Sunday, December 5

Afghanistan: Biden and America’s National Interests | Opinion


US President Joe Biden at the White House on August 18.
US President Joe Biden at the White House on August 18.Pete Marovich / POOL / EFE

I am the President of United States and the buck stops with me”, Which can be translated as“ I am the president and I have the responsibility ”. That forceful phrase was one of those made by Joe Biden in his historic speech on August 16, in which he justified his decision to leave Afghanistan. Without Hot Cloths, he informed the public opinion of his strategy and openly acknowledged what the media had already published in 2009, which had opposed the increase in troops of its president. While for Barack Obama Afghanistan was a “war of necessity” in which the US had to get involved in the reconstruction of the country, for Biden, as before for the Bush Administration, it was a mere counter-terrorist operation to end what had been the sanctuary. since the 9/11 attack had been launched, the most brutal against the US since Pearl Harbor.

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In fact, until 2014, two missions coexisted in Afghanistan: ISAF, under the mandate of the UN coordinated by NATO, and Enduring Freedom, a war mission against terrorism. For then Vice President Biden, the use of drones and surgical counterterrorism operations was the only thing possible in a country that was in the stone age and in which in his opinion there were no national interests of the United States at stake. since an anti-terrorist operation killed Bin Laden in Pakistan. From that moment on, the decision had to be made to leave and, as he stated last Monday, he did not want to transfer it to the next president.

That fine line that is the coexistence of US national interests and collaboration with other partners is what allows establishing trust and forging or preventing alliances. In that exceptional historical circumstance that was the Cold War, in one of the most delicate moments, 1949, the NATO Treaty could be signed with the automaticity of Article 5, which was not used precisely until September 2001. Mistrust about how far the US was willing to go to ensure the security of European democracies was what led de Gaulle to develop an autonomous nuclear program.

The internal debate on national interests was what made the Clinton Administration leave Somalia, did not intervene in Rwanda and was so reluctant to get involved in the conflicts in the Balkans, the grave of many empires. Those same national interests were those that had made Nixon, on Kissinger’s advice, leave Vietnam and open a dialogue with China; Reagan leaving Lebanon when he had to receive coffins with American soldiers; and to Obama, “leading from behind” in Libya and reversing his own words when he stated during the conflict in Syria that the use of chemical weapons would be a “red line.”

Those national interests are those that have made dictators support or fall – Egypt, the Philippines, Persia, Cuba, Chile … -, disavow their allies in Suez or remain undaunted in Hungary in 1956 or in Prague in 1968. A particular interpretation of the national interest is what made the neocons to invade Iraq, showing a profound ignorance about the effects of trying to impose a dogmatic vision on the historical reality of the region.

Are US national interests at stake in Afghanistan today? The Biden of 2021 has made the decision that it would have liked to be made in 2011, but the world has changed profoundly in the last decade. Xi Jinping’s China today has nothing to do with that of then. Neither is Putin’s Russia. The same can be said of an Iran that today has more incentives to be a nuclear power. To which must be added the traditional tension between Pakistan and India.

The world has been transformed, Afghanistan was, once again, the strategic centerpiece of a complex board and that disorderly exit leaving an ally (corrupt and who had been given countless opportunities) leaves many doubts. In addition, the country had a powerful symbolism for our time for the crushing of women’s rights that the Taliban regime supposes. The US had a key position with minimal cost (as is now the case in Iraq) so it is difficult to understand the exit in these circumstances. His “true strategic competitors” as Biden called Russia and China, are going to fill the strategic void that he has left, as they always do. And while, in the Middle East, in Ukraine, in Latin America, note is being taken of this decision.

It would be good if Europe also took note. Not because of stale anti-Americanism, but because the United States is our only security umbrella. Americans have had on the other end of the line a specialist in haikus. A few months ago, on a visit to Turkey, the highlight was an institutional battle over reception chairs. Since Javier Solana ceased to be High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security (mister PESC) there has not been a level interlocutor for the US. They are the essential ally for Europe and have put their cards on the table.

It would be good to begin to be serious and credible because, as that old realistic adage affirms, the strong do what they want, the weak what they leave them and the United States, once again, has been relentless in defending its interests. Regarding the position of the Spanish Government, the fact that, while all this was happening, the president considered that it was not a relevant issue to suspend the holidays and that he had remained isolated in the National Heritage summer house is significant enough about where the hard-earned irrelevance.

Pablo Hispán Iglesias de Ussel He is Deputy Foreign Spokesperson for the Popular Party in Congress.


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