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Joe Biden was right all along Ignored by the Washington blob for a decade, his strategy's time has come

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times via Getty


September 17, 2021   4 mins

Soon after becoming Vice-President in 2009, Joe Biden told Barack Obama and the entire national security council that the United States should: stop trying to build a feminist democracy in Afghanistan of all places, stop trying to build a national army from a pre-national population, and stop paying Pakistan more than $2 billion a year for the use of the port of Karachi and the road to Kandahar while Pakistan was funding the Haqqani network that specialised in killing Americans.

White House staffers, and Obama’s first Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, would ridicule Biden’s repetitious perorations that simply ignored the expert consensus: both the civilian and military chiefs in the Pentagon, backed by leading “think tank” experts, fully agreed with Generals McChrystal and (Dr.) Petraeus. They were the commanders in Afghanistan who believed that progress was accelerating as more and more Afghans were rejecting fanaticism to embrace progress
 and the first-class experts agreed with them! Petraeus would soon promulgate his Counterinsurgency manual FM 3-24 ( my review: “counterinsurgency as military malpractice”).

On April 1 2011, when Mazar-i-Sharif demonstrators attacked the UN Assistance Mission, they killed three “Christians” including the female Norwegian colonel Siri Skare. This after President Karzai (yes, him) had denounced a Koran-burning incident in the United States. At no point did Petraeus stop and deplore the Koran burning, nor the murders, or the responsibility of made-in-USA Karzai for the fiasco.

Biden’s Afghanistan problem was that he could not persuade Obama because Obama was already fully persuaded. But as a new President new to Washington, new even to politics Obama simply refused to oppose the Washington consensus of  media-savvy generals, would-be tough think-tankers and CIA-friendly columnists. It all had to wait till Biden himself became President, but by then his Afghanistan policy (evacuate) had become Trump’s and so…

But in 2009, Biden’s other problem was even bigger: one more reason he wanted the US out of Afghanistan (and Iraq) was to focus on China as a rising threat, when very few Americans agreed with him, and none in the White House. At that very time — the worst of the financial crisis — the US was asking the Europeans, Japan and also China to pump up public spending to save the world economy that was falling into a depression. The Europeans were skeptical (“Crisis? What crisis?  Just your Lehman crisis, you fix it”, was the European response). Only the British responded, and the Chinese, who immediately launched Belt and Road, and other projects that deliberately employed tens of thousands with shovels — not just bulldozers. Obama was grateful and the US Treasury Secretary Geithner was ecstatic —it took two years (!) for the Europeans to react, and even then they moved very slowly, and spent very little.

In this climate, Biden was again isolated when he pointed out that China’s helpful public spending included very fast-growing military spending that contradicted its Peaceful Rise policy proclaimed in 2004. Having long chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Biden heard warnings from several experts including the present writer [The Rise of China and the Logic of Strategy Harvard U Press 2012] and more importantly, Kevin Rudd, then Australia’s prime minister, who explained that China’s leaders believed that the fatal “General Crisis of Capitalism” had finally arrived. It had come too late for the USSR but just in time for the PRC to become the world’s most powerful state.

When Obama White House aides plaintively asked (the Treasury was more dignified) for fast spending from the PRC, its leaders took it as their licence to assert China’s power in all directions. Of that I received a personal intimation from Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying 悅èŽč. She had always been a charming lady, but when I met her in Beijing at the height of the 2009 financial crisis she was almost shouting: “America is down! China is up!”. When I later complained to Zheng Bijian author of the Peaceful Rise policy he replied: “ShÄ«kĂČng de mǎ”, ć€±æŽ§çš„ — “runaway horses”.

