With the Taliban entering the capital of Afghanistan, the fall of the US-backed government marked an imperative inflection point in world history. Implying further on the fact that the end of an American era is well on its way. Historically, the stems of America’s weakness have a more domestic explanation than international. They will no doubt possess a powerful presence for years to come, but its ability to wield this effect all boils down to the resolution of domestic issues, not its foreign policy.
The times of prosperity of America’s Hegemony lasted less than 20 years. Originating from the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 to the financial crisis of 2009-2007. It outplayed all in many areas of power during the period – military, economic, political and cultural – with the invasion of Iraq in 2003, hoping to recreate not only Afghanistan (two years prior to the invasion) and Iraq, but the Middle East as a whole.
America overestimated their influence of military power to bring about fundamental political change, even though it underestimated the impact of their free market economic model on global financial resources. The United States brought this decade to an end with soldiers embroiled in two civil wars and an international financial crisis over the enormous inequalities brought about by US-led globalization. During this time, the unipolarity of a single power has been relatively rare, and since then the world has been returning to a more normal distribution of global power, and states such as China, Russia, India, Europe and other centers have gained power together with the United States. The ultimate impact on overall geopolitics in Afghanistan is likely to be minute. The United States survived a humiliating defeat by withdrawing from Vietnam in 1975, but quickly gained dominance over a decade and is working with Vietnam today to curb China’s expansionism. The United States still has many economic and cultural benefits that few other countries can match.
A much bigger challenge to America’s global standing are domestic hurdles: American society is deeply bipolar, and in almost no case a unanimous agreement can be reached. This contradiction began over common political issues such as taxation and abortion, but has since turned into a bitter feud over cultural identity. Demanding the recognition of groups that feel marginalized by the elite was what I considered the Achilles heel of modern democracy 30 years ago. Typically, a major external threat such as a global epidemic should be an opportunity for citizens to rally around a common response. But the Covid-19 crisis further widened the US divide, as social distancing, the use of masks and now vaccinations are seen not as public health measures but as political markers. government
These conflicting contradictions have spread to all walks of life, from sports to consumer brands that red and blue Americans buy. A civic identity that the United States boasted as a multiracial democracy in the post-civil rights era was replaced by belligerent narratives in 1619, and in 1776 when one was either a proponent of slavery or a freedom fighter. This conflict leads to separate realities where each side believes they can see through clearly, the realities in which the November 2020 election was either one of the fairest in American history, or else a widespread fraud leading to an illegitimate presidency. During the Cold War and in the early 2000s, there was a strong elite consensus in the United States in favor of maintaining leadership in world politics. The heavy and seemingly endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have involved many Americans not only in difficult areas such as the Middle East, but all throughout the world.
Polarity has directly affected foreign policy. During Obama’s presidency, Republicans took a hard line, criticizing Democrats for not helping to “reset” Russian power and making naive claims about President Putin. Former President Trump changed the game by openly accepting Mr. Putin, and today almost half of Republicans believe that Democrats pose a greater threat to the American way of life than Russia. Polarity has already damaged US global influence.
This influence depended on what Joseph Nye called “soft power” (the appeal of American institutions and society to people around the world). This fascination is greatly diminished: it is hard for anyone to say that America’s democratic institutions have worked well in recent years, or that any country should emulate this state of partisan tribalism and American political inefficiency. A hallmark of a mature democracy is its ability to make a peaceful post-election transfer of power, a test that the country failed miserably on January 6th.
The biggest political defeat of Joe Biden’s government in the seven months of his presidency has been the lack of proper planning for the rapid collapse of Afghanistan. Although seemingly unpleasant, this situation does not explain the wisdom of the fundamental decision to leave Afghanistan, which may have been the right decision in the end. Biden said leaving the country was necessary to focus on meeting major challenges such as Russia and China. I hope he was serious about this. Barack Obama was never successful on the Asian axis because the United States continued to focus on counterinsurgency wars in the Middle East. The current administration must divert policymakers’ resources and attention and cooperate with its allies to prevent the overtaking of its geopolitical rivals. The United States is unlikely to regain its former hegemonic position, nor should it aspire to it. What it can hope for is that it will maintain a democratic world-friendly order with like-minded countries. Whether it can do so depends not on short steps in Kabul but on restoring a sense of identity and national purpose at home. government
Due its significance, the full version of this article is republished.