Rossiiskaya gazeta, Aug. 17, 2021, p. 1. Complete text:
The collapse of the American presence in Afghanistan has two components: the messaging and the substance. Everyone is currently focused on the former, but you can’t forget about the latter.
The messaging – that is, the perceptions of events by observers, above all external ones – is nothing short of a disaster. Everything [the Americans] very much wanted to avoid, above all comparisons with Vietnam, came to pass in the worst possible way. Washington’s allies are trying to understand why they were forced to spend big money and sacrifice the lives of their citizens in a war none of them needed for 20 years, which is now ending with a crushing fiasco. Worse, confidence is once again shaken in the US as a country that partners can rely on in time of need. The course of events showed that in a situation like this, Americans are concerned solely with themselves, and the consequences for others are of no interest to them.
What American representatives said – at both the official level and even the expert level, to no small degree – turned out to be almost entirely off the mark. The competence of intelligence and military leadership is grimly in doubt.
The love American politicians have for empty symbolic gestures added a separate note of confusion. In the spring, Biden announced the final withdrawal of the contingent by Sept. 11 to gracefully round out 20 years of the “war on terror” that was declared after the 2001 attacks. In the end, the symbol turned out to be the opposite – “terror” triumphantly carried the day.
And the icing on the cake, especially for us: American commentators are recalling the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan 30-plus years ago as an example of a thoughtful and well-prepared military-political act. After all, the Soviet Army’s withdrawal after a decade’s stay in the country was for many years considered a failure and humiliation for Moscow. Truly, everything is relative.
The pro-American regime’s collapse like a house of cards will go down in history. Especially since there may never have been an event of this kind that was so well recorded on all sides: [It is] an era of total information transparency, and the all-powerful social media dictate the rules. But there is also a second aspect.
Although Biden is now being pilloried from all sides in the US, and Republicans are repaying him with interest for the Democrats’ insults to their president [Donald Trump], the hype will soon fade away. As we know, the public cannot focus on the same topic for long, so the White House press service will try to create new informational concerns. All opinion polls from recent years show the same thing: Americans overwhelmingly support withdrawal from Afghanistan. A notable proportion of the population remains alarmed by terrorist threats, just as they were 20 years ago, when the operation in Afghanistan enjoyed huge public support following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But back then US citizens believed that a war on another continent would help reduce such a threat. They don’t think so anymore. And overall, the domestic topics of COVID and immigration concern them more than anything on the outside. By the way, America’s immigration problems are not related to Afghanistan or the Middle East. That is what Europe needs to worry about, and it is the fruit of Washington’s vicious policies in the region.
Afghanistan, and then Iraq (from which, by the way, the White House has promised to finally withdraw before the end of the year; I wonder how that will go?), were iconic campaigns because they were supposed to show that the US has the capacity to address its national security by remaking the world. It was the logical path forward after the cold war, when the view prevailed that the Western world and its flagship [country] knew exactly how humanity must evolve and what needed to be done to move it in the right direction. The wrongheadedness of such an opinion became clear back in the mid-2000s, but it took 15 years to turn this understanding into a political decision to wind down expansion. Biden made that decision. Whether he understood the scale of the costs or was caught up in the illusion presented by him by the intelligence agencies and the military, we will learn from his memoirs. But overall, there is little to contest in the pivot from foreign to domestic [policy] – it’s a clear overall trend.
Biden’s slogan “America is back,” which he has repeated over and again throughout his campaign and presidency, does not mean heading back into the global arena, but “going back home.” And in that sense, Biden is perpetuating Trump’s attitude. Whatever rhetoric the real actions are packaged in, the US is switching to overtly self-serving policies aimed solely at solving its own problems. Twenty years ago, dyed-in-the-wool neoconservatives and neoliberals in Washington really believed that establishing democracy around the world, and imposing universal rules, was in America’s interests. Hence the frantic plans to build a modern democratic state in Afghanistan. Now those dreams have dissipated, leaving only naked pragmatism, and the rules can be cast aside. Overall, this is a shift for the better; the chimeras about the “torch of democracy” are exacerbating the chaos. But the Americans’ partners around the world need to remember that the US will pursue its goals, now first and foremost domestic, by any means necessary. Because that’s very important to them. And we need to be ready for it.