Rudd’s opinion was especially weighty because he was considered pro-Chinese (he happily speaks Chinese and even has a Chinese name, LĂč KĂšwĂ©n). In that year, 2009, Australia published a Defence White Paper that called for a broad coalition to contain China. At the time, India’s PM Singh refused to be diverted from the economy, Japan had its first neutralist government and Washington liked China better than Europe. It was only later that Japan’s 2010 Senkaku incident — which resulted in anti-Japanese riots, border intrusions in the Himalayas, and incidents at sea — changed attitudes. And it was only at the end of 2011 that Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State spoke of rotating out of the Middle East to focus on China, with Susan Rice on Obama’s staff strongly disagreeing
 until Xi Jinping ‘s 2015 visit ended all illusions.

Again, as on Afghanistan, Biden’s China policy was anticipated by Trump, who in his own blundering way finally implemented Kevin Rudd’s coalition strategy, meeting Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe even before his inauguration, and India’s Modi as soon as he could, building up the alliances; while his White House staff cut off China from the US technology pipeline, in spite of Silicon Valley’s resistance. So it is only now that Biden can finally implement his 2009 policy — covered in opprobrium because the Afghan army had turned out to be a fraud exactly as he had predicted, leaving him only the cruel choice between sending troops back to Afghanistan or chaotic flight. But on China at least he has full support at home, and in every country around China except for Pakistan — which will not receive one cent more from Biden.


Professor Edward Luttwak is a strategist and historian known for his works on grand strategy, geoeconomics, military history, and international relations.

ELuttwak

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Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

My default position is to be very wary of career politicians. Anything I have ever read about Joe (besides that emanating from the liberal press choirboys), has depicted a career politician who has in the main flip flopped on issues depending on the time and the circumstance. All of this to safeguard his no doubt lucrative career.
I cannot claim to know too much more detail about him, but I have watched this horrible old politician fumble and bumble around, mumbling from teleprompters and cue cards, dithering and lying and blaming and losing his temper like a child stamping his foot. This all culminated in the criminal handling of his withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was addressed with a stubbornness, arrogance, carelessness and hubris which was repugnant to watch.
I cannot recognize the person being described in this article. Is the author talking about someone else?

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago

I totally agree. Biden has flipped-flopped over his 50 year political career. He is hardly a principled or insightful politician. an opportunist all the way. Moreover, he has plagiarized speeches (Kinnock, Kennedy) and has been a known liar over the years. As an American it pains me to say this, but there is nothing redeeming in Biden. He has little or nothing to offer.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

He’s the empathy grandad ,apparently .He feels everyone’s pain . Though this might equip him to be a professional mourner rather than POTUS

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

At this point, Biden is just a disgrace via Afghanistan. But we’re also now witnessing his total F-up at the border with 10K Haitians amassed there. You can’t tell me CIA Intelligence didn’t see this disaster in the making and yet they are totally unprepared to deal with this humanitarian tragedy. Biden’s answer is just to hide it from the public. He instructed the FAA to forbid drone photo shots for at least two weeks. We are being played folks. This guy is a bozo.

Last edited 2 years ago by Cathy Carron
Dennis Lewis
Dennis Lewis
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

No, he’s definitely NOT the “empathy grandad”. Any illusions about Biden’s supposed empathy were dispelled at the ceremony for the 13 American soldiers killed at Kabul airport.

Jeffrey Chongsathien
Jeffrey Chongsathien
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

The only thing he feels are young children.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jeffrey Chongsathien
David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago

I cannot recognize the person being described in this article. Is the author talking about someone else?

I agree, it is like ‘Al Gore invented the internet’ sophistry.

Last edited 2 years ago by David Owsley
Dennis Lewis
Dennis Lewis
2 years ago

I’m not sure if you’ve read Bob Woodward’s 2010 book Obama’s Wars. That book’s representation of Biden actually confirms many of Luttwak’s claims about the then Vice President. Believe it or not, Biden did in fact voice his opposition to the nation-building views of the military experts like Generals McChrystal and David Petraeus and the national security advisor James L. Jones: “If the [Afghan] government’s a criminal a syndicate a year from now, how will troops make a difference?”
Based on his plainly incompetent handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, I too find the idea of Biden as a disciplined foreign policy expert with a coherent world-view hard to credit. But perhaps the “stubbornness, arrogance, carelessness and hubris,” which you correctly note, are more a reflection of his diminished mental capacities. This dangerously senile man does not belong in the White House.

