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Why Joe Biden’s Afghanistan Speech Was a Disaster

Biden Afghanistan Speech
President Joe Biden arrives to delivers remarks to essential and frontline workers and military families attending the Fourth of July celebration, Sunday, July 4, 2021, on the South Lawn of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Katie Ricks)

President Joe Biden addressed the nation on the unfolding tragedy in Afghanistan. He was unrepentant. “I Do Not Regret My Decision,” he declared.

His speech did little to resolve the concerns a bipartisan array of Americans have for two reasons: First, he relied on a dishonest strawman and, second, the Afghan withdrawal contradicts the reasons he cited to justify his policy.

First, the strawman: “I cannot and will not ask our troops to fight on endlessly in another country’s civil war,” he declared.

But, no one was asking that, and it is not what American troops were doing.

Over the past five years, the Pentagon had reduced the American presence to under 10,000 troops. The presence was a deterrent and led to few American casualties.

Indeed, over that period, far fewer Americans have died in Afghanistan than residents of Baltimore have died in automobile accidents.

Past efforts to nation-building were an expensive and misguided mistake, but not the American military presence which had evolved into a mission set not dissimilar from what the Pentagon maintains in Korea.

Biden, like President Donald Trump before him, also justified his desire to withdrawal in order to “face threats of today…not yesterday’s.”

The problem here is that he accomplishes neither. He is right that terrorism is a worldwide phenomenon. President George W. Bush and NATO allies ordered forces into Afghanistan in order to deny Al Qaeda a safe haven from which they could again attack the American homeland or Europe. What Biden now does in the name of being forward-looking is to create a vacuum into which terrorist groups will again sink root.

Deterrence will be difficult. After all, the Taliban believes they defeated the United States and will not take future threats from the Oval Office seriously. Rather than move on from a past threat, Biden resurrects them.

As to future threats, Biden—like Trump—worries about China. (Both Biden and Trump may also say they worry about Russia, but the sum of both their policies—both bullying Ukraine and Biden allowing Nord Stream-2 to move forward—empower the Kremlin). Rather than enhance America’s position against China, however, Biden has hemorrhaged it.

If Americans are tired of defending Afghanistan as Biden claims, should Beijing believe they will stand up to defend Taiwan? By enabling China to advance its interests in Afghanistan, Biden is also enables it to cut-off India and other American allies from Central Asia.

Simply put, If Biden considers surrendering Afghanistan to the Taliban to be a forward-looking strategy as his speech implies, then the worst is yet to come. Biden’s incompetence now risks the entire post-World War II liberal order.  God help the United States.

Michael Rubin is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a 19FortyFive Contributing Editor. 

Written By

Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, Dr. Michael Rubin is a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Dr. Rubin is the author, coauthor, and coeditor of several books exploring diplomacy, Iranian history, Arab culture, Kurdish studies, and Shi’ite politics, including “Seven Pillars: What Really Causes Instability in the Middle East?” (AEI Press, 2019); “Kurdistan Rising” (AEI Press, 2016); “Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes” (Encounter Books, 2014); and “Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos” (Palgrave, 2005).