The deadly and coordinated attack by Taliban forces on Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, is but the latest in a string of deadly assaults on U.S. forces, Afghan soldiers, and above all civilians. President Barack Obama’s clear intention to withdraw before the fall (for domestic political, not military or diplomatic reasons) plus his cringe-worthy eagerness to negotiate has led to an acceleration of enemy attacks, not the hoped-for respite.
The ongoing military failure of allied troops is neither necessary nor inevitable, nor is it irreversible, but it is the assured outcome of a policy dictated by narrow political and ideological goals, in the absence of–and, in fact, in defiance of–the strategic interests of the United States, which lie in containing Pakistan’s ambitions and toppling the Iranian regime, and preventing their terrorist proxies from taking control of neighboring states.
Whatever the merits or otherwise of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, together they placed the U.S. in a uniquely advantageous position by 2009, with large land-based forces on either side of Iran and terror groups under strain. The Iraq surge that President George W. Bush had championed–and then-Senator Obama had opposed–had worked, and Obama would soon approve an Afghanistan surge (though with crippling restrictions).
Iranian dissidents, emboldened by the collapse of tyrannies east and west, made their move after the fraudulent elections of 2009. When the Obama administration failed to support them, vainly hoping to preserve the goal of a “grand bargain” with the Iranian regime, it confirmed that the President viewed a humbler American foreign policy as the primary strategic goal, above democracy, nonproliferation, or the security of U.S. allies.
Obama’s argument was not with America’s enemies, but with past domestic political opponents. He wanted to undo the decision to go to war in Iraq, which the moderates in his own party had supported in 2002. He campaigned on the idea that forces had been diverted unnecessarily from the “right” war in Afghanistan, but he had little interest in fighting that war, either, delaying a surge and setting arbitrary deadlines for withdrawal.
In both cases, Obama opted to give the U.S. military not just less than it had asked for, but less than it needed to succeed in either arena. The end result was an insufficient and noncommittal troop buildup in Afghanistan, and a total U.S. withdrawal from Iraq (on the flimsy pretext of failed negotiations with the Iraqi government) instead of the large permanent presence that candidate Obama had once admitted would be needed there.
Elsewhere, the Obama administration reinforced perceptions not just of weakness but self-destruction. Obama cast aside missile defense in Europe, breaking agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic. He confronted the Israeli government openly over the Palestinian issue, and his administration covertly leaked Israeli defense secrets in a determined effort to expose and therefore prevent an Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iran.
In the Arab Spring, Obama initially failed to aid the democratic movements, then hurried to topple American allies (with the exception of Saudi-dominated Bahrain) or countries that had moved towards the west, while dawdling in Iranian- and Russian-backed Syria. Obama’s only successes have come through the valor of soldiers doing their basic duty: in killing Osama bin Laden, taking out Somali pirates, and patrolling the Persian Gulf. Otherwise, the only good news is that Obama may be running out of ways to surrender.