James Stangl
James Stangl
2 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Lewis

I think that this is closer to the truth. Biden may have been correct on the folly of “Westernizing” Afghanistan at one time, but as the saying goes, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. There’s clearly a huge amount of blame to go around in the 20-year Afghan debacle, but the Biden administration’s management of our withdrawal was criminal. Biden himself is an angry Alzheimer patient, and unfit for POTUS.

Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
2 years ago

Just someone younger than he is now and less weighed down by a lifetime of poor judgement and/or disappointment.

william etheridge
william etheridge
1 year ago

My default position is to be very wary of career politicians.
Bit daft.
Winston Churchill in 1940?!

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago

For somebody who is supposedly so brilliant, he sure royally screwed up the US exit from Afghanistan and in the process made everybody realize that the US is a completely unreliable ally and nothing but a paper tiger, just as Mao said. How anybody can defend a man that is become more and more demented (literally) by the day is beyond me and should be beyond anybody with half a brain.

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

But could the departure have been less “screwed up”. Granted he could have given other countries more warning. But that would only have reduced their high dudgeon by a little.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Hawkes

Even a kindergartner could have come up with a better plan. What would you say to the Captain of a sinking ship who abandoned the ship for the safety of a lifeboat before taking care of the passengers. When you evacuate, you make sure all US citizens, all Green Card Holders, and all the Afghanis who helped us are evacuated before evacuating the military. And you do that before the start of the fighting season. You also don’t expect the Afghan army and special forces to be able to repel the Taliban when you completely remove their air support; i.e. you remove their eyes and ears. If you were going to remove all air support and all contractors required to keep the aircraft flying, you don’t teach the Afghans to fight US style based on high tech. You teach them how to fight without all that support.

Rickard Gardell
Rickard Gardell
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The fatal assumption was that they thought Afghan army would be more resilient. I have no time from these “withdrawal Monday morning quarterbacks”. How could you not believe that an army you spent a fortune on, couldn’t survive a week
..? Pls save me from these withdrawal smart arses
..

David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Hawkes

Yes, Biden and Blinken reversed and/or ignored plans for civilians and staff removal/evacuation because and only because they were Trump’s plans.

Last edited 2 years ago by David Owsley
Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago
Reply to  David Owsley

If you’re saying the Biden Administration had no agency, no brains, no forethought, no common sense – then you’d be right.

Last edited 2 years ago by Cathy Carron
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

So….. Simply ignore all the cold geostrategic facts delineated in this article for another ludicrous attack on Biden as the sole author of the Afghan fiasco. Whatever the details of the exit, it is the right decision and staying there would not achieve anything.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Withdrawal or no withdrawal- that’s not the point. The Biden Administration’s execution of the withdrawal was amateurish and in the end a disaster on a number of levels.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
2 years ago

Some interesting points but I’m not sold. It boils down to Biden being too fixed in his views, especially on Afghanistan.
It’s all very well saying “Biden called it in 2009” but the situation in Afghanistan was different then as now.
Afghanistan was never a binary option – Taliban or liberal utopia and nobody sensible ever thought or said it would become the latter – most realised the former was a likelihood but action should be taken to stop it.

leaving him only the cruel choice between sending troops back to Afghanistan or chaotic flight.

Again that’s just wrong. It wasn’t an either or choice. It seems like Biden made his choice in 2009 and stuck to it like a fool. Former SEAL commander and senator Dan Crenshaw said it better than I can:

There are many options between nation building and giving up, and we had found a good one in Afghanistan before President Biden abandoned it.

It’s not a forever war. People generally accept how there are still US troops in Korea, in Japan in Germany – many many years after their original purpose passed. The British Army supported the fledgling Malaysian government for decades.
Leaving a small force to mentor and assist is just good foreign policy. If that force and the whole project is threatened, you need to be prepared to reinforce it as necessary.
It’s where Obama and now Biden failed miserably. If you are fixed on withdrawal and not committing force, whatever the situation, your enemies will exploit your position. We used to have a name for this – appeasement. Even Trump understood this and got most of his big foreign policy calls 100% right.

