I mentioned yesterday, and after my appearance on telly in Delhi, that the American conversation has been nowhere near where it ought to be these last three weeks. By way of example, high-profile Republican congressman (and vice-chairman of the "Freedom Caucus") Jim Jordan:
Despite everything, America is still the greatest country in the world.
Whether or not this is true, how is it a helpful contribution to public debate at a time when you're a global laughingstock? Hey, Sleeping Giant, no worries, roll over and go back to sleep ...oh, but, before you do, don't forget to send money now to SendMoneyNow.com so we'll be all set up for the midterms.
By contrast, Lara Logan of Fox News:
We are committing national suicide on the world stage right in front of everybody's eyes.
I incline more to Miss Logan's view of things geopolitically, but she was only warming up:
This is the greatest defeat of the world's superpower that anyone has ever seen... It is with shame and it is drenched in the blood of betrayal. And we are isolated on the world stage, and we are weak because of it - and the only people who benefit are America's enemies.
The guest-host to whom she said this blanched and declined to follow up. Presumably he'd been expecting a bit of pro forma sympathy for America's "service members" (a linguistically desiccated formulation, but now routine) followed by some enthusiastic pissing on Joe Biden and Jen Psaki. We are, in fact, way beyond that: most people around the world - even in Europe - know nothing of Democrats and Republicans, the Susan Rices and John Boltons, and at moments like this think not in terms of military sacrifice. In perception terms, as I said a fortnight back, armies don't lose wars, nations lose wars. The poignancy of the sacrifice is for the Lord Tennysons and Siegfried Sassoons of tomorrow, assuming there will be any, which is not the way to bet (poetry, like warmongering, is one of those things we've lost the knack of). This one's for you, Thoroughly Modern Milley:
'Good-morning, good-morning!' the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of 'em dead,
And we're cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
For "soldiers", read not just "service members" but the small number of genuine Afghan translators et al who made the mistake of waiting for their SIVs (Special Immigrant Visas) as opposed to the strapping your lads with no ID whatsoever who just barged their way through. The Afghan evacuation is a microcosm of US immigration in general: if you make the mistake of doing things the proper way and entering the system, you'll endure years of paperwork and the caprices of officialdom; smart guys use the express check-in at the Rio Grande. For "skiff across the Rio Grande", read "barge your way on to the C-117". For "caprices of officialdom", read that Sunday-night US drone strike that killed six Afghan children, all of whom had their SIVs for admission to America. As Lara Logan says, a dishonor "drenched in the blood of betrayal".
I do not know Miss Logan, other than through a couple of interviews with her while guest-hosting for Tucker. But a decade ago I wrote about her Tahrir tournante - and her wretched bosses' reaction to it:
What's striking about this story is not so much that her own employer, CBS News, chose not to run it until over three days later - on the following Monday - but that in the intervening period they pumped out the same sappy drivel as everybody else - 'Egypt's New Age Revolution' (60 Minutes), 'Egypt Proved Change Is Possible, Sexy And Cool!' (CBS Sunday Morning) - even as they knew there was another side to the story, and that their own correspondent was lying in the hospital traumatised because of it.
Yesterday Lara Logan responded to one of the pseudonymous macho men of Twitter, who'd linked to a New York hit-piece, all too characteristic of those "progressives" who "believe all women":
Go ahead - bring it on. This article said I was 'groped' in Egypt when I was gang-raped, sodomized & beaten almost to death by a mob of 200-300 men. I am not afraid of you & your smear machine/political operatives & all that power.
Miss Logan knows, vividly and brutally, the gulf between cold, unsparing reality and the halfwit lies a deluded culture tells itself. Jim Jordan's tweet is shameful: Western civilization is dying on America's watch, and you seriously think this is the time for rah-rah bollocks?
On "Fox & Friends this morning, General Jack Keane gave us the ol' glass-is-one-sixteenth-full routine:
Listen, the United States is still a superpower. It's Number One economic power in the world. It's got the strongest overall military power in the world despite some recent erosion in its capability. I mean, this is the country everybody wants to come to. People will still respect us.
As I said, I incline more to the Lara Logan assessment. The United States is "still a superpower" only because no other nation - China, say - uses the term. In that sense, it's like the Super Bowl, for Americans only. I'm reminded of a telly appearance a decade back, when I was guest-hosting for Sean Hannity on the day that Standard & Poor's stripped the US of its triple-A debt-rating for the first time in history. My interviewee, Eric Bolling, looked at the list of rock-solid AAA types and responded, "We shouldn't even be in the same list as these countries ...Norway? New Zealand? America should be in a league of its own."
As to "Number One economic power", officially China is projected to overtake America this decade, and have an economy fifty per cent bigger than the US by mid-century. But most sentient creatures grasp that the Chinese are already there: American emporia such as Wal-Mart sell American brands, all of whose products are manufactured in China. To change the trajectory would require an awesome world-transformational event, such as - ooh, I'm just brainstorming here - a Chinese virus that cripples the global economy and leads to massive Beijing-like restraints on individual liberty throughout the west.
Oh, no, wait, that didn't work. But maybe a big ol' EMP attack will shake us out of our complacency...
As for "strongest overall military capability", that and $5.95 will get you a decaf latte from the Starbucks at Bagram that Abdul and Sayyid have now renamed Talibucks.
"I mean, this is the country everybody wants to come to": Yeah, because it has no border, so it's easy. You can't get into Japan. You can't get into Australia, because you'll wind up in a detention camp on Nauru. But you can be on a no-fly list with the Delta variant leaking out of your nostrils and just walk into America. So being "the country everybody wants to come to" and does is not a sign of strength but of profound structural weakness.
A decade ago, on page 191 or thereabouts of After America, I quoted Andrew Roberts from his sequel to Churchill's History of the English-Speaking Peoples:
Just as we do not today differentiate between the Roman Republic and the imperial period of the Julio-Claudians when we think of the Roman Empire, so in the future no one will bother to make a distinction between the British Empire-led and the American Republic-led periods of English-speaking dominance between the late-eighteenth and the twenty-first centuries. It will be recognized that in the majestic sweep of history they had so much in common—and enough that separated them from everyone else—that they ought to be regarded as a single historical entity, which only scholars and pedants will try to describe separately.
That is true, and that is how both Beijing and Paris see it. Yet the transfer from America to China is somehow proceeding just as smoothly as the Anglo-American transition, thanks in part to significant elements of US power - from pop culture to public health, all-American sports franchises to Big Tech censors - that are already working for the other side.
Today the abandonment of that "majestic sweep of history" is being led by the Americans, enthusiastically cheered by Her Majesty's Dominions: Wokeness is a largely anglophone phenomenon that barely translates into French or Portuguese or Danish, never mind Mandarin. Even as the Taliban's droll deadpan flacks are explaining that they're committed to an "inclusive" government encompassing both mullahs with full beards and mullahs with three-quarter-length beards, America's suicide cult stays on message:
Study promotes 'princess culture' for boys as way to combat society's idea of 'masculinity'
We have enough princesses, on the Joint Chiefs, on the GOP committees, on the talk-radio circuit. The sappy happy talk will cost you and your kids your country: The Morlocks have taken Afghanistan and the Eloi have taken America. You can't reverse that while you're reTweeting Jim Jordan's complacent blather.