Right before the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August, an Al-Jazeera journalist commented that the Afghan people were stuck between a rock and a hard place, in the sense that the Afghan people were stuck between a thoroughly corrupt establishment class with a history of war crimes on one hand, and a brutal and violent insurgency on the other hand. But as I mentioned in the previous blog post, America is somewhat analogous to Afghanistan. There are parallels to be drawn between both nations if we observe them closely. Americans are also stuck between a rock and a hard place, in the sense that the American people are stuck between a thoroughly corrupt establishment with a history of war crimes on one hand, and a radical populist class that resembles an insurgency on the other hand.
As an independent blogger and writer with both an American and an Afghan background, the parallels between both dimensions of my identity are striking to me. Moreover, as an independent blogger and writer, you belong to neither side of the conflict. You are essentially on your own. You merely observe the situation, and you draw analysis and inferences from the situation. And if possible, you draw conclusions. But conclusions usually take time to develop, and conclusions have to be drawn based on your view and coverage of history. Conclusions depend on how long your memory goes and how far back your view of history goes. Being neutral and unbiased is also difficult. But when destiny and fate exclude you from being part of both the establishment class and the populist class, you eventually become accustomed to being neutral, unbiased, and lonely.
If there is anything that ruins a nation and a society, it is both corruption and war. America’s “relative decline” vis-à-vis Russia and China and the rise of Donald Trump can be attributed to nothing other than the corruption and war that has been perpetuated by the establishment class for more than two decades. After a “necessary” war – namely, the Cold War – America’s establishment decided that it was going to enter into wars of choice at the beginning of the 21st century. No one really knows for sure what the rationale was for the corruption and war of the 21st century on the part of the American establishment. Whether it was bloodthirst, Islamophobia, megalomania, or a combination of factors, people can draw their own conclusions and one must welcome differences of opinion. But what is certain is that the establishment class in the United States could not overcome its inclination towards corruption and war, and there are consequences for this.
The question is, what should we expect after more than two decades of corruption and war in the United States? Should we expect everything to magically go back to “normal” and that there will be roses and dandelions everywhere? History shows that corruption and war inflict irreparable damage to a nation and society. I draw this particular conclusion and inference from my Afghan background. Afghanistan also went through three decades of corruption and war starting in the 1980’s, just as the United States has been involved in wars of choice since the collapse of the former Soviet Union three decades ago. One difference, however, is that a foreign power won’t come to the United States and appoint a president for us and hold international conferences for aid and reconstruction, as was done for Afghanistan over the last two decades.
And despite the puppet government and foreign aid, a thoroughly corrupt establishment with a history of war crimes could not overcome a populist insurgency in Afghanistan. My concern is that we are in for the same outcome here in the United States, in the sense that a thoroughly corrupt establishment class with a history of war crimes will not be able to withstand the force of a populist class that meets the criteria of an insurgency when you take into account the Second Amendment. One major difference between the establishment here in the United States and the establishment in Afghanistan over the course of the last two decades is that the establishment in the United States is actually wary of the populist class. But you cannot do away with millions of people easily. Many folks in the Afghan establishment were deaf and blind to the possibility that an insurgency with both tacit and overt support from millions of people would dislodge them. Luxury and power can dumb people down.
But if we are to solidify the parallel, then what follows is that the populist class will prevail in the United States, given that the precedent is a populist takeover in Afghanistan, which is also a society ravaged by decades of corruption and war. Both the United States and Afghanistan are nations and societies that are ravaged by more than three decades of corruption and war. One had a weak central government that collapsed, and the other has a weak central government that is on the verge of failing. As a result, people cannot rely on their governments any longer. People are essentially on their own and have to fend for themselves. Moreover, we cannot expect the establishment class to hold itself accountable for more than two decades of corruption and war. Thus, either the populist class will hold them accountable down the road, or people will continue to suffer the effects of corruption and war for a prolonged period of time. But as history shows, corruption and war fuel populism and insurgencies. Thus, the cycle continues.
At the core, there is a zero-sum game between the thoroughly corrupt establishment class with a history of war crimes and the populist class that resembles an insurgency. There is little to no room for compromise between the two sides. One side will have to prevail over the other. That is essentially the theme of Congressman Adam Schiff’s book, titled “Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could.” But as I mentioned before, if we take Afghanistan as the precedent for what happens when a thoroughly corrupt establishment with a history of war crimes goes up against a populist class that takes on the characteristics of an insurgency, the result is that the thoroughly corrupt establishment class with a history of war crimes loses to the populist class that resembles an insurgency. Although anything is possible at this point, this is an outcome that we should anticipate if we are to reckon with recent history. As observers and journalists, all we can do is hope for the best, but also prepare for the worst.