Last edited 2 years ago by A Spetzari
Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Thanks for being clear. The binary wasn’t there. I can’t imagine who decided Afghanistan would be better if returned to Taliban rule. The Taliban could have been held at bay for as long as it took given Afghan soldiers willing to die and they were dying! When we stopped our modest air support and assistance the Afghans were failing but for 4000 more US troops the Afghans could manage. It was not 2009 but I suspect in Biden’s mind it was. And his military Generals failed.
The need for a wholesale withdrawal was set only after we withdrew US air support. There was no need to withdraw other than public opinion which can often be conditioned.

James Stangl
James Stangl
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Well said. At the risk of being one of the many Monday morning quarterbacks, Afghanistan could have been managed (relatively) economically both in terms of blood and treasure from the start, IF the goals had been clear (destroying/degrading Al Quaeda) and not allowed to morph into nation-building, which has a bad track record, the Marshall Plan aside. Obama had the opportunity after bin Laden’s death to recalibrate, but he went along with the flow. It was he who called Afghanistan “the right war,” IIRC.

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
2 years ago

He gives a very good impression of a man who has losts his wits.

AC Harper
AC Harper
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

Anyone but Trump. Except for Biden.

Bruce Haycock
Bruce Haycock
2 years ago

No one here is focussing on the Biden critique against trying to nation-build with Western values in a very different culture, values and history.

I’m very much not a Biden fan in the present and especially of the sick tragedy the US Democratic Party has become.

And you don’t have to be a Trump acolyte to acknowledge the prescient actions he took against the way the US has tried to be the worlds policeman and going against the tide in confronting China economically and behaviorally, irrespective of the reactionary heat.

For me, even if the writer has a political cheerleading slant which is not mine, I found it interesting to learn something of Biden’s geopolitics

I suspect though that whatever merit this may have had, Biden’s time has well and truly passed him by even though, as a US political soap opera script that no one could actually write, his time now is all we have

I can’t even imagine what might be the presidential election offerings to the American voter in 2024

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago

And yet according to Biden his hand vis a vis Afghanistan was forced by Trump’s agreement & negotiations with the Taliban. Moreover, Biden passed over 50 executive orders – a historical record in one month – negating Trump’s agenda, albeit he kept the Taliban agreement, Furthermore, Biden’s Secretary of State Blinken just testified that the Biden administration was handed a deadline but ‘no plan’ for withdrawal, even though they could have devised their own plan and could and did change the deadline.

In sum, I’m not buying your view that Biden was prescient or intelligent about Afghanistan at all.

Last edited 2 years ago by Cathy Carron
Richard Slack
Richard Slack
2 years ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

Trump’s agreement with the Taliban involved withdrawing troops and releasing Taliban soldiers from prison. To reverse that would take more than an Executive Order! I would involve changing direction, going back on the agreement signed and making a commitment of a massive US troop surge into the country. That would be beyond the scope of both Executive Orders and public opinion. After 20 years the US (and ourselves) have no more enthusiasm for Afghanistan.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

You missed the point; The Executive Orders are just one of the tools in Biden’s box or I would hope so. What you’re really inferring is that Biden & his minions have ‘no agency’. That’s obvious.

Last edited 2 years ago by Cathy Carron
Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

There was a lot more to Trump’s agreement that has been ignored in your analysis. But Trump seemed preoccupied as the Taliban pushed in late 2019 into Jan 20. Public opinion is driven by the politics. Nobody cares much about 10’s of thousands in peaceful Germany, Japan or Korea because politics says OK. Using Afghanistan as a political cudgel in the US has cost the world an awful lot.

David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

“But Trump seemed preoccupied as the Taliban pushed in late 2019 into Jan 20.
Yep…and we all know why. Another fine mess caused by ranting, raving, lying leftist media (90% of the media in the USA), treacherous and corrupt DMC, Senate and Congress politicians supported by their foreign counterparts (Boris etc al). There’s no turning the clock back unfortunately.

