In an article that appeared in this platform on June 28, 2021, we considered the potential (unbecoming) exit of the US from Afghanistan and the security vacuum that could be filled by the EU, Russia and/or China. Such predictions were proven right by the self-inflicted defeat that the Biden administration managed to achieve after 20 years of toil, tears, and treasure.
The principle of the exit was a wise decision, but the way it was carried was a debacle, pure and simple. Tony Blair used a more acerbic language to describe the hurried, ill-prepared and botched withdrawal of combatants -without civilians- from the Afghan theater of operations: “Imbecilic”. We will add no more on the subject, but plenty on its consequences.
Saigon is long buried in older generations’ collective memories. No present day user of Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, from the X,Y,Z generations, remembers the scenes of the disgraceful evacuation of the US Embassy staff from the fallen city. However, scenes from Kabul airport are still unfolding before the world’s eyes and are playing out to a crowd that is tech-savvy and that can play, replay, store and, stream the awful episodes of this dishonorable withdrawal. We are not talking about the youths of Oslo, London, or Melbourne but the youths of Kandahar, Teheran, Pyongyang, and Gaza. For the latter, the myth of the US as a superpower, capable of deploying its long arm reach to the farthest spots of the globe is forever shattered. What will remain engraved in their memories is the picture of an undecisive Western democracy with dollars to spend, drones to spare, troops to sacrifice for mid-term elections and, whose commitment to democracy, the right of women and, the war on terror are but hollow slogans.
In all fairness, I was never a fan of the war on Afghanistan except as a retaliatory combat mission against the perpetrators of 9/11 and their protectors. Few believed in the mission of nation-building in Afghanistan or in Iraq for that matter. Fewer still believed in the wisdom of a permanent presence of US+NATO troops in a country that offers little strategic value to the Western hemisphere’s security. For all intents and purposes, Kabul is neither Berlin nor the Korean DMZ to justify permanent troop deployments. Berlin remains a bulwark of anti-Russian efforts to bully the European near-afar and, the DMZ has gained further momentum with the rise of China. Kabul has none of said factors and could have been handed over to local tribal chieftains long-time ago.
On the global level, the hurried escape from Afghanistan as staged by the Biden administration sends much poignant signals to all friends and foes. To stunned allies, especially NATO members, that poorly staged move screams of abandonment under fire, dereliction of duty, and convenient isolationism. To Russia and China those signals are ones of distress, systemic incoordination, and strategic retrenchment.
At home, the message is bleaker. Notwithstanding the rehearsed press conferences of the White House, the ‘Emperor is Naked’. President Biden and his key advisers including the Secretaries of State & Defense, the National Security Advisor, the Pentagon, the DIA, the CIA, the NSA, and all other related agencies look like stooges on the world stage. Not even the Bay of Pigs in 1961 comes close to describing the shambolic performance of the globe’s most powerful military. Here, the naked emperor is not solely the baffled President, or the painfully naïve Blinken, or the clearly incompetent Austin, or the clumsy Sullivan, or the inept Top Brass, or the unintelligent Intelligence Community, but all of them without exceptions.
Many US Presidents were defined by tragic moments including, amongst others, the fall of Saigon for Ford, the taking of American hostages in Teheran for Carter, the bombing of US Marines’ barracks in Beirut for Reagan, (Monica Lewinsky for Clinton), 9/11 for GW, Benghazi for Obama, and now Kabul for Biden. Each of these tragic events played out differently for each President.
We posit that the ‘Kabul Debacle’ could be the proverbial straw that broke Biden’s presidential back, as it signals the sinking of this presidency’s political vessel. Consequences will be felt in the Congressional elections of 2022 and the Presidential elections in 2024. Moreover, the EU and the UK will start their own skeptical review of NATO’ relevancy, joining an unlikely bedfellow namely, Pres. Trump who in prior times had accused the EU of poorly funding and abusing, the Transatlantic organization. Now, the shoe is on the other foot. Farther down the map, Iran and Turkey are biding their time, feeling lucky for not having bet the house on the current US administration. Traditional Gulf allies have already shot their messages across the bow of OPEC by rebuffing the Biden administration’s plea to increase oil production to ease the US’ post-Covid recovery. They need not worry about the occupant of the White House. He prefers to sleep comfortably in Delaware than staying up all night to oversee the rescue of US citizens from the clutches of a medieval, barbaric bunch, armed with the latest weaponry courtesy of fellow US-taxpayers.
In the meantime, the naked emperor and his supporting mainstream media go about their daily routines unfazed, as to vindicate a saying by Winston Churchill: “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened”.