Tuesday, August 31, 2021
It's Tuesday, August 31, 2021.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
How Will History Judge? America Leaves Afghanistan
There are just some issues in the rush of global headlines today we have to address. And the first of those headlines takes us to Afghanistan, and it is the announcement that the American evacuation of that nation is now declared to be complete, complete a few hours earlier than the deadline underlined by the Taliban of today. In the course of the last few weeks, we have discussed the American engagement in Afghanistan, we've discussed the announcement made by the President of the United States of an imminent withdrawal of American forces. We then saw the victory of the Taliban, we saw the humiliation of the United States, and we've discussed very directly the responsibility of our Commander in Chief. And then, of course, came that extremely dark day when 13 American service people died, and that also meant an even larger number of Afghanis who were struggling to get to the airport in a search for freedom to escape Afghanistan and the grasp of the Taliban.
We saw the opportunity taken by the murderous ISIS group known as ISIS-K, and even in the last few hours when Americans were just about to end the evacuation, the administration and military intelligence were warning of yet other attacks expected by that group known as ISIS-K. But the announcement came yesterday that the last American flight had departed the Kabul Airport and that Americans were, by the declaration of the Biden administration, safely out of Afghanistan. Again, those images came just a matter of hours after the president of the United States was seen in those images as he was there for the arrival of the bodies of the dead Americans, the 13, who were arriving at Dover Air Force Base. Much of the discussion about Afghanistan is overtly partisan and political, and there's no way around that discussion.
I discussed the fact that the even deeper issues were seen in the clash of civilizations between the West and the Islamic civilization, but also, the responsibility to understand history in a place like Afghanistan and to come to terms with the fact that it has been the graveyard of empires for centuries. You're also talking about the very struggle between order and disorder that marks human history, but what we also see is just a matter of deep national sadness. But we need to put it in some kind of historical perspective. Yes, Afghanistan has been the graveyard of empires for centuries. There was no reason to expect that the United States could succeed where other empires had failed in establishing a kind of stable Afghanistan over the long term. There is no stability when the very fundamental requirements of stability are lacking.
But that is not to say that the Americans were failing in Afghanistan over 20 years, because the reality is that a certain kind of stability had been not so much achieved as forced. The last casualty in the American military in Afghanistan went back to February of 2020. We should understand that the American presence made a remarkable difference. Now, one of the big questions for a nation like the United States, extending its military, political, and economic reach all the way across the world in a place like Afghanistan, is how long a sufficient national will would be in place to continue that investment in blood and treasure? The reality is that if you just look at the polling and the surveying of the American people, the American people were, at least by a clear majority, saying that a long-term investment of American military personnel and American authority in a place like Afghanistan was not a high national priority.
But this situation also reminds us that if you ask that kind of question on a survey, you get a superficial answer in many ways. If those same Americans were to be asked, "Do you just want to withdraw from Afghanistan and basically allow the Taliban to take over in a matter of like 11 days returning the situation in Afghanistan to the status quo before America invested so much of its honor, so much of its treasure, so many of its prized military forces there in Afghanistan?" Is that really what Americans want to say? The reality is that the Biden administration is clearly hoping that Americans have a very short memory when it comes to this evacuation from Afghanistan and the horrible way the evacuation was conducted and the national humiliation that has come to the United States.
U.S. Now Among Others in Graveyard of Empires That Is Afghanistan. What Does This Event Reveal About Our Nation?
We also have to recognize that there is business left undone, and that includes the fact that the New York Times, for example, is reporting that there are probably about 100,000 people in Afghanistan, and this means largely Afghanis, who could qualify for some kind of exit from Afghanistan and entrance into a Western nation who are now in the grip of the Taliban. And to state the matter just honestly and succinctly, it is extremely unlikely that they will ever be allowed to leave. The Taliban are saying they're giving assurances that people who want to leave, including those who want to go to Western countries, will be free to leave. But even as you look at those words, you recognize that they probably mean very little. It's one thing to say, "You're free to go," it's another thing to actually allow them to go. It's one thing to indicate this kind of posturing before the world when, after all, the Taliban are going to be jockeying for political and economic support from the world in what just might amount to another form of blackmail going towards the future.
