The pullout of US troops from Afghanistan appears to be of a piece of a larger strategic reset – domestically and internationally – by the Biden administration. You may find some elements of this reset objectionable, but in many ways, it goes beyond and breaks with the governing assumptions and practices of a whole era of neoliberal governance by Republican and Democratic administrations alike. It doesn’t drive a lethal stake into the heart of neoliberalism and Reaganism, but there is little doubt that the enactment of many aspects of this reset would set the country on a different political and economic trajectory, and if sustained and deepened, could amount to the death knell of both and their main defender at this moment – the Republican Party. To say the obvious, this reset – or at least many elements of it – deserve the energetic and practical support of the broad and diverse coalition that elected Biden.
Too many people fail to realize (or do but refuse to admit it) that the situation in Afghanistan pre-pullout wasn’t stable. The Taliban kept their powder dry and remained in place only because US troop withdrawal was believed to be imminent. Had it not been, had the Biden administration announced instead that US troop deployment would continue well into the future, the current pause in fighting would have given way to a full scale battle. And is there any doubt who the winners would be?
The sudden collapse of the government in Kabul is both stunning and revealing. It is the cruelest indictment and repudiation of 20 years of imperial nation building on the part of both parties. It isn’t an argument for isolationism, but for a new foreign policy resting on peaceful, democratic, and equitable relations between states, the right of countries to national independence and their chosen path of development, broad scale assistance to the countries in the Global South, and a worldwide campaign against a warming planet and nuclear weapons.
The most strident critics of Biden’s handling of the draw down and evacuation of people from Kabul and elsewhere are right wing white nationalist authoritarians – all Republicans. Up to now not much of their critique of the Biden administration has stuck. Their hope is that this one will. We shouldn’t help them.