In this episode of High Noon, Inez Stepman speaks with combat-wounded retired Marine bomb tech Johnny Joey Jones about the ongoing situation in Afghanistan.

Joey Jones provides listeners with an overview of the real situation on the ground mid-pullout, and a look at the politicization of the military higher brass. He also gives voice to the betrayal many veterans feel about the way the Biden administration has left Afghanistan, as well as critiques of politicians from both parties about how they’ve handled the war with more of an eye to political optics than to the sacrifice of the men and women in uniform.

After leaving the service post-injury, Jones now hosts Outdoors on Fox Nation, as well as a Fox News Radio podcast, Proud American. He’s a regular contributor to both Fox and Fox Business, as well as continuing his work on the board of Boot Campaign, as well as other initiatives for veterans.

High Noon is an intellectual download featuring conversations that make possible a free society. Inviting interesting thinkers from all parts of the political spectrum to discuss the most controversial subjects of the day in a way that hopes to advance our common American future. Hosted by Inez Stepman of Independent Women’s Forum.


Inez Stepman:

Welcome to High Noon, where we talk about controversial subjects with interesting people. My guest today is retired Marine, Johnny Joey Jones. After serving as a bomb tech in Iraq and Afghanistan and getting terribly injured in the course of that service, Joey now hosts Outdoors on Fox Nation as well as a Fox News Radio podcast, Proud American. And he’s a regular contributor. You have probably seen him on both Fox and Fox Business, as well as continuing his work on the board of Boot Campaign and other initiatives for veterans. Welcome to High Noon, Joey. It’s truly an honor to have you here.

Joey Jones:

Yeah. Thanks for having me. Thanks for the invitation. I’m grateful for the opportunity.

Inez Stepman:

So, I asked you one because you have been one of the clearest and most passionate voices on the air about this ongoing massive of an evacuation situation in Afghanistan. So, just to start it off, what is the current situation we’re speaking on Monday and what is the current situation on the ground in Kabul for Americans and those Afghans who will be targeted for having worked with the American military for the past 20 years?

Joey Jones:

The situation is a lack of American presence means an abundance of Taliban presence and intimidation. And that is the problem, because of, you said that it was on Monday. So, I guess everyone watching this understands kind of what’s happened up until this point. So, Jen Psaki and Peter Doocy from Fox just had an exchange where he asked her about Americans being stranded, to which she used the term I’m calling you out for saying they’re stranded. And what really is troubling about that is essentially what Jen Psaki is saying to him is get on the team narrative, essentially is what she saying. The way she explained to her answer was Americans don’t need to hear that Americans are stranded. To which my response is if those Americans in Kabul and around Kabul feel stranded, then they are essentially stranded. If they feel like they have to hide or their lives are in danger or getting to the airport doesn’t seem feasible for them to do safely, then they are effectively stranded. It doesn’t really matter what your narrative goal is. And that’s kind of where we are right now. How dangerous is it on the ground? Well, go to the airport and we’ll find out, essentially. And so it really comes down to the fact Taliban isn’t some organized military force, the way that we are. Every checkpoint has a group of fighters there. And what they decide to do in that moment is what they decided to do at that moment. They’re not going to be court-martialed and taken to a courthouse, and put in a brig. That’s just not the type of judicial process they have.

So, the ability for the Biden administration to sit there and say they’re coordinating with, which is essentially effectively having diplomacy with the Taliban is scary enough. But then to understand the Taliban isn’t going to enforce things the way that we might expect them to, or expect another, an enemy, an adversary to do, China or North Korea. It just makes everything a powder keg. So, is there a chance that tomorrow 10,000 people can get through those checkpoints sent through airport? Absolutely. Is there a chance tomorrow that one incident could set off an entire blast matrix as a bomb tech would say of incidents? Absolutely. And that’s the fear.

Inez Stepman:

Why does it seem like the Taliban is effectively setting the terms of U.S. withdrawal? Because from the non-military perspective, from the civilian perspective, it feels like the U.S. is not calling the shots at all. And we are in the position of essentially trying to cajole the Taliban into allowing our people through the checkpoints and allowing them to get to the airport. And then ultimately I read some reports that they have surrounded the airport. So, even our presence in the airport is sort of on their terms. I mean, why has the withdrawal gone this way? And is there the possibility that we could have left Afghanistan in a different way that would have not created, not only this humanitarian loss, but this kind of abject humiliation of the fact that as Americans, we have to beg the Taliban to let our people through their checkpoints.

