The reaction to the collapse of Kabul as the US pulled out of Afghanistan was swift and global.
Ironically, the two-decade occupation by the Americans has helped the world to witness the horrific scenes at the capital’s airport, from Afghans clinging to planes to the terrorist attack that killed more than 180 people. When the US invaded Afghanistan 20 years ago, there was almost no cell phone signal in the country. Today, more than 70% of the territory is covered by the mobile phone network.
The longest war in American history could not end well. But could it have been completed in a more humane way? The evacuation of 120,000 people in a few days was extraordinary or a betrayal of who is back? Political scientist David Rothkopf says that President Joe Biden deserves credit for the courage to leave, not the beating he took from the American and international press.
Rothkopf is the author of several books, most recently “Traitor: A History of American Betrayal, from Benedict Arnold to Donald Trump” (Traitor: A History of American Disloyalty, from Benedict Arnold to Donald Trump). He has written on the topic in publications such as USA Today and The Atlantic magazine, in which he lamented the visceral reaction of American journalists who, he says, do not give context to five decades of tragic mistakes in the region since Jimmy Carter began his career. arming mujahedin.
The political scientist also recalls that Biden opposed sending more troops to Afghanistan in 2009, when he was Barack Obama’s deputy, and commends him for communicating to the population that the military occupation, in addition to being a failure, is not a priority in the interests of the country. parents. Under Secretary of Commerce under Bill Clinton, Rothkopf remains close to the Democratic establishment who returned to Washington in January.
What is the impression of the gentleman of the speech given by Joe Biden in defense of the withdrawal? The speech was exceptionally detailed and articulate. He explained the reasons, the dates, the operation, as well as responding directly to the criticism he received. He mentioned that there would be engagement with Afghanistan through other means. The speech signaled a change of direction in foreign policy, with other priorities. Biden is clearly someone who has been familiar with foreign policy for nearly half a century.
He listens to critics, but he took over the presidency with a vision of his own and demonstrated the courage of his own convictions, even if they were unpopular. It’s the opposite of Trump. It is unusual for a president with months in office to demonstrate this degree of foreign policy command.
How does Biden’s withdrawal and arguments signal a new direction? Biden is saying two important things. First, that he is ending the post-9/11 era, when priorities were determined by reactions to terrorism. He knows that the US needs to deal with other challenges like China, cyber security and climate change, as well as investing more and better in infrastructure.
Then, the country has to move away from unilateralism, from this notion of an exceptional America. Biden knows that there are no military solutions to many of the problems we face. The plight of Afghan girls and women cannot be resolved with troops, but with diplomacy and other forms of economic pressure.
Why have you been so critical of the American media’s reaction to the withdrawal? There are a lot of people in the media who produce a narrative. Some responded based on their own experience in Afghanistan. And there was also the reaction to images, to urgent news without context. Take the example of CNN reporter and anchor Jake Tapper. His first reaction to Biden’s speech was to say it had a defiant tone. Defying who, if he is the president and fulfilled a decision that he announced as a candidate and that the majority of the population supports? This is the journalist wanting the story to be what he feels. Could the withdrawal have been better? What in this life can’t be better?
The reality is that politics has become one of those wrestlers in a cage. There always has to be a winner and a loser. They forgot the idea of “we are together”, necessary to lead or end a war. With the us versus them mentality, there is no room for rulers to assess failure for fear of committing political suicide.
Americans traditionally do not choose presidents with a foreign policy focus. Do you think Biden is recovering from the wear and tear indicated by polls since the government’s collapse in Kabul? I remember that the 2020 election was tight, all our presidential elections are like that now because the country is split in half. Biden has been more popular than Trump has been throughout his term. Americans are much more concerned about the economy and Covid. The US economy grew 6.6% in the last quarter, there is solid job creation. At the end of September, Biden has the two big public investment projects to pass in Congress. You can believe that at the end of the month, attention will be focused on this.
How do you see the entry of other powers into the vacuum left by the US in Afghanistan? Russia, which has invaded the country in the past, and China have relations with the Taliban and will be influential. China has more interests at stake, not just across the common border, but because it invests in infrastructure projects in Pakistan. Both Russia and China have an interest in keeping Islamic extremism under control because of their Muslim populations. In the case of China, its treatment of the Uighur minority is appalling, and they need to avoid attracting extreme sympathies from outside.
China, Middle Land
Do you agree with those who argue that the so-called war on terror, initiated by George W. Bush, is at the origin of what the country experienced under Trump? It’s part of the problem, since terrorism hasn’t actually contracted, in fact it has increased. But right-wing extremism in the US is a tradition, as is the appearance of demagogues. The anti-immigrant sentiment here dates back to the 19th century. First against the Irish who fled starvation, then against the Chinese who built railroads in the West, and so on. Part of the split we have today started with Reagan. Then came House leader Newt Gingrich in 1994 with the slogan “Contract with America.” When they arrived with Bush, the neo-conservative strategists of the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan exploited these strands of jingoism and false sense of patriotism. In addition to, let’s speak plainly, racism – “All these brown people must be dangerous”.
How do you see an American reaction to Jair Bolsonaro’s growing threats to the 2022 elections? Bolsonaro is making a big mistake if he thinks the US will sit back because it wants Brazilian support on other issues, like China’s 5G. Biden must accept no less than respect for a transparent and democratic election. If Bolsonaro turns to trump tactics, there will be consequences, including action with multilateral bodies. He would be threatening to isolate Brazil.