American Revivalism and the Afghan Collapse - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
American Revivalism and the Afghan Collapse
U.S. Marines patrol as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. (Shutterstock/GoodAndy45)

The column appearing in this space on Thursday of last week had not yet envisioned the rapid acceleration of our strategic and military cataclysm in Afghanistan. It brings little pleasure to your author to see so vivid a demonstration of the truth of its argument as the Taliban delivered over the weekend.

When we spoke of the need to advance beyond simple conservatism into something more positive and aggressive, something we’re calling revivalism, the futility of the endless wars wasn’t on the forefront of the examples of how those carrying the banner of conservatism had failed not just the movement but the country at large. It certainly could have been, but we had other examples to offer.

That failure can’t be hidden now. Not after Kabul. If there was any argument left for the strategic debacles that Iraq and Afghanistan ultimately became, and the disgusting waste of blood and treasure they signified, it’s all gone now.

And yet, some of the dim bulbs who helped saddle the movement and the country with the endless wars of this century were among the loudest to wail over the weekend at the rapid loss of Afghanistan.

Liz CheneyJonah Goldberg, and Adam Kinzinger, all three of whom have attempted to wear the “conservative” mantle as they squat upon their lofty perches in Congress and the national legacy media, denounced Donald Trump for the cascade of failure leading to Joe Biden’s Saigon moment. Kinzinger even attacked Rand Paul.

Seriously. This is Trump’s fault, because Trump was the one who set a plan for taking our troops out of Afghanistan.

Trump, in fact, wanted the troops out by May 1. The doddering simpleton who succeeded Trump abrogated that plan and kept them in longer, but Joe Biden did something else. He kept American civilians in-country (and failed to get lots of our top-end hardware clear of the enemy’s grasp) after taking the troops out. And when the negotiated agreement that Trump had forged using the kinetic power of falling ordnance from the skies fell apart, Biden neither accelerated the evacuation of the civilians nor resumed the bombing.

And the Taliban proceeded to roll their technicals from provincial capital to provincial capital, gobbling up territory and abandoned American-made military equipment from the disintegrating Afghan army, all the way to Kabul. Before Biden could finish his nap at Camp David, Bagram Air Force Base had fallen, and the jihadi prison holding 5,000 inmates from the world’s worst hellholes had emptied. Less than nine hours after the first Taliban pickup truck arrived at the outskirts of Kabul, the city of five million had fallen to a force perhaps one hundredth that size.

It’s Biden’s defeat, to be sure. He wears it. He had seven months to effect a pullout of Afghanistan which protected our people, and honored the commitment of those Afghans who chose to cooperate with us in the vain hope of building something in that backward abyss. He failed, utterly, as he has failed on every front since winning a dubious and tainted victory last November.

But Afghanistan was and is a testament to the hubris and abject stupidity of neoconservatism. Of Bush Republicanism, if you will. And it’s the neoconservatives and Bushies who are out in force as leashed monkeys for the Democrat Party attempting to pin Biden’s Saigon on Trump.

When Donald Trump took office, let’s remember, America had been in Afghanistan for 15 years. That, by four years, was the longest war in American history. Well, more than 2,000 Americans had died there, and well more than 20,000 had been maimed. The current bill to the U.S. taxpayer is more than $2.2 trillion, the vast majority of which had been spent before Trump took the oath. Afghanistan is not Trump’s war. And Trump ran on getting us out with the best possible result.

Why did the public agree? Because any American national interest to be satisfied in Afghanistan had long since ceased to exist.

In one of the cosmically rare occasions when Biden’s ridiculous Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who with the rest of his foreign policy and national security team ought to resign by next weekend, has been correct, Blinken said that America had fulfilled our core objective in Afghanistan. That’s right; we had. We fulfilled it when the Taliban were driven out of Kabul the first time, and we certainly fulfilled it when Osama bin Laden was liquidated in Abbottabad several years later.

Neoconservatism seems to hold that all American military conquests must result in the manufacture of South Koreas and West Germanys. Under no historical pattern of precedent has this ever been operable, and yet George W. Bush actually entertained the idiotic fantasy of Colin Powell’s Crate And Barrel Theory of military policy — “you break it, you buy it.”

Tell that to Carthage, which was well and truly conquered and knew it, never to trouble the Romans again.

Scipio Africanus the Younger is looking down — or up — at us with a quite puzzled expression on his face. Exactly what was it about Afghanistan that made it worth our while to remain there for a generation? And how can one possibly spend $2 trillion on a country over 20 years only to find that at the end of that time, the people there would rather be ruled by 7th-century brutes than our kleptocratic vassals? We didn’t — couldn’t — even put a stop to the customary sexual abuse of little boys by tribal elders there.

Because that’s the lesson here. Afghanistan fell as fast as it did because Afghanistan prefers the Taliban to the tutelage of the U.S. federal government. Forty thousand Taliban in Toyota trucks don’t take a city of five million in eight hours unless that city wants to be taken.

