“Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.” ~ John Milton in Paradise Lost. Though it is part of the statement that Satan makes after his fall from heaven, Milton’s famous phrase defines mankind. Most people, irrespective of their culture, will empathize with this phrase—they would rather reign in hell than serve under a foreign power, however “heavenly” the rule of this foreign power might be.
America is strong in technology and business but weak in geopolitics, sense of history, and the will to power. The Americans think that people in all nations wish to be like them. They fail to see that most nations are founded on cultures that are 1200 to 4000 years old. These nations will not give up their way of life just because America, a nation founded 245 years ago and already in a phase of perilous decline, fires missiles at them, invades them with a few thousand troops, or tries to buy them by throwing dollars.
If the Americans had fought in Afghanistan on purely geopolitical objectives, they might have achieved some success and earned the respect of the world. I believe that they had achieved their geopolitical objectives in Afghanistan within three years of fighting. After that they should have left Afghanistan and allowed local politics to develop in its own way. They didn’t leave because their mission was ideological. They wanted to install in Afghanistan a “Made in America” heaven—a democratic, free market, Hollywood style libertine and liberal heaven (utopia).
The Afghans don’t aspire to live in a “Made in America” heaven. They prefer to create their own heaven (or hell). They want to develop (or destroy) their culture and politics through their own tribalistic and religious movements, and if the peaceful movements don’t work, then by shedding blood, sweat, and tears in coups, revolutions, and civil wars.
America’s every foreign intervention since 1914 has been a failure: Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Afghanistan, nations in Africa, nations in South America, the war on drugs that is going on for fifty years and might last till America lasts. The First World and the Second World War which the American side won did not lead to the spread of democracy and free markets. The First World War led to Nazism and Fascism; the Second World War led to Stalinism, Maoism, and the Khmer Rouge.
The American foreign interventions have failed because these were aimed at creating a “Made in America” heaven which no nation (not even America) wants.