President Joe Biden’s decision to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan over the next few months ending on 9/11 is a big mistake and will have unintended consequences. Announcing such a pullout in advance is like a quarterback telling the defense that he will throw a “Hail Mary” on third down. Guess what. The defense will be ready for it and can prepare to defend against it.
The announced pullout sends a signal to the Taliban that all they must do is wait a few months and then take over the country. Guess what they will do. They will move forces into cities and attempt to take back their country. Good thinking, Joe.
It should seem obvious that broadcasting such a move in advance is a political stunt to gain favor with the public which has little appetite for war. While there still is support for keeping the troops in Afghanistan, the number of supporters is going down. According to a Gallup poll conducted four years ago, 43 percent of Americans currently say it was a mistake to send troops there and 52 percent saying it was not a mistake.
One of the problems of the announced pullout so far in advance is it sends a message that the US has no appetite for conflict. This emboldens our adversaries and motivates then to take aggressive action in their best interests that harm other countries or threaten a larger war.
For example, the number of Russian troops deployed in occupied Crimea near Ukraine’s border has steadily increased over the past three weeks and has surpassed the size of the force that annexed the peninsula in 2014. A spokesperson for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelelnsky said there are about 80,000 troops now stationed along the country’s border with Russia, 40,000 of them in Crimea. The European Union has said there are now over 100,000 in border regions.
There are a variety of questions we should ask. How far are we going to let appeasement play out in Russia? Will it lead to future conflict? Should we act now and aggressively take countermeasures to protect former Soviet Union countries? Do we have a consistent policy? What are our ethical obligations when military conflicts occur around the world?
Our weak position on China’s treatment of the Uighurs has led the Chinese government to take bold action against the ethnic minority and other Turkic Muslims in the northwest region of Xinjiang. The government is responsible for “policies of mass detention, torture, and cultural persecution, among other offenses.” We simply ignore the human rights issues to avoid conflict with China.
China has also passed a wide-ranging new security law for Hong Kong which makes it easier to punish protesters and reduces the city's autonomy. Critics have called it "the end of Hong Kong.” To make matters worse, the Trump administration decertified Hong Kong for not being sufficiently autonomous from China. The U.S. has begun to remove elements of the special treatment that the territory has enjoyed for decades because it was different from other Chinese cities. Guess what, President Trump, the sufficiently autonomous is not a decision those who favor an independent government of China want. It has been forced upon them by Beijing.
Another unintended consequence of our announcing the pullout from Afghanistan right now is there are many in the country th at may flea in advance of the pullout for fear of what the Taliban might do against ethnic minorities. There is also real concern about how it will affect young girls and women in the country. Some have been victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, offenses that are rarely criminalized. Others do not have equal opportunities as men. There is a real fear for their life once the Taliban takes over.
Finally, we have an ethical obligation to Afghanis who want to flea the country in advance of the pullout. We helped to destroy the country and are now about to abandon it. A strong case can be made for allowing immigrants into our country. This will also create unintended consequences and further stretch our available resources.
The US needs a consistent, well-thought-out policy on Afghanistan. Congress has had little input into President Biden’s decision. This is no way to develop a foreign policy that should, at a minimum, have input from all sides. We need to reach a consensus on this and other foreign policy matters.
Posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, The Ethics Sage, on April 22, 2021. You can sign up for his newsletter and learn more about his activities at: https://www.stevenmintzethics.com/. Follow him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/StevenMintzEthics and on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/ethicssage.