What Afghanistan Teaches Us About Our Ruling Class

September 8, 2021 Updated: September 14, 2021


With our political and military establishment spending 20 years waging war in the mountains of central Asia, Americans now know that the old saying about Afghanistan and imperial ambition is a lie. A great nation with a keen pride in its own identity and the destiny defined by it doesn’t risk blood and treasure to convince primitive tribes to adopt its style of governance.

Only a failing power that has lost all sense of what once made rivals shrink would spend the lives of its young men and women to plant its flag on a pile of inconsequential rocks. Afghanistan isn’t the graveyard of empires. Rather, it’s where failing regimes go to be euthanized.

The Soviet Union was already crumbling when Leonid Brezhnev sent troops to prop up a Communist regime in Afghanistan in 1979. Months after Mikhail Gorbachev withdrew the last Soviet soldier in February 1989, the Berlin Wall was toppled. Russia survived and so will America. It’s only the end of our ruling class, the curators of the new world order—globalism—that rose with the end of the Cold War. The impending collapse of this deracinated elite, such as that of the Soviet Union, has simply been accelerated by its loss in Afghanistan.

It wasn’t inevitable that what began in the wake of 9/11 as an act of retribution would end in a theater of self-pity. With lower Manhattan still smoking, Americans entrusted their political and military leadership with their safety and continued prosperity. Many of the most high-spirited among us offered America their service and some gave their lives.

But as the leadership class foundered in Afghanistan—Osama bin Laden had escaped, Afghan democracy proved to be a fantasy, neither its army nor national police force could stand on its own, and so on—it saw that the failures prolonging the war in fact created opportunities for personal advancement. They used Afghanistan as a financial instrument to launder their spoils and purchase the power and prestige that are naturally owed to victors. Like all habitual losers, America’s ruling class escaped the shame and humiliation it merited by forcing others to bear responsibility for the crimes that it alone committed.

And that’s the context in which to understand the massive airlift for which the Joe Biden administration keeps congratulating itself. Never mind the thousands of Americans sent to their death for no strategic purpose and the trillions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money wasted on the fantasy of turning Afghanistan into a democratic state. The message is this: We’re good guys—we’re rescuing Afghans from the clutches of the Taliban.

The phony atonement of the ruling class comes at the expense of the U.S. taxpayer. No one knows how many Afghans will be coming to the United States. Tens of thousands have been settled already, with others reportedly on their way, totaling around 120,000, according to some reports. Government sources say that after refugees start bringing over family members still in Afghanistan, the final tally will likely reach 250,000, maybe more.

The resettlement abuses the generosity of Americans, most of whom don’t understand that the Afghans sent to their communities aren’t the Afghans who helped the United States. The media and local political, social, and religious organizations have misled them to believe that these are the interpreters and others who assisted U.S. troops and other agencies. But according to reports, the Biden team left many of those Afghans behind. So, who are these people?

No one really knows. The problem isn’t that they’re unvetted, but that vetting them is impossible. The biometric information collected by U.S. authorities—which has now reportedly fallen into the hands of the Taliban—documented the Afghans who worked for them. Those among the warring tribesmen who opposed the U.S.-led coalition are undocumented, unless they’re so notorious for shooting at Americans that they wound up on terror lists.

Those Afghans are known. There are also records of those who committed crimes during earlier stays in Western countries and were deported. As for the rest, they pushed their way into the Kabul airport, forced their way onto planes, and now, they’re here.

Gen. H.R. McMaster famously showed Donald Trump a 1970s photograph of young Kabul women in miniskirts to dissuade him from withdrawing forces. Trump’s adviser was trying to show that just underneath the country’s primitive violence was an open-minded and liberal core just waiting to be liberated.

But those like the people in those pictures aren’t part of this wave of Afghan migrants, because all of those open-minded and liberal Afghans left for the West years ago. The people coming now are poor and illiterate. They support strict Islamic law. Some of the tribal elders brought child brides with them. That’s normal in traditional Afghan culture. So is raping young boys, which the Afghans call “bacha bazi.”

These Afghans can hardly be expected to assimilate American values and norms. And yet in one significant respect, these Afghans were shaped by their recent experience with Americans. The two-decade-long occupation trained them to be dependent on U.S. handouts. Thus, it isn’t entirely accurate to say that the Afghans are fleeing the Taliban. Rather, they’re following their source of income.

In this light, it’s hard not to feel some sympathy for Hamed Ahmadi, the 28-year-old Afghan refugee who posted a picture on Twitter of the meager meal he and other immigrants were served when arriving at Fort Bliss, Texas. Many commentators called him an ingrate, but see it from his perspective. He was 8 years old when U.S. forces landed. The only world he knows is the one in which the Americans give you money just so you won’t take up arms against them. The way he sees it, the Americans have no choice but to keep paying.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Lee Smith
Lee Smith is a veteran journalist whose work appears in Real Clear Investigations, the Federalist, and Tablet.