And lest you think the strategic failure of Afghanistan, which followed the strategic failure of Iraq, was simply an aberrational exercise in “conservative” policy from the smart set types who to this day pooh-pooh Trump, think again. Because the pattern is clear, and it’s almost universally a failure.

I could very easily write a book on this subject. Perhaps I will (though I’m finishing the fourth book in the Tales of Ardenia series of novels first). But in lieu of that, just now, let me present another example of “conservative” policy which is just as significant a disaster as the endless wars have been.

What do you think of criminal justice reform now?

Yes, this was a policy Trump endorsed at the federal level. His son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is no conservative at all but nevertheless was a conduit for the “compassionate conservative” crowd into the Trump administration, pushed for it.

And at the state level, there was a colossal push for criminal justice reform to significantly reduce America’s incarceration rate. That push came mostly courtesy of the Koch brothers, who helped to bankroll something called Right on Crime. It filtered money out through state “conservative” think tanks and created a great deal of advocacy aimed at Republican legislators. Bills were passed and jails were emptied.

And the compassionate conservative crowd sat back and waited for the accolades to roll in. Criminal justice reform would lead to workforce development. It would help to revitalize violent and downtrodden neighborhoods by relieving the cycle of crime and incarceration. It would even lead to shaking loose votes in the black community.

The last bit there is some small evidence for. But at what price?

By any measure, the crime rate in this country has exploded since the Right on Crime wave passed over us. Perhaps correlation isn’t causation, but it’s a bit difficult to herald the “reform” of the justice system as a success.

Particularly given that we saw “conservatives” jumping in to pass set-’em-free bills at the same time George Soros was bankrolling district attorneys who refuse to prosecute criminals and others on the Left demand that police departments be defanged and defunded.

And what did we get for it? What core conservative agenda items were negotiated into being thanks to the acquiescence to a core left-wing object of desire?

Nothing. That’s your answer. Wasted lives, wasted political and fiscal capital, unbridled decline. Endless, pointless wars and endless, pointless retreats in domestic policy.

You may argue, and you are not wrong in so doing, that these are not true acts of conservatism.

The problem is they’re acts done in conservatism’s name, and conservatism is thus tainted by them.

Similarly, take, for example, the unexpurgated stupidity of David French’s refusal to denounce Drag Queen Story Hour at taxpayer-funded public libraries around the country. That is an organized and funded leftist cultural aggression aimed at grooming young children for the transgender cause, and it’s perpetrated on public property using the public dime. As such, it falls within the purview of public policy to either permit or deny such spectacles. Not the freedom of speech, and certainly not the “blessings of liberty,” as French argues. He further argues that the teaching of Critical Race Theory in public schools is also a First Amendment issue. That is a bizarre position; curricula in taxpayer-funded government schools are not a matter of free speech but one of public policy.

Which he seems bound and determined to lose on. Given that French makes his living as a lawyer representing clients abused by authoritarian leftists who push them out of the public square, his advocacy comes off as checkbook conservatism rather than the sincere desire to win an America true to its founding. It gets him published in the New York Times, too.

I’ve called this behavior Washington Generals politics. It’s conservatives donning a Born To Lose T-shirt and turning up Beck’s greatest hits on the stereo in the Dodge Journey. The pathological addiction to surrender on policy and politics that has poisoned the movement so badly it had to be bailed out by the “You’re fired!” guy from The Apprentice was bad enough before the fall in 2016. When its practitioners then gave us Paul RyanEgg McMuffin, and Senator Mitt Romney, and then Bill Cassidy, Liz Cheney and Ben Sasse, we hit critical mass.

Can you really scrape the losers off? Or do the barnacles sink the ship?

We know what’s needed. We already know what works for conservatism, and what clearly doesn’t. The corporate-stooge, bought-and-paid-for political point-shavers who make The Conservative Case For all kinds of unworkable abominations, who can’t stop selling us down the river, can’t learn. Won’t learn.

The answer isn’t a new political party. The answer is to banish these squirrelly “conservatives,” who don’t deserve that designation for all the abuse and mismanagement of it they’ve been guilty of, from the leadership of the GOP. The answer is to stop trying to conserve the lousy status quo they’ve left us and work to revive the American founding principles, and core culture we know is still there under all that decline.

Revivalists want criminals punished. Revivalists don’t make excuses for leftist cultural aggression. And revivalists fight wars sparingly, but always to win and go home as soon as possible.

We win, they lose. Let’s be revivalists. Let’s leave the losing to the Left.

Scott McKay
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Scott McKay is a contributing editor at The American Spectator  and publisher of the Hayride, which offers news and commentary on Louisiana and national politics, and, a national political news aggregation and opinion site. Additionally, he's the author of the new book The Revivalist Manifesto: How Patriots Can Win The Next American Era, available at He’s also a writer of fiction — check out his three Tales of Ardenia novels Animus, Perdition and Retribution at Amazon. Scott's other project is The Speakeasy, a free-speech social and news app with benefits - check it out here.
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