Programming note: Tuesday's edition of The Mark Steyn Show airs live on GB News at 8pm BST/3pm North American Eastern - with a replay at 2am BST/9pm Eastern. GB News is also on radio, so you can listen to the Steyn Show from anywhere in the world right here.
~It is one year since the Fall of Kabul. Since then, America has launched another war, albeit fought at one remove. But there is little to say on this first anniversary that I did not say twelve months ago. This was a much quoted column, first published on Sunday August 15th 2021:
To reprise a line from a decade-old column of mine:
Afghanistan is about Afghanistan – if you're Afghan or Pakistani. But, if you're Russian or Chinese or Iranian or European, Afghanistan is about America.
That's the point to remember: if you're an Afghan schoolgirl, today is the fall of Kabul; elsewhere, in the chancelleries of allies and enemies alike, it's the fall of America. Even by their usual wretched standards, the world's most somnolent media are struggling to stay up to speed on the story. Here's the scoop from USA Today:
Taliban's Afghanistan Advance Tests Biden's 'America Is Back' Foreign Policy Promise
You don't say! Did he misread the prompter, or mishear the guy in his ear? "America is on its back", surely?
But don't worry, the world's most lavishly over-funded "intelligence community" is on the case:
Kabul Could Fall To The Taliban Within 90 Days, U.S. Intelligence Warns
Thank you, geniuses. That was Thursday. So it turned out to be well within ninety hours - which is close enough for US intelligence work.
Was this the same "seventeen intelligence agencies" who all agreed Russia had meddled in the 2016 election - and with whose collective intelligence only a fool would disagree?
Or perhaps it was only one intelligence agency - most likely the crack agents of the highly specialized Federal Unitary Central Kabul Western Intelligence Tracking Service.
To modify Hillary Clinton, what difference at this point would it make if the US government simply laid off its entire "intelligence community"?
Indeed, what difference would it make if it closed down its military? Obviously, it would present a few mid-life challenges for its corrupt Pentagon bureaucracy, since that many generals on the market for defense lobbyist gigs and board directorships all at once would likely depress the going rate. But, other than that, a military that accounts for 40 per cent of the planet's military spending can't perform either of the functions for which one has an army: it can't defeat overseas enemies, and it's not permitted to defend the country, as we see on the Rio Grande.
So what's the point?
Oh, oh, but, if a nation doesn't have an army to defend it, a quarter-of-a-million foreign invaders could just walk into the country with impunity every month!
The scale of America's global humiliation is so total that I see my friends at Fox News cannot even bear to cover it. As I write, every other world network - the BBC, Deutsche Welle, France 24, not to mention the Chinese - is broadcasting the collapse of the American regime in real time; on Fox, meanwhile, they're talking about the spending bill and the third Covid shot and the dead Haitians ...as if the totality of the defeat is such that for once it cannot be fixed into the American right's usual consolations ("well, this positions us pretty nicely for 2022").
On the leftie side, of course, the court eunuchs have risen as one to protect the Dementia Kid, and are working as hurriedly as the Kabul document-shredders in an effort to figure out a way to blame it all on Trump.
But don't for a moment think this is just some rushed, bungled, memo-incinerating abandonment of the US embassy. State Department diplomats have been preparing this move all summer, under cover of a highly sophisticated deflection operation on their Kabul Twitter feed:
The month of June is recognized as (LGBTI) Pride Month. The United States respects the dignity & equality of LGBTI people & celebrates their contributions to the society. We remain committed to supporting civil rights of minorities, including LGBTI persons. #Pride2021 #PrideMonth
I do hope they've managed to evacuate the embassy's LGBTQWERTY flag before the sacking commences.
One of the depressing aspects of the Swamp is that everything becomes a racket - including even your armed forces. Look at that buffoon at top right, the guy who heads the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Thoroughly Modern Milley: that's an awful lot of chest ribbonry for a nation that hasn't won a war in three-quarters of a century. During his recent wokier-than-thou Congressional testimony on "white rage", I wish someone would have asked Thoroughly Modern what they were all for:
Well, this is for Korea... Vietnam... This small ribbon's for the Jimmy Carter helicopters-in-the-desert fiasco, because that went tits up far quicker than it usually takes... Here's the Pentagon Female Empowerment Award I got for introducing Take Your Child Bride To Work Day to Jalalabad... This one's from the Association of Non-Binary Staff Colleges for Most Transitions in a Single Battalion... Oh, and this most recent one is for getting into a Twitter spat over Tucker Carlson...
If you don't have total contempt for Milley and the rest of the brass right now, you're part of the problem.
I'm in favor of razing the Pentagon and salting the earth - or, at the very least, firing Milley and the massed ranks of "parade generals" (a useful Commonwealth term) and moving the few guys left to a new HQ in a strip-mall on the edge of Cleveland. The bigger your armed forces get, the more they become a racket - as the US-created "Afghan National Army" "300,000-strong" (and now down to, oh, twenty-seven maybe) has just conveniently demonstrated. As for where all the money wound up, the Taliban's tour of American "ally" and former Afghan vice-president "Marshal" Dostum's palatial spread provides a clue.
