Why America Really Failed

There is a host of reasons for America’s humiliation in Afghanistan. At its core, though, the problem was spiritual.

The shameful departure from Afghanistan was agonizing for Americans. It was embarrassing to flee from a menagerie of Third World terrorists. It was humiliating to receive an evacuation deadline from the Taliban—and for the White House to weakly submit. It was insulting to hear the barefaced lies from this administration: that other nations support our withdrawal, that Americans had no trouble reaching the airport, that the Taliban have reformed, that al Qaeda is no longer a threat, that we accomplished our mission. It was painful to watch enemy nations gloat over America’s hasty and ugly retreat.

Americans are ashamed and angry at how this was handled. But the truth is, even Joe Biden’s political foes agree with him on the basic premise: that we needed to get out. With Americans today, stationing troops in foreign countries is not popular.

This wasn’t so in previous generations. After World War ii, the United States established a military presence in 3 out of every 4 countries on the planet. The most widely deployed nation in history, it oversaw Pax Americana—the relative world peace that has prevailed in the Western world since World War ii. There have been no full-scale wars between major powers. The number of battle deaths per capita has been at a historic low.

Demands to withdraw from Bagram, Kandahar and Helmand province have been far more strident than they have been to bring our boys home from Okinawa and Iwakuni, Ramstein and Bavaria, Kunsan and Osan, Incirlik, Stavanger, Guantanamo, or any other of the more than a thousand American bases, forts, annexes, installations, embassies and missions worldwide. But the trend line is clear. A growing number of Americans don’t really see the purpose in standing watch on foreign soil.

It’s not difficult to understand why. We are filling our public education curricula with the toxic message that the nation was founded on genocide, built by slavery, and sustained by racism and oppression. Many Americans disagree, but the “enlightened” masses emerging from our universities and filling our bureaucracies, legislatures, corporate offices and newsrooms view the notion that American influence could be positive as egotistical and imperious. In their values-relative world, who’s to say that the Taliban are any less deserving of sovereignty than the white males that dominate America?

America’s former confidence, patriotism and pride, borne of a sense of purpose and destiny, have been supplanted by self-loathing. Why maintain a presence abroad when we don’t even believe in the ideals for which the nation once stood?

America’s loss of prestige and identity is disheartening to many people. But it has a definite, though little-understood, cause.

American Destiny

America’s founders sought to establish a lasting beacon of liberty and democracy to the nations. Early American Lyman Beecher said America was “destined to lead the way in the moral and political emancipation of the world.” The founders considered this a noble political experiment, one upon which the eyes of the world were set. Abraham Lincoln said the nation’s success or failure would answer the question whether any government so constituted could long endure.

There was a sense of responsibility to the nations: to serve as an example, a benefactor, and a haven for the oppressed and dispossessed. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” wrote Emma Lazarus, personifying the iconic Statue of Liberty. The nation believed in itself and the light of freedom it represented. And immigrants, aflame with the promise of the New World, flocked to America in waves that swelled ever larger by the decade.

This belief underpinned the sense of Manifest Destiny that extended America’s borders clear to the Pacific Ocean and beyond. It informed epic territorial acquisitions by Thomas Jefferson and James Polk. Theodore Roosevelt led with energy and confidence as he constructed the Panama Canal and established the United States as undisputed overseer of the Western Hemisphere. This fulfilled God’s dynamic promise to the seed of Abraham to give them “the gate of his enemies” (Genesis 22:17). This vital passageway joining the Atlantic to the Pacific proved to be a boon not just for America but also for Panama and many other nations. With expansionist ambition, the U.S. eventually gained control of all the great Pacific sea lanes, including the Aleutians, the Hawaiian Isles, Midway, Guam, Wake Island and even the Philippines.

America’s former confidence, patriotism and pride, borne of a sense of purpose and destiny, have been supplanted by self-loathing.