Joey Jones:

So, I can picture a schoolyard and explain to you why the Taliban gets to set the parameters in which we’re withdrawing. The biggest, meanest, toughest kid in the schoolyard doesn’t want to fight anybody. And the squirmiest kid on the schoolyard does. Well, who gets to set the terms? There’s the squirmy kid that wants to fight, because if you don’t want to fight, you’re not in control of the other person. The only way you can control them is by having physical force over them. So, if that little squirmy kid comes up and punches you in the nose, then now you’re in a fight whether you want to be in a fight or not. And that’s where the U.S. has been for literally 20 years. We’ve been in a political posture where we don’t want to fight, to the point that it’s affected our rules of engagement and our ability to even protect ourselves much less accomplish something on the battlefield.

The Taliban is in a position now to where they don’t have much to lose. And if they do get in a losing posture, they can retreat for however long they need to and operate covertly as they’ve been operating. And the Biden administration is in a position where Biden has pontificated or bloviated these giant statements. I will get all the troops out no matter what. And so the Biden administration effectively has more to lose than the Taliban right now. They have political collateral to lose. Why is the Taliban setting the terms? Because the Biden administration is begging Taliban to not bring them back into a fight.

Inez Stepman:

This administration has repeatedly characterized, every time they’d been pressed on the details of this evacuation withdrawal, they’ve responded essentially by saying, well, we needed to get out of there. After 20 years Americans no longer supported this war and sacrificing American blood and treasure in Afghanistan for longer than this 20 years, we needed to get out. But they don’t respond to the questions about how we would get out or whether there was an alternative possibility. But it seems like they want to conflate those two things. The decision to leave and then how we did it.

Joey Jones:

Yeah. And I’ve pounded that point home for a couple of days now. Anytime you criticize, or in the few chances you’ve had to ask Joe Biden questions about everything that’s happened in the last, we’ll say 11 days, five days, depending on where you start the clock. I started back when we pulled out of Bagram, to be honest with you. But everything that’s happened in that amount of time has been Biden’s strategy to withdraw. And his determination to stick to an arbitrary deadline, as opposed to what the Trump administration says was there set a goal, meet a goal timeline. And I don’t know that, that’s entirely true, to be honest with you. And so with Biden being so stalwart in this deadline that he’s set, that is what we’re criticizing him about. We’re not criticizing him about the decision to remove troops in this war.

With that being said, as the press, we have to be honest ourselves. And when we bring up what the Taliban are doing to women or children, or how people are losing rights, or how Christians in Afghanistan are fearing for their lives. Well, if we as a populace asked for this, this was always going to be the result. I don’t think the Biden administration saw the Taliban sharing power with a government that wasn’t very popular to begin with and was kind of what we were propping up to begin with. I don’t think the Trump administration was that ignorant to the truth. I don’t think the Biden administration seemed to care. I think they just accepted it from the onset. And when Biden blames Trump for some of it, that’s probably what he blames Trump for. And if he were an articulate person, we might have a chance to discuss that. But unfortunately he isn’t. That’s not a dad that’s just truthful. He isn’t very articulate in that way. And no one below him is elaborating on it more because they’re all taking their signals from him. So, what’s left is the American people getting information that is incredibly condensed and overgeneralized or simplified. And of course we’re going to be outraged, because we have thousands of Americans whose lives as far as we’re concerned, as far as we know, are at jeopardy today, because what looks like a really bad strategy.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. Let’s dig a little bit more into this distinction of the multiple kinds of consequences that would come from American withdrawal, because it seems like the concept that the American public was very sick of is spending, particularly American lives in order to exactly make sure that for example, Afghan women and children could go to school. Not that Americans don’t want them to have those opportunities, but there was an increasing sentiment that we have spent 20 years. And this is very far from the alleged reason that we went there. Which was to eliminate Afghanistan as a training ground for the terrorists who hit us on 9/11 and to eliminate Al-Qaeda. Obviously, and I myself am very conflicted about what we needed to do at this point 20 years in, in Afghanistan.

But it seems to me that the consequence that I look at and I can’t stand it. It makes me angry and in some ways humiliated as an American is to see this kind of situation where we don’t know if we can get our own citizens out of Kabul. And in addition, it seems to me dishonorable to not be able to properly vet and evacuate the people who stuck their necks out for us, the translators and the other people who worked alongside the U.S. military. Is it possible … I take your point that there would have been consequences of American withdrawal no matter what.

