I remember seeing the footage of the helicopters lifting off the roof of the American embassy in Saigon in April 1975. America was leaving Vietnam after years of war, more than 50,000 dead American soldiers and a bitterly divided and demoralized America. It was a humiliating defeat that left deep scars from which the nation has not fully recovered.
Then, this August, 46 years later, came more images of American retreat. After 20 years of war in Afghanistan, America was pulling out in defeat. The scenes of Afghanis hanging from an Air Force jet taking off from the Kabul airport were tragic. America left thousands of those who had helped U.S. military efforts to become sacrificial lambs at the hands of the conquering Taliban. To see two such scenes in my life is astonishing.
The scale of defeat is epochal. Bagram airbase, a multibillion-dollar, state-of-the-art military facility, was abandoned in the dark of night—along with billions of dollars’ worth of sophisticated aircraft, weapons and artillery. Instantly the Taliban, the enemy of Western democracy, possessed more weaponry than most modern nations. Such a turnover of advanced weaponry to an enemy is unprecedented in military history.
It’s important for readers of Beyond Today to understand this event in the context of a biblical worldview. America is a world empire of staggering proportions. Its being routed from Afghanistan by a medieval-minded terror group is a sign of internal spiritual sickness that, if not reversed, will lead to America’s collapse.
We do not say that collapse is imminent. But we do say we should look at what Scripture says about a nation as blessed as America has been, and there find the understanding to discern what God says about such an event. The debacle in Afghanistan is not inconsequential to America’s future. We are watching history break into our timeline. It is a hugely important moment.
What happened in Afghanistan?
America entered Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, in which nearly 3,000 people were murdered by members of the terror group al-Qaeda operating under its leader Osama bin Laden. The goal was to force the Islamist Taliban regime there, where Bin Laden was based, to hand him over. Within months al-Qaeda was routed and the Taliban regime was broken. Yet Bin Laden escaped—to Pakistan, it was later learned, where he was eventually killed by American special forces.
In early 2002, during his State of the Union address, President George W. Bush declared military victory in Afghanistan. “In four short months, our nation has comforted the victims, begun to rebuild New York and the Pentagon, rallied a great coalition, captured, arrested, and rid the world of thousands of terrorists, destroyed Afghanistan’s terrorist training camps, saved a people from starvation, and freed a country from brutal oppression,” he said.
With early success, instead of learning from the examples of other powers that had occupied Afghanistan only to later leave in ignominy, America’s political elite under President Bush decided to stay. America also invaded terror-supporting Iraq, overthrew Saddam Hussein and occupied a second Muslim nation. And soon after, America’s mission in both Afghanistan and Iraq was proclaimed to be establishing Western-style democracy in the region.
And so began a vast effort to spread democratic seeds in areas incapable by virtue of religion and culture of providing a stable environment for freedom to flourish. Two decades later, trillions of dollars spent and a generation of wounded and dead warriors, it has all proven to have been a fool’s errand. Democracy did not take root, much less flourish.
America’s ruling elite clearly did not understand Afghanistan nor its long history as “the graveyard of empires.” No other world power—not the Soviet Union, Great Britain or the forces of Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C.—succeeded in changing the tribal clans of this isolated mountainous world. The error of America’s ruling class was trying to transform another nation when its own spiritual state is bankrupt and in need of complete overhaul.
The case can be made that America’s elite have lost confidence in their own nation’s story and its reason to exist. Why is this?
Spiritual decay rapidly spreading
In past articles we have quoted the scathing denunciations of the prophet Isaiah. Speaking to a nation that’s lost its way, having forgotten its reason for existence, he said:
“Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds . . .” (Isaiah 1:4-6, English Standard Version).
This describes the moral and spiritual state of America. Like ancient Israel, America has received its portion of the wealth and material prosperity given to nations arising from promises made to the biblical patriarch Abraham (to learn more about this remarkable story, be sure to read our eye-opening study guide The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy). And like Israel, America is shedding its core principles derived from the Bible. God, the Bible and what’s been called the Judeo-Christian ethic are dwindling throughout the nation.
The cultural upheaval of recent years has exposed the fruits of decades of rejection of God. Truth based on the Bible has been exchanged for lies rooted in material creation, resulting in debased minds incapable of discerning the truth of God (Romans 1:25-28). Biblical perspective has disappeared from a generation of those who shape today’s culture.
So many among the leadership class of the past several decades are alienated from the principles that formed America. They no longer understand the nature of their own country. America has been defeated by rough Pashtun tribesmen because of a pride that has blinded its leaders from understanding their own hollow character.
America lost in Afghanistan because it is morally lost as a nation. This defeat is a symptom of deep spiritual decay. America still stands with vast physical strength but on a hollow spiritual foundation that could quickly crumble.
The Taliban know who they are as a people. They know why they fight for their homeland. They take their religion seriously, and it defines them to their core. We may ridicule them as anti-Western, anti-democratic and alien to nearly every Western value. But they look down on us. They do not want American culture because they see it as inferior and decadent. We fail to grasp this to our peril.
The Taliban have just done what nomadic peoples have done throughout history. They have successfully defeated more advanced cultures who have grown soft, indifferent and disdainful of their past and what built their success.
