We are still in the midst of remembering the horrible events of 9/11 that led to a 20-year conflict in Afghanistan. Back in 2001, the idea of going to Afghanistan to topple a government that harbored the individuals who masterminded 9/11 was very popular and initially successful. Recent polling indicates that the American people supported withdrawal because they opposed the idea of nation-building as a policy goal. These same Americans were horrified at the way the withdrawal was executed.
The absence of strong American leadership is making the region less safe, and a cut-and-run strategy has created mayhem that will only empower radical Islamic terrorist networks. The Afghanistan example must not inhibit the United States from pursuing a robust national defense that stresses the support of core allies, opposition to an increasingly aggressive China and Russia while focusing on targeting terrorist havens. We cannot continue nation-building as a foreign policy priority when those countries refuse to stand and fight for themselves. This disaster in Afghanistan has forever weakened the perception of America as an effective exporter of democracy and individual freedom.
One of the most important aspects of a foreign policy that protects America is the continued confidence in the leadership of our Commander-in-Chief. Many see the policies of Republicans versus Democrats as dispositive. Yet, a significant factor that runs with a popular foreign policy is a leader who instills confidence in the American people. President Joe Biden walked into the White House with an unmatched experience in foreign policy with eight years as Vice President and a long-time tenure in the U.S. Senate that included a stint as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That confidence is gone with the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. It will take some time for the president to restore confidence that has been lost. It’s already showing in his tanking overall approval numbers.
If we’re to continue to be a global superpower and leader, it would make sense for leaders of both parties to speak strongly in support of traditional allies while simultaneously working to develop new ones. Showing strong alliances with allies like the U.K., Japan, Germany, Israel, and Canada is a good start. But after we turned our back on the Brits in Afghanistan, who could blame them if they wouldn’t trust us? Strong rhetorical support for smaller nations facing threats like Taiwan and Ukraine is not only an essential element of building the confidence of both allies and the American people – but it’s also a deterrent to bad actors on the global stage.
With twenty years since 9/11, we must recognize that we will always be fighting a small group of extremists who want to implement Radical Islam and will stop at nothing opposing countries and people who don’t subscribe to the radical perversion of Islam. Global jihadists may see Afghanistan as a sign of weakness on the part of the U.S. We, as a nation, need to show differently and make sure to be vigilant as new threats emerge.
The Russians have long-term plans to expand into former Soviet Republics like Ukraine. Vladimir Putin has spent seven years fighting to take the land back from an independent Ukraine in a war that has cost both sides tens of thousands of lives. One challenge the Biden Administration has is to push struggling nations to clean up their act concerning the rule of law and eliminating corruption.
One Ukrainian oligarch is currently in an embarrassing legal dispute with an energy company TIU Canada that was seeking to provide renewable energy to the Ukraine energy grid. According to the Canadian company, the company was illegally disconnected from the grid by a Russian-backed interest, further complicating confidence in support for the current government of Ukraine and making it more challenging to help Ukraine to join NATO.
China is another challenge. During Vice President Harris’ Asian swing last month, she reiterated that the U.S. would continue to keep a strong military presence in the South China Sea. That’s a good start, but President Biden needs to lead a strong American foreign policy that doesn’t just limit China’s influence in the western hemisphere but strengthens our relationships within Central and South America. Of course, the most immediate threat to the peace is Taiwan, as China continues to talk aggressively about taking control of that independent island nation.
America’s resolve is being tested, and only a rational foreign policy strategy that has America leading will protect our citizens, our allies, and our homeland.
- Larry Farnsworth is a former congressional leadership staffer who served as speechwriter to the speaker’s office.