As the country sadly marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks Saturday, I’ve been thinking about where America was 20 years ago and where it’s headed.
In the weeks and months following the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans at the Twin Towers in New York City, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa., Americans were united in a way it’s hard to imagine today.
Patriotic country songs were written about America and what it stands for – positive, uplifting songs – and everyone in New York City and Washington promised to rebuild the fallen towers even taller.
Politically, we were all singing from the same bipartisan hymnal: We had to strike back quickly and severely punish the Islamist terrorists who did us harm.
Every politician in Washington – even career non-interventionist Ron Paul – called for kicking al-Qaeda’s butt by destroying their training camps and “headquarters” in Afghanistan.
Our great military quickly did just that and, for good measure, dethroned the brutal Taliban government that was providing safe harbor for al-Qaeda.
Then for the next 20 years America pretty much went to Hell.
Today, after a series of botched Middle East wars, the deaths of thousands of our soldiers and the spending of trillions of our dollars, we’re a politically divisive, unhappy and humiliated country.
It’s bad enough that the Taliban are back in charge of Afghanistan, hunting down and killing their enemies, prohibiting girls from going to school and forcing women to look and act like it’s the 7th century.
But four of Afghanistan’s top leaders are terrorists we once held at Guantanamo.
The last 20 years have been one big American foreign policy blunder after another.
In Afghanistan we wasted lives and money on a tribal, backward, corrupt, ungovernable and historically unconquerable country that our leaders in Washington apparently thought we could turn into Switzerland.
Between them, Bush II and Obama and their third-string generals mismanaged the war for 16 years, kicking the Afghanistan war tin can down the road, and leaving it for first Trump and then Biden to figure out how to end it.
Biden, not surprisingly, did the worst possible job in the shortest time, screwing up the American evacuation of Afghanistan in every way imaginable.
President Biden deserves all the criticism he’s gotten – and much more. But the Afghanistan debacle is not entirely his fault.
It’s what happens when you don’t fight a war to win – or when you fight and win a war but then don’t know when it’s time to get out.
In case you haven’t noticed, with the exception of maybe Grenada, the last war America actually won was World War II.
We won it because FDR and his generals knew we had to totally crush Germany and Japan and we did it unconditionally.
If you’re going to take your country to war, if you’re going to risk your country’s precious blood and treasure, you better crush your enemy.
We didn’t crush the Taliban.
And we didn’t win in Afghanistan because the war there became a political issue, not a military one, and our politicians of both major parties were more interested in winning elections.
So while America mourns 9/11 this weekend, the Taliban are celebrating it. While we are mourning our 20-year failure in Afghanistan, the Taliban are having a victory party.
The surrenderer-in-chief planned to make the families of 3,000 dead Americans feel better when he visited the three 9/11 memorial sites on Saturday.
He’ll be lucky if some families of the 9/11 victims didn’t turn their backs on him.
He might even hear an echo of what thousands of America’s young people were chanting at a handful of sold-out (and unmasked) college football games last weekend.
Their three-word chant – which had the initials “FJB” – is vulgar and disrespectful. But it’s about the only thing recently that has given me hope for the future of America.
Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant, and the author of “The New Reagan Revolution” (St. Martin’s Press). Send comments to [email protected] Follow @reaganworld on Twitter.