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Will America betray its allies?

Published at: 28-08-2021

Posted on: August 28th, 2021 by RaduC No Comments

Much has already been said and much ink has been spilled about the rushed and poorly planned American pullout from Afghanistan. And rightly so. There is a large consensus that the withdrawal could have been gradual, better organized and more mindful of all those who have supported NATO forces all these 20 years. Unfortunately, though, political comments sometimes go the extra mile for the sake of sensationalism, governed by emotions, ignorance or ill-faith and thus leading public opinion down a wrong or downright dangerous path. Such approaches are even harder to understand when it is experienced journalists or pundits who take them.

A telling example is provided by the Financial Times columnist, Gideon Rachman, a foreign affairs specialist with an impressive resume. Instead of refuting the false claims professed by illiberal countries, he has become their voice. In his article Joe Biden’s credibility has been shredded in Afghanistan, he stated, among other otherwise legitimate comments, the following:

“The US failure makes it much harder for Biden to push his core message that “America is back”. By contrast, it fits perfectly with two key messages pushed by the Chinese (and Russian) governments. First, that US power is in decline. Second, that American security guarantees cannot be relied upon. If the US will not commit to a fight against the Taliban, there will be a question mark over whether America would really be willing to go to war with China or Russia. Yet America’s global network of alliances is based on the idea that, in the last resort, US troops would indeed be deployed to defend their allies in Asia, Europe and elsewhere.

In other words, the credibility of the US within military alliances, such as NATO or QUAD, has been badly hurt and their allies will have serious doubts about America’s willingness to see through its commitments and the extent to which they can count on such an ally going forward.”

This is a hasty and wrong conclusion which, however, can be very effective by undermining the strength of Western alliances. A present, unwittingly, we hope, given to their adversaries. When I referred to the conclusion as being hasty and wrong, I meant that it is underpinned by contrite and incorrect comparisons.

Afghanistan has not been subject to foreign aggression. It was neither Iran’s nor China’s army that invaded the country. The military alliances that the US is part of are meant to protect their members from foreign aggression. That has never been the case with Afghanistan. The Taliban, irrespective of the sentiment they inspire, are part of the people of the country.

What parallel can be drawn here between a small or medium-sized country throwing everything it has in a war against a foreign enemy and the Afghani civil war? How strong is the moral and political rational to assist a state that risks invasion despite fierce resistance compared to that of helping a country which is not willing to help itself?

Obviously, our hearts go to those who suffer and our minds shudder at the medieval discriminations that are about to resurface. This should not, however, prevent us from noticing that, for example, nearly no woman in the pictures taken at Kabul airport could be seen among the crowds of Afghans thronging the planes. Just men … They are the ones supposed to fight the Taliban and for women’s equal rights.

The difference between the commitment to liberal values that underpins an alliance such as NATO, and the US and NATO military motivation in Afghanistan is so conspicuous that any comparison is bound to sound ridiculous. As a matter of fact, given the current geopolitical setting, the US has a particular interest in bolstering any political and military partnership with those who share their concerns. It is all too clear for America that in a multipolar world, nobody can claim to be the world’s peacekeeper anymore, which is why the role of alliances will become even more important.

Alas, such clarifications, rarely expressed in Romania, seem to me paramount to any border country that relies on the US and NATO partnership. The above-mentioned hasty and unfounded conclusions, although probably not taken seriously by top decision-makers, can potentially seriously harm people’s morale and trust.

For whose benefit?

Have a nice weekend!

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