And that would be that Afghanistan essentially reverts before we went in there, which was a terrible situation for a lot of people in Afghanistan. But how can we clarify what, this is a really broad question, but how can we clarify what the U.S. military is actually for and how can we recover from what seems to be just forgetting about all of these substantive debates about what we were, or weren’t doing in Afghanistan just seems to be an incompetence from allegedly the world’s superpower?

Joey Jones:

There’s a whole lot there. There’s a point I want to make. And then you may have to bring me back in when I’m done with it. But I picked up on something along the way that I really wanted to kind of elaborate on. One of the biggest problems in Afghanistan is the idea that we view it as a monolith, as far as the country. And it’s a little bit different in Iraq. We have Sunni, Shia, and Kurds. In Afghanistan it’s not even that, it’s, I want to say, and this is probably not the right term, but almost prehistoric culture and tribes. It is certainly pre-Islam. You have an entire region called the Pashtun region, and they live by Pashtunwali. And it’s almost evenly split in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And those people identify more as Pashtun than Afghan or Pakistani.

And so when you look at a country and you say, we’re going to come in and we’re going to take out these tyrants that have been putting you in an oppressive state from our view. And objectively, of course, it’s oppressive. I mean, you see how they treat folks and I’ve seen it firsthand. So, we’re going to come in, we’re going to take them out, while creating a vacuum. Some of the best leaders in the world say ‘don’t bring me a problem, bring me a solution.’ So, don’t come tell me that the Taliban is bad for Afghans, come tell me what’s good for Afghans. Well, Afghans have to answer that question. So, for 20 years we’ve been perplexed because the people guiding this war are military leaders who understand, see a target, take a target out, see a target, take the target out. The folks who backfill with the understanding of what fills this vacuum are politicians and bureaucrats that oftentimes have their eye on other balls, like either the military industrial complex and where they’re going to go when they leave the administration.

Or what gets them votes when they’re home. We hadn’t really fought a 20-year war. We fought 10, two-year wars between midterms and presidential elections. And we’ve done it in a place where the dynamics are so foreign to us, that we don’t even understand the place that religion has in their government. And that’s an expectation of a large part of the population. But if you go down to southern Helmand or you go to Kabul, that’s essentially two different cultures at that point. So, the idea that we’re going to agree on something, I mean, it’s like going into New York and establishing a new form of government for the United States. I mean, folks in Georgia are probably going to be pretty upset with what the people in New York come up with. And so how do you start that from scratch? Well, that’s really hard to do, if at all possible.

And so that’s the dynamic we’ve dealt with, is that we’ve had multiple cultures. So, when you establish that the government in Kabul, and that government is corrupt and has its own elements of tyranny. There’s not a lot for people and say, rural Helmand, to jump on board with. Why would they take the Afghan government over the Taliban when the Taliban may actually put more money in their pocket because of the poppy cultivation. And so those are the dynamics we’re working with for 20 years. So, can we find the Taliban and kill ‘em? Yes. And we’ve been pretty good at it. It’s not been that difficult, honestly. But you kill one … There’s a saying in Georgia, and I’ll get a little country here. If you stomp on a cockroach, 20 will come to his funeral. Well, if you kill one Taliban fighter and an 18-year-old boy sees that, and he doesn’t understand the dynamics of how that happened, you might’ve just made a Taliban fighter when you killed this one. And you do that over and over again, this idea of flourishes as the people are killed. And that’s where we are right now. You have a whole new generation of fighters that weren’t there for the worst of the war, that weren’t there for the worst of the Taliban rule. But they’ve bought into it. And they’re indoctrinated, they come from madrassas and Pakistan, and they come from villages in Afghanistan, where there was no better option to begin with. So, our real goal should have been to show the next generation of Afghans that there is something better for them than Taliban. But we really didn’t try that. We tried to establish a democracy, we tried to establish a government that we were in control of. And we failed miserably at it.

And in doing so, we never showed them a better option. We showed them another option that was just as bad. And so that’s kind of to unpack why we have not been successful. You can’t fight an enemy in a country to where there is nothing to push against it when you leave. That’s exactly where we’ve been. So, the reason why I explain that is when we talk about how did we end up in this situation? Well, here are the options Joe Biden had. He could have been April said, hey, we’re going to be out by September. So, we have until then to get these people registered, vetted, and out of the country. Well, to do that, you would start in April signaling that you had no faith in the Afghan government to hold itself up or push back against the Taliban. So Joe Biden, I believe, sat down and was asked to make a gamble.

