AMAC Exclusive By: Daniel Roman
On September 11th, 2001, when the United States was attacked by Al-Qaeda based in Afghanistan, President George W. Bush received a phone call from British Prime Minister Tony Blair pledging his support. Blair had little to gain from the gesture. Bush was not popular in Britain. Nonetheless, Blair stood by America, sending British forces not just to Afghanistan, but also to Iraq. Despite the tensions that eventually developed over the Iraq War, it did not, however, end America’s alliance with Britain. That fell to Joe Biden. Joe Biden has done what Soviet leaders never managed to do. He has quite possibly destroyed the free world, and ended America’s global leadership.
The US-British alliance, which underpinned the war on Terror for twenty-years had by this past week descended into farce as British SAS forces abandoning the safety of Kabul airport to venture into the city to rescue stranded westerners were rebuked by US commanders for potentially undermining talks with the Taliban and making the US look bad. Unable to confront the Taliban in the field, the Biden Administration and its subordinates have been left to lash out at their friends.
Those friends are likely having serious doubts about the United States’ ability to lead the free world, at least under Joe Biden. According to a poll of British voters, 65% believe the West has let down the women and children of Afghanistan, compared to only 11% who disagree, while by a 59%-20% margin UK voters believe that the 457 British soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan died for nothing. Most strikingly, by a 44% to 16% margin, UK voters believed that “events in Afghanistan mark an end to America’s claim to be the leader of the free world.”
That result is shocking, but the British are far from alone. French commanders in Kabul have also clashed with US military officers over America’s passivity, while Angela Merkel, with typical German understatement, stated she believed the decision to press ahead with the withdrawal was made for “domestic political reasons in the United States” and that this contributed to the disastrous outcome. Her successor as party leader, Armin Laschet went further, describing the withdrawal as “the biggest debacle that NATO has suffered since its founding.” “The United States of America bears the main responsibility for the current situation,” Markus Soeder, the governor of Bavaria, said. “Because of their decision to leave Afghanistan, in parts overly hasty, they have the main responsibility.”
America’s friends are worried. But the country’s adversaries are taking pleasure in US failures, even if the Taliban present their own set of challenges for them. Vladimir Putin, in a meeting with Merkel said the West “must stop the irresponsible policy of imposing foreign values from abroad,” stating it was counterproductive to try to “build democracy in other countries according to foreign templates.” Having taken satisfaction in America’s misfortune, and thereby honored his guest through the old German tradition of scheudenfreuden, Putin kindly conceded that “But it’s not in our interests right now to stand on this point and talk about this as a failure. We were interested in the situation in the country being stable.”
Other foreign leaders went even further, suggesting that Afghanistan was better off with the Taliban in control, a direct challenge to US moral authority on the world stage. Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, a nominal US-ally, declared that Afghans had broken “shackles of slavery.” Khan, a former British cricketeer who was previously married to a Jewish socialite, has reinvented himself as a Islamic Anti-Western nationalist, demonstrating the way opportunists see the winds of international geopolitics blowing. He sees his own future, and Pakistan’s, in alliance with China, the Taliban, and Iran, not the United States.
India, by contrast, has been the only country to try and do anything about the Taliban. While Western nations struggled to manage evacuations, India pledged support to Afghanistan’s former Vice President Amrullah Saleh in reestablishing the Northern Alliance, which fought the Taliban between 1996 and 2001. Salah has received fawning profiles in Indian media, while India has pledged support to forces which have refused to surrender to the Taliban. While the US has apparently given up under Joe Biden, India cannot afford to, given its location in the region.
India and Pakistan’s reactions may point toward a future without American leadership. American allies, without being able to rely on America will have no choice but to step up if they live in dangerous areas. Expect Brazil, India, and maybe Japan to do so. Those who lack the strength to resist are much more likely to retreat into isolation or make accommodations, as Europeans likely will with Russia. The greatest risk is that, having witnessed American fecklessness and unreliability, states like South Korea and the Philippines look for their agreements with China.
Biden may not care. He believes Americans wanted the troops out no matter the cost or residual effects. As an old-style, small-state politician, Biden wants America to be Delaware, or perhaps Belgium. Maybe that will work. But if America becomes Belgium or New Zealand, what will happen to the actual Belgium or New Zealand? They are asking themselves that. And if America is too big for that then it will relearn the same lesson it learned in the 1990s. Efforts to hide from history end with history finding you.
Daniel Roman is the pen name of a frequent commentator and lecturer on foreign policy and political affairs, both nationally and internationally. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics.
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