This week, the world watched in horror as thousands of Afghans rushed to flee the menace posed by the oncoming Taliban. The fear portrayed on videos circulating social media is almost palpable.
Bodies falling from planes.
U.S. soldiers shooting into the air to keep desperate crowds at bay.
But while the humanitarian situation is critical, there is also another geopolitical shift that can’t be ignored. America’s influence in the region has rapidly waned in the past two decades. The Wall Street Journal is correct when it writes,
As Russia bombs and Iran plots, the U.S. role is shrinking—and the region’s major players are looking for new ways to advance their own interests.Yaroslav Trofimov, WSJ
For the United States, this is not good news.
This decline in America’s role as a regional power is opening the doors for Russia and Iran to create lasting partnerships that threaten American interests within and without the region. All attempts to create a stable pro-American government appear to have failed after 20 years of work and billions of dollars spent.
To our allies, such as Israel, America’s long-term dependability is now in question.
What happens when global powers fail to keep oppressive regimes in check? Let’s take a look at history.
Remilitarizing the Rhineland
If history is to be our crystal ball, the United States can expect the rise of a grim extremist regime backed by an axis of global powers whose political and economic interests threaten her own.
Let’s dig deeper.
Following the 1919 ratification of the Treaty of Versailles, the Allies, led by the French, established a strong colonial presence in the Rhineland–an area in central Germany that touches borders with France. The Rhineland was largely occupied by colonial troops made up of soldiers from various African countries. Initially, the goal of the occupiers (as the Germans saw them) was to create a buffer state that would be friendly toward the French and hinder any German attempts to remilitarize.
What happened was the exact opposite.
Humiliated and fueled by propaganda, the Rhineland became a hotbed of resistance that created an atmosphere that was the perfect breeding ground for the rising Nazi ideology. In 1930, the last French soldiers withdrew prematurely from the Rhineland. This set the stage for Germany to claim “victory” and the Nazi soon filled the power vacuum left by the retreating Allies by remilitarizing the Rhineland.
The ray of hope
There is a dramatic difference between the fear of Afghans and the enthusiastic support that Hitler received and in that fact lies the slim ray of hope. 100 years ago, an oppressive regime used popular support to fuel the desire for global conquest. As of this writing, at least 3 Afghans have been killed while protesting the Taliban. Can America and its allies use this resistance to prevent the spread of oppression?
Time will tell.
However, the core principle remains true. Without swift decisive action, America will ultimately face a radical government that will build its foundation on the shoulders of an allied (NATO) defeat.
How does Russia factor into the Taliban equation?
Russia has always been a geopolitical maverick. At the close of the Rhineland occupation, when Hitler began to illegally rearm the Rhineland, he did so with Russia’s tacit approval—despite heavy Russian losses in WW1. Although Russia fought against Germany in WW2, Russian support for the rising threat in the years just before war broke out resulted in a global showdown which Hitler won. European nations and America did nothing while an extremist government reclaimed and rearmed territory it had lost in war.
Today, we again see Russia in the role of gamechanger. While the American embassy was evacuated, the Russians opted to keep their embassy open “for the time being.” While America’s influence is waning, Russia is openly making strides to build ties with a string of partners who hate the United States and all it stands for.
Can the political fiasco reflect a spiritual reality?
I cannot help but remember the Psalmist who links the lack of God’s favor to the then-current political and military situation.
But you have rejected us and disgraced us
and have not gone out with our armies.
You have made us a byword among the nations,
a laughingstockb among the peoples.Psalm 44: 9, 14
America’s inability to effectively counter these threats is due to a plenary of reasons. Most, if not all, can ultimately be traced back to the spiritual apathy that has swallowed our country.
While we may not understand the exact connection, both biblical and secular geopolitical history confirm that when a nation turns its back on God, that nation experiences moral, military and political decline.
An article in the Jerusalem Post correctly assesses the situation :
For now, the Afghanistan debacle is a major setback for the US globally in terms of image and the perception that US-backed systems tend to be as weak and temporary as the grass that greens with the spring and withers in the fall.Seth Frantzman
For America, this defeat is yet another reflection of a growing cold reality. Unless swift action is taken and effective, lasting alliances are built, our days as a global power are numbered.