Are you going to gamble on this government? And if it falls the fallout from it, or are you going to gamble on going back and telling 330 million people that you’re the president that lost this war, that you have no faith in this government we spent 20 years propping up and that you’re essentially going to hand Afghanistan to the Taliban, and we’re going to spend six months doing it. Which means six months of conversations and reporting from conservative and even liberal news outlets, six months of political collateral. This is a crisis. And like it or not, in America, we get over crises that quick. We really do. There are certain, you’ll have an establishment rumble that will last for a long time.

But when you think about George W. Bush, you don’t even think about Katrina. You pretty much just think about 9/11 and the response, you got one opinion or the other. You don’t think about every crisis he created or handled [inaudible 00:22:35] in his eight-year tenure or Barack Obama. And so I think that the calculation was gamble on this government, best case scenario is perfect. And worst-case scenario is, we deal with this in the moment, take care of it and move on, and do it before the midterm. So, by the time 2024 gets here, there’s a whole host of arguments that have happened.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. That kind of political decision-making, as much as we would like to think it isn’t, I mean, it has been a part of certainly every modern administration. What is the overlap or how deep do the political elements of this kind of decision-making go into the Pentagon and the military? And I guess my second question would be, there is no expectation, in fact, Joe Biden confirmed this recently by saying that nobody would be fired unless the situation deteriorated drastically from what it is right now.

How do we make, or recreate connections between failure and the consequences of failure? Because it seems to me that even into the top military decision-making there isn’t really, and certainly for the political class and certainly for journalists and pundits and all of us who are outside of this actual situation, there is no connection between decision and consequence. And I just can’t think that, that is an environment that breeds good decision-making when nobody truly expects to suffer the consequences of these really important decisions that they’re making.

Joey Jones:

You have to have failure acknowledged to see consequence for it. And we haven’t had a politician acknowledge failure since maybe … I mean, I’m sure it’s happened. I’m 35 years old. So, I got to go with what I’ve read about. JFK and the Bay of Pigs, might be the last time that really can think and see, and hear the words and feel it and say, okay, there’s a politician saying I failed. I screwed up. Joe Biden says, the buck stops with me. And the rest of that sentence is I took the consensus decision. That’s as close as you’re ever going to get out of that man. And because that’s as much as they have to. And so when you talk about consequences for failure, well, the failures uncovered by the press. That’s the last place that has to push a narrative.

Even if the narrative is unfortunately the truth, it still becomes just another narrative, even the truth does. So, the press has to stay on it. And then people have to take that to the ballot box. That is consequence for failure in today’s world. Joe Biden is going to throw his administration under the bus, because they’re going to turn and do the same thing for him. And you saw that with President Trump and it turned into a big mess for everybody. Every time President Trump would fire somebody for a failure, they’d write a book about how it was really his fault. And so there really wasn’t consequence there either. And if it was, it was equally applied to both regardless of who was at fault. So, I don’t think Joe Biden is going to make that mistake. And politically, it was a mistake. To have that type of them fighting become public in an administration.

So, when you talk about consequence for a failure, if you look on the military side, it’s a little bit more cut-and-dry. If you get people killed, you’re probably going to have consequence. But if your goal is to win a battle, okay, well, we can talk about that. But these generals, their goal has been to redefine the strategy, to reinvent the wheel on counter-terrorism, to be David Petraeus walking down Fallujah without your flight jacket or helmet on, it wasn’t win the war. And so I think I tweeted and I might not be able to find all the right words for it to sound as succinct, but we did something along the lines of generals used to build a career on winning battles they were told they couldn’t win. Now they build a career on creating strategy they don’t have to enforce. And that’s where we are.

Inez Stepman:

We also have politicization in a different sense, that seems to be sort of permeating the top ranks of the military. I mean, General Michael Hayden recently caught flack on Twitter, including from you, for equipping that we should send Trump supporters and the unvaccinated back to Afghanistan. And these refugee planes prior to all of this back in June. General Millie was testifying in front of Congress about white rage and critical race theory. And some of the new recruiting ads that had come out. I mean, what are the consequences? And of course we had, I should mention, we had after January 6th, we had military statements that came out saying that we’re going to look through social media presence of service members. And essentially try to determine if they’re ideologically dangerous or whatever.

