The world will have a top cop, a nation that uses its strength to instill its preferred way for the world to be and to act. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, international politics will fill the void if a world cop is either not obvious, or, as today, abdicates. With America stepping away, running away, from the role, will the top cop be Russia, or China. Or…? The question is not whether the world needs a cop, but which nation will fill that role.
Being the world cop does not necessarily mean that the cop needs to indulge in “nation building”. Historically the nation acting as the world cop has its own interests in mind; it is not interested in the welfare of the nation it seeks to control. The only nation it seeks to build is itself.
It is naive to think that any nation would seek to spend its blood and treasure to create benefits for other nations if the cop nation’s national interests were not at stake. Ah, but perhaps we should be exactly that naive.
That is the subject of today’s 10 minute episode.
Those who say that nation building does not work are either ignorant of or simply ignore history. I’ll give you three examples: South Korea, Germany and Japan. When we defended South Korea against attack from Communist North Korea, the South was ruled by the aristocratic and corrupt Syngman Rhee, who held power from 1948 to 1960. Only after the fall of its military dictatorship in the late 1980s has democracy become consolidated in the Republic of Korea, South Korea. Like South Korea, historically autocratic Germany and Japan had rocky transitions to democracy–and all three needed American “nation building” help. Neither Germany nor Japan had had a democratic past; it took patient, painful and expensive nation building. Now both countries have robust and successful democracies. Here is a bonus example: Taiwan. Even that defiant beacon of democracy, doing its best to stare down Communist China, was formed under the autocratic and cruel leadership of Chaing-Kai-shek. Once again, the patient nation building of the US has helped give rise to the robust democracy enjoyed by the Taiwanese today.
Does this history of only recently democratized major countries put into perspective our Revolution in 1776, Revolution 1.0? Not only was tiny, poor, upstart America taking on Britain, the greatest economic and military power the world had ever seen, we were standing up for the rights of man when the world was almost entirely ruled by monarchies and dictatorships.
And even when we do not have the stomach for nation building, we can avoid a lot of damage by acting against the bad guys in that neglected nation early and often. It is one of the many and continuing ironies, hypocrisies, really, of political life here in the USA, that many of the same people who support our full and complete withdrawal from Afghanistan are wringing their hands and bemoaning the Taliban’s reinforcement of Sharia law, including everything from denying girls an education to beating women in the street. No surprise here: This is exactly how the Taliban ruled from 1996 to 2001, when the US, that’s us, came in and drove them from power. Pick one: either protect the people in countries like Afghanistan with boots on the ground, or harden your hearts and turn your backs on them.
Does anyone remember the Weimar Republic, that shaky, corrupt, imposed-from-the-outside and thinly democratic government that ruled Germany from the end of WWI to Hitler’s ascendency in 1933? The parallels between Weimar and the imposed government that ruled Afghanistan from 2001 until 2021 are many and stark; too bad the Administration did not give that part of history a 30 minute read. Both governments were imposed on war weary populations, populations that had never experienced, and likely knew little about, democratic governance. Both were inept and corrupt, leaving the door wide open for a return to autocratic rule. In Germany it was the rise of the Nazis; in Afghanistan, it is the return of the Taliban.
From September 1st, 1939, the day Germany attacked Poland, and December 7th of 1941, Pearl Harbor, the US mostly ignored WWII. During those years, Germany conquered most of mainland Europe, from France in the west to the outskirts of Moscow in the Soviet Union in the east, along with large swaths of Northern Africa. Our President, FDR, did everything he could to give Britain, the sole nation still defying Hitler, vital, life sustaining support in the face of an isolationist nation and Congress. How short would the war have been if in 1939 America had joined Britain and France in declaring war on Nazi Germany? If we had gotten fully involved in September of 1939, instead of waiting for the better part of 2 ½ years, would Hitler’s invasion of France over 8 months after the war started have succeeded? Unlikely at best. And the concentration camps and the Holocaust? The invasion of Russia? Riddle. What is the best way to kill an 800 lb gorilla? A. Don’t let it grow up; kill it early.