I've said for years, into the void of silence from Bill Kristol, Max Boot and the rest of the shock'n'awe crowd on the laughably misnamed "national-security right", that the entire American way of war needs rethinking. I did it on Fox just a month ago:
We mentioned General Milley on 'white rage' at the top of the show. That's not the most dispiriting remark by an American general in recent days. That award would have to go to the Nato commander supervising our exit from Afghanistan. From The Daily Mail:
'General Austin Scott Miller, commander of US and Nato troops in Afghanistan, said he was shocked by how quickly the Afghan National Army had surrendered to the Taliban.'
I don't know whether he's a three-star, four-star, 137-star general, but a guy who professes to be shocked by how quickly the Afghan National Army is surrendering to the Taliban has no business being a general at all...
For twenty years American taxpayers have trained and paid an Afghan National Army that's fallen apart in twenty minutes. Here they are surrendering to the Taliban. Don't all throw down your weapons at once, lads...
Over a thousand so-called Afghan National Army troops have fled into Tajikistan, so Tajikistan has sent 20,000 reservists to secure its southern border.
We can't secure our southern border because we're too busy training Afghans to flee across Tajikistan's southern border.
As for the enemy, the good news is that if your regime is attacked by America you'll likely wind up with even more territory than you started with:
The Taliban now controls more of Afghanistan than it did before the US invaded in 2001.
That happens to be true: the only change effected over two decades of Nato occupation is that the Taliban now controls northern Afghanistan, which it didn't do on October 7th 2001. But don't worry; here's how US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spent his Saturday night:
Very productive conversation with Canadian Foreign Minister @MarcGarneau about our efforts to reach a diplomatic solution in Afghanistan.
In the course of that "very productive" telephone call, the Taliban took three more cities.
America is not "too big to fail": It's failing by almost every metric right now. The world-record brokey-brokey-brokeness manifested by the current spending bills is only possible because the US dollar is the global currency. When that ends, we're Weimar with smartphones. Clearly, Chairman Xi and his allies occasionally muse on the best moment to yank the dollar out from under. If you were in Beijing watching telly today, would you perhaps be considering advancing those plans?
In other words, is this not merely a humiliation but America's Suez moment? In my bestseller After America, I recalled a long-ago conversation with the Countess of Avon (Clarissa Churchill, Winston's niece, widow of the then prime minister Anthony Eden - and still with us at the splendid age of 101). Somewhere along the way, Lady Avon observed ruefully that the eight days of the Suez crisis in late 1956 marked the great divide between the words "British Empire" being still taken seriously and their being a sneering punchline.
The last eight days may well do the same for the term "global superpower". Right now, as I said on Rush last year, it's China's world; we just pay for it.
Just to jolly things up, here's a vignette of the way things used to be, from July's edition of our Hundred Years Ago Show:
When Princess Fatima of the Afghan royal family arrived in Washington, she was anxious to be received at the White House by President Harding. His Britannic Majesty's ambassador, Lord Hardinge, was most disturbed by this, and protested to the State Department that Afghanistan was within the British sphere of influence and it was not appropriate for the White House to go around throwing official receptions for emissaries of that country as if it had the right to conduct foreign relations. The State Department agreed, pointing out that America was so uninterested in Afghanistan they didn't even have a file on the country.
Lord Hardinge thought everything was hunky-dory, and then he woke up to find the newspapers full of photographs of President Harding receiving Princess Fatima, erroneously described as the Sultana of Afghanistan.
The press accounts are full of puzzling details: Her Royal Highness was accompanied by someone styled the 'State Department Naval Liaison Officer', a position that does not appear to exist, and by a second man representing himself as the Crown Prince of Egypt, even though he was no such thing. Princess Fatima herself, although perfectly fluent in English, having been educated in India and Britain, told President Harding she did not speak his language and insisted on talking to him through an interpreter, apparently to make herself seem more important. The State Department has now been forced to open a file on Afghanistan.
America's Afghan policy, from 1921 to 2021 - and, in defiance of the usual trajectory, first farce, then tragedy. A decade or so back, I quoted Bernard Lewis:
I was on a panel with the great Bernard Lewis a couple of years ago - actually six or seven years ago - and Bernard said that the danger here is that America risks being seen as harmless as an enemy, and treacherous as a friend... It's a very dangerous lesson to teach the planet.
"Harmless as an enemy, and treacherous as a friend": a devastating indictment, and entirely correct. But it neglects the ultimate reality: the bungling superpower can inflict defeat only on itself.
~from SteynOnline, August 15th 2021
We opened The Mark Steyn Club five years ago, and I'm thrilled by all those SteynOnline regulars across the globe - from Fargo to Fiji, Vancouver to Vanuatu, Surrey to the Solomon Islands - who've signed up to be a part of it. My only regret is that we didn't launch it nineteen years ago, but better late than never. You can find more information about the Club here - and, if you've a pal who might be partial to this sort of thing, don't forget our special Gift Membership.