When you look at history, it is very difficult to sustain the argument that this is ever just like that. This isn't just like the evacuation of Vietnam, the Fall of Saigon. This isn't just like the Iranian hostage crisis. This isn't just like the bombings that took place in Beirut. There is no just like, but there are haunting refrains in human history and Christians need to understand that those haunting refrains tend to follow a similar theme. And one of the things we know is that when you look at the rise and the fall of nations, the rise and the fall of empires, the reality is that it is most often a weakness from within that turns out to be far more dangerous than the threats from without. That's the most haunting realization that Americans must have as we consider those very haunting sites, those sites and sounds coming from Afghanistan, the very symbolic act of the last American military aircraft leaving the airport there in Kabul.
But there's more than that. In comments made to the media on Sunday, the United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, actually admitted when he was forced to answer a direct question that there will be nothing like an American Embassy on the ground in Afghanistan, not even an American Embassy. One of the things we know is that American diplomats and military authorities were careful even to make sure they got the American flag and the American seal that had been the very emblem of that very impressive and very expensive embassy. They made certain that the flag and the seal were safely out of the country. But there is no way to package that as anything other than a defeat and a retreat. Once again, the failure here is really not to be laid at the feet of the American military. The American military did exactly what it was commanded and ordered to do. The failure here is political and behind that political failure is a moral failure.
And I want to make clear, this is a moral failure. It's a political failure that extends to more than one administration, although President Joe Biden made the decisions that turned out to be so disastrous at the end of the American experience in Afghanistan. History will record that he not only made those decisions, but he stood by them and insisted upon them even when their failure was already evident at the cost of human lives. The other big lesson in terms of world history for Americans, and this includes American Christians to keep in mind, is that when something like this happens, when there is this kind of retreat or withdrawal, or what is actually acknowledged to be an evacuation, the world takes notice. This means that America is now recalibrated in the minds of both our friends and our adversaries as the nation which is now known most recently for a humiliating evacuation rather than a powerful military statement.
The big danger there is, of course, not so much what our friends will think in that recalibration, but how that will affect the view of America held by America's enemies. And make no mistake, they are many.
History of Technological Advance in Light of Hurricane Ida: In a World Dependent on Electricity, a Lack of It Poses Much Bigger Threat Than Mere Inconvenience
But next, as we talk about issues that simply must be discussed, that are absolutely central in our headlines, just think about Hurricane Ida, the storm came on Sunday night and into Monday on the American landmass hitting near New Orleans, Louisiana. There's good news and bad news, but mostly this is good news. Here's the good news. This was one of the most powerful storms to hit the United States measured by the fact that it was, in energy, in power, in wind speed, in velocity, and in the volume of rain, it was a very significant storm. But the good news is that the levees appeared to have held in New Orleans, the good news is that people did not wake up on Monday morning in the United States with seams of abject devastation in one of America's great cities such as New Orleans.
Now, instead, this was a very different situation. But we need to recognize that you are going to see that there were some deaths attached to this, and that is simply, by the way, something that happens just about these days with every major storm system. One of the issues here is how, given the nature of storms, our government attributes deaths to a kind of national disaster. It doesn't mean that someone was directly killed by the storm, although some of that is almost surely going to happen with a storm of this power, but rather, it counts deaths including those who, for instance, changed their motions, or movement, or transportation in the midst of this kind of disaster, this kind of storm. All that gets factored in. But here we need to recognize that there are very real families that are actually suffering. There're very real communities that are suffering. And the greatest indication of that is that something like 1 million Americans do not have power in the aftermath of the storm that was known as Hurricane Ida.
