A terrible time for our country, I don’t know what you call it a military defeat or a psychological defeat, former US President Donald Trump said in an Aug. 17 interview on Fox TV. He was referring to the decision of his successor, President Joe Biden, to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan.
Hours earlier, it emerged that the Republican National Committee had removed a 2020 webpage in which it praised Trump for the historic peace deal with the Taliban.
While Republicans struggled to hide their support for the withdrawal from Afghanistan amid the fallout from the messy U.S. departure, they, like the Democrats, knew full well that it was inevitable and had to be done. Media reports show that many U.S. government officials knew from the start that the war was bad and impossible to win if the goal was a political solution without the Taliban.
As the world watches the Taliban reestablish the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan 20 years after it was overthrown by a US-led invasion, it begs the question how come Washington has reaped a failure too colossal? How come 40 years after the Vietnam War he is repeating the same mistakes with no clear goals or exit strategy? After so many American officials expressed doubts about the war, why was there so little courage to plan and execute properly?
Many see international politics as a game, and in this case the game is clear Jenga. In Jenga, players remove pieces from a tower and place them on top until the tower falls. No one wins in Jenga; a person loses.
Three administrations in a row knew the tower would fall and no one would win. Yet they claimed in front of the American public that victory was possible and delayed defeat by pumping out billions of dollars and sacrificing thousands of civilian and military lives.
They either did not prepare for when the tower would fall or take action to help the successors deal with the eventual collapse. with the Taliban. In the end, Afghanistan lost more than 100,000 lives (at least that is what is recognized), the United States 2,400.
Our history is littered with equally doomed foreign policy fiascos, in which a short-term bias in favor of coercion outweighed the long-term benefits of a coherent policy of engagement and diplomacy.
Afghanistan and Iraq are the most recent examples and Vietnam is a classic, but there are also the military occupations of Haiti (1915-34), the Dominican Republic (1916-24), Cuba ( 1906-09) and Nicaragua (1912 -33). None of these occupations produced democracy, development or peace. They all reflect the imperial pride of America’s belief in total victories, which does not accept compromise or partial achievements (e.g. killing Osama bin Laden should have been enough).
The weak policy of the buck passing the tower will fall, but not under my watch. The mentality ignores those like Congresswoman Barbara Lee who called for more time and thought to provide appropriate responses to the 9/11 attacks. Yet we play the game over and over again, knowing full well that no one can win.
It is worth asking what other predicament in Jenga is disrupting US foreign policy?
One place to start is the series of questionable unilateral sanctions by the United States that cause enormous pain and disarray but have never produced the desired result of regime change. diets.
Under the current conditions of the pandemic, sanctions are not only unproductive; they are cruel and they drain American power even more. Worse yet, when unilateral global embargoes don’t work, the typical response in Washington is not to question their justification, but to extend them with secondary sanctions to third countries.
The most glaring example is that of the sanctions against Cuba. Most reasonable observers agree that the embargo is ineffective, and almost every country in the world except the United States and Israel votes every year at the United Nations to condemn it. Yet no president wants to be solely responsible for lifting the embargo with secondary extraterritorial sanctions, in place for 60 years.
One could even argue that it helps the Cuban government to rally its people and puts Washington in conflict with almost all of the major allies in the world. Rather than detaching himself from Beijing and Moscow, he is pushing Havana towards them. As a result, the United States maintains its embargo, causes unnecessary suffering to the Cuban people, fails to produce change, and turns the United States (not Cuba) into an international outcast in conflict with its own allies.
There is only one way to win political Jenga without playing. Imperial pride leads us to build towers doomed to fall. Each administration accumulates new resources and deaths, hoping to delay the inevitable at least until they leave office. It’s time to recognize an impossible game to win as soon as possible. The United States should not be an imperial power, should not occupy other countries, and should have the courage to put an end to clearly unsuccessful strategies.
Diplomacy, trade and engagement, multilateralism and peace, not war or sanctions, should be our foreign policy tools by default.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeeras.
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