Salvo 08.24.2021 6 minutes

Biden Embraces Defeat

The Administration leaves Afghanistan—and abandons America.

It would be easy to attribute the disaster of leaving Afghanistan, both human and strategic, to the incompetence of President Biden and his administration. After all, human incompetence normally explains a lot. But the affairs of a great nation like ours and its military are not the work of one man. There are generals, well-credentialed foreign policy experts, and senior intelligence officials who have devised how best to leave Afghanistan in order to achieve certain strategic and political objectives. The notion that there was a single incompetent decision made to abandon Afghanistan defies both logic and common sense. It was a matter of high government policy that the United States depart Afghanistan, abandon military equipment, and leave both Americans and our allies to the tender mercies of the radical Islamic Taliban.

The exit from Afghanistan, then, appears designed to accomplish two things: first, to demoralize the American military and the American people. Over 22,000 American service personnel have been killed or injured in Afghanistan. Every American knows someone who served there. Knowing full well that the Afghan military would not defend the country, there could be little doubt that the United States was turning the country over to the Taliban. Moreover, the US did so with the appearance of being run out of the country in shame and defeat. One can only assume this was meant to demonstrate to American servicemen that their sacrifice had been in vain, and to the American people that our cause of defending America from the scourge of radical Islam was not just.

How else are sensible people to view the footage of killings, chaos, desperation, harassment, and contempt for the US and our citizens in Kabul? Taken together these images are far more effective tools of propaganda than nearly anything Al-Qaeda and ISIS has employed over the past two decades. Their message is clear: America is weak and resistance to Islam is futile. That is the lesson the Biden Administration has made possible. It is one for which radicals such as Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar have signaled their approval throughout their tenure in Congress.

The second purpose of the Afghan debacle was to signal to the world that the United States has no interest in defending a liberal world order and that from here on out we will not defend either human freedom or our own self-interest, however bizarre that may sound. Even the most serious isolationist would not have left Afghanistan the way we have. A minimum requirement would be to preserve the prestige and credibility of the United States with our allies and to ensure that our enemies would not be emboldened by our fecklessness.

What must Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea think of the United States and our commitments to defend them against the Communist Chinese and their predations in the region? To be sure, Afghanistan does not play a similar role to that of these other nations, whose economies are closely tied to the prosperity and the security of the United States. But for the US to withdraw in this dramatic fashion is to send a signal that we are no longer concerned whether our enemies fear us. They do not, apparently, and that is just fine.

There is a new world order and America has chosen a new place in it. Whereas we were comfortable “leading from behind” during the Obama administration, today the United States is merely one of many other nations doing our best to cooperate in what some have termed a Great Reset. Defending human freedom may have been fine for earlier generations, but what matters today is understanding the grievances and ambitions of other peoples, be it the Islamic world and their deeply held religious convictions or the Communist Chinese and their struggles to find their place atop the world order.


Political leanings aside, what of self-interest? There is no clearer evidence of this rejection than the abandonment of Bagram Air Base. Right now, if it were adequately fortified, the United States could have an expeditionary force poised to strike at anyone in the region who meant the US harm. Claremont Institute scholars Mark Helprin and Angelo Codevilla argued for something like this nearly two decades ago, as opposed to the nation-building efforts that proved so painfully misguided. Such a base of operations would not be part of some “forever war,” but rather a forward outpost of US military power capable of defending the American homeland. No nation building, no lectures on LGBTQ rights, just straight national defense.

Leaving Bagram Air Base, and the billions in advanced equipment that was there, with the Afghan military will be seen rightly as an act of submission by the Biden Administration to a global order headed by Communist China. Certainly China, and apparently also Biden, would prefer an America in retreat and withdrawal from the world stage. What better way to demonstrate America’s intentions to the PRC than withdrawing from the region and allowing our most advanced armaments to be taken by America’s enemies?

 An added bonus for the Left is having tens of thousands of Afghan refugees imported to the United States. Whether they were allies of the United States or not is quite beside the point. Many of them will bring with them an Islamic ideology that is incompatible with the Judeo-Christian West. Since the Left no longer believes in the West, they do not care about the threat posed to it by spreading Islamist imports throughout the country.

This stands in stark contrast to President Trump’s America First foreign policy and the simple proposition that if we were going to put America’s soldiers in harm’s way, it had to be for the good of the lives of the American people and the defense of the American way of life. President Trump was guided by prudence and an appreciation of how other nations viewed the United States. This was among the many reasons he was elected in the first place.

After all, Americans were never opposed to staying in Afghanistan so long as our purpose was the single-minded defense of the United States. But once the mission in Afghanistan became first nation building and then imposing America’s left-wing social agendas on the Afghan people, Americans saw precious little that was good for them in the transaction. Losing the sons and daughters of the United States was one thing when we were defending the American people against terrorist attacks. It is quite another when their lives are lost to try and establish democratic institutions in a nation with no experience in civil society, or in pursuit of gender equality for Afghan women in a deeply dysfunctional society that, among other things, sanctions the sexual abuse of children. However desirable certain things may be, it doesn’t mean they are possible or that they are the job of the US military.

What Now?

Finally, it bears stating that those American soldiers who fought in Afghanistan did not die in vain despite the current machinations of the Biden Administration. Those soldiers held the line as their brothers had on distant battlefields before them. They fought the war over there in Afghanistan rather than here on the streets of America. They knew full well they were never going to turn the Afghans into civilized men of the West. However mistaken the policy of our generals and our ruling class to impose woke nonsense on the people of Afghanistan, the men and women of our armed forces were fighting for the people of the United States to live free of the miserable despotism that is Islamic rule. For that they are owed our undying respect and admiration.

The US is not leaving Afghanistan because of some failure on the battlefield. The Greek forces under Alexander the Great were believed to have won every battle they engaged in with the Afghans. Indeed, the superiority of the Greek forces, like the American forces now, were so much greater that there was little honor in the exchange. That we could have killed every last Afghan man, woman and child is quite obvious. That we would have been justified in doing so, given that they harbored Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, seems less well appreciated.

If it is any consolation, America’s enemies may not have thought us serious to begin with. The world has watched as an American presidential election was conducted in a manner befitting a banana republic; we have failed to build a national missile defense for ourselves or our allies including Taiwan, South Korea and Japan; and, 20 years after September 11th, have yet to hold to account Saudi Arabia who helped perpetrate the attack and Iran who provided intelligence for the execution. That America survives despite all this is nothing short of a strategic miracle.

We are at a moment now like none other in our history. The American political order has been made a mockery of since November 3rd, 2020. Much will be necessary to sort that out. But our credibility on the global stage has now been eradicated and Americans will reasonably wonder whether our union can endure. Now is the time for men of good will to rise to the defense of the American experiment in free government. We should pray it is not too late.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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