With each passing day the magnitude of the U.S. defeat in Afghanistan is sinking in. In an attempt to reduce the domestic political damage, the Administration of James Earl Biden is furiously trying to reframe the discussion. For instance, the Administration argues that President Biden had no choice but to do what he did because he was locked into President Trump’s ill-considered deal with the Taliban. Alternatively they argue that the U.S. would be required to re-commit thousands of troops to re-fight a war that had already achieved its stated objectives.
Both of these assertions are lies. President Biden spent the first 7 months of his Administration overturning Trump Administration policies that he didn’t like, which was most of them. The fact is that Biden agreed with Trump’s Neo-isolationist policy favoring an abrupt withdrawal. The shambolic nature of the execution of the policy is, of course, a disgrace and a stain on America. But the catastrophe is far greater than that, more about which later.
The alternative argument, that the U.S. would have to re-commit thousands of troops to re-fight a civil war in which America had already achieved its objectives is, similarly, a lie. The overriding American objective was to prevent the Taliban, ISIS or other radical group, from re-establishing Afghanistan as a platform for launching more attacks on America as happened on 9/11/2001. The collapse of the Afghan government and take-over by the Taliban virtually guarantees that Afghanistan will once again become such a staging ground.
Afghanistan is now a no-mans land with no one in control. Jihadist groups from all over the globe will now gravitate toward Afghanistan as a place to train foot soldiers, run financial operations, stock pile arms and work on developing weapons of mass destruction, including bio-weapons. If you think Covid-19 is bad news, just wait until jihadists are running bio-labs in Afghanistan with the aid of Pakistan’s ISI while the U.S. has limited intelligence capabilities on the ground.
This is more than a tactical retreat, notwithstanding the Biden Administration’s transparently meaningless claims about our “over-the-horizon” military capabilities. Those military capabilities require on the ground intelligence. Whom does the Biden Administration think is going to provide that intelligence now that the U.S. is in the process of abandoning Afghans and green card holders to their fate at the hands of the Taliban?
The defeat —and that it is what it is—of the U.S. in Afghanistan, is a strategic catastrophe of the first order. But it took the Biden Administration’s stunning incompetence mixed with a liberal dose of stupidity to elevate a strategic blunder into what may be an existential crisis. After all, Biden and Co have effectively torpedoed NATO, a development that Vladimir Putin must find satisfying.
And it isn’t just NATO. China has already started taunting Taiwan. The price for Biden’s pleas with Iran to re-join the nuclear deal just got a lot higher. Not to mention the U.S. position on the Korean Peninsula. Or the position of Israel. Or India vis-a-vis Pakistan. Given the lack of U.S. resolve, the obvious question is who will trust the U.S. to keep its commitments in the future?
It is easy to see the organization of world politics moving toward a Euro bloc led by a Germany that is increasingly friendly with Russia; an Asian block dominated by China; an Arab bloc increasingly threatened by Iran and Iranian sponsored jihadist groups, and an English speaking group (America, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Note that all these groups would be armed with nuclear weapons.
Moreover, such a world lacks a security guarantor. It is instead a world in which autocracies and authoritarians vie with democracies for influence. And it suggests the end of a rules based Liberal order with free trade and capital flows. In turn that suggests a reduction in economic growth and increasing power in the hands of dictators.
It didn’t have to be like this and it doesn’t have to end like this. There is a remedy. It will require the West to recognize the failure of progressivism; the progressive embrace of nihilism and its refusal to defend Western Liberalism. Populism, socialism and identitarian politics will have to be recognized for what they are—a precursor to fascism.
The West has a choice to make. It can robustly defend a Liberal civilization that promotes individual freedom, democracy and pluralism, using its economic, military and political power. Or it can refuse to defend itself and allow the ancient hatreds of pre-enlightenment civilizations to determine the course of history. It is entirely a matter of choice.