American Weakness Invites Aggression
“We cannot escape history,” Abraham Lincoln wrote in his December 1862 message to Congress. He was right: Reality tends to be persistent — fond wishing to the contrary aside. And the reality is that America is facing an increasingly hostile world.
Whether you think of China, Russia, North Korea, or a number of lesser militant powers and movements, resentment of the land of the free is rising to a boil in a cauldron of violence, jealousy, and power-lust.
For example: We’re all tired of thinking about Afghanistan. During our 20 year-long war in that distant nation, 2,448 American service personnel and more than 3,800 U.S. contractors lost their lives. Added to these numbers are the many thousands of men and women who suffered physical and psychological wounds. There was also the tremendous financial cost, estimated to be more than $2.3 trillion from 2001-2022.
Then, in August 2021, the world’s greatest nation fled from Afghanistan in a frantic, disordered, and painfully consequential manner.
In February, John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, published a study reporting that “when the United States withdrew in 2021,” we left “roughly $7.2 billion in American military equipment” in Afghanistan. Included were “at least 78 aircraft worth more than $920 million, 40,000 vehicles, more than 300,000 weapons and thousands of air-to-ground munitions.” Also included were communications equipment and even night vision goggles.
Credible reports indicate that some of that weaponry is now being used by Pakistani militants seeking control of India’s Kashmir region. And in January, when White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby was asked if Russia had accessed American materiel, he responded, “I can’t confirm those reports that the Taliban are looking at or considering sending weapons capabilities to the Russians.” This was the kind of wordy non-denial that reeks of political self-protection. Not “confirming” is a weaselly way of avoiding a straightforward answer.
In the same interview, Kirby went on to say that should the Afghan Taliban have provided Russia with American equipment, this would “fly in the face” of their stated desire to obtain international recognition.
Is he serious? Does he honestly believe the Taliban care about legitimacy at the United Nations? Since the fall of Kabul in 2022, “terrorists from across the Middle East, Central Asia, and Pakistan have flocked to Afghanistan, some apparently paid by regional governments,” according to respected Brookings Institution analyst Vanda Felbab-Brown.
The Taliban want Sharia law, the repression of women, and complete internal power. In recent months, Taliban leaders have prohibited “girls’ education beyond the sixth grade and (barred) most Afghan women from public life and work across Afghanistan. The ban has recently been extended to nongovernmental organizations and the United Nations despite severe global criticism and demands to end restrictions on women.” So, while the “international community” is refusing to recognize the Taliban government, the terrorist group’s leader Hibatullah Akhundzada said a few days ago, “I have promised Allah that so long as I am alive, not a single law of infidelity will find a place in Afghanistan” and that he would prevent “any action that threatens or negates Islam and is against Islamic principles.”
Sounds like a seat on the International Criminal Court is not too high on his list of priorities.
Similarly, the United States continues to provide Afghanistan with aid, even as John Sopko told the House Oversight Committee that “his staff ‘simply do not know’ the extent to which the American people may unknowingly be funding the terrorist group.” This stunning admission was augmented by reports from “aid workers at non-profit organizations in Afghanistan that receive financial support from the U.S. government” that they are “being forced to pay fees and provide services to the Taliban.”
To sum up: If we care about the security and liberty of the United States, we need a massive program of military rearmament and stout, unbending toughness. Joe Biden, described by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2014 as “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” is hardly the leader needed to address these pressing needs.
As Heritage Foundation analyst Maiya Clark wrote recently, “The Navy needs more ships — and a new Naval Act procuring those ships in a cost-effective manner. … The Air Force needs more F-35s, and it needs more pilots (with more training flight hours) to fly them. The Army needs to accelerate its modernization — and improve its recruiting — to compete in the modern era. Infrastructure across the military, from Army ammunition plants to Navy shipyards, is decades out of date and requires major capital improvement.”
As ever, our opponents will back down in the face of one thing: Unswerving resolve backed by military power. Both are currently in short supply — another reason to spend time on our knees.
Rob Schwarzwalder, Ph.D., is Senior Lecturer in Regent University's Honors College.