Last edited 2 years ago by David Owsley
Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago

Nobody with a brain should have been surprised at the Taliban victory. They had patience and were not going to give up. Why? Because they were fighting for what they believed in. The issue is not the Taliban victory but the way in which we withdrew, removing troops and skidaggling in the middle of the night without ensuring that all US citizens, Green Card Holders and Afghanis who helped were evacuated first. In other words the US military acted like cowards, abandoning ship before taking care of the passengers first. That’s a total disgrace and a permanent stain on the US. The US will now be regarded as a completely unreliable ally, and the world will therefore become more dangerous. It is evident that the US will not stand up to China, for example – so it is obviously in Japan’s and Taiwan’s best interest to develop their own defenses in the form of nuclear weapons. And they are more than capable, technologically, of being able to do so easily.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

I cannot agree. That withdrawal will go down as one of the, if not the most unnecessarily inept shambolic mess by any Western force. Emphasis on the word ‘unnecessary’. How could the rest of us see what this old fool was doing wrong and predict the outcome? The only thing I couldn’t predict was that he would completely ignore the pleas of his allies to extend the deadline.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Agree, and these are the type of events that usually get added to the list of causes of world wars in the history books. China’s ascendancy has been long in the making, partly due to the West’s huge appetite for cheaply produced merchandise, but you can see the roots being planted now that the U.S. is no longer interested in fighting for its way of life. The last beacon of hope, the shining light on the hill has been self extinguished. God save us all.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

Showing my ignorance, I thought invading Afghanistan was about 1/ destroying Al Qaeda’s training infrastructure and 2/ locating OBL.
1/ was accomplished within a few months. It was fairly clear not long after that OBL was no longer in Afghanistan and might be dead, but 2/ was resolved when he was liquidated in Pakistan in 2011.
So why did the west not withdraw from Afghanistan in 2011?

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

“Bringing democracy to the world” – a cultural error.

Francisco Menezes
Francisco Menezes
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

To celebrate Pride Month and proudly wave the rainbow flag over Kabul.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Too many parties, contractors & the military were making ‘hay’ out of the Afghanistan deployment. There was too much money on offer. It’s said that $700 million dollars alone was spent on ivy-league led NGO’s to re-educate the masses on feminism, gender fluidity & western cultural standards. Pretty craven.

Last edited 2 years ago by Cathy Carron
colledge.david
colledge.david
2 years ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

Very interesting, your comment; one question, are your sources reliable regarding the amounts spent in Afghanistan and in which directions?

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago
Reply to  colledge.david

Google ‘World Bank re Education Quality Reform in Afghanistan (EQRA)’
The USA’s one-year contribution was $300 million but it was paid for multiple years.
An exercise is nation-building. 

Mo Brown
Mo Brown
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

destroying Al Qaeda’s training infrastructure” They didn’t have or need any infrastructure, save the make-shift, so no.

Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago

The article seems confused in details. China’s Belt and Road Initiative was unveiled in 2013 – so four years after 2009 and well past the financial crisis of 2007-8.
The article also has no links to any of the supposed Biden policy positions from 2009.
“except for Pakistan — which will not receive one cent more from Biden”
Well Pakistan is still benefiting from US foreign spending: https://www.dawn.com/news/1626456 although the report is pre- the Debacle of Kabul. So if Biden is stopping aid, it will be news to most of the world.

Pete Marsh
Pete Marsh
2 years ago

So essentially Trump was implementing the optimal policies all along. And lots of his opponents knew it but never stopped trying to undermine him.

andrew harman
andrew harman
2 years ago

An interesting and quite persuasive piece, but was I alone in thinking it quite badly written?
BDS is as much a thing as TDS. For myself, I think Trump was actually right about a lot of things (China, the WHO, the possible lab leak, lockdowns) but almost always for the wrong reasons. His egomania, disregard for norms and erratic nature ultimately made him unfit for office. However, by no means was everything he did bad.
As for Biden, he very probably was right all along about Afghanistan and the whole misbegotten “nation building” thing. I always thought Obama a political neophyte who was excessively admired by too many. Regarding Biden’s mental capacities, I believe his no more and no less mentally capable than Reagan for much of his second term and there were some pretty solid achievements there, Iran-Contra notwithstanding.

