If You Want To Make Friends, Keep Your Word

The disaster unfolding in Afghanistan is beyond my comprehension, as is the stunning stupidity that led to it.

If I’m to believe the media reports I see, we pulled out military forces before evacuating U.S. citizens, before evacuating our Afghan allies, before we removed our weapons and equipment, and without notifying our allies such as U.K. and France. We did this after shutting down air support for the Afghan government forces which virtually removed those forces from the field. Further, we did this as a Taliban offensive was underway.

We now have thousands of Americans and Afghan allies trapped behind enemy lines, and billions of dollars worth of U.S. military hardware in the hands of terrorists.

And according to Joe Biden himself, in his own words, this was all carefully planned. He and his administration were “clear-eyed” about every bit of this. Every contingency was planned for. If we take Joe at his word, this outcome was exactly what he had in mind, it is exactly what he expected (it just happened a little more quickly than he thought).

But I’m simply rehashing what is already widely reported now. As an American, the welfare of our citizens and our military is the top of my priority list – as it should be for all Americans. But I would like to spend a little time here discussing what is not getting quite as much press, our Afghan allies.

I find Biden’s assertion last week that the mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to be “nation-building” ridiculous. The Taliban controlled the country and sheltered al-Queda. To take down the terrorists we had to take down what was then the Afghan government. One would assume there would be a plan to replace the government we took down, that is nation-building.

I watched the fall of Saigon on the evening news when it happened. It was not quite as disastrous from a strictly military or U.S. civilian standpoint, but it was from the standpoint of our South Vietnamese allies.

I went to school with a lot of kids whose families had fled South Vietnam in the wake of the collapse. Many I knew personally. Many were very conflicted about their feelings toward the United States. All were grateful to be alive and to have successfully made it to the U.S. But many were also bitter. They felt the U.S. had lied to them, reneged on promises, abandoned them and their families to communists bent on revenge. I heard many stories about what had happened to family members that were not able to escape.

Imagine trusting the people that rolled in to help you only to have them leave, and then having to flee the only country you ever knew because your neighbors are now trying to kill you in revenge for trusting the helpers. I’m fortunate as an American that such a thing is beyond my imagination.

This is what is happening now to the Afghans that trusted and believed us. Their chances do not appear to be very good at all.

I’m not a foreign policy expert and I have no business commenting on the wisdom of any attempt at nation-building, but I do believe that once you go in, you have a moral obligation to follow through, you have a moral obligation to protect those that trusted you.

What we left in Vietnam, for many of its citizens, was worse than what we started with. The same holds for Afghanistan. I know it’s an oversimplification, but to a large degree what we left in both cases was little more than half the country bent on murderous revenge against the other half. I could not blame any person anywhere in the world for a deep mistrust of American commitment and intentions.

The United States has a solid 50-year track record of this now.


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