In the midst of the Vietnam War, during one of the many moments when America was potentially set to betray the South Vietnamese side, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger warned that if we did, “the word will go out to the nations of the world that it may be dangerous to be America’s enemy, but to be America’s friend is fatal.”
Kissinger’s warning would prove prophetic when Vietnam eventually fell; at the time, it was a major setback in our struggle against the Soviet bloc. Over a quarter-century since the USSR self-destructed, our enemies are more diffuse — even if one, China, looms large.
In one of America’s closest friends, Israel, one publication is sounding the alarm over whether a fatal decision has been made.
In the wake of Afghanistan’s fall, The Jerusalem Post — a centrist publication that’s one of the Jewish state’s oldest newspapers — published an analysis piece that questioned America’s dedication to its allies in the Middle East.
“After Afghanistan, the US will have to reassure allies and partners that it will remain somewhere in the world,” the Post’s Seth J. Frantzman wrote in the Sunday piece. “As American officials speak about ‘forever wars’ and wasting ‘treasure’ around the world, there are concerns about what comes next.
“This is particularly true in the Middle East, where America’s partners and allies wonder if the US only sees countries here as ‘interests.’ The talk of the US taking a tougher line on Saudi Arabia and Egypt, two countries that once formed a pillar of US foreign policy, is leading to concerns.”
And then there are the Abraham Accords, the normalization of relations between Israel and several majority-Muslim nations, beginning with the United Arab Emirates and eventually leading to agreements with Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.
All of these, the Post noted in a separate piece last Thursday, were brokered by the administration of former President Donald Trump. While the Biden administration has vaguely praised the deals, Frantzman noted, members of the administration “won’t even call the Israeli peace deals by their name.”
Frantzman also pointed out there were other countries in the Middle East where the United States’ presence and dedication might come into question because of Afghanistan: Iraq and Syria.
“Will Afghanistan erode more confidence in Washington and its claims to still be committed to the region?” he wrote.
He went on to note that the Afghan collapse called into question U.S. President Joe Biden’s estimation of the strength of Afghan forces.
“US President Joe Biden in July said the Afghan army had 300,000 troops who were ‘as well equipped as any army in the world’ and that it had an air force. But the air force was a handful of helicopters. In general, the US didn’t bequeath a real air force,” he wrote.
“Images from Afghanistan’s provinces show poverty and neglect. Twenty years didn’t result in much, it seems. Americans are wondering where the billions of dollars went. They see this as another example of Washington being misled or misleading them. They want the money spent at home on infrastructure.”
“Is it in our interest? What are we doing, and why are we doing it? Those are questions being asked. As those questions are asked, the US appears to be jettisoning one after another of its partners, or at least putting them on notice that the clock is ticking. Show us that you’re in our interests or you’re done is the message,” he continued.
“When the US refuses to even see countries as allies, but calls them ‘interests’ and then asks them to help with confrontation with Russia and China, many countries wonder what happens when the US shifts policies, and the ‘interests’ no longer align. These countries are asking themselves if it is in their ‘interest’ to confront China or Russia or Iran.
“This has ramifications for Israel because Israel views itself as a close ally of the US,” he continued, noting the fact that Israeli sovereignty is not just an American “interest.”
“A stronger Israel is now not just in US interests; it plays a greater role in the region. This is true also because so much of the region is made up of weak or failing states or places occupied by Iranian proxies,” he wrote. “Israel sits on the doorstep of Lebanon, which is as good as bankrupt, and on the border with Syria, where conflict continues.”
And then there’s whether “the US will show that it is really committed to stability and security, whether that is off the coast of Taiwan or off the coast of Oman, where a ship was recently attacked by a drone.”
“Countries are testing US resolve. The US looks to be in a bind after the debacle in Kabul. How did 300,000 Afghan soldiers disappear? Was it a ghost army? And if it was, what does that say about US training of Iraqi forces and of the Palestinian security forces,” he continued.
“If the Palestinian Authority faces challenges, will the Palestinian security forces be up to the task? And what becomes of Eastern Syria and the SDF, another key force the US helped support? This matters because enemies, such as Iran, want to move into any power vacuum in the region and set up shop.”
“Anyone with their eyes open could see this outcome coming from a mile away,” Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Post. “But the political leadership wanted their withdrawal. This is a sign of poor interagency coordination, to put it mildly. To put it more bluntly, this is policy malpractice that was preventable. It will cost thousands of lives.”
“America will pay a price for this botched withdrawal for years to come,” Schanzer said. “The resurgence of the Taliban will have an impact on the global jihadist movement, which is now energized. The perception of a feckless America will embolden revisionist powers like China and Russia.
“Meanwhile, America’s allies in the Middle East are watching nervously, wondering when the next withdrawal may take place and whether that will leave them more exposed. This will prompt consideration of new alliance structures.”
It’s hardly just our allies in the Middle East. Consider this editorial in China’s Global Times, the Communist Party’s main English-language propaganda mouthpiece, with a message to Taiwan: “From what happened in Afghanistan, they should perceive that once a war breaks out in the Straits, the island’s defense will collapse in hours and the US military won’t come to help.”
Taiwan’s political authorities, then, “need to change their course of bonding themselves to the anti-Chinese mainland chariot of the US. They should keep cross-Straits peace with political means, rather than acting as strategic pawns of the US and bear the bitter fruits of a war.”
No, Taiwan isn’t in the business of taking its advice from Beijing’s propaganda mills. However, it’s taking a long look at what happened in Kabul this weekend — as is Israel and America’s other allies in dangerous parts of the world. They’re all asking themselves the question: Do they really want a fatal friendship with Joe Biden’s America?
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