“You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war”
Winston Churchill to Neville Chamberlin, 1938
As the chaotic withdrawal from Kabul continues and the Taliban now control Afghanistan, how should the U.S. respond to its disastrous withdrawal?
Mr. Paul Wolfowitz, a veteran foreign policy and military analyst, offers the following suggestions for how the U.S. can recover from this disaster. Start out by acknowledging the mistakes that were made:
- First, acknowledge that the war on terrorism isn’t over and will last for a long time. Decisive victory isn’t necessarily better than “forever war” if a long commitment can keep America safe at a much lower cost in American lives.
- Second, the rush to get out and the failure to respond to Taliban aggression hastened the collapse of the Afghan army.
- Third, choosing to avoid “forever war” by abandoning our Afghan allies was both costly and dishonorable. We have now lost the Afghan army which was keeping the Taliban at bay with much reduced costs in American lives and money.
- Fourth, it was wrong to disparage the bravery of the Afghans, 66,000 of whom have died defending their country. S. fatalities had been averaging about 20 per year since the U.S. switched to a largely advisory role in 2015. But now the Taliban victory could reverberate far beyond Afghanistan and inspire terrorists around the world.
Then it is necessary to chart a path forward for recovery from this fiasco:
- First, attend to the safety of Americans, citizens of allied nations, and Afghans now endangered because they assisted in the fight against the Taliban. Do not let the Taliban dictate the terms under which we conduct such a morally and strategically vital mission.
- Second, there now needs to be more visible action and coordination with Japan and other allies to strengthen deterrence in order to forestall an attack on Taiwan by China.
- Third, more needs to be done to assure the weaker Persian Gulf countries that the U.S. will protect them against Iran.
Conclusion. How can a President who is known for his opposition to the 1991 Gulf War, his eagerness to leave both Iraq in 2011 and Afghanistan in 2021, and his opposition to the 2011 raid which killed Osama bin Laden, admit major errors of judgment with regard to the current situation in Afghanistan and propose a sensible road forward? It won’t be easy, of course, but the success of Biden’s Presidency; and therefore the near-term future of U.S. world-standing and security, depend on his willingness to bite the bullet and be willing to stand up much more firmly against our major adversaries.