What the Germanic tribes did to Rome and the Asian hordes did to Damascus in 1400, the Taliban did to America in Afghanistan. History turns and accelerates when those who are driven by a purpose overturn those who have grown indolent through luxury and corruption.
What’s behind America’s decline?
American decline is much debated. Among analysts you will find mixed messaging. Some regularly discuss the country’s downfall as if it has already occurred. Others see a temporary slump right now and predict the 21st century will be another “American Century”—this despite troubling cultural, economic and political trends that jeopardize America’s current standing as the world’s sole superpower.
Readers of Beyond Today know we regularly point to the Bible to understand world affairs, viewing what’s happening in light of Bible prophecy and God’s purpose for the nations. We understand that America and the English-speaking peoples currently have their “day in the sun,” but prophecy reveals a period soon ahead when a different power, called “Babylon” and “the beast,” will dominate the world (Revelation 13, 17-18). God, who determines the preappointed times and boundaries of nations (Acts 17:26), controls history.
America has been in decline in different ways for several decades. I mentioned earlier the fall of Saigon at the end of the war in Vietnam. That conflict began the killing of the soul of a generation. Not just a military defeat, it was also a moral defeat.
It occurred in the midst of the social revolution of the 1960, the effects of which are still with us. The seeds of rebellion and sexual immorality, along with cultural and societal upheaval, spawned the LGBTQ, BLM and other “woke” elements that have seized our time. Despite this moral and spiritual quagmire, America still leads the free world. Migrants crash America’s borders seeking a better life. No one is migrating to Afghanistan, Iraq or Cuba.
The elite of America have been making themselves rich and richer at the expense of the middle and lower class for several decades. The entry of China into the World Trade Organization began the growth of China in the global markets, with manufacturing of basic commodities transferred there where cheap labor could produce everything from technology to goods and services to drugs. The heartland of American manufacturing was gutted as jobs went to China—and vital supply chains for American goods became reliant on China.
Meanwhile, the political, military, business and media elite have become engorged by lucrative arrangements with China. While all this is known, few dare call it what it really is—treason.
Yet America has remained the world’s safest economy because of the rule of law creating safe havens for wealth. No, the United States has not declined to the point of second-rate power—not yet. The Afghanistan debacle has dealt a blow to America’s prestige that can trigger a loss of trust among the nations. It is safe to assume world capitals are figuring this calculus into their short-term geopolitical assessments. Yet the United States remains alone in its ability to patrol the sea lanes of the world to keep trade flowing. It can still project power through its naval capabilities. It is a wounded but still dangerous power should it have the will to use its power.
Message for today from an ancient prophet
The Afghanistan War was a folly involving four presidential administrations. It is a tragic sequel to Vietnam. The precipitous pullout damaged American prestige. While it has led to decline that will take time to measure, America is not yet at the point of collapse. It’s part of a longer-term story for a great nation God has blessed with the heights of material prosperity according to the promises made to Abraham.
Beyond Today always turns to what God said to the people who received the earlier portion of these blessings, the ancient nation of Israel, descended from Abraham’s grandson Jacob. The prophet Amos offers insight through the message he took to Israel in the middle of the eighth century B.C.
Israel was prospering among the nations. Trade with others was making the merchants and craftsmen wealthy. People could invest in luxury goods. The ivory beds on which they slept were symbols of extravagance. They were well fed and well entertained.
But there was a large gap in the cycle of wealth. It came at the expense of the middle class and the poor. The social inequity drew God’s attention, and he directed Amos to point this out: “The people of Israel have sinned again and again, and I will not let them go unpunished! They sell honorable people for silver and poor people for a pair of sandals. They trample helpless people in the dust and shove the oppressed out of the way” (Amos 2:6-7, New Living Translation). Income inequity was a problem. The rich got richer and the poor got poorer. The elite did not seem to care.
The heart of the problem was corruption. As God said through the prophet: “For I know the vast number of your sins and the depth of your rebellions. You oppress good people by taking bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts” (Amos 5:12, NLT). Corruption among leaders at all levels robbed the poor, making them even more destitute. Amos was not inciting class warfare. He was pointing out reality. We see the same today. Bad policies. Disappearing opportunities. Inflationary spending. These rob people of wealth. Pushing social programs whose foundations are counter to the law of God is nothing short of sin.
Amos called this out in his years as a prophet in Israel. But things evidently went on as normal, and his pronouncements do not seem to have changed many minds. After speaking to false religion and other societal ills, he ends with a promise of a better time and a hope for a better future. After suffering the devastating consequences of their actions, Israel would return to the land. They would make gardens and eat fruit from them. They would be planted in their land and no longer pulled up (Amos 9:14-15).
Amos seems to have done his job and then returned to his home as a breeder of sheep. Israel went on with business as usual. They soon forgot Amos and his message. It took many more years for the prophecies of calamity and ultimate decline to come on Israel. But it did come.
Our takeaway? Now is the time to listen. Now, while we still have security and prosperity, is a time for us to heed God’s call to repentance. We are watching history break into our timeline. Events foretold in Bible prophecy are speeding up. Now is the time to awaken and understand the momentous times we’re in. It is a time to grieve for the affliction of our people. Pray that God will grant you repentance leading to life. Heed the message of Amos and all the prophets. It is time to awake.