Now, here's something for us to think about. It also reminds us, as we think about history, that we become extremely dependent upon the technologies that come at some certain point in human history such that they're so remarkable that, for instance, there's still people alive who can remember when the lights came on in their community. But the way history works is that once that kind of technological revolution takes place, the entire society is reshaped and recalibrated by that kind of technology. Electricity changes everything, predictable, safe, accessible, electricity changes everything. And it doesn't just change everything in terms of convenience. When you think about electricity, it's not only about, say, running a video game unit, it's not just about powering a flat screen television, it is about power that individuals, and families, and communities rely upon in order to bring light, which can be absolutely lifesaving.
Not only that, other things such as keeping food refrigerated, such as keeping food that would be refrigerated accessible, such as security systems, and even electronic locks that allow for a building to be open, even lifesaving machinery in hospitals, and even something as simple as air conditioning. air conditioning is another one of those technologies that has profoundly changed the way that human beings live. Human beings now live in places that would not have been generally inhabitable without air conditioning. Think of some place like, say, Arizona in the middle of the summer. It really wouldn't be plausible. And I say that as a Floridian thinking of the population explosion that took place in Florida, at least in part subsequent to the development of air conditioning.
But now, we also noticed that air conditioning is factored into public health plans. Because as you're looking at a failure of electricity, that means a failure of air conditioning at certain times of the year that tend to also, to coincide with hurricane season, there can be temperatures that are downright dangerous and indeed deadly. All that to say, in worldview analysis, it's just important to recognize that a lack of electricity is more than just a lack of convenience. These days, it is a lack of necessary basic services. It threatens communities, it can threaten families and individuals. So, we do need to understand that a storm like this has consequences. And we are now told, and this is good news, that about 90% of those 1 million people are likely to have power relatively soon, to have it restored. But that also means that according to some national estimates, something like 100,000 people may be without electricity for a number of weeks. That is basically more than an inconvenience when you think about life in the modern age.
Hinge Moment in America’s Fight to Recovery the Dignity of Unborn Human Life as Texas Abortion Ban Will Put End to Nearly All Abortions in the State
But next, in worldview analysis, the really big news that came yesterday is the fact that federal judges, in this case, judges of the Fifth Circuit, that's a federal appeals court based in New Orleans, Louisiana are basically now allowing for the Texas Abortion Law that restricts abortion beginning at six weeks of gestation to go into effect, and that is big news. Because even as the pro-abortionists are decrying, the reality is, that this means a new era in American pro-life policy. There are all kinds of things for us to consider here. This is an unfolding story. It is still possible that some federal judge or justice may intervene, but at this point, that basically means it would have to be a justice of the Supreme Court in a preliminary action or even an appeal to the court.
The point is this, we are now looking at the fact that Texas is giving an example of how to move forward in statewide legislation, in the interest of preserving unborn human life. And this is a very big development. It's big in two ways. For one thing, the Texas Law's somewhat different from the other fetal heartbeat laws that have been adopted in several states, all of them are scoring for the pro-life effort, but the Texas legislation is a little bit different because it reduces the sense in which the government of Texas is the most important moral and legal actor. There's going to be a complicated issue when, eventually, this comes before the United States Supreme Court. You can count on the fact that, eventually, it will. But here's where we need to note something. Here we are, and just consider the distance between 1973 and the present, we're almost 50 years after the Roe v. Wade decision, and the pro-abortion movement was absolutely certain, it was crowing about the fact that the Roe v. Wade decision would settle the issue.
Well, it didn't settle the issue. Thanks be to God, it didn't settle the issue. Those who care for the sanctity of unborn human life, and that means the dignity of all human life, have been struggling now for decades to try to force Americans to come to terms with what abortion is. Legislation in Texas has been really important, not only because of the size and stature of the state, but because of the various dimensions that have been addressed by the Texas legislation in one form or another. For example, you're talking here about something that has been described as a Fetal Heartbeat Bill. Actually, it refers to the fact that once there is that discernible activity, something about six weeks of gestation, the Texas law says that unborn life has to be protected. It cannot be silenced, it cannot be murdered, it cannot be simply evacuated simply because it is unwanted.