What are the consequences for the broader American society if the military itself starts to be viewed as politicized? Because that’s been one thing that we’ve been very careful in the American public to avoid for very good reason. I mean, a lot of the founders’ warnings were exactly even about holding a standing army. That there is the potential for the military to enter into civilian or domestic political squabbles, essentially. And that was a road that we did not want to go on because it had been the ruin of many, and attempt at democracy or Republic.

I’m not saying things are not bad yet, but what will the consequences be if the American public starts to view after some of these more politicized or domestic incidents from the top cross the military, and then after this chaos in Afghanistan, what if they start to view not the service members, I don’t think that we’re in any danger of Americans having anything but gratitude and admiration for service members, but viewing the actual sort of military brass and the people at the top as political domestic players, rather than as completely apart from domestic politics?

Joey Jones:

Well, we’re viewing it right now, for sure. It started … Excuse me. It started under President Obama. President Obama was at odds with Petraeus and McChrystal, to an extent Mattis. And at the time these were heroes of our wars. McChrystal a little bit less throughout his active tenure, but Mattis and Petraeus were essentially viewed as our patents when they were in uniform. They were very successful on the battlefield and they were pretty successful at conveying their ideas to the American public, almost in a MacArthur kind of way. And I’ve got some personal stories on this. I showed up to the white house to have dinner with the combatant commanders, 34 or 36 four-star generals serving were there. President Obama had every general he had invited there in a whiskey and cigar hour. At the time the only female general, there wasn’t a four-star female general.

They were all men. And so all the wives and myself were in a kind of a hors d’oeuvre sweets kind of room. And I don’t know which color room it was, it was one of the rooms in the white house. And the only general that was in there with me was General Petraeus. And that was on purpose. He left General Petraeus in there, because they had been at odds in the newspapers the week before. And so that’s kind of where it started. And we’ve always had this, but it hadn’t always been public. And it hadn’t always been partisan. I mean, MacArthur, read about MacArthur, [crosstalk 00:33:53]. And so it’s not like there hasn’t been as political military contention. So, we always haven’t had iPhones and this social justice moral vindication that we have now to where you were just solely adhere to a side, no matter what that side is.

And that side includes so many different things. And now it includes how you feel about generals. And it’s starting to include how generals feel about things. And that’s where it gets difficult. And I think that’s permeated in our service academies. I think it’s a part of who gets promoted now and how they’re promoted. And it’s just really kind of going unchecked a little bit too much. I mean, during my time, if you had two guys, a white and a black guy, and somebody said something racist, they went out and fought it out. And nine times out of 10, they came back in best buddies and somebody learned something. And I hate that, that’s kind of, like I’m going to watch my back to bring that up. But that’s just the truth of the world then. And you saw people become better human beings because they were challenged for the first time, not educated or indoctrinated, they were challenged on their hate or their ignorance.

And now we live in a world to where you treat ignorance as hate. And none of it has true consequence other than cancel culture. And that just permeates through our society. And our military is going to be affected by that too. Especially now we all carry iPhones and no matter what branch you’re serving in, or even where you’re serving, you’re fully connected to the riff-raff and the scuttle, is what we call it. I don’t know how you work on that. I honestly, I don’t have an answer for it. I truly don’t. Indoctrination is a valuable part of our military. And we are increasingly as a society, rejecting indoctrination as even a concept much less a method. And so I just don’t truly know how you overcome that, unless your back just gets so far up against the wall, you have to. And unfortunately I hope that’s not how we do it.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. Speaking of putting our backs against the wall, what will the consequences be for American power and image abroad? I mean, we’ve already seen China start talking about Taiwan in very concerning ways. We’ve seen America condemned by the British parliament for not executing this withdrawal in a way that allowed for our people and our allies to get out in an orderly way. What will the long-term consequences, or I don’t even want to say long-term because that’s almost impossible, but the consequences over the next two, three years, what are the potential consequences of essentially America? I don’t want to get graphic here, but pulling down his pants in front of the world, in this way, what do you fear will be the consequence?

Joey Jones:

Well, the fear is something else happens. There’s an Al-Qaeda, there’s a terrorist group in somewhere like Yemen, or maybe even sheltered and somewhere like Saudi Arabia that attacks U.S. interest or U.S. homeland. And we are not supported by the international community in retaliating or neutralizing that enemy, which that’s the big fear. It’s not that NATO is this great thing that’s going to fight wars for us, but it’s really important to have them on your side when you want to sanction somebody, or when you want to move troops into somewhere. And one of the big problems we had, I wouldn’t say problems, but one of the big assets we had, I believe we were able to stage troops in Turkey going into these wars to begin with. Is that going to be an option? Where are we at there?

