The Presidency of Teddy Roosevelt is often considered the beginning of “The American Century.” The Great White Fleet circled the world. The US defeated Spain in the Spanish American War, probably instigated by the US as it fought to “free” Cuba and the Philippines “fell” into our Empire. Our iron and steel production had surpassed that of Europe. Problems began in 1912 when leading “Progressive” Woodrow Wilson was elected President. This came about as Teddy Roosevelt, for reasons that were not clear, opposed his own successor, William Howard Taft. Roosevelt formed his “Bull Moose” party and divided the vote, electing Wilson. In 1916, Wilson was re-elected, promising to keep us out of World War I. In 1917, following Germany’s decision to wage unrestricted submarine warfare, Wilson declared war on Germany, thus disclosing his lie.
America entered the war in 1917 at the cost of 53,000 lives lost. The intervention probably led to the 1918 Armistice and the Treaty of Versailles, which French Marshall Foch called (accurately) “an armistice for 20 years.” Wilson’s Progressive rule included many similarities to Fascism that would be come more apparent in years to come. Harding and Coolidge were elected in 1920 and reversed many of Wilson’s policies. The next 9 years were marked by prosperity and a surge of innovation. The German war debts, plus those of the allies, put pressure on the international economic system, which resulted in the 1929 panic and elected Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 as Herbert Hoover’s attempts to cope with the 1929 crash failed. Roosevelt campaigned on a platform of a “balanced budget,” which was quickly abandoned once elected. Roosevelt’s experimentation with the economy produced no better results until World War II provided the stimulus to spending plus the absorption of millions of unemployed and an economic boom followed. The cost of this war was 407,000 American lives but it left us with the only undamaged industrial system in the world. A real Boom followed until Lyndon Johnson got us involved in the Vietnam War plus The Great Society, both of which brought us close to financial ruin.
Richard Nixon took the country off the gold standard in 1971 to avoid the loss of American gold reserves as a result of inflated spending by his predecessor. This was the first sign of American weakness after 25 years of prosperity. Nixon was followed by Jimmy Carter and a huge Democrat majority in Congress, which unleashed massive spending and out of control inflation. Carter, to his credit, hired Paul Volker as Fed Chair and he used interest rates to control inflation. In 1979, Home mortgage interest rates were at 21%. The 1980 election of Reagan revived the economy but deficit spending continued. The Democrat Congress seemed to make a bargain with Reagan that they would let him win the Cold War if he let them spend as they liked. In 1991, the Cold War ended with the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the fall of the Soviet Union. There were a number of predictions of “The End of History” but history got quite a bit more complicated.
Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and George H W Bush led a military response that evicted the Iraqis but left Hussein in power. The US involved itself in Iraq politics with a “no fly zone” and interventions on behalf of various Iraqi minorities. This resulted, or coincided, with an increase in Muslim terrorism. Some of this was funded by Iran which had expelled the Shah and then expelled the US taking embassy employees as hostages. The hostages were finally released when Reagan was elected but the precedent was set. Bill Clinton was elected as a result of Bush’s lie about taxes and the third party intervention by Ross Perot. Perot had some specific policy issues that were mostly ignored at some later cost. Clinton ignored an increasing tempo of terrorist attacks culminating in the Cole bombing in October of 2000. George W Bush was elected in November 2000 in a hotly contested election. The Democrat Senate, in a tactic to be seen with Trump, obstructed most of Bush’s appointments so that the Defense Department was understaffed at the time of the September 11 attack. Bush concluded that we would invade Afghanistan to punish the Taliban for harboring Osama bin Laden and his terrorist training camps. Bin Laden escaped into Pakistan for 10 years being hidden and protected by Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency.
Bush also invaded Iraq setting off a years long occupation that led to the Democrats taking over Congress in 2006. In 2008, the US and much of the other developed countries’ economic systems had a near collapse as a result of foolish debt restructuring programs. Massive spending was required, it was alleged, to prevent economic collapse. One result of the economic crisis was ensure the election of Barack Obama who promised to “fundamentally transform the country.” Further massive spending followed. Iraq and Afghanistan continued to be bleeding wounds in the economy and the morale of the country. Now, after a questionable election, the Democrats decided to abandon Afghanistan suddenly. The results are being evaluated now. It is early days but some conclusions can be made.
One analysis is that this is a suicide attempt. An argument can be made that the regime in power does not like America as it is and has been for 200 years.
Finally there is the incompetence of the withdrawal itself. It is one thing to decide to end our presence in Afghanistan, and take your chances that the Taliban can be deterred or contained some other way (does anyone think our military-diplomatic complex has a serious plan to do this?). It is another thing to make the announcement that set the Taliban’s timeline in motion. So vagueness and misdirection were called for, but no one seemed to have the guile for it.
I was in favor of leaving Afghanistan 10 years ago.
Others, think it is too late. We have squandered the power and wealth we had 70 years ago. It is probably beyond the capability of this generation which is mis-educated and knows no history.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken picked up the phone on Monday to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi for a discussion on how the two countries could work together to achieve a “soft landing” for Afghanistan. He was told Beijing was willing, but Washington would need to step back the pressure on its greatest rival, according to China’s state media.
The deep state has foolishly pressed China and Russia together with ill-advised attacks on former president Trump. We now face a united opponent, if not enemy. I see no evidence that the regime in Washington, which violated all rules to attain power, now knows what to do next. There are not many things good about getting old but avoiding the coming consequences from this folly is one. However, I do have children and grandchildren and deeply regret what they will face as we enter the post-American century.