America was blessed mightily with favorable geography, bountiful resources, fertile soil, flourishing population, industrial might and material prosperity. Many in America would take credit—but the reality is that these blessings were given by the great God. And this wasn’t for the righteousness or greatness of our people, but because of prior promises God had made. These gifts fulfilled the birthright promises God had made to Israel’s latter-day descendants—promises that included this: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2). (This and many related prophecies are richly explained in Herbert W. Armstrong’s landmark book The United States and Britain in Prophecy. If you have not read this book—and even if you have—it is worth devoting the time to study it in light of recent events. We will gladly send you a free copy upon request.)

As America prospered, it increasingly embodied a set of noble ideals, enshrined in the nation’s Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and the Constitution, which was to “establish justice … promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” The nation truly has been a matchless beacon of individual rights, opportunity, equality and liberty. Not only has it secured these benefits for millions of native-born citizens and millions more immigrants, it has inspired peoples the world over to pursue these same ideals. It has also devoted enormous resources and efforts to building, stabilizing, protecting and defending nations across the planet. It has been a genuine blessing to untold multitudes.

It is important to remember this history, to better recognize just how much America has lost.

Scripture shows that retaining all those promised blessings was conditioned on obedience to the God who gave them. In fact, God promised in His Word that if we failed to obey—if we cast Him aside, ignored His laws, and went our own way—He would replace those blessings with curses.

A United States Air Force transport plane carries almost 650 Afghans with it as it retreats from Afghanistan.
U.S. Air Force via DefenseOne.org

A Byword to the Nations

Colonial-era lawyer John Winthrop was aware of those scriptural warnings when he said in 1630 to a developing, infant nation: “We must consider that we will be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.”

This has happened. This is what is driving a dramatic reversal of fortunes in America today. It has been in process for years, but it is epitomized by the Afghanistan withdrawal—and is prophesied to get still worse. And along with a growing number of our blessings, America has also lost its sense of duty to other nations, its purpose, and its destiny.

While Afghanistan has absorbed all the headlines, similar retreats are happening elsewhere. On July 22, Joe Biden agreed to withdraw all American combat forces from Iraq by the end of the year. U.S. forces are already pulling out of Somalia, to the benefit of the terrorist group al-Shabaab. The U.S. is no longer supporting Saudi Arabia in Yemen, a boon for Iran-backed Houthis. America is retreating everywhere, from Pakistan to the Horn of Africa, to the elation of radical groups. Emboldened Islamists are increasing attacks on commercial vessels in the region. Great nations everywhere are making cold, pragmatic decisions on how to conduct themselves in a post-American world.

Right now, many observers can explain what is happening—they can tell you just how far America has fallen and how fast—but they cannot explain the true cause. We see a lot of finger-pointing—at the president, the previous president, bad advisers, poor military leadership, a lack of foresight and planning. Yet all these problems are actually symptoms of a much more serious and elemental cause.

That cause is revealed with crystal clarity in the Bible. It explains exactly why America has lost its leadership role in the world. In fact, it explicitly foretold it. You cannot understand Afghanistan without understanding this.

Mr. Armstrong spelled out the biblical explanation in The United States and Britain in Prophecy. Speaking of the prophesied fall of these two nations that have dominated the world for decades, he wrote, “Do you think so great a fall could not come to so great powers as Britain and America? Do you say, ‘It can’t happen here?’ … You need to wake up to the fact that the United States, even still possessing unmatched power, is afraid—fears—to use it, just as God said: ‘I will break the pride of your power’; that the United States has stopped winning wars—that America was unable, with all its vast power, to conquer little North Vietnam! The United States is fast riding to the greatest fall that ever befell any nation! The handwriting is on the wall!”

Mr. Armstrong wrote these words in 1980. His reference to the humiliation of America’s retreat from Saigon in 1975 has now been eclipsed by the nightmare in Kabul.

Leviticus 26—from which Mr. Armstrong quoted—and Deuteronomy 28 are two crucial prophetic chapters that list the curses America would suffer if it rebelled against God. Ask yourself whether these are coming to pass: “But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments … I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror …. And I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you. … And I will break the pride of your power … And your strength shall be spent in vain …” (Leviticus 26:14, 16, 17, 19, 20). Consider the fear and weakness crippling American foreign policy. Consider the armaments the U.S. spent billions of dollars on that is now in Taliban hands. Consider the terror among those who are suddenly American refugees. Consider the Americans slain before their enemies—all in vain.