Last edited 2 years ago by andrew harman
Mo Brown
Mo Brown
2 years ago
Reply to  andrew harman

BDS is to TDS as a snowball is to an avalanche.

Ann Ceely
Ann Ceely
2 years ago
Reply to  andrew harman

Trump had good insights, but could never explain them to folk who looked down on him as one of the “Deplorables”!

Bad Style was his downfall. I’d like to see him have another go.

Glyn Reed
Glyn Reed
2 years ago

To tell the truth, ie that many Afghan troops and their leaders were incompetent, unmotivated and corrupt would have been deemed far to racist and so better (for their careers and general short term gain) to pretend the truth is something different.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago

@Johan, Lesley
You know what you guys sound like? Exactly like a liberal fuming about Trump. In the case of Trump I admittedly found it hard to avoid – he gave such a clear impression of someone who did not care about truth, or reality, or any kind of policy or anything beyond giving a short-term boost to his fragile ego. Did you say “stubbornness, arrogance, carelessness and hubris”? Still, I try to discipline myself and remember that most likely Trump did actually pursue policies, and that some of the things he did may well have been right, even if it was Trump who did them. Maybe you ahould try some similar self-discipline about Biden? It would make for a more interesting debate.

Last edited 2 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

But Rasmus, this is not an article about Trump. You need to stop making everything about Trump
.

andrew harman
andrew harman
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Totally agree, double standards are often being followed.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago
Reply to  andrew harman

That’s the very MO of the MSM (NYTimes, WashPost, LATimes)

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

That has to be the stupidest comment ever. This article is about Biden not Trump. Judge every president as an individual not in comparison to their predecessor. It is abundantly clear that Biden is not pulling the strings. He is clearly not fully with it. For heaven’s sake, he couldn’t even remember the name of the Australian prime minister and referred to him as “that fellow from down under”.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago

Our leaders never told the truth about the War on Terror. It’s not a war we can win in any conventional sense. It’s a war of “mowing the lawn,” as the Israelis say, of constantly whacking the Islamic terrorists back for as long as it takes to exhaust their rabid desire to kill us.
We could never expect to win in Afghanistan if the Taliban had access to almost unlimited funding from opium sales and winter sanctuary in Pakistan. We never made any serious effort to destroy opium crops controled by the Taliban, nor did we attack their sanctuaries in Pakistan in any systematic way.
US rules of engagement in Afghanistan were a joke. Our soldiers needed approval from lawyers in Florida for artillery and air strikes on positions that were shooting at them. Use of the most effective munitions was limited by the rules of engagement. It was like we had to give our enemies a “sporting chance” to win, at the expense of our own casualties.
We need to get real. General officers need to resign over stupid rules of engagement, and strategies billed as decisive that are guaranteed losers.
The US needs to act like the War on Terror is a Marathon, not a sprint. We need to fight on the cheap, training indigenous forces to fight without hugely expensive US style logistical and technical support. We need to kill terrorists, and help their enemies defeat them in affordable ways. We can’t afford to occupy and nation build primitive countries, primarily because it doesn’t work.
If we feel the need to replace a government in a country, we must be ready to do what it takes. That means ruthlessly eliminating all guerrillas’s funding sources and bombing any sanctuaries in “neutral” countries. If we ain’t ready to do the needful, we shouldn’t play. Our resources are not limitless. We can’t waste any more lives and money on losing strategies.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago

The Long War Journal expresses exactly that point as stated by Bush, Jr.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago

I would be interested to read of the author’s public support in the years 2016-20 for those Trump policies which he says were actually Biden’s.

