

But America’s haphazard withdrawal from Afghanistan also put an end to 20 years of the war on terror, which mobilized U.S. allies and other like-minded nations to mount a large-scale military action aimed at remaking the world into a safer place.

Biden made it clear that ending the war in Afghanistan was not just about Afghanistan, but was about putting an end to an era where the U.S. conducted major military operations in foreign places — particularly in the Middle East — for the purpose of democratic regime change.

The sense of despair evoked in Biden’s speech brought to mind Rudyard Kipling’s definitive 1889 poem “The Ballad of East and West,” in which the voice of British India explored the perennial theme of the incompatibility of Western and non-Western civilizations.

“Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the two shall meet,” wrote Kipling with an almost wistful air of resignation. “Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat.”

Almost as if he was amplifying Kipling’s refrain, Biden’s speech had the air of a requiem to a lost cause that had purported to build democratic, cohesive and unified nation-states upon the alien soil of the non-Western world. Furthermore, Biden dismissed the possibility of such a development as nonexistent in history, and impossible to apply from the outside.

Departing along with the U.S. forces were the hopes and dreams of the universal applicability of Western modernity. If there was ever an ultimate cause underlying America’s intervention in the Middle East over the past two decades, it was the prevalence of this single idea, not ambitions of mere military dominance.

That a U.S. president has relinquished such a claim to ideological superiority certainly marks the end of an epoch in the receding American century.

Japan, perhaps the most astute upholder of the American idea in the Far East, will be deeply affected in the long run by Biden’s great reset of Washington’s involvement in the world.

As for the Sept. 11 attacks themselves, they smashed the works of two prominent Japanese Americans. Both second-generation minority Americans of non-Western origin, both were so ultramodernist in their advocacy of Western values that they were probably more forthright than most Americans of Western origin.

Minoru Yamasaki, pictured in Detroit in March 1964: the architect designed the twin towers of the World Trade Center.   © AP

One was Minoru Yamasaki, the architect who designed the twin towers of the World Trade Center. His best-known work, truly a gigantic creation, fell to pieces after being engorged by burning jet fuel.

The iconic towers were the ultimate expression of modernism aimed at achieving the utmost degree of industrial efficiency and functionality. Yamasaki even tried to add a human touch, but that was mostly in vain.

The other was political scientist Francis Fukuyama, whose bestselling work published in 1992, “The End of History and the Last Man,” chronicled the dawn of the post-Cold War era.

Inspired by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union and based on an essay first published in The National Interest in 1989, Fukuyama argued in favor of the universal spread of Western liberal democracy and the free market.

Francis Fukuyama, pictured in Washington D.C. in October 2008: the political scientist argued in favor of the universal spread of Western liberal democracy.   © Reuters

According to Fukuyama, humanity had already attained an endpoint of ideational evolution, and there was nothing left for the world other than to adopt liberal democracy as a universal form of government.

Coming as it did at the acme of American dominance in the early days of the post-Cold War era, it was recognized even then that the wider Middle East — the Arab Muslim world especially — posed a serious challenge to Fukuyama’s universal theory.

The obvious strength of national and religious convictions in the Middle East, bolstered by solid Islamic legal doctrine, was always going to present the most obstinate of obstacles to the spread of Western liberal democracy.

Insisting that his interpretation of the course of history would inevitably find its way to the Arab Muslim world and force it to succumb to the tide of human evolution, Fukuyama dismissed all doubt. Then came the Sept. 11 attacks, which demolished Fukuyama’s assertion of the universal applicability of Western liberal democracy to the Arab Muslim world.

Americans fought back decisively and determinedly, as if to avenge the destruction of Yamasaki’s physical creation and to redeem Fukuyama’s ideational construct.

It was as if the U.S. had become suddenly aware of its duty to stand up for this challenge as it struggled to turn the page of history toward the universal ascendancy of Western values hinted at in the latter part of Kipling’s famous poem.

