The shame of Afghanistan looms.
Twenty years of blood, sweat, and tears are lost not because of American involvement but lack thereof. Today is the day that a wholesale revaluation of American foreign policy is needed.
The following sentiment may anger more than it heartens, but the truth exists regardless of numbers or popularity.
The United States has not had a coherent and strategic foreign and national security since President George W. Bush.
Twelve years is a long time for a ship to be without an engine, a rudder, or an anchor.
Instead, it has been the strategy of Richard Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman,” (“Der Fliegende Holländer”) going nowhere — shrouded in mystery.
I don’t want to confuse the reader.
There have been some good and specific national security policies and many more bad ones during this time.
A good individual policy, such as President Trump’s decision to move the American embassy to the rightful capital of Israel, Jerusalem, is not the same as a strategic vision.
We can all look at those numerous policy decisions and make judgments about whether or not they advanced American interests or not.
However, a series of good or bad policies on individual, often disparate issues, is not a strategy that engages American interests with trajectory, velocity, or destination.
When they are demonstrated, these strategic visions are expressed in grand strategy prescriptions known as Presidential doctrines.
We have had 16 presidents out of 46 that have come close to having doctrines of any kind.
Seven of these doctrines can be called successful, and two were mixed.
Seven more had the moniker of doctrine, but little else.
These seven successful doctrines, these strategic visions that served American grand strategy, shared many variables.
They all had a full-throated defense of American exceptionalism at home and abroad, the desire for military primacy, the promotion of democratic values, and a style of warfare that promoted total victory without boundaries.
The apex of this success occurred under the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. In short, both Republican, conservative, Christian presidents melded the severe nature of hard power politics, advancing American vital and national interests, with her classical liberal values of democracy promotion, human rights, and the Christian view of the inherent value of the individual and their liberty.
The favorite mantra of President Bush during the war years of that time was when he expressed the “non-negotiable demands of human dignity.”
President Obama reveled in defeatism and declineism.
If one is to call it that, his doctrine was expressed in “leading from behind,” perhaps one of the top ten most torturous phrases created in the English language.
It was the singularly worst presidency in American history, with the possible exception of James Buchanan. President Trump fixed some of the problems of this administration and attempted an American First strategy.
Still, it was so focused on looking inward that it failed to understand that American security has always depended on the generosity of her footprint abroad.
Realists have always understood this, but they have been unable to realize that only when American power is melded with American ideals does an overall American strategy succeed.
The “lessons learned” (another sophomoric phrase) over Afghanistan will first be about creating a cover for individual decisions, blame assigning, and then hand-wringing about how we should never have been involved to begin with.
If we wish to avoid the post-Vietnam demon from being summoned, a serious offensive by conservative internationalists (not globalists) must not only be proclaimed publicly, but the conservative internationalists need to retake control of the Republican Party.
Afghanistan has played a strategic role for the great powers for centuries.
During the 19th to 20th centuries, this was primarily played out between the British and the Russians. In 1979, the Soviets invaded and took over for Soviet foreign policy goals.
This led to the rise of the Taliban and their eventual victory, creating a Theocratic dictatorship that granted a safe haven to the enemies of the United States, most infamously al-Qaida.
The Bush administration knew that unless you changed the regime in Afghanistan, it would continue to be a safe harbor for terrorism.
The Bush doctrine was centered on four pillars: preemption, prevention, primacy, and democracy promotion.
It melded realism and liberalism and offered a strategic vision for the future.
It was the only strategic vision that upheld American interests with American values.
The Obama vision did neither.
The failure of the United States in Afghanistan and almost in Iraq was not that America intervened. It was that America allowed too much independence too quickly. Germany and Japan were models of successful American intervention.
First, you win the war, then establish full security, next create foundations and institutions, and finally remain with a large enough force to ensure the ground gained.
If Germany and Japan were models that took about a decade to achieve, what did people think would be the case in Iraq or Afghanistan?
Certainly not twenty years, and indeed not if you failed to establish security with overwhelming force.
In the end, American foreign policy can’t be measured for years or even decades.
The currency of alliances is credibility.
Unfortunately, this coin has been significantly tarnished by the decisions made now.
This piece originally ran on Newsmax on 17 August, 2021.