On July 2, 2021, the United States slipped out of Afghanistan in the dead of night. Most would say this foreign policy disaster began September 11, 2001. But I would place it a little earlier.
On March 2, 2001, the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas.
Located along the Silk Road in the western Hindu Kush, the Bamiyan Buddhas were two massive statues, 125 feet and 180 feet tall, built to celebrate Buddhism.
The Taliban had declared these gargantuan antiquarian stone treasures to be idols. As an offense to Islam—haram—they were things to be destroyed to please God. Using cannon, mines and dynamite, the Taliban blasted the colossi into gravel.
The Taliban, for all their barbarity, had the decency—or pride—to announce their intentions in advance. The world watched, and although the West lamented the philistinism that inspired the destruction of the heritage site, it did nothing. Many voices warned of the dangers such barbarism threatened. People who destroy monuments for such reasons will go on to commit much greater crimes.
Over ages, Bamiyan has been controlled by different Islamic powers, Arghun Kahn, the Timurids and the Mughals. Yet, no Islamic power had ever supposed that the mere presence of the ancient statues constituted idolatry. All had the sophistication enough to understand—even if vaguely—that the value of great monuments as works of art and history outweighed any difference of opinion about what such things represent in their present.
But the Taliban are a different sort of religious fanatic. They combine stunted intellect, studied ignorance, and intractable illiteracy. Their Islamic tradition is a far cry from the genius of Aristotelian Islamists Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes) or Platonist Islamist Al-Farabi.
One might say the Taliban are the children of Al-Ghazali, who in the 11th century offered a critique the Aristotelians and Platonists with a self-referential philosophic Islam for which the only source of truth is the revealed words of the Koran (as opposed to the experience of nature), thereby initiating Islam’s long decline. But the Taliban are the lost children of Al-Ghazali, because a self-referential philosophic Islam based on revealed words requires something the Taliban do not do. They do not read.
Relying on an oral tradition, they school children in madrassas to memorize the spoken words of the Koran but without anything approaching understanding. They make up their Islam as they go along, while stubbornly and violently believing it to be unqualified truth.
In this spirit, a Talib can put a bullet in a young woman’s head for a charge of blasphemy that neither he nor she understands, and smile while doing it.
It is almost overworn to observe that the conquered at times have imposed on their conquerors “the yoke of [their] own thought.” When 20th-century philosopher Leo Strauss observed this he was referring to the dominance of German philosophic nihilism and relativism in the American university after World War II.
The now-deserted and looted Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan signals much worse. Not only have we been defeated by the Taliban in Afghanistan, despite every advantage other than will, but it is impossible to escape a terrible parallel. The thought of the monument-destroying American Left is much like that of the Taliban, and portends the same dangers.
As I have written on several occasions, wokeism is a superstition, a splinter of corrupted Puritan thought. Wokeism is stubbornly self-referential, ignorant, and from the looks and sound of many of the woke, thoroughly illiterate. It repeats superficially memorized words of Marxism, critical race theory, and other post-modernisms, but it lacks the intellectual competence to understand those things, as it fanatically translates its half-learning into a cult of sinner and saint. It is far more a religious phenomenon than an intellectual one.
The world watches as wokeism comes for statues and blasphemous art . . . and people. It will not be possible to simply stand by and watch what comes next, if it is allowed to get its way.