TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE — By acting nobly on slavery, Abraham Lincoln once said, America could be “the last best hope of Earth.” But right now we look more like the United States of incompetence.
Under the leadership of another president, Joe Biden, we are deserting Afghanistan, surrendering to a puny military opponent, promoting torment, death and injustice, losing respect around the world and abetting a reign of demonically inspired fear.
But wait, wasn’t it President George W. Bush who got us there in the first place, with support from Biden? The answer is yes, and Bush was right.
Fanatically monstrous al-Qaida terrorists took 2,996 lives in the Sept. 11 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., in 2001, and Bush went after their home base, facing resistance from the Taliban tribe then in charge. Providing airpower and trained troops to back up right-minded, rebellious Afghans, we chased the Taliban to Pakistan and began the shriveling of al-Qaida.
This was 20 years ago, and we hung around, still fighting the Taliban and other bad guys, helping to build a new government, putting together a military, doing some nation-building, trying to stop the opium and heroin trade and keeping other terrorist groups out. We were successful in that last effort, thank heavens. But the Taliban kept hitting back; corruption in government and the military put on a show; nation-building never worked; and drugs remained a hefty part of Afghan income.
The cost in American military lives has been about 2,500 while we spent something around $2.2 trillion. What you found in Washington was largely thumb-twiddling.
You can’t say Biden twiddled his thumbs, however. He lately announced we were getting out and that he had been advised this would be pretty much safe and sound — which is the opposite of what his advisers actually said, according to press reports. He has blamed inhumane mishaps on President Donald Trump’s evacuation deal, which is as bogus as saying he improved Trump’s Southern border program.
Responding to the virtual invitation, the Taliban did not wait for the Sept. 11 evacuation date but said here we come. The terrorists quickly took over practically the whole country while thousands trembled and hid or fled, or tried to flee, as in grabbing the outside of an American passenger plane and falling to their deaths.
The Afghan military — supported by $82 billion from the United States — was very, very strong, Biden had said, strong to the tune of barely showing up, it turned out. The government crumbled, and the Taliban replacement is making promises it is already breaking.
The United States is obligated to save endangered Afghans and American citizens, of course, and make sure Afghan women escape horrible abuses. The Taliban nods its head “Yes” about the women but has already acted differently.
What we have seen here is Biden the decision-maker, not some gaffe-ridden puppet of others. He has voted for wars but then turned against them and worked for America’s embarrassing Saigon leap out of Vietnam.
The thing is, the best exit strategy in a war is victory. And what we should do in Afghanistan is force the Taliban military into surrender and disarmament with deadly consequences if it tries to rearm.
“If the U.S. cannot even secure a victory in a rivalry with small countries, how much better could it do in a major power game with China?” a Chinese Communist Party newspaper is quoted by The Hill as having said, and our European allies are making it known they aren’t all that interested in taking us seriously anymore.
This is not just about Biden but about the future generally; about those trapped in Afghanistan; about new terrorist attacks; about ever more credible threats from China, Russia and Iran, among others; and about evil forces gaining power when we need to be offering the Earth hope.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send emails to email@example.com. © 2021 Tribune Content Agency.