“But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,” wrote Kipling. “When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the Earth.”

It took two decades for America to quit and leave from that particular end of the Earth, abandoning the false hope of remaking a Muslim nation into a modern liberal democracy according to the Western model.

Now, a sense of futility abounds. Still, the implications of the withdrawal and its impact on other parts of the world are varied and more nuanced.

It might not directly affect Washington’s allies in the Far East, just as the defeat in Vietnam did not set off the alleged domino effect of the collapse of the liberal world in Asia, but instead hastened America’s victory over the Soviet bloc a decade-and-a-half later.

America’s shift to Asia and the Indo-Pacific could be a chance for its allies here — including Japan — to play a more active role toward sustaining the free and open world order, where the presence of the U.S. is still indispensable. And sought after.

Nikkei Asia

12 Comments on "The fire in the ashes of America’s Afghanistan defeat"

  1. Theedrich on Sat, 11th Sep 2021 11:11 am 

    America’s psychosis is endemic and will never end until the nation destroys itself.

  2. FamousDrScanlon on Sat, 11th Sep 2021 1:37 pm 

    How can there be a fire from ashes? Ashes means you burnt all the fuel up fuck stick.

  3. makati1 on Sat, 11th Sep 2021 3:56 pm 

    Nikkei, bought and paid for, propaganda mill for the US. Such Bullshit!

  4. Ace Divino on Tue, 14th Sep 2021 4:18 am 

    Very well explained it. Its a very nice and awesome article.

  5. Biden's hairplug on Sat, 18th Sep 2021 3:11 am 

    Sign of the times:

    “Rutte en Johnson bespreken een toekomst zonder sterke VS”

    (Rutte and Johnson discuss a future without a strong US)

    The “Algemeen Dagblad” (AD) is a US-friendly Dutch MSM.

    Rutte envisions a larger role for the EU and UK in the near future. He offered good Dutch services to mediate between the EU and UK. It were Dutch diplomats who brought together the Germans and French after the war to get European cooperation started, after the Dutch realized that the Dutch global empire of 350 years was over and a plan B needed to come into effect.

    Now, in 2021, we can begin to plan for Europe to step out of the shadow of the US (whether the Brexit-British like it or not, they don’t). Brexit isn’t very popular in the Netherlands, but there is no way they will follow this reckless example, regardless of how much wind bags like Farage would love to see this happening. The Dutch location on the continent will forbid such a kamikaze-action. But they are keen in letting the distance EU-UK not to become too great… and simply sit-out this prank and adventure-against-time.

  6. Biden's hairplug on Sun, 19th Sep 2021 1:38 am 

    More nails in the coffin of the post-WW2 West:

    “French rue ‘new Trafalgar’ and attack Boris Johnson as an opportunist ‘fifth wheel on the carriage’ who has ‘returned into the American lap’ after losing £30bn subs deal to AUKUS pact”

    We’re heading for a split of the West of similar proportions as was the split of the Roman empire in a western and eastern part in 395 A.D.

    After the split, the eastern part survived for more than 1000 years, the western part went under in less than a century at the hands of Germanic tribes.

    Macron has been hammering on a reset in EU-Russian relations, the classic Gaullist position:

    “Emmanuel Macron’s very big idea on Russia”

    And Russia is ready too for that reset:

    “Russian EU Ambassador Offers Europe “Unlimited Cooperation””

    Russia has completed Nord Stream 2 and will only deliver gas to Europe via this new pipe-line, circumventing trouble-makers in the Ukraine and Eastern Europe.

    The real meaning of Brexit was to break away from Europe, only to realign itself with Anglosphere in the (idle) expectation that post-WW2 Anglo-Zionist supremacy could be cemented ad infinitum.

    It won’t.

