Chaos has engulfed Kabul. The nation’s government has fled while U.S. and other embassies burn documents and hurry to the airport. Those Afghans who fear for their lives under Taliban rule are literally waiting at the gates, desperately trying to get out. It’s Saigon all over again.
I like and respect Joe Biden. He’s doing great work in restoring decency and democratic norms to our country after they were under attack for four awful years under Donald Trump. And Biden is re-establishing America’s role as a force for good in the world.
Or at least he was until now. Biden’s decision to follow Trump’s lead in abandoning Afghanistan has led, as most observers said it would, to a humanitarian disaster with worse to come. Since a majority of Americans supported the pull out and since they tend to ignore foreign policy unless it results in American casualties, it’s not clear whether this will cost Biden anything in term of political capital with American voters. But it was the wrong thing to do on multiple levels.
The Taliban are murderers and thugs. They will turn back two decades of progress. by, literally, hundreds of years. Girls will not be allowed to go to school. The rights of women will be obliterated. Those who don’t follow their strict Islamic edicts will be subject to torture and murder.
Biden’s withdrawal will also embolden terrorist groups in the region and around the globe and it will benefit America’s enemies, most notably China. (China and Russia are keeping their embassies in Kabul while America abandons its own.) Strong men who would turn back liberal democracy will be encouraged by America’s retreat here. Two decades of investment in blood and treasure are wiped out in a matter of days.
The Taliban was being held at bay and some measure of stability was being maintained by only about 3,000 American troops plus a contingent of allied soldiers. American casualties had been reduced to near zero. In truth, that may have not lasted. The relative calm might have been broken had America negated Trump’s deal and announced that it was staying.
But it still would have been worth the cost. We went to Afghanistan to track down and kill the men responsible for the 9/11 attacks. We stayed for the same reason that firefighters stay on the scene of a fire long after it’s been put out. Fires can rekindle. American and allied troops, not to mention intelligence personnel, in Afghanistan were providing security for the mainland U.S. by simply being in the terrorists’ backyard.
A collateral benefit of our presence was that an entire generation of Afghans grew up knowing life under liberal democracy. No, we did not create a stable government. No, clearly, we did not create an Afghan military in the image of our own. But those were always secondary goals. American military presence in Afghanistan propped up the government and the military, and that was good enough.
Yes, we had been there for a long time, but we’ve been in Europe and South Korea, and with much larger troop contingents, for much longer. The U.S. presence there helps maintain the peace and sends a clear message to the world that we will defend democracy and liberal values.
Biden now owns a decision that has worked out much worse, I’m sure, than he had hoped or thought, but which was predicted by most experts in the field. The suprise isn’t the outcome, but the swiftness with which it happened.
What will happen now is that thousands of Afghans will be killed and tortured. Human rights, especially those of women, will be cast aside. An international terrorist culture will be emboldened.
As the anniversary of 9/11 approaches, let’s hope that this folly doesn’t result in a repeat of a similar disaster on American soil sometime in the not so distant future.
Welcome to the 180th day of consecutive posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading.