When the hijacked planes struck the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, the Taliban controlled Afghanistan and offered sanctuary to al-Qaida.
Today, the Taliban control Afghanistan and offer sanctuary to al-Qaida. What did our longest war accomplish?
The Afghan army and government that we have supported for decades has collapsed. The US military has withdrawn. American citizens and thousands of Afghans who fought alongside us have been left behind.
Today’s triumphant Taliban are far stronger than the 2001 Taliban who fled as the Northern Alliance approached. Al-Qaida is now present in many more countries than it was when we launched the First World War on Terrorism.
Neither is the America of 2021 the proud and confident country of George W. Bush and the neoconservatives who would convert the Middle East into something like our Midwest and move forward from there “with the ultimate goal of end the tyranny in our world. “
Our country has changed since 2001. Unity, trust and resolve are gone. And how did all our interventions go?
Afghanistan is a lost cause, once again retreating into obscurity.
There are reports that the Chinese may be interested in establishing a residence at Bagram Air Base.
Saddam Hussein is long gone. But the Iraq that we invaded to strip the weapons of mass destruction that it did not have is now dominated by Shiite militias backed by Iran. It is only in favor of the Baghdad regime that 2,500 American “non-combatant” soldiers are allowed to hang on.
Syria, where we intervened to support the anti-Assad rebels and detain 900 American soldiers, is a human rights hell.
Bashar Hafez al-Assad is victorious in his civil war thanks to the Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah intervention in his favor. The one million Syrian refugees who fled west during this civil war have helped make Lebanon a failed state.
In Libya, where Barack Obama’s airstrikes helped overthrow Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, Russians, Turks and Egyptians are vying for control. Americans are nowhere to be found.
Despite our support for the Saudi airstrikes that turned Yemen into a second humanitarian disaster, the Houthi rebels still control the north of the country and the capital, Sana’a.
Thinking back to the half-dozen wars in the Middle East that we have been involved in since September 11, where are we better now than then? Al-Qaida, ISIS, Boko Haram and their variants have established a presence in Arab, Asian and African countries far beyond Afghanistan.
In the future, where do we Americans go from here?
How do we keep all the commitments that have bled and exhausted us for 20 years, when our adversaries and enemies seem to be getting stronger, while our own claim to be the world’s last superpower is increasingly questioned?
Like Donald Trump before him, Joe Biden seems to be abandoning nation building, withdrawing our troops from the Middle East, staying out of future wars, and meeting the challenges of Russia and China?
But how long can we defend a Europe that refuses to defend itself from a stronger and more assertive Russia than it was two decades ago, when Vladimir Putin took over from the insane Boris Yeltsin.
In the Arctic, the Baltic, Belarus, Ukraine and the Black Sea, Putin is more assertive and Russia less intimidated than it was in 2001.
Only one in three NATO countries respects the commitment to devote 2% of its GDP to defense, while Europeans today identify immigration as the main threat to the continent.
Among the mockeries is the Germany of Angela Merkel, the retired Chancellor who approved the Nord Stream II pipeline that will soon double Germany’s dependence on Russia for natural gas.
How long can the United States maintain its new policy of confining Xi Jinping’s China? How long can we contain China’s expansion in the South and East China Sea at the expense of the Philippines, Japan and Taiwan?
In 2000, the Chinese economy was smaller than that of Italy. Today it is a competitor of the United States, with four times our population.
Beijing manufactures more than we do, has a growth rate that has exceeded ours for decades, and has a trillion dollar annual trade surplus in goods with us.
And the China of 2021 is more aggressive and confrontational than the China of the year 2000 was. How long can we keep 30,000 troops in South Korea and remain responsible for dissuading North Korea from Kim Jong Un to attack the South?
In relative terms, America is not as dominant a power as it was 20 years ago, when its adversaries appear stronger and more united. Our most powerful rival, Xi Jinping’s China, appears to be belligerent and belligerent against the China we have brought into the World Trade Organization.
Looking back and looking to the future, the trendline is not good.
Patrick J. Buchanan’s column is syndicated by Creators.
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