America’s defeat in Afghanistan has provoked an imperial crisis. This imperial crisis is not just a geostrategic or diplomatic game. It is a crisis of the ideas driving the empire – American culture, society and politics – its core belief that it is the exceptional nation. In Kabul, America unwittingly surrendered not only as occupier of Afghanistan, but its claim to be leader of the so-called free world. Will Afghanistan teach America to be humble again or at last?
In episode 17 of The Burning Archive podcast, when Jeff Rich discusses the American response to its humiliation in Afghanistan.
Credits and material referred to during the show:
- Honestly with Bari Weiss podcast (September 1), “American decline is a choice. Let’s not choose it.”
- Steve Coll, “ The Lessons of Defeat in Afghanistan”
- Roger Kimball, “American Greatness, ‘Adults,’ ‘Progress,’ and Disaster”
- Cockburn “Did gender studies lose Afghanistan”
- Richard Haas, “America’s Withdrawal of Choice”
- George Packer, Biden’s Betrayal of Afghans Will Live in Infamy
- Wall Street Journal, What went wrong in Afghanistan
- Adam Tooze The new age of American power
- Pedro Gonzales, “Afghanistan’s Lesson: Reclaim America,” American Mind
- Victor Davis Hanson, “Our Afghan Nightmare: Tanks for Nothing“, (I accidentally said David in the podcast, sorry Victor)
- Angelo Codevilla, “The death of the global cop” The American Mind
I will add in links to the clips from Tucker Carlson, Mike Gallagher, Alistair Cooke and Jo Biden in a few hours. I might have missed a couple of other references. I hope you will excuse my sloppy digital scholarship.
You can test my hypothesis that Jake Sullivan is the author of the Longer Telegram by watching his indulgently long interviews with prestigious think tanks and examining his own identification with George Kennan here, here and here.
The sources used in this podcast are consciously drawn from a wide range of sources to demonstrate differences and commonalities across the American political spectrum. There are shades of truth and misreading in all of them. There is an excellent representation of the range of American opinion on the withdrawal at Foreign Affairs, published in June, before the humiliation had sunk in.
My own posts on the themes of American exceptionalism and the need to make American humble again or at last include:
- The fall of the American Empire’s Potemkin Province (August 2021)
- K.T. McFarland’s Revolution in Tamerlane’s Shadow (May 2020)
- An Open Letter to America (February 2020)
- More reflections on 2017: a multipolar world (December 2017)
- The unravelling of empires (January 2017)
- Donald Trump and America’s Wounded Pride (July 2016)
Image credit: Still from Captain Phillips (2013), since widely adapted as a meme.