If we’re out of Afghanistan and everyone sees that we’re not going to be the partner they think we are, how do we even maneuver our troops around the world to do these things? And that becomes the big concern is if tomorrow’s horizon, across the horizon on tomorrow, our enemy does attack us because they’re emboldened. I mean, they understand now how to attack us than they did 20 years ago. Because we gave them 20 years of education. And now we give them an education on the weapons we use, and the communications we use. And now we’re going to spend billions of dollars coming up with new ways to do the same thing, because now they have insight and how we encrypt our radios and what we do with it and things of that nature. And so our more educated and more capable enemy of a similar style attacks us for our interests.

How do we retaliate and what does the international community do and how do they support us? That’s the next big question. And look, even if it’s not military, even the cyber. Being able to go in and put these people and prevent these things from happening, you need to be able to have partners regardless if they’re in the military mind or not just by strategic location. I mean, Turkey is invaluable if we can put troops there to bring them into a war. If we don’t have that kind of opportunity because is it worth the risk anymore? That’s a big deal.

Inez Stepman:

And look, it’s difficult fighting a longer war as a democracy, no matter what, because you change out administrations and people’s views change over time. But it does seem that we’ve … Some other democracy seem to handle this, even the British seem to handle this better, in a sense, maybe they have a more entrenched in some way, a more entrenched elite. But at the same time, an elite that’s still is held to some hard consequences and over time. Or maybe it’s their colonial past that we’ve so firmly rejected as a former colony that gives them that sort of perspective. But what about sort of the great powers involved here?

So, if we put to one side, for example, the very real risk that these same people that are learning lessons, as you say about us, not just concretely, they’ve been fighting us for 20 years and now they have all of our toys to play with. What lessons is say a China or Russia learning about America, perhaps not even lessons about our military tactics, but about us as people that this kind of debacle would essentially play out and that there aren’t apparently going to be consequences for it? I mean, what are they learning about our resolve as people beyond tactics or sort of military specifics?

Joey Jones:

Well, I don’t know that they’ve learned something today, they weren’t already learning over the last 20 years. I mean, it’s been my perspective that we’ve waned quite a bit and quite publicly for a while now, for the last 11 years, since President Obama’s reelection, at least. We’ve kind of waned in and how committed we are to defending ourselves in this way. And I’m not advocating that we stay in Afghanistan for 20 more years. I just don’t think we had the right conversation about leaving. And that’s what bothers me. When you look at 10,000 troops in Afghanistan doing mostly intelligence gathering operations, that’s so much different than when we had a hundred thousand troops there, which is when I was there. It’s not the same kind of war. And I don’t think we ever had that conversation here at home. And that bothered me quite a bit.

And so what we have had publicly is a lot of politicians saying, we’ve got to get our troops home, or we’ve got to kill the Taliban. And it’s kind of like we tune in off of our phone and into politics every two to four years. And I think that’s really what they understand. This is just another symptom of it. I don’t think it’s this big, like we now understand their military mind isn’t there. I think China understands this in somewhat different ways. When we talk about Russia or China involving ourselves in our elections, they’re using the same principles to manipulate those things. It’s how we decide what we care about and how we’re influenced. And that’s what they’re learning. And what is devastating about this is that the technology to learn this and the companies that are most powerful at it are right here in our backyard, and we’re allowing others to use it against us.

Inez Stepman:

What would you do about that, about the fact that American company … I mean, we have instances, for example, major companies like Google refusing to work sometimes with the American military, but then working with the Chinese government that then all of that technology gets used for either military purpose or national purpose by the Chinese government, by the communist party there. How would you strike a balance between the free market system that we have in the United States? And I think, I assume both of us support a general principle, and then the fact that these American companies could be a great asset to us in geopolitics and in geopolitical conflict. But don’t seem to have really a sort of national feeling that they truly are, even though they are American companies based in America, they truly are a sort of global multinational companies.

Joey Jones:

Well, I guess I said earlier, don’t bring me a problem, bring me a solution. And I guess I know a lot more about the problem than the solution on this. I mean, I can look back and see kind of the globalism that the Obama administration brought in. And I don’t mean economically, I mean, culturally global and the idea that being a human being is infinitely more important than being American. Well, in some ways that’s true. But it’s also important to want to be an American. I mean, that’s necessary. There’s a reason why we exist the way we do. You hit a pinnacle of convalescing or coalescing to where we have to exist as a country and with an identity and a pride so that we can defend ourselves or be more prosperous than maybe our neighbors are because they’re doing things differently or they have different resources.

