(Watch the video for the monologue and an interview with WMAL and The Daily Caller’s Vince Coglianese on the how we can fix our foreign policy.)
The war in Afghanistan is finally at its end. It was a catastrophe and a mess — a mess that some of us saw up close, a mess that some of us are still living through in Kabul — and a mess that cost many lives.
There’s no nice way to say this, but somebody has to: There have been a lot of bad reactions on the right to the Afghan calamity. The great majority of these reactions are simply misguided, but some are flat-out stupid — and a few are truly ghoulish.
What unites all of them is partisanship: The need to hit Democrats, and the Democratic Party, for being the enemy — the reason everything is wrong.
That need is understandable: It’s very difficult to resist that partisan urge when the Democratic Party has politicized everything in daily life, from your church to your bathroom, and from your distant ancestors to the skin color they handed down. But when we gaze out on the ruins of our foreign policy, on the wounded and maimed young men and women growing old around us — and on the graves of the fallen — we need to resist partisanship at all levels.
Why? Because this war — this catastrophe — implicates all parties in Washington.
It started under a Republican who ran as a non-interventionist; it was escalated by a Democrat who beat out Hillary Clinton in part by emphasizing his opposition to wasteful wars abroad. Both those presidents eventually ended up parroting the talking points of pompous, dishonest, and incompetent Ivy League politicians presented to the public as “generals.”
And if we’re honest, President Donald Trump ended up parroting many of those talking points as well. He’s parroting some of them right now.
Trump saw in 2016 how insane America’s endless wars are, but like so many 20th century Americans, great and small, he had a fatal love for the myth of the American general — the Douglas MacArthur, the George S. Patton, the Ulysses S. Grant — never realizing that those men are long gone.
Now, in the last chapter of this 20-year book, a Democrat has forced through a sloppy exit. It was uglier than it needed to be, but it was, mercifully, an end. Now the rush is on to blame him for the entire thing, but we can’t fall for that.
You’ve likely been told about a lot of controversies — things that at first glance fill any American with rage. Some are true, like the surrendering of Bagram, but others, like so much of this war, are missing crucial context.
One example is the list of Americans and green-card holders we handed to the Taliban. That was infuriating, right? Why would we give them such a list? But to quote everyone’s least favorite Democrat, what difference did it make?
The answer is basically none because the Taliban controlled the perimeter of the airport like a nightmare version of the TSA, if there is such a thing. In order to get through that perimeter, American persons needed to show their green card or their American passport. No one else was getting through those lines, and the Taliban were checking the list for us.
Does that sound bad? It is; but it is not made worse by us giving them a cross-reference.
And guess what: They had the information already. They knew who was in country at least as well as the Afghan government knew — and at least as well as the seriously imperfect State Department had communicated to them — because the Taliban had the Afghan government, computers, personnel, and all. At that point, they were (and still are) the Afghan government, so sadly, as one American who’s evacuated dozens of American persons told The Federalist, “the list wasn’t Secret-Squirrel stuff.”
“But now it’s the world’s biggest hostage situation!” Unfortunately, it already was. That ship had sailed; that train had left the station. That government you sacrificed a trillion dollars and 2,300 of your finest fellow citizens propping up? That government fled the country carrying $169 million in cash. (At least they thought to bring their toys with them.)
It was the Taliban’s country, and that gave them power. That is the sad truth about defeat — the bitter reality of losing a war. But it’s better to accept the truth than cause even more harm through denial and misdirected outrage.
All of this was known; all of this had been reported. A lot of people are just angry or misdirected, but some people are lying to you about what happened. They’re lying because they want President Joe Biden to take all the blame for a disaster they did just as much to create. They’re lying because even now, they want to restart a war America was never going to win.
But not everyone is lying. Some mean well. This is a hard one, because any one of us can fall prey to poisonous thoughts if we aren’t vigilant.
Allow me to start with an example. There are a lot of flags in my neighborhood: American flags, Nationals baseball team flags; there’s a Lannister flag from “Game of Thrones,” a few for foreign soccer teams, and one Gov. Ron DeSantis flag (which I love).
More than any of these, there are a lot of rainbow flags — a pennant that keeps getting stranger and stranger. Right now it’s a Black Lives Matter transgender rainbow, and a few really avant garde ones have a symbol for prostitutes too. It’s annoying, but fine — it’s a slice of America.
One day I asked a neighbor, “What do you think about me flying the Vatican flag in June, our only month specifically devoted to a cardinal sin?”
She replied that she thought I ought to fly that flag from time to time and that most people probably wouldn’t recognize it, but before I do anything ask myself, “Where is this coming from? Am I flying our flag out of a Christian spirit? Out of love? Or is it to troll my neighbor?”
I had to think about that. I love the Catholic Church; I love her coat of arms — the triple crown and Peter’s keys to the kingdom; I think it should be represented in Washington; but was that why I was suggesting this? It was a hard question to ask myself. It took looking inward and I didn’t like every answer I found.
Here’s the point: There have been a lot of memorials to our honored dead. They deserve it — “they shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old” — and we must ensure that they are not forgotten.
In the last couple weeks, a lot of people put up 13 flags in their yard. It was lovely to see; God bless those men and women. But so help us God, make sure we do this with goodness and with love in our hearts. Did you put out flags when Americans died under Presidents Trump and Bush?
It’s not an inconsequential question: it’s an important one. During the peak of COVID, by RFK stadium (where a good number of people drive by entering Capitol Hill), a city-owned green space was filled with American flags and a counter was put up to number the dead attributed to COVID-19. Was this done to honor Americans who had passed?
We got our answer when they took it down after the election. The answer was no — the people who erected this [quote] “monument” were ghouls, feigning grief for the dead in order to serve based political ends. It reminded me of my old hometown left-wing newspaper, which would print the names and faces of our war dead under President George W. Bush — but dropped the practice not long after he left office.
When we put up flags to honor the dead, we must always ask ourselves why this tragedy is different and what it means to us — and we have to pray on that. We need to always think deeply when we remember them or we do them no service.
Since the deadly attack on Kabul airport, we’ve been flooded with pictures and videos of grieving parents whose young children were killed like so many others in that Godforsaken country. Immediately, and over and over again, I’ve heard good people I know planning political ads around these messages — ads designed to hurt their political opponents, and help their political friends.
It’s gruesome, and I’ve told them that. There might be a place for it, but search yourselves: Do we honor their memory in this way? It’s an honest question — and there are different right answers — but if you think we do so by just throwing out the ruling party and electing the one we like better, I’ve got 20 years of failure to show you.
America will only survive by being an actual country. Its history, its traditions, its institutions, and its heroes can’t simply be the squabbling ground for political factions. That’s one reason the War in Afghanistan dragged on so disastrously for so long: Many people knew it was a sham and a mess, but very few people wanted to take the political hit for ending it.
Don’t let the awful end of our latest war just be another political news cycle proving that this party is smart and good and the other is stupid and bad. Turn it in a positive direction: Demand better policies, better priorities, and better people from both parties going forward. Don’t see this as a way to win the next election — see it as a way to have a better country 10, 20, 100 years from now.
Do we want to honor those brave men and women who laid down their lives, or who came home bearing the scars of that war, both physical and mental? We all know some of those people. They’re having a very difficult time right now.
It’s a hard time for this country. If we want to honor them — if we want to show them their sacrifice was worth a solitary damn to us — we’ll do this right.
This is our chance to right America’s twisted foreign policy. We can’t miss it.