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
2 years ago

I agree with all of the above, except that a strategy to contain China is DOOMED. Why ? Because China will react against it and find a way around it. What no one seems to understand/ realise is that much of China’s foreign policy is REACTIVE For example, today’s Chinese announcement to join a high-ranking and difficult-to-get-into association of Asian states, led by Japan and Australia. It’s because yesterday Australia, UK and US announced a joint strategy to use Australia to try and contain China in Asia Pac. The Chinese base their tactics and much of their strategy on calculations of what the US and others are doing and will do. The best strategy is to get as close to China as is possible, while stating clearly, in a low voice, what the red lines are. And have the big stick handy. China can help us all a lot. They already have. But, China represents a challenge to America’s perception of itself so we have to have this containment strategy, which will fail and will make everything MUCH WORSE. So Edward Luttwak – what do you think of that ?

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

I wouldn’t say that the strategy is doomed but I would say that it’s very vulnerable to asymmetric pressures on the west to ‘act the white man’ while China will be allowed to get away with murder, c.f. the Uighurs. Luttwak needs to address this point if his analysis and predictions are to be credible.

Last edited 2 years ago by David McDowell
Giles Chance
Giles Chance
2 years ago
Reply to  David McDowell

But wouldn’t you say that the camp at Guantanamo Bay is “murder” – certainly a war crime.

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

No I wouldn’t and even if I did I’d recognise how very differently Guantanamo is treated by our culture in comparison with what the Chinese are able to get away with in their conduct towards the Uighurs, disappearing dissidents and highly selective capital punishment for organ harvesting. Chalk and cheese in fact.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago

This is an odd piece. Biden seemed to imagine Afghanistan was costing $100B/year but costs had declined materially to $30B and if more graft control could have been imposed, the cost would be more like $10B. For that modest expense and a few < 4000 troops, an Intel station could have been maintained and the Taliban controlled via Afghan soldiers. Biden gets praise for this huge loss?
The US status has been trashed, the China pivot remains unfilled. Our leverage with China to stop their mercantile adventures requires greater economic effort and policy changes disliked by the donor class. Biden won’t go against his promoters, that donor class. Afghanistan was to be a political winner in his advisor’s eyes and he remained stuck in past. Monumental failure.

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

How funny, only $30 billions a year with the prospect of even better vfm if …..

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago

Do people really think Biden orchestrated the chaotic flight from Afghanistan all on his own? Surely we’re not so naĂŻve as to discount the input of all the military chiefs, the CIA and a myriad of other “experts”? If it was a fiasco it belongs to a great number of people, Biden being the least of them. Sure what does he know of such matters? I know the buck stops with him but let’s get real here! Clearly the intelligence was hopeless and the military chiefs only know how to bomb water bottles and children! If the article is accurate in its facts Biden at least saw the writing on the wall, completely missed by the vast majority of others. Give him SOME credit!

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

So Trump was right then

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
2 years ago

Why then did Biden not campaign on a platform of withdrawing from Afghanistan? Why did Biden not demand the removal of General Milley when Milley stated that the military would make its own assessment before taking orders from the elected President? Probably because his family was too busy taking money from the Chinese and Ukrainians.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
2 years ago

Well I never! Biden a strategic genius. Who woulda thunk it?
On the other hand a stopped clock is right twice a day.
Are you sure the article wasn’t written for April 1?

Last edited 2 years ago by Christopher Chantrill
Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
2 years ago

“However they would very much like to enjoy Western stability and prosperity.” This is the great tragedy of our era: masses globally wanting the product without having any real idea of how to produce it. And so they will act to take it. On the Afghan army, numerous accounts from allied troops serving there depict troops too high on drugs to absorb instruction or follow orders.

L Walker
L Walker
2 years ago

If Biden had not been a serious fabulist and if what this author says is true then he might have been listened to.

