The memes say it all. But if you want more “official” confirmation, a recent poll found that only 35% of Americans believe the 20-year war in Afghanistan was worth fighting. It’s hard to believe the number is even that high.
It’s not just that the very same Islamic fundamentalist group Washington went to war with twenty years ago is now running the country. The war also failed to reduce terrorism. Major terrorist attacks in the U.S. were at their highest post-2001 when the war on terror was at its height and dropped to virtually zero during the cease fire with the Taliban negotiated by former President Trump.
Just like Washington’s wars on drugs, the war on terrorism gave us a lot more of what it was at war with. This shouldn’t be a surprise. The government fails at every major initiative it undertakes. This is the organization that managed to interrupt a 200-year trend of falling poverty rates just a few decades after declaring war on poverty in the 1960s.
But Afghanistan was especially jolting. Not many people look at the incriminating data on the war on poverty, but everyone saw the chaotic withdrawal from Kabul. In the ensuing days, reality began to sink in. The U.S. had wasted 20 years, trillions of dollars, thousands of U.S. military lives, and hundreds of thousands of lives overall, for nothing.
All. For. Nothing.
Yet, as shocking as that reality is to most Americans, they still somehow believe this same government, the one that ran that 20-year debacle, suddenly becomes highly competent when fighting an airborne respiratory virus.
Washington’s War on Covid has been no more successful than its war against the Taliban. The proof isn’t hard to find. This article collated 35 studies showing the enormously destructive Covid “lockdowns” had no effect on slowing the spread or reducing hospitalizations or deaths from Covid-19.
The best studies – the randomized controlled trials (RCTs) – suggest that masks aren’t particularly effective, either. But the federal and state governments continue to mandate them.
Then, there are the vaccines. The goalposts for evaluating them have moved significantly over the course of this year. We were originally told the vaccines would provide long-lasting immunity from the SARS-COV-2 virus. Now, we’re told the vaccines will merely lessen the severity of symptoms. The CDC director confirmed this months ago and the latest data seem to indicate that vaccination rates are not affecting the spread of Covid-19.
There is some evidence the vaccines are preventing hospitalization and death from Covid-19, but the latest study from the UK indicates fully vaccinated people made up 64% of all Covid deaths since February 2021. When you count partially vaccinated people, that number rises to 70%.
Even if vaccines are preventing hospitalizations or deaths those who choose to remain unvaccinated do not pose an increased risk to others if the vaccines aren’t preventing spread of the virus. But governments are still mandating the vaccines, just as they continued to mandate indoor smoking bans after the evidence was in that doing so didn’t improve health outcomes.
Unfortunately, there is long precedent for Americans continuing to have faith in disastrous government interventions even well after they are obvious failures. Americans still believed the New Deal was helping even after the stock market crashed a second time and unemployment started to rise again in 1937. They still believed it after FDR’s own Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau, told the House Ways and Means Committee in 1939,
“We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work…I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started… And an enormous debt to boot!”
They still believe it to this day no matter how many times it is debunked.
There was enormous hope in 1974 that faith in government was finally broken after President Nixon resigned in disgrace, especially among members of the new Libertarian Party. But Americans went on believing.
Keynesian economics was pronounced dead for a few years after stagflation in the 1970s – considered impossible in the Keynesian framework – but it quickly resurrected to dominate fiscal and monetary policy without a peep from the public.
In 2000, President Bill Clinton declared, “the era of big government is over.” But today it is bigger and more destructive than ever. Yet, no one in his right mind would say the war on drugs has been a success. Nor can it be argued the Department of Education has done anything but massive harm.
We have a whole generation of college graduates living in their parents’ basements, working low-paying and part time jobs, and trying to pay off massive student loans after being incentivized by easy money and government guaranteed loans to pursue college degrees with no ROI. Meanwhile, there is a crisis-level shortage of skilled tradespeople who could be on a path to upper middle-class incomes had they not been conned into college.
The harm done to young people in general pales in comparison to what the government has done to the African American community. What two hundred years of slavery and another one hundred years of institutional discrimination couldn’t do, the government accomplished in just fifty years “trying to help.”
Devastation is the only word appropriate to describe the African American community in 2021. And anyone familiar with the work of Thomas Sowell or Walter Williams knows this is not something intrinsic to their race or culture. The government did that to them and it doesn’t intend to stop.
The Afghanistan War debacle was shocking to most Americans, but it was really just one more in a long line of government failures, not all of which made such compelling TV. Nevertheless, a significant percentage of the American public not only complies with but zealously defends Covid-19 policies that will look no better than Afghanistan in the rearview mirror.
What will it take to break this religious faith in government?
Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.