“And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations …” (Deuteronomy 28:37). Winthrop was right to take this warning literally. Today, many are secretly or openly gleeful at the loss of American prestige.


Read through those chapters, and you see the purpose behind these curses: God is punishing us to try to help us see our sins, and to turn us back to Him. “God’s punishment only reflects God’s love—turning us from causing evil results to the way that brings happy results!” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “God is now about to stop us from bringing colossal evils on ourselves! God is not angry because we are harming Him—but because we are harming ourselves—whom God loves!” (ibid).

Several times in these “blessings and curses” chapters of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 God warns, If, in spite of all this, you don’t turn back to me, then the curses will intensify.

Sadly, however, even as Americans are sustaining grievous curses, nobody will take responsibility, let alone hearken to God. Joe Biden repeatedly insists he did everything right. His staff apparently feel they handled this situation perfectly. They watched thousands of stranded Americans, Afghans and other nationals shocked at their betrayal, they see America’s international reputation in tatters—and in their minds, it all confirms the correctness of their decision. “So you don’t think … this exit could’ve been handled better in any way? No mistakes?” one reporter asked Biden. He responded, “No. … The idea that somehow there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens.” What would this man have to see for him to recognize he could have handled it better?

“Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him” (Proverbs 26:12).

Hatred of admitting error is intrinsic to human nature. It matters not how much evidence accumulates, nor how spectacular are the failures that they directly cause, nor how grievous the curses become. Human beings hate saying, “I was wrong.”

Isaiah 9 prophesies about our uncorrectable nations. It criticizes the leaders who “say in the pride and stoutness of heart, The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars” (verses 9-10). Even as punishment from God escalates, we keep trying to solve our problems any way possible—as long as it does not entail humbling ourselves toward God. “For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of hosts” (verse 13).

Many people are angry with Joe Biden right now. But this is a national sin. Everyone seems to think the problem lies with someone else. Yet America is being hammered by all manner of curses—economic curses, health curses, immigration curses, weather curses. Recognize these curses for what they are: punishment from God! God is cursing us for our sins: pride, arrogance, godlessness, family breakdown, immorality and lust, materialism, greed, idolatry, hatred and violence. Our mass-scale sins, in which everyone has a part, have consequences.

Those two “blessings and curses” chapters—and the whole Bible—show you the purpose behind punishments. God is correcting us to help us see our sins, and to turn us back to Him.

If we refuse to be corrected, then what is God to do?

The curses will have to intensify even more. And God Himself will have to intervene even more directly—which is exactly what He prophesies He will do.

Proud Shall Be Made Low

The nations of Israel are guilty of worshiping money and other idols instead of the Creator God who has had a special relationship with them and their ancestors. “Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made,” the Prophet Isaiah wrote. Then, he prophesied of God’s dramatic entrance: “Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low” (Isaiah 2:8, 10-12).

This describes the return of Jesus Christ to literally take over the government of all nations. He will first punish mankind, then put down all rebellion and mortify their arrogance. Verses 17-19 say, “And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. And the idols he shall utterly abolish. And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.”

God will humble America’s leadership, and the American people, including the conservatives—as well as the Taliban and the nation’s gloating enemies. He will make all men realize how small and pitiful they are!

“God is going to take mankind to the point where people will know there is no hope in man and they are willing to heed God’s Word—the Bible,” writes Gerald Flurry in The Epistles of Peter—A Living Hope. “The experiment of human government will prove itself a grandiose failure, and people will begin to recognize that they do need God’s help. What a world that will be! When human arrogance has been leveled, people will be humble and childlike, ready to be taught by God! But to reach that stage, mankind must experience destruction just short of destroying all humanity—every man, woman and child.”

How about you? Will you need to receive greater and greater chastisement from God before you recognize how much you need Him? Or will you humble yourself before Him and be taught by Him—today?

Realize that this is what it feels like to be in the last minutes of the millenniums of human civilization. America’s will is gone, its society is imploding, and its remaining positive influence on the world is fast evaporating. These curses are only going to heighten.

What suffering you can be protected from, individually, if you will learn the lesson that America is collectively failing to learn today.