And that’s okay too. And so I guess my concern is that the problem really comes from the conversations in society. I hate to use the term woke culture, because it’s a little bit, I guess, simplifying of how people feel. And I don’t really look past anyone’s grievances. I want to hear them out before I call them dumb or irrelevant. But why is Google or Facebook the way it is? Because tens of thousands of their employees agree with that in some way. And so I think the effect I can have, because I’m not elected in the Congress or in an administration. So, I only have so much of a window to look through. The effect I can have is the effect I have on culture. And can I challenge young men to want to grow up and be strong men?

Can I challenge young adults to want to grow up and be proud Americans? And can I give them an opportunity much like we were talking about with young Afghanis and a generation of Afghanis to look at the Taliban and say, I want something different. Is there an opportunity to look at a generation of Americans and say you might want something different than what we’re dealing with now. You might want to pull back a little bit and say, hey, it’s okay to be proud of this country and want to defend it, and want to defend it against this type of manipulation. [inaudible 00:49:57] if the majority of people that worked at those companies or invested in those companies thought a little bit differently, those companies would probably work differently.

So, that’s the effect that we can all have. And is it the role of government? I’m not so sure about that because I don’t trust the government too much anymore, especially when we talk about affecting culture. But then you can’t really expect, is U.S. government going to sanction Facebook for working too closely with the Chinese government. I don’t know that, that’s the path I’m going to go down either.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah, it’s a really difficult problem, especially when those companies are affecting the very mode by which you or I, or anybody else might try to influence the culture. The very conversations we have are so often controlled by these companies, which makes it such a tangle. And I don’t have a solution either. It’s something that I think about a lot and haven’t come up with any stellar insights, but I hope they’re out there.

Joey Jones:

It helps to have an appealing message that can resonate with anyone and not just specific people. Or a palatable message at least, and an appealing messenger. And so those are two things that we haven’t worked as hard on the right, or as a conservative. We haven’t worked as hard on those two things. I don’t think we have struggled to find that palatable message because there’s a certain amount of conviction in our message. That’s like, man, even if this hurts me, it’s the right to do. And then when it comes to the messenger, well, we’ve really just kind of struggled with that overall for a while now. And I guess the only silver lining is the Democrats are struggling with it pretty hard now, too. And so I think we’ve had two presidents in a row that were default choices, and that’s not to take anything away from the ability. Donald Trump had or for that matter, the security that Biden brought to a lot of people.

But I think we had two presidents that were default in the sense of they were the antithesis of the worst option in some way or what was left. I mean, not a lot of people were on board with Hillary Clinton, I don’t think. And not a lot of people were on board with Donald Trump second time around. So, we have to find a messenger that believes in the message and brings a message and has appeal to audiences that aren’t just baked in. And then we have to take a message, and if that message says it’s okay to be proud to be an American, not necessarily American first. But to want to invest in this country and survival, that may feel sometimes as in opposition to our neighbors or to others. We have to have a palatable message that fits into people’s lives that they want to live.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. I mean, you’re really pointing to the problem that Reagan pointed to in his farewell address. Where he said that he had reinvigorated patriotism and he was one of the things he was most proud of as president, but he hadn’t reinstitutionalized it. And that, in fact, all of the cultural institutions and I’ve critiqued the Republican party and the conservatives for a long time for trying to focus too much on the immediately political, rather than on those institutions that do really influence culture, like the Academy, our K-12 educational system, the media. All of these institutions are institutions where conservatives essentially have not played for 50 years.

And we’re now reaping the consequences of that. But I think that was very prescient of President Reagan to point to that at the end to basically say I won these political battles, but here’s the real crisis underneath that in our culture. To return it, maybe to wrap this up. Just to ask you personally, you’ve served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, you’ve been wounded in the service of your country. How do your fellow veterans, how do you feel about this chaotic withdrawal? I mean, what have you heard from your friends, your brothers, like how is the veteran community who did sacrifice so much in the last 20 years in Afghanistan dealing with this?

Joey Jones:

I think they’re wholly unsurprised. But at the same time, incredibly frustrated if not just pissed off. Because they understood—and I think many of us have for a while—that the will just wasn’t there to win this war. We fought this war and we saw the waning back and forth, the decision making, the deciding to put our lives in jeopardy because the political collateral of blowing up a town full of bad people and just this constant letting the headlines guide the strategy. And it was pretty bad in 2010. I can imagine it only got worse for up until about 2014. And so if that were the case, I think most of us kind of saw this coming. Trump was a breath of fresh air because he killed some bad folks and shot some rounds over the border.