Earl King
Earl King
2 years ago

Biden is a weather vane, he also has a personally dubious streak of payola. Taking his son to China to receive a $5 million dollar diamond while trying to negotiate money deals is but one many smarmy deals he has authored with his family in mind.
Perhaps this cowardly author thinks during a retreat, the Army leaving before civilians leave is a good thing. Perhaps akin to the officers and sailors leaving the Titanic with their boats leaving the passengers to survive on their own. That is what Biden did ignoring his military advisors. I personally am not aware of any retreating Army leaving on purpose civilians behind. I also never believed NOT leaving some counter terrorism ability was possible. In addition if he really thought the Afghan Army would last at least a few months why did he withdraw the entirety of the Afghan Air Force, force multiplier for the Afghans?
This authors opinion of Joe Biden, military retreat and counterterrorism is not worth a bucket of warm spit.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago

The MsM are no longer (& haven’t been for a good while) capable of intelligent investigation or analysis. In places like Afghanistan or Iraq, they’re ’embedded’ with western troops. This means the only people they talk to are those soldiers, the only places they go, mostly, are the places the troops go. In effect the stories they write back from these war torn places are actually bits of propaganda (in the true sense of the word). Because they have come to rely on government press offices to feed them such stories, they usually cannot be seen to be overly critical or their sources dry up. This isn’t just na American problem, it’s plain as day in London too.

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
2 years ago

“Again, as on Afghanistan, Biden’s China policy was anticipated by Trump”
What revisionist nonsense!
During the 2019 run up to the election Biden was widely criticized by both Democrats and Republicans for saying that China was not our competition (Russia, Russia, Russia remember?).
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/biden-s-comments-downplaying-china-threat-u-s-fires-pols-n1001236
Admittedly, this is well after 2009 when the author claims the Biden China Policy was established. Possibly, Tony Bobulinski convinced Joe to publicly disavow his own policy as a result of the secret meeting with Joe regarding the Chinese buying Biden’s influence.
Biden called Trump’s 2020 china travel ban Xenophobic, criticized Trump’s harsh trade policy with China, and covered China’s role in creating the covid crisis.

Last edited 2 years ago by Michael Coleman
william etheridge
william etheridge
1 year ago

Now at Sep 2022 this analysis is looking pretty smart.
And was exactly my reaction when Joe pulled out of Afghanistan, in face of a wall of wail from the “experts”!

Karl Schuldes
Karl Schuldes
2 years ago

Yes, throughout his long career, Biden has been known as a visionary.

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago
Reply to  Karl Schuldes

Compared to Obarmy he is

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago
Reply to  Karl Schuldes

You’re joking. Even former CIA director Gates wrote in his book that in 40 years Biden never made correct foreign policy decision. Biden is also a known plagiarist & liar, about policy and his family, especially his son Hunter.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago

On the withdrawal, Biden did not do the minimum to make the withdrawal orderly, and I blame him for it. But we should not forget that It was the US withdrawing at all that showed it as an unreliable ally, and that was a Trump policy. Also, it was a pretty impossible task, even if you had tried. The Afghan govenrment and army would certainly have collapsed in a second whenever a withdrawal or evacuation was announced. Which troops would have held the line and kept order during the orderly withdrawal?

Don Butler
Don Butler
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

To answer your last question: The U.S. troops, if left until all civilians were out, Bagram kept functional, and then bombed after the evacuation, along with as many supplies as could be destroyed by air.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Don Butler

Maybe, but one wonders. US troops could surely have held Bagram, but how would civilians get there without Taliban accept if the rest of the country was controlled by the Taliban? Would the US have gone into Kabul (let alone the rest of the country) to keep the routes open – and serve as targets for the Taliban? Would any Afghan have helped doing the job, knowing that the US was leaving and the Taliban would be the new rulers? And would the US have started the next period by bombing an airport in Afghan territory teeming with Taliban fighters, relying on overflying permissions if not takeoff permissions that would have to be granted by Pakistan? It might well have gone better that it did if the US had at least tried to make an orderly evacuation – beginning with granting visa waivers to Afghans trying to flee – but there would have been a lot of potential for disastrous chaos regardless.