"What Biden has done in Afghanistan will go down in ignominy as one of the most shameful and despicable acts of betrayal by any American President." Lord Blencathra in the House of Lords, January 21, 2021.
Let's begin with some forgotten history. After 9/11/2001 the United States offered the Taliban government of Afghanistan a choice--give up bin Laden or be invaded. They didn't, and the US and allies did.
Then began the decades-long series of blunders. An iron rule of a successful foreign policy is to 1. choose a concrete and achievable goal; 2. use all the appropriate means of statecraft to achieve the goal; 3. if successful, declare victory and go home; 4. if unsuccessful after a reasonable period of time, declare victory and go home.
The George W. Bush administration, after reaching stage 4 and not having captured bin Laden, should have turned the country over to the Northern League and gone home.
Instead, the vague and unachievable goal of "democratizing" a country that never in its entire history had anything approaching democracy, was adopted and pursued with inappropriate though massive means and extended over twenty years and four administrations of both parties, at the cost of more than a trillion dollars and tens of thousands of lives.
All this idiocy culminated in a weird, unenforceable "deal" with the
Taliban by the Trump administration in 2020, every bit as bad as the Obama "deal" with Iran five years earlier.
In announcing in April of this year that American forces would be evacuated from Afghanistan by 9/11/21, the Biden administration claimed that it was merely carrying out the US obligation under the Trump "deal". What? Why? Within days of taking office in January, Biden had reversed two dozen Trump policies, to good and bad effect. Why not dump the Taliban "agreement" also?
A reasonable case could have been made either for leaving Afghanistan or for staying. Certainly in terms of stated goals, the Afghan invasion was a failure and should have been ended long ago. On the other hand, a very good case can be made that the American and allied forces were no longer fighting a war. They were essentially a garrison, very strategically located in a place that is central to China, Russia, and South Asia and which guards the eastern approaches to the Middle East. During its heyday, the British Empire had garrisons all over the Eastern Hemisphere, in the Far East, South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. With occasional and localized exceptions, those garrisons were not fighting wars; they were signalling British presence and power, along with the British fleet.
Having spent so much treasure and so many lives, it would have made sense to accept the very modest expenses involved in staying, in return for the strategic value of the garrison.
Nevertheless. a case could have reasonably been made either for staying or for leaving. However, there can be no excuse whatsoever for the execution of the decision, starting with a monumental intelligence failure and continuing with the absolutely inexplicable lack of advanced planning for the evacuation by the Defense Department, despite being on notice for five months.
Just as the most disgusting example, the Bagram Airbase was evacuated overnight without even informing the Afghan commander and abandoning aircraft and huge amounts of supplies. Is it any surprise that the Afghan security forces melted away after it was obvious they had been betrayed by their "all-powerful" ally?
Now everyone is desperately trying to put the scrambled eggs back in the shell and stage a reasonably well-executed evacuation of remaining civilians, both American and Afghan. If that doesn't work, the Taliban will have been handed a large group of hostages, which they can offer as a bargain for the funds that have been frozen by the US and others..
This administration is beginning to look like the pathetically inept Buchanan administration, which wasted four years not making the decisions necessary to avoid the succeeding Civil War. This time the result is likely to be not civil war but international war, as the restraining influence of the US continues precipitously to decline.
Allies, neutrals and enemies will take note and react accordingly. This must and will include Israel.
Dr. Norman Bailey is professor of Economic Statecraft at the Galilee International Management Institute, and adjunct professor at the Institute of World Politics, Washington DC. Dr. Bailey was a senior staff member of the National Security Council during the Reagan administration and of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence during the George W. Bush administration.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on August 17, 2021
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