Military strategists, political pundits, foreign correspondents, and even historians will spend the next several decades wondering how a gang of rough Pashtun tribesmen galvanized by a fundamentalist version of Islam managed to defeat the most advanced military in the world. …
There is no mystery about why the U.S. experience in Afghanistan ended in failure, embarrassment, and scandal. Nor is it a mystery why the Taliban took over Kabul so quickly. They were fighting for primacy. Their victory was foreordained.
The medieval Arab historian Ibn Khaldun explains the dynamic in his 14th-century masterwork, Al Muqaddima. History, he shows, is a repetition of the same pattern seen throughout the ages — a group of nomadic tribesmen overturn an existing sedentary culture, a civilization that has become weak and luxurious. What drives the success of the rising tribe is its group solidarity, or assabiya. Its awareness of itself as a coherent people with a drive for primacy is frequently augmented by religious ideology. The stronger the tribe’s assabiya, the stronger the group. Assimilating the conquered by imposing its will and worldview on them, the victor lays the foundations of a new civilization. But since, as Ibn Khaldun writes, “the goal of civilization is sedentary culture and luxury,” all groups carry the seeds of their own demise.
And so the struggle begins anew.
The western elite is soft and corrupt, and has lost connection with the society it rules. Western assabiya has shriveled.
The loss of western cohesion accelerated greatly with the great re-alignment in politics. Starting in the 1990s, the western left stopped championing the working class and instead turned to building a coalition of the fringes — identity groups — bound to together by working against white males and plundering whatever they could from them.
For our elite, the fall began during the tail end of the Bill Clinton presidency when Democratic Party strategists augured that they’d soon have a permanent hold on power thanks to urban intellectuals, young single women, racial and ethnic majorities, and the LGBT community. What is described as a coalition is in fact a mélange of clients with varying and sometimes opposing interests that can only be held together by stoking a communal hatred of the national majority — the white middle class.
It was hardly a coincidence that this demographic was the source of the wealth that the establishment was busy transferring to themselves and abroad, through initiatives like the North American Free Trade Agreement. The elites rationalized their impoverishment of the white middle class by claiming that they were dying anyway. And when the American heartland didn’t die off quickly enough, the establishment credentialed themselves as progressives by calling the people who live there racists. Being racists, they deserved all the bad things the elite had decided for them. Thus, by betting on sectarianism as the path to permanent power, American elites polarized the United States.
The elite institutions that weren’t already part of the left establishment, like entertainment, the academy, the media, and the foreign policy and national security bureaucracy, were co-opted through party initiatives — as, for instance, the Beltway think tank Center for a New American Security vetted the rising ranks of U.S. military officers.
Owning all the institutions is a sign of great power and demoralizes opponents. So it was hardly surprising that much of the Republican establishment attached itself to the rising elite and reshaped its policies to fit. Take George W. Bush for instance: After 9/11 he invaded two Muslim countries for revenge and deterrence, but in time he changed the mission to promoting Middle East democracy, a pet theory of pro-Palestinian academics. When Sen. Mitt Romney marched with Black Lives Matter, and Gen. Mark Milley advocated for critical race theory, they were simply demonstrating that they had adopted the manners and belief system of the dominant power
They have grabbed power in the west, but cannot use it wisely. Disasters will become increasingly common.
The only problem with owning all the institutions and compelling obedience from all the elites is that there is no one left to warn you when you’re courting trouble. …
Because the new creed held that polarization was the key to holding permanent power, the policies became ever more eccentric. …
It kept the coalition coherent by focusing its rage on the internal enemy, which identified itself anytime it questioned those initiatives. Here were the racists again, raising their ugly voices against progress.
Accordingly, Barack Obama’s rhetoric became increasingly brittle in his second term. If you’re not for trans bathrooms, you’re a transphobe. Question the wisdom of legitimizing a terror state’s nuclear weapons program and you’re a warmonger. “That’s not who we are,” he said to deflect any hint of criticism. Depending on the policy in question, this meant that according to the ruling establishment, anywhere from 50% to 90% of the electorate wasn’t really American.
Seen from this perspective, it becomes clear that the Biden administration’s new national security priorities have been a long time in the making. The absurd claim that the country’s chief threats are “domestic terrorism” and “white nationalism” or anyone who opposes COVID lockdowns or questions the integrity of the 2020 election is the culmination of a project the Democrats embarked on 25 years ago: The white middle class is the enemy. …
Of course institutions like the press and intelligence bureaucracies would enlist in the project to split the country. The party owns them. And so there is no one left to question the wisdom of breaking with the more than 150-year-old compact that is the political and cultural foundation of America’s post-Civil War peace — racial equality [of opportunity]. …
It fits the cycle:
The lesson of Ibn Khaldun is that these destructive policies are simply indications that a cycle that has been repeated through the ages is once again in motion. To watch history erupt in our own timeline is indeed terrifying, but it is part of the natural order of human societies.
“Their prowess disappears as Time feasts on them,” Ibn Khaldun wrote of dying regimes. “They reach their limit, the limit that is set by the nature of human urbanization and political superiority.”
Evidence of the establishment’s decay is everywhere you look — the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, the public health bureaucracy’s failed COVID response, even Obama’s 60th birthday.
Only a deracinated and delirious regime would parade an assortment of celebrities from the worlds of entertainment and politics to demonstrate its self-arrogated superiority in front of a nation it locked down, bankrupted, and mocked — only an intoxicated elite with no one left to take away the car keys. …
Approaching the turning point:
To make public demonstrations of breaking assabiya means they are forfeiting the privilege of leadership, which therefore, as Ibn Khaldun wrote, will pass to another branch of the same nation….
We are part of history unfolding before us, as it has throughout time. But to be clear, what we are witnessing is not the end of America. It’s just the end of this particular branch of American leadership.
hat-tip Stephen Neil