The president’s decisions on Afghanistan will haunt his legacy.
Now that we’ve reached the stage of finger-pointing and blame-shifting on just how Afghanistan was lost, it’s important to remember that the entire disaster now slamming into the lives of millions of people who had been our allies is the direct result of a deliberate decision made by the president of the United States.
Joe Biden has cast himself as a leader with a deep understanding of foreign affairs. But reality is showing that his experience isn’t saving him from an international blunder that will deal a blow to American morale and undercut U.S. leadership abroad.
Biden has told the country that the United States can’t fix every other country’s problems. He’s said that no matter how long the U.S. stays in Afghanistan, the end result would be the same. Biden and his secretary of state have said that staying in Afghanistan doesn’t serve our national interests.
The truth is that Afghanistan was an ally of ours and a vital one in the essential task of preventing the rise of a violent religious extremist movement that seeks to hijack one of the world’s great religions. Building a coalition to oppose that movement is squarely within our national interests.
The U.S. did have a moral debt to those who courageously fought next to us, which is why so many in the American military community are pressing to rescue translators and others who worked for us.
And while the U.S. can’t fix every problem other countries face, preserving a free Afghanistan was within our ability. All that was needed was the political will to keep a few thousand troops in the country and a vision that involved staring down a vicious and determined enemy. It wasn’t a matter of continuing a “forever war.” It was a matter of remaining engaged in the world so as not to cede it to those whose governing philosophy is to terrorize the people into compliance.
The president, recognizing American horror at the images of desperation and fear flooding in from Afghanistan, attempted to exercise some damage control in a brief speech Monday. He cast his decision as “the buck stops here” courage.
But in almost the same breath he paid lip service to America standing for the human rights of Afghan women and girls whose lives, we fear, are all but forfeit as the Taliban reasserts its cruel hold. Those words were empty. America has no path to stand for them because of Biden’s decision.
What should be obvious now is that Biden’s vision for America’s role in the world is cynically nearsighted. His break with Afghanistan damaged America’s alliances across the world. Would-be American supporters will now think twice before helping our troops in hot spots. At the same time, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan will now ask themselves, along with Great Britain, France, Poland and many others, how good is Biden’s word?
The historic dignity of the office grants American presidents a level of moral authority to lead, but not every president retains that authority. Biden has just knocked loose the moral underpinnings of his authority by abandoning an ally, misleading the American people about what would happen next, and then displaying a callousness to the fate of millions of people now trapped under Taliban rule. He’ll soon find out how damaging the loss of trust will be to him and his presidency. The disillusionment of millions of Americans will not be limited to foreign policy. It will extend to a reluctance to follow his lead on any major initiative he undertakes. Afghanistan will haunt Biden’s legacy, and it will forever rebound to his shame.
— THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS