The precipitous withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan should teach America’s allies a basic lesson. You cannot trust the Americans as true alliance partners and should not believe all the reassurances of American leaders, diplomats, and bureaucrats.
Neither President Joe Biden nor his predecessor Donald Trump cares about Afghanistan. They could never maintain a commitment to a distant, difficult, dangerous land that seemed so remote, geographically, also strategically, from America’s vital interests. Out of sight, out of mind, might be Biden’s view of Afghanistan as it was for Trump. The two, Biden and Trump, may disagree on a lot of things, but both of them had no doubt Afghanistan was a waste of time, money, and lives.
Americans will probably get over Afghanistan. At least that’s what Biden is hoping as he minimizes the impact of an unmitigated disaster that may still be haunting candidates of his Democratic Party in next year’s mid-term congressional elections and reverberate in the 2024 presidential election.
Most Americans don’t know where to find Afghanistan on a map. They would just as soon it disappear from the headlines if not from wrenching memories of the sudden fall of the American-backed regime and the terror of thousands of Afghans trying to avoid getting killed by the Taliban. The scenes of chaos at the airport, the fears of those left to the mercy of the Taliban may be regrettable to Biden, but they’re hoping all that will soon be yesterday’s news. Never mind that Biden’s order to stop intruding into someone else’s civil war betrays the loss of those 2,312 American soldiers who died there in the two decades since George W. Bush had to send U.S. troops there following the attacks by Al Qaeda terrorists on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
Biden, having served as vice president while Barack Obama was president, should have had an intimate understanding of the American role. He should have read the intelligence reports on what was likely to happen if the Americans decided suddenly to pull out. The departure of U.S. forces from Afghanistan turned into a rout that is more than a black mark on Biden’s presidency. It’s a moment in history that makes a mockery of America’s heritage as a defender of liberty and human rights around the world.
That realization has grave implications for U.S. allies, none more so than in Asia.
Biden may be put to the test if China decides it’s time to recover Taiwan, to invade the island state and place it under mainland rule. Chinese warplanes have been flying over waters that fall under Taiwan’s jurisdiction, and there are signs of a Chinese military buildup on its side of the Taiwan straits. Bill Clinton as U.S. president in 1996 sent warships into the straits after China test-fired some missiles in a gesture of intimidation, but would Biden have the courage to act so decisively?
It’s easy to imagine the rationalizations for why the U.S. would refuse to risk going to war for Taiwan Biden might find it quite simple not to rush to Taiwan’s defense since Taiwan is not a treaty partner. The U.S., like most other countries, recognizes Beijing as the capital of all China and maintains relations with Taiwan through an American “institute,” the equivalent of an embassy. The U.S. has no bases or troops in Taiwan. With Biden as president, the danger is that we would resort to hand-wringing and statement-making, no defense against a Chinese onslaught.
The U.S. alliance with Korea should in theory be much stronger than any U.S. commitment to Taiwan, The Americans, having risen to the defense of the Republic of Korea in 1950, have maintained bases and troops in South Korea ever since. Biden, however, is no Harry Truman, the president who got the UN to set up the UN Command and ordered U.S. forces into the South, halting the North Koreans at the Pusan perimeter, driving them back to the North and fending off the Chinese after they had overwhelmed Seoul.
North Korea, now armed with nukes and missiles, poses a much more severe threat than in 1950. It will take an American president with the will to guarantee the independence of the South from North Korean dictatorship. Biden, as shown by his performance in Afghanistan, has no guts. Koreans will have to defend the South against a North Korean menace that may worsen as China gains strength throughout the region.