Really, Mr. President?
President Biden offered his remarks yesterday on the unfolding crisis in Afghanistan. Over the course of the first few minutes, he blamed President Trump, then said that he stood by his decision to withdraw American troops from the country, and then shifted the blame to the Afghan government and military. There were fleeting moments of his speech when I agreed with him, but the majority of it left me scratching my head. Really, Mr. President? I honestly don’t know if he is legitimately confused or is deliberately misleading the American people.
First, why would he blame Trump at a time like this? There are no political points to be scored here. People’s lives are at stake. Now is the time to act, not pass the buck. But instead of acting like the leader of the free world, the president sounds like a child who blames his big brother because he does not want to face the consequences of his decision.
Even if everything Biden said about Trump was true, we are seven full months into the Biden administration. If he thought Trump’s plan was bad, then he should have fixed it instead of waiting for it to explode and then pointing the finger at his predecessor. In fact, Donald Trump should not even be part of this conversation. This is squarely Biden’s issue, but he chose to open by blaming Trump.
I am no Trump apologist, but I feel certain that Trump would be trying to renegotiate our withdrawal if the roles were reversed. In fact, Trump would probably have tried to renegotiate his own plan as the facts on the ground changed. Whether you love Trump or hate him, his willingness to act is undeniable. But there seems to be no such leadership from the Biden team.
Own the Decision?
After President Biden said that Trump’s decision led to this withdrawal, he said he stood by the decision. This sounds like it was Biden’s choice to withdraw, not Trump’s. That’s probably more accurate. So it makes sense that Biden agrees with his own decision.
Furthermore, President Biden stated good reasons for agreeing with his own decision to withdraw American forces from Afghanistan. Among these reasons, he said he believes that the Afghan military would gain no further advantage from a continued American presence. I tend to agree with this assessment.
However, we didn’t go into Afghanistan to train their military; we went to fight terrorists. Afghanistan was one of the primary theaters of operations in the Global War on Terror. The theory was that we would be safer fighting terrorists in Afghanistan and disrupting their ability to operate within the United States than we would be to sit idly by and wait for them to attack us. This strategy has been mostly successful. Osama bin Laden is now dead, and while there have been smaller attacks, neither Al Qaeda nor the Taliban have succeeded in conducting another attack like 9/11 in the United States.
President Biden also said that the fall of Afghanistan was due to Afghan leaders’ unwillingness to govern and the Afghan military’s unwillingness to fight. He added that he could not in good faith commit United States troops to fight and die in a war to which Afghanistan’s own military was uncommitted. This is sensible foreign policy, except for the part where the Taliban exports terrorism.
While we all wish that the Afghan military would defeat the Taliban for their sake and ours, the reality is that our presence in Afghanistan has much more to do with the security interests of the United States than those of Afghanistan. Again, we are not there to take sides in a foreign civil war, as President Biden suggested, but to prevent the Taliban from terrorizing the United States.
The Best Plan
Toward that end, there is no deadline by which we should stop defending America. We may be able to transition from active ground combat to a role characterized by peacekeeping, the development of strategic alliances, and close air support, but we should not completely withdraw from this region. Our national security depends heavily on our presence there.
In the modern world, it is not enough for a military to defeat an enemy. We are, as stupid as it may sound, fighting ideologies. While changing who controls a piece of land is physical and straightforward, ideas can be hidden and lie dormant. They do not change as quickly.
Consider the United States, founded in 1776 on the ideals of equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. None of the people fighting for those ideals in 1776 is still around today, but their beliefs remain. Our military is constantly being rebirthed, with servicemembers constantly joining and leaving its different branches. In fact, those who joined in the wake of 9/11 are now approaching retirement and most of today’s military were small children or not even born when these attacks happened. However, they still understand their responsibility to protect the United States and our way of life.
Similarly, today’s Taliban is twenty years older than the one we began fighting in 2001. Many of them have been killed, wounded, or captured over the past two decades. Any original fighters who remain are likely past their prime. Yet their cause is alive and well on the streets of Afghanistan today.
Ideas are stubborn and can endure much opposition. This is why it took D-Day to overthrow the Nazis and we remain in Germany today. This is why it took two atomic bombs to defeat the Japanese and we remain in Japan today. We stopped fighting in Korea, but South Korea prospers today because we remain there. Sadly, our withdrawal in Vietnam lost everything we had gained in the war. The pattern is clear, whether we are fighting fascism, imperialism, communism, or terrorism: Victory evaporates when the victor vacates.
President Biden noted that he was surprised by the speed at which the Afghan military surrendered and the Taliban took over the country. This raises some important questions. Was the Taliban recruiting and training right under everyone’s noses? Or did the Taliban infiltrate the Afghan military? Did we just spend two decades training and equipping those who want to harm us?
The president also noted that the United States was going to evacuate refugees from Afghanistan. This means they could potentially end up within the United States. If we don’t know where the Taliban presence came from, could we be unknowingly bringing terrorists into the United States? Also, are they able to come in through our porous southern border?
These questions all need answered before it’s too late, but I doubt they will be. We’re too interested in feel-good immigration policies, wokism in the military, the blame game, scoring political points, and countless other misplaced priorities. These all distract from the government’s responsibility to keep the country safe from its enemies. It’s a sad day for our country. The American people and our allies deserve better.