    The way things are going, the world view of George Orwell is going to be realized (map at the bottom), with 4 major geopolitical players:

    – Orange: Paris-Berlin-Moscow = Christian State / white race
    – Pink: Oceania = Judaic State / mongrelized
    – Green: East Asia = Confucian State / Han -Chinese
    – Yellow: Disputed Territories = Islamic State / Muslim

    Only a white nationalist uprising in the US could change that picture, paving the way for a global white nationalist civilization, “Eurosphere”. But that uprising can probably only occur after an escalating conflict between the Anglos and Chinese over Taiwan. It remains to be seen if that will happen. It is more likely that the Chinese will get away with it, without a major war.

    As the Guardian noted last week, Europe is gradually turning white nationalist, much to the dismay of said newspaper:

    “The EU increasingly embraces the idea of a continental identity, one that’s white and Christian. Is it really the liberal body of remainer lore?”

    Won’t be long and the Guardian will stop being a remainer newspaper and will go along with the UK disappearing into a woke Anglosphere and a new Iron Curtain will be erected through the French Channel.

    Exit the West. The future of continental Europe after Brexit lies in Eurasia, not on the other side of the Atlantic, leaving the Anglos and their massive trade deficits isolated.

  7. Biden's hairplug on Sun, 19th Sep 2021 2:46 am 

    Scotland no longer “going Dutch”?

    It’s the unionist Orange Order vs Scottish nationalists.—represent-bigotry-not-culture/

    “Orange Order marches are fooling no-one – they represent bigotry not ‘culture’”

    Yesterday’s Orange march in Glasgow, where defenders of the British Union commemorated the Dutch invaders of 1688 (“Glorious Revolution”) that enabled the union in the first place:

    “Great-Britain is a Creation of the Netherlands”

    The Netherlands itself was the first Anglo country that drew fare-going conclusions from the ravage after WW2, where the Dutch global empire of 350 years was replaced by the Anglo-Soviet conquest of Europe, including the Netherlands.

    The Netherlands, in response, became a continental European country, dropping its classic orientation towards the sea and the West, and played a crucial role in bringing French and German combatants together and form the core of the present day EU.

    Scotland could become the 2nd Anglo country to do the same and become “continental European”, greatly enabled by the disaster that is Brexit for the UK, a major failure of Westminster state craft to even allow commoners to decide an issue for which they don’t have the brains and predictably will resort to chauvinism, primitive tribalism and flag-waving, destroying everything that has been built-up over decades, reverting to little Englandshire, unintentionally enormously strengthening the cohesion of the EU, because every other potential defector will be deterred by the drama that is taking place in the UK and that will only get worse.

    The Scots are well-advised to shake-off the Dutch heritage, and perhaps I can say that because I’m Dutch, and go continental…

    “The Case for Scottish Independence and Irish Unification”

    …as a first step to finally get rid of European nations, that lost their legitimacy in WW1 and WW2 and replace them by a Europe of the Regions:

    “The United Statelets of Europe”

    White nationalism, combined with local identity, that’s the way forward.

  8. Abraham van Helsing on Sun, 19th Sep 2021 3:35 pm 

    “Victor Davis Hanson – Afghanistan and America’s decline”

    Hanson: “there were 3.5 times more Europeans than Americans in Afghanistan and we abandoned them without consultation or timely warning”

    And now these subs.

    “Dutch and British PMs Rutte and Johnson discuss a future without a strong America”

    That was all folks! The vassals know that bossie is on his deathbed.

    And the collapse could come much faster than most anticipate.

  9. Biden's hairplug on Mon, 20th Sep 2021 3:55 am 

    The incurable lefties of the Guardian have just written a home-run article about the folly of AUKUS:

    Making waves in the Pacific: how Boris Johnson’s Global Britain went rogue

    Simon Tisdall

    After Trump and Brexit, AUKUS is the third big European geopolitical gain and prospect of rapid independence from the US empire. The 3 remaining Anglos (Canada and NZ are not in) have just locked themselves into a conflict with China, sealing the fate of Australia, exactly the scenario Malcolm Fraser warned against. And they provided the French the excuse to do what they intended to do all along: play the Russian card.

