The Afghan debacle was just not a degradation for the United States. Many other nations who find their cultural and political identity emanating from the Bible, Greek philosophy, and Roman law also lost in Kabul. Other free nations, though not of that specific heritage but open to it, share in this identity. Yes, not all those nations were on the ground in Afghanistan. But they all had a stake in it and they, we, all lost. The West lost.

If Thermopylae, the Spartans against Persia in 480 BC, was the first great battle between the West and East, then this struggle has been going on intermittently for over 2500 years. However, it is not a mere clash of military forces. It is a clash of ideas.

The East, to a predominant degree, is a collective notion. The emphasis is not on the individual, but on society as a whole, thus many times reducing individuals to cogs in a machine. This has made the East easy prey for strong men throughout the ages. Oppression has masqueraded as loyalty to clan, state, faith, and overlord. Conscience is subjugated to groupthink.

This is not to say the West is immune from the phenomenon. But here it is an aberration. In the East, individual freedom is the exception. Why is there a dearth of free market democracies outside of the West? Because their underlying social structures and political heritage do not support the soil necessary for free market democracy to grow. In Afghanistan we see the consequence in the alliance between the Taliban and the Chinese. That pairing is no coincidence, neither exactly being systems of popular representation or enlightened capitalism.

That’s why the idiotic ahistorical neo-Wilsonian nation building stupidities of the Bush the Younger administration in Afghanistan were doomed from the start. Anyone who read history could see it. But a certain type of psuedoelite, people who think the rules of history don’t apply to them, thought their hubris made them safe from the exigencies of reality. They were wrong and, as usual, others paid for it.

In the West, as some know and despite the occasional lapses, the emphasis is on the individual. There certainly is loyalty to authority. But that authority must be duly constituted. Not so in the East. Not a lot of elections to determine the Taliban leadership.

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That’s why, be it Persia, the Huns, the Mongols, the Ottomans, The Turks, the Mahdi, Soviet Russia, or Communist China, the geopolitical threat to the West is generally from the East. Many like the Taliban and the Communist Chinese sneer at our belief in the sacred quality of the individual, in equal justice, and in freedom of worship. They see those as weak and decadent, as have others despots of both East and West.

And yes, the West can be weak. In fact, as Britain and France in the 1930s, we’re going through a weak stage now. Also, because of the hopefully temporary triumph of emotion over logic and reason in the halls of Western culture, our will can seem unrecoverable and that tempts forces like the Taliban to strike.

But our will can be regained. As Leonidas held out at Thermopylae, as Charles Martel won at Tours, as Churchill persevered in the summer of 1940, so can we still hold off the ravages of the East and live our lives as free men and women. It will require maximum effort, but it can be done.