That's a human being. That's an incredible achievement in these fetal heartbeat bills. And you'll notice that it is also addressed to Americans who may not believe themselves to have a firm position on abortion, but once they hear that there is, indeed, life that is even measurable by that kind of activity within the womb, Americans, all of a sudden, find it very difficult to deny this is a person, this is a human being worthy of our protection. The other issue that has been addressed by Texas has to do with eliminating the so-called D&E methodology, which is the most widespread abortion method in the United States after the second trimester. What are we talking about? Well, here, we simply have to warn in advance. Let's just keep in mind what D&E means. It means dilation and evacuation. As some of the legislators there in Texas said, this means a law banning the dismemberment of a human fetus in the womb. Now, that's tough language, but it is extremely horrifyingly, accurate language.
It's also interesting to note something else. The pro-abortion movement understands that this is, in essence, a kind of a waterloo, and the pro-life movement had better understand the very same thing. This is not just another case, this is not just another state law, this is not just another appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, this is one of the hinge moments in America's fight to recover the dignity of unborn human life. Now, for example, according to the Washington Post, "More than 85% of the abortions in Texas take place after the six-week mark," which would mean, as the Washington Post said, that the law, "would prevent nearly all abortions in the state." That tells you the scale of what we're looking at here.
There have been statements in social media and in the larger mass media in the course of, say, the last 24 hours in which you have people in the pro-life movement speaking of just how significant this action is, this law going into effect after the Fifth Circuit said it would hear no more appeals of this issue, actually canceled a hearing on this issue. And so, as it stands right now, Texas really is poised to become the state where the vast majority of abortions, as of just a matter of days, cease to exist. An interesting statement was made, by the way, in that Washington Post article, it was made by Constitutional Law Professor Steve Vladeck, he is professor at the University of Texas School of Law, he said, "There was a decent chance that some court would intervene," but he went on to say, "The problem is the chances of that happening before it goes into effect are dwindling by the moment."
And he went on to say, "And for women in Texas who want to avail themselves of their constitutional right to an abortion, that could become virtually impossible by the end of tomorrow night." That was published yesterday, so we're talking about tonight. What I want you to note is that the argument being made by the pro-abortion movement here comes down to two things, and those two things both demand our attention. One is, a woman's so-called right to an abortion. The fact that it is simply believed and asserted by many that a woman has the right, simply by the fact that she does not want to be pregnant, to end the pregnancy, which means the termination of the life within her. That's the first thing. The second thing is, the law professor spoke of women in Texas who want to avail themselves of their constitutional right to an abortion, that phrase constitutional right.
Just to understand, of course, that if you are going to use the language of a woman's constitutional right to an abortion, you ought to at least be honest to say, "Well, it's not in the constitution. It's not in there directly, it's not in there indirectly. There is no reference to abortion or anything that comes even close to abortion." When you have that kind of language, declared to be a woman's constitutional right to abortion, they're basically making up their constitutional interpretation and this is an invented artificial right. But here's some of the Christians must understand, regardless of what people may claim as an invented artificial right, we can never transcend what the scripture makes very clear is a matter of right versus wrong.
All these issues we discussed today, demand the attention of Christians. That's why we talked about them today. These are issues that are so important we can't move past them to discuss other issues as much as there are so many other issues we can't wait to address. Harvard University has a new head chaplain who is an atheist. What does that mean, not only for Harvard, but for the nation? Huge issues like that, we'll be discussing those things in days ahead. The world is throwing more interesting issues to us than we can even imagine, and Christians have to be those on the front lines of thinking through these issues. We'll be getting to that story and others in the days ahead this week.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can find me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.