Last week, as Afghanistan crumbled, I found myself reading “How to Win Friends & Influence People,” one of the best-selling books of the 20th century. As I digested Dale Carnegie’s advice, I found myself wondering if President Biden owned a copy. His actions, on first inspection, seem to indicate that he doesn’t.
After all, if reports are to be believed, the President abandoned the people of Afghanistan. Carnegie famously urged readers to show respect for other people’s opinions: “We must never tell people flat out that they are wrong. It will only serve to offend them and insult their pride. No one likes to be humiliated; we must not be so blunt.” By ignoring military commanders’ advice, Biden appears to have also ignored Carnegie’s advice. However, military commanders, along with the U.S. government, have been lying to the American public for two decades. According to the President, “The events we’re seeing now are sad proof that no amount of military force will ever deliver a stable, united, secure Afghanistan.” At last, some brutal honesty.
With the withdrawal, many lives will be lost. Sadly, this is the nature of warfare, especially in a country that’s as volatile as Afghanistan. There was never a scenario where this ended well. Could Biden have handled the withdrawal better? Of course. But to blame him, and him alone, is thoroughly disingenuous. The war has been going on for 20 years. It had to end; three more months would have made absolutely no difference. The United States has spent more than $83 billion training and equipping the Afghan military.
To date, according to Brown University’s “Costs of War” project, the full cost of the extended-excursion is $2.26 trillion. More than 20,000 Americans have been wounded, and 2,300 Americans have lost their lives; tens of thousands of civilians have died. Today, the Taliban is stronger than it was back in 2001. What a complete waste of money, time, and lives. The “war on terror” clearly failed, and it failed long before Biden came into office. It’s important to remember that the Afghan security forces, inept and corrupt, have also failed their people.
How did we get here, how did we get to a position where the Taliban, a fanatic movement composed of thugs and warlords, now rules Afghanistan? The country has always been ruled by murderous warlords. It has never known democracy, and it probably never will. Trying to bring peace to a historically unpeaceful place is like trying to turn a bobcat into a house cat. Nevertheless, opportunistic journalists, all too eager to cash in on the tragedy unfolding, are busy criticizing the President. Interestingly, the more knowledgeable war correspondents (see here and here) are the only ones willing to defend him.
Either way, whether one supports or vehemently opposes Biden’s decision, the departure from Afghanistan will have far-reaching consequences. As the journalist Bret Stephens recently noted, what happens in Afghanistan will affect the entire world. Stephens is, of course, correct. The Syrian Civil War resulted in a spillover effect that spread across the Middle East, with countries like Turkey, Iran, and Lebanon all sucked into a violent vortex. Now, as Stephens warns, the country “most immediately at risk from an ascendant Taliban is neighboring Pakistan,” a place synonymous with internecine warfare. “After years of Islamabad giving sanctuary and support for the Afghan Taliban,” warns Stephens, “Pakistan must now fear that the next regime in Kabul will give sanctuary and support for the Pakistani Taliban.”
With the Taliban in power, terrorists will have a new home. Afghanistan will become the go-to destination for aspiring terrorists. With more disenfranchised, angry young men entering Afghanistan, we can expect to see more terrified people leaving the country. Where will these people go? A number of European nations, already struggling with an influx of migrants, will find themselves facing a new wave of desperate, traumatized individuals. Displaced and destitute, many of these people will struggle to adapt in the Western world.
We should also expect to see an increase in acts of jihad. Six years ago, France, a country where Islamic extremism exerts a nefarious influence, found itself plagued by suicide bombings, beheadings, and fatal shootings. There is every reason to believe that we will witness further atrocities in cities across Europe. The fall of Kabul will create a new generation of radicals and fanatics. Europe will pay a heavy price.
In Carnegie’s influential book, the author pleads with readers to admit when they are at fault. “If you’re wrong,” then “admit it quickly and emphatically.” With the disaster in Afghanistan, who should admit fault? President Biden? That’s not exactly fair. He just happens to be a single part of a complex, problematic puzzle that has been going on for two decades. For years, presidents have promised to bring the troops home. Biden, to his credit, is doing just that. One can support the withdrawal and criticize Biden’s execution. Nevertheless, the United States military had to leave Afghanistan.
Bin Laden was killed 10 years ago. The mission was complete then. Instead, the United States decided to stay another decade, desperately trying to bring hope to a largely hopeless place. The romantic notion of introducing democratic norms to countries opposed to the very notion of democracy was delusional in 2001, and it’s delusional today. Withdrawing the troops was always going to be messy, tragic, and utterly brutal. In many ways, it was always going to end in further bloodshed.
Afghanistan is situated on a geological fault-line; earthquakes are a regular feature. But the country is also situated on cultural and political fault-lines. Earthquakes, in the form of bloody violence, are also a regular feature. They have been throughout history.
In this age of partisan politics, however, nuance is lost. Afghanistan is not America. It never has been, and it never will. To blame Biden solely for the fall of the country is not just wrong; it’s disingenuous and entirely opportunistic. Some perspective is sorely needed.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.