When news first broke that our withdrawal from Afghanistan had been a disaster, some of you slammed me for failing to speak out. I had my opinion, but wanted to wait until it was more certain what actually had happened. Now that the nation's top generals, including Joint Chiefs Chair Mark Milley have testified before a Senate panel, we know that Donald Trump and Joe Biden both betrayed our counterparts and left without leaving a stable and humane government in their wake. Their foolish withdrawal means that roughly 2,500 American soldiers died for no reason. We also flushed $2 trillion down the toilet.
Our military adventurism in the Middle East was spawned by the 9/11 attacks. In the days following that terrorism, a rage militaire, as the French call it, dominated our thinking. We had to attack someone, anyone, preferably Muslim,. So we hit Iraq, even though it had nothing to do with the airline hijackings. Of course, everyone slapped each other on the back and waved flags. Iraq was not enough. We had to go into Afghanistan to get Osama bin Laden. We all cheered and waved flags again. Congress was nearly unanimous in its support.
At that time, I was guest hosting a local radio show and was one of the few voices who spoke out against military involvement. The very people who now condemn the "forever wars" were ready to string me up. I was called unAmerican, etc,
Before the "shock and awe" started, you might recall that then Secretary of State Colin Powell warned President George W Bush of the pottery barn rule. Once you invade a country and muck things up, you have an obligation to fix it before you leave. Anything less makes your initial actions meaningless and reduces you in the eyes of your allies.
You break it, you fix it.
We broke it.
Time went on and the rage militaire waned, as it always does. The very people who were prancing around and saluting each other now decided it was time to pull out. Never mind that the region was still unstable. Or that we would creating a power vacuum that will be filled by China, Russia, Iran or yet another terrorist group. Or that we are signalling our allies that we are unworthy of their trust.
This is what happened during the Civil War. Though the Union had vastly more resources than the Confederacy, Robert E Lee knew he could win if he destroyed the political will of the North. George McClellan ran against Abraham Lincoln on a platform that included a negotiated peace with the South, a peace under which slavery would continue. Lincoln was immensely unpopular because a war that was supposed to last 90 days had gone on for years. A decisive blow in the North would ruin Lincoln politically, Lee hypothesized.
Lee was correct. But then he lost at Gettysburg while William Tecumseh Sherman ran wild in the South, traipsing all the way to Atlanta without a supply line.
Unfortunately, there are no William Tecumseh Shermans or Ulysses S. Grants in Afghanistan or Syria. And no Lincoln in the White House. It was hard to justify a war to end something as horrible as slavery in our own country. It's been next to impossible to justify a war to ensure stability (and basic human rights) on foreign soil.
In February 2020, dealmaker Donald Trump agreed to pull out of Afghanistan by May 2021, freed 5,000 Taliban prisoners, and reduced troop strength from 13,000 to a scant 2,500. Never mind that Taliban attacks continued.
Now the very patriots who were waving flags and slapping each other on the back when we went into these countries, were waving flags and slapping each other on the back when we decided to pull out.
Trump's new policy certainly is the view of most Americans. I know mine is a minority view. We expect things to happen in five minutes, and lack the patience of older civilizations like the Chinese, who can wait for centuries. Trump ignored the advice he received from the military, although they will be the first to admit that civilian authority is paramount.
Biden may disagree with Trump on many things, but he like Trump knows those "forever wars" are unpopular. So he followed through, and as we now know, he also ignored military advice that some troops needed to stay in place to keep the government from collapsing and to guarantee that those who wanted to leave could leave. He may have even lied by denying such advice was given to him.
No one will ever confuse Biden or Trump with Honest Abe.
So basically, I believe both Trump and Biden botched our withdrawal and have weakened us in the eyes of our allies. If we were really interested in global security, we'd still be there.