Biden's Most Refreshing (and Radical) Decision Yet
There was never going to be a good time to leave Afghanistan.
It’s difficult, at times, to remember how we felt after 9/11. Anger and disbelief, yes, but also a visceral sense of common loss, common grief, and common resolve.
I was 12 years old on that Tuesday in September, sitting in 7th grade English trying to process the news we received in bits and pieces that morning. My dad had left for the airport hours earlier on a business trip and, for what seemed like an eternity, I wasn’t sure if he was in the air.
That night, I dug out my ticket to Top of the World, the observation deck on the 107th floor of the South Tower. I had taken in that wondrous view on a sunny day in June, just three months earlier, an awestruck kid in love with skyscrapers.
The horror of 9/11—the ashen faces, the burning rubble, the lives cut short—was justification for invading Afghanistan, a decision that was right then and is still right now.
But what started as a fairly limited mission to uproot al-Qaeda became much more. We had to prop up and nurture a democratically-elected government. We had to build a country with few schools and even fewer roads. We had to disrupt insurgent supply lines originating in Pakistan. We had to stay to save face, even after killing bin Laden. There was always a reason.
Of course, Afghanistan was just a staging ground. The fateful Authorization for Use of Military Force of 2001, signed into law a week after 9/11, became a blank check for three successive presidents to launch military actions in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kenya, the Philippines, Somalia, Uganda, and Yemen.
The WAR ON TERROR banner was the backdrop for every ruinous intervention, policy shift, and shameful display of bravado carried out over 20 years—the invasion of Iraq and resulting quagmire, the overreliance on drone strikes, the CIA black sites, the mounting ranks of refugees, and the continued existence of Guantanamo.
What the Pentagon wanted, the Pentagon usually got. So it was with Bush, so it was with Obama, so it was with Trump. The answer was always more war. Until now. After two decades of playing whack-a-mole in a country that has expelled foreign armies for a thousand years, Biden said “enough.” All remaining U.S. troops will exit Afghanistan by September 11 with no conditions attached.
It’s a refreshing and radical departure from what has been consensus, bipartisanship policy in Washington. - MS
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