The Republican had grave reservations about US wars
Pat Buchanan, paleoconservative and three-time Republican Party leadership hopeful, hasn’t yet faded into obscurity. Last week, the Conservative blogger Rod Dreher stirred up controversy on Twitter after posting a tweet stating ‘He told us so’. Why was Buchanan, long since marginalised from mainstream conservative spaces, back in favour? The answer is simple: the fall of Kabul to the Taliban.
By mid-July 2002, nearly two decades prior to the humiliating US exit, Pat Buchanan had already seen the writing on the wall in Afghanistan.
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“Clearly the days of easy victories are over,” Buchanan wrote. U.S. forces were destroying Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters at Tora Bora through Operation Anaconda, yet it was obvious that America’s mission in the region was about to change. The war that President Bush sold to the American people would not be the one they’d be fighting for much longer.
Buchanan knew this was a fool’s errand. “No nation has ever done the ‘final chapters’ of Afghanistan well, as the Afghans tend to want to write those chapters themselves, and turn savagely on outsiders who come to teach them how to live,” Buchanan told Senators, who were calling for further military investment into Afghanistan.
The year prior, Buchanan had given an interview to Jake Tapper saying that the U.S. should help anti-Taliban forces with economic and humanitarian aid but have no troop presence in Afghanistan. “I don’t think we ought to have them there. We’ve made these commitments to the Paks about the Kasmir thing. Plus commitments to the Uzbeks and Tajiks. I mean, there are four nuclear powers over there and no vital interests to the U.S. in that area of the world to justify [our] presence.”
Pat’s statement was a bold one for the time. Neoconservatives were at the apex of their political influence, and a terrified nation still in shock over the terrorist attacks of 9/11 fell quickly under their spell — as did nearly every Republican and most Democrats in Washington. Buchanan and his ilk were labeled “unpatriotic conservatives” for daring to speak up.
Buchanan may have appeared to lose the argument, but two decades later he looks ahead of his time. Somewhere over the last two decades, between $8.5 trillion spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, and nearly 7,000 American soldiers dead, America finally caught up with him. Voters have handed the presidency to the candidate who promised to bring the troops home from war in four straight elections since 2008. When Biden finally withdrew from Afghanistan, Americans overwhelmingly backed the decision.
Buchanan insisted that we lost the mission to remake Afghanistan in the image of Delaware because “the Taliban’s God is Allah. The golden calf we had on offer was democracy. In the Hindu Kush, their god has proven stronger.”
This mission was doomed from the start, though few recognised it. But to Buchanan, the parallels were clear enough: “If we don’t stop behaving like the British Empire, we will end up like the British Empire”.