I understand the desire to get out of Afghanistan. We have been there for 20 years, and it is obvious that a stable government allied with us would never be able to defeat the Taliban without our backup. That government was always going to collapse once American forces left, and Afghanistan would once again become a base for jihadists. It remains to be seen what this will mean for our security.
With that said, I do not believe the public would be as weary of this war if we did not insert ourselves into conflict after conflict where we have no national security interest and especially where we have no Congressional authorization to go to war. Syria is a civil war where both sides are our enemies. We destabilized Libya when the Obama regime used military force without authorization from Congress. We had no national security interest in the war in Yugoslavia, either.
Afghanistan is different. We were directly attacked by a terrorist group that was harbored and protected by the Taliban. The mass murder committed on September 11 was not just an act of war – it was a war crime. It was absolutely critical that the war criminals responsible be hunted down and exterminated. Allowing al-Qaida to get away with committing a massacre of American civilians on American soil would have encouraged more jihadist war crimes. Osama bin Laden himself was emboldened by our weakness in Somalia.
But we got one thing very wrong: This was always a religious war. Muslim terrorists are very different from secular enemies we have faced in the past. Communists are willing to commit horrifying war crimes against others, but Muslim terrorists will gladly kill themselves for a chance to slaughter women and children. Radical Islam is an incredibly poisonous “religion” that fuels fanaticism.
Along the way, a relatively straightforward mission – exterminating al-Qaida terrorists and punishing the Taliban for harboring them – became needlessly complicated. Nation-building was never going to work. There was far too much corruption in the Afghan government. Secular western democracy could not attract the same level of devotion as militant Islam. Nation-building should not have been the goal, but if we were going to leave something stable behind, it should have been based on Christian principles.
The withdrawal itself was incredibly badly botched, leaving behind thousands of people (and their families) who had collaborated with us in good faith. The women are already being violently gang raped and forced into “marriage,” while the men will be tortured and massacred. Our credibility and trustworthiness has been permanently damaged by Biden’s reckless hasty retreat.
Of course, we should not forget the MAGA types who were apologizing for Donald Trump’s efforts to get us out of Afghanistan – with a withdrawal date three months before Biden eventually withdrew. Many of the same people who praised Trump are now attacking Biden. Perhaps Trump would not have botched the execution of the surrender as badly as Biden did, but he was still intending to surrender. Some of the MAGA types would not have supported the policy if it were pushed by anyone other than Trump, which indicates cultish devotion to a man instead of actual principles or a serious analysis of policy.
So what was the solution? Ideally, we never should have attempted nation-building at all. But the fact of the matter is we were stuck with that nation-building pipe dream, and it was always going to end badly when we left unless we gave the Afghan people something much higher to follow than secular western democracy. Over the next few years at least, the best solution was to maintain a footprint to prevent al-Qaida from re-establishing a base and prevent the very jihadist domination that we are seeing now.
In the long term, to be brutally honest, I have no idea. There was never going to be a permanent victory to a nation-building project that was always doomed to fail.