In the proverbial battle line, I guess I mean. And he took military actions swiftly and in a way that we hadn’t really seen since maybe the invasion. And not to say Obama didn’t. He used drones effectively, but it was a different … It made many people feel empowered to kill Soleimani and brag about it. And it felt like it made our enemies kind of take a step back and then have Biden come right back in. I think most of us were like, well, this is going to be back to Obama. And for the most part, it has been very similar. And with that, I think there’s a lot of just kind of, I guess kind of just letting the air out of your lungs a little bit, just like kind of exhausted. Like we’re tired of this, we’re tired.

I mean, I’m exhausted. I’m re-experiencing emotions that I thought I’d dealt with 10 years ago about getting blown up in war. And was it worth it, those kinds of things? It’s not much to ask of my government to not make me ask, was it worth it a decade later? I mean, that’s not too much. And the statement I used on television this week is you didn’t even give us the dignity of quitting with honor. And that’s tough. That’s really tough. And so I would ask Americans that bought fully into the support of the troops and that narrative over the last 10 years, this is maybe where rubber meets the road on that. It’s more than thank you for your service.

And now it’s go to the ballot box and vote for people that say smart things. And will use our military the right way. The Vietnam veterans get to look at us and say, hey, you guys were treated so well because we were treated so badly and we chose not to treat you that way. And that’s what we did for you. Maybe what we can do for the next generation is say, hey, you were used more effectively because we weren’t. And so we voted for and identified people that wouldn’t do that to you.

Inez Stepman:

And beyond voting for people who will respect that sacrifice and use it well, as you say, what can individual Americans do to help the situation going on in Afghanistan? Do you have any groups that you would recommend we donate to? I mean, what actions … I mean, we feel helpless. You must feel even more so, but we feel helpless too. I mean, what actions would you recommend to broader Americans to try to help to the extent we can in this situation?

Joey Jones:

I don’t really know. I mean, it’s such chaos right now. I’ve got a buddy that’s about to go over there as a private contractor and bring out what we call SIV’s, S-I-V. I can’t remember. It’s special something Visas. So, he’s about to go over there and do that as a private citizen, working as a contractor. He’s former Green Beret and highly qualified. But he’s doing that because there are people that are so far away from Kabul. I think the American government’s pretty much said, there’s no way we can get to you. Or they’re just in places that the American government are not willing to go. And so I’ve got in a very small group, I’m getting him some night vision goggles and another flak jacket and SAPI plates for his jacket because he was in South America three weeks ago, rescuing sex slaves and got shot in the chest.

Now his SAPI plate has got a hole in it. And so there’s a tremendously heroic person right there. But he’s one in a million, he’s one in 330 million, if he asked me. He’s one of my buddies and I love him to death. And so I know about efforts like that, but I don’t know on a grand scale kind of easily accessible to donate to this group. I don’t know, and maybe I should. So, maybe you’ve challenged me to educate myself even more. But as far as just what can we do? The one thing I will say, and I’m going to exercise this a little bit myself, is lets all put the fire out on our own head, our hair’s on fire now. We’re all very emotional and let’s be reasonable.

And let’s have consequence instead of just rhetoric. And so it’s really easy for me to jump on any platform and complain about president Joe Biden. And to some point he deserves it. But I need to concise when I do it and I need to offer a solution when I raise a problem and that’s what I’ve been trying to do. And I think that’s what we all need to look for and reward those people. And I think that goes a long way. I really do.

Inez Stepman:

Joey, thank you so much for coming on High Noon to share your perspective on the past events and on generally American power abroad. Thank you. I realized that’s not enough, but thank you for your service and to me, and I’m sure to millions of Americans. You guys really are our elite. We may have lost faith with a lot of our other elite institutions over the years, but not in you guys. We have an enormous amount of faith in you and enormous amount of gratitude for you. So, you can hear more from Joey on Fox and Fox Business, as well as on Twitter at Johnny_Joey, and thank you to our listeners. High Noon with Inez Stepman as a production of the Independent Women’s Forum. As always, you can send comments and questions to [email protected]. Please help us out by hitting the subscribe button, leaving us a comment or review on Apple Podcasts, Acast, Google Play, YouTube or Be brave. And we’ll see you next time on High Noon.