    The Guardian:

    This paradox is lost on two such political pygmies, Britain’s Boris Johnson and Australia’s Scott Morrison. These two could be twins. Both suffer illusions about their own importance. They think they are global players. In truth, they’re global goofs.

    In America’s losing battle to prevent China’s rise to world No 1, they dance to Joe Biden’s menacing tune. They’re like a pair of flabby chorus singers supporting the main turn. On this, both agree: if there’s going to be another war, they want in.

    Australia’s decision last week to build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines as part of the new Aukus defence pact with the US and UK places it squarely in Beijing’s gunsights. It weakens, not enhances, its security.

    It makes Canberra dependent on Washington’s good graces [*]. It has outraged France and other European friends.

    Johnson is best at shooting himself in the foot. Britain’s credibility on non-proliferation was already in shreds. It is expanding its nuclear warhead stockpile by 40%. The government no longer rules out nuclear first-use. Thanks to Johnson’s divisive bumbling, the UK may soon lack a home for its Scotland-based nuclear subs. Watch out. He may move them to Adelaide.

    Johnson believes his Australia wheeze fortifies his “global Britain” fantasy…

    As former prime minister Theresa May suggests, the UK may be sucked into a China-Taiwan or China-Japan conflict for which it is hopelessly ill-equipped, militarily and economically.

    When he meets Biden in Washington this week, Johnson will portray Britain as a key partner sharing global security responsibilities. Who’s he fooling? His is the embarrassing behaviour of a slightly tipsy elderly relative at a posh party.

    Fear of China drives American policy.

    Fear of the US, coupled with the belief it can be overtaken, drives China, too. Its rapid military build-up is one response. Each year, it launches more combat ships than the Royal Navy possesses in total.

    [*] – Yeah, like the pre-Taliban government of Afghanistan. The US ran, and they were toast. Won’t be different with Down Under. Perhaps the Chinese will leave New Zealand off the hook and as such offer an escape route for future Australian refugees. Japan has 377k km2 for 125 million, New Zealand 260k km2. You can easily store 25 million Australians there.

  10. Biden’s hairplug on Mon, 20th Sep 2021 7:04 am 

    There are still people in Britain who use their brain, so it would a waste to completely write that hapless country off:

    This is a small entrepreneur, Michael Lambert, whose business was ruined by that Brexit prank and didn’t bother to start all over again, became a youtuber with a reasonable following.

    Today he makes short shrift with AUKUS.

    More calamity for the British isles: energy prices up with a whopping 250%:

    “Why is there a gas shortage in the UK? Here’s why gas prices are so high – and why energy prices are rising“

    There are several reasons, one is a fire at a cable between the UK and France.

    Mid-winter blackouts are now a serious possibility.

  11. Hello on Mon, 20th Sep 2021 10:29 am 

    >>> energy prices up with a whopping 250%:

    Sweet. Economic hardship is the best cure against 3rd world imports. Hey, with a bit of luck the brits blame the imported negros and ragheads. And who knows? Maybe something beautiful comes of it.

  12. Biden's hairplug on Tue, 21st Sep 2021 3:31 am 

    EU backs France over AUKUS:

    Nice opportunity to finally get serious about an EU military and breathe new life into the French submarine order, cancelled by Australia (the US and UK really). And no diesel-electric for the EU, by nuclear-powered subs, armed with ICBMs.

    After Brexit, the West is over anyway.

    A Pentagon we already have:

    All we need to do is wait for the proper moment to send the Anglos packing from Eurasia. That moment will come when China makes its move over Taiwan, triggering AUKUS (& CW2).

    Anglos and Soviets, replaced by Greater Europe and China. Welcome to the 21st century.

    (Chinese map, implying grand European geopolitical upward mobility. Waddayathink Europe’s is going to do with that subtle invitation?)

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