Clearly nothing like a full on war approach was needed in Afghanistan. For a year and a half, since February of 2020, US forces had not suffered a single casualty, yet Afghanistan remained stable. With a de minimis force of only 2,500 troops, we stabilized a nation of almost 40M people, and neutralized the terrorist Taliban. Thirteen troops did die in the ill planned and chaotically executed cut and run. We made the Taliban, the group we were trying to kill just a few weeks earlier, into partners, while abandoning our real Afghan partners, the ones who put their lives, and the lives of their families, on the line for us. We initially did the right thing by driving out the Taliban. Then we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by running away with our hair on fire. And speaking of WWII, it would have been correctly seen as insane for us to have trusted the Gestapo, Nazi Germany’s secret police force, after we occupied Germany. Yet we now trust the Taliban. The Taliban and the Gestapo are brothers from a different evil mother.
Pause for a definition: Nation rescue is different from nation building. Nation rescue is what we did, and should still be doing, in Afghanistan. Nation building is what we did in Japan and other countries.
Today’s Key Point: No one can trust the Biden administration; not the Taliban, not the tens of thousands of our Afghan allies stranded in Afghanistan; all of whom–and their families–are in mortal danger. The executions and slaughter have already started. Not the Taiwanese who may now lean toward Communist China because they no longer can rely on America for help with defense. China has a much freer hand in fulfilling its promise of making Taiwan a part of its communist state. Not NATO. Not the immigrants storming our southern border in response to the administration’s seemingly warm embrace. Not the border states.
Parting thought: The “biggest airlift in history” as claimed by the administration was not the frenzied, 16-day Afghanistan airlift carrying about 120K people; it was the Berlin Airlift. And it is not even close. Soviet Russia, acting like Soviet Russia, in 1948 cut off all supplies to Allied-occupied Berlin. In a despicable attempt to absorb all of Berlin into communist East Germany, the Soviets refused to allow food, fuel, medicine, clothing–anything–from entering Allied Berlin via rail, waterway or road. As far as the Western Allies were concerned, withdrawal from the city was not an option. “If we withdraw,” said the American military commander, “our position in Europe is threatened, and Communism will run rampant.” President Harry Truman echoed this sentiment: “We shall stay,” he declared, “period.” Using military force to strike back against the Soviet blockade seemed equally unwise: The risk of turning the Cold War into an actual war—even worse, a nuclear war—was just too great. Finding another way to re-provision the city seemed to the Allies to be the only reasonable response.
The Berlin airlift was supposed to be a short-term measure, but it settled in for the long haul as the Soviets refused to lift the blockade. For more than a year, hundreds of American, British and French cargo planes ferried provisions from Western Europe to Berlin in a tight air corridor, harassed by both Soviet fighters and an especially ugly winter. At the beginning of the operation, the planes delivered about 5,000 tons of supplies to West Berlin every day; by the end, those loads had increased to about 8,000 tons of supplies per day. The Allies carried about 2.3 million tons of cargo in all over the course of the airlift.
Where has the American attitude of, “We shall stay” gone?
Give credit where credit is due, the administration did create one biggest and best of all time. The Taliban is now the best armed terrorist group in history.
We all have the personal responsibility to stand our ground when we know that others need us to defend that ground. Speaking of personal responsibility, it does not stand alone; the two main and interdependent principles at Revolution 2.0 are:
1. Personal Responsibility; take it, teach it and,
2. Be Your Brother’s Keeper. The answer to the biblical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is a ringing, unequivocal “Yes.” There is no other answer.
Where do you stand? What are you going to do? Remember, it does not matter where you stand if you don’t do anything. You can start by subscribing to these episodes, and encouraging others to subscribe with you.
As always, whatever you do, do it in love. Without love, anything we do is empty. 1 Corinthians 16:1.
As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the episodes with comments or questions about this episode or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me on Twitter, @willluden, Facebook, facebook.com/will.luden, and LinkedIn, www.linkedin.com/in/willluden/. And you can subscribe on your favorite device through Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and wherever you listen to podcasts.
This is Will Luden. We’ll talk again in a few days.