Today the Global Times of China ran three op-ed pieces on the retreat of the U.S. from Afghanistan’s effect on Taiwan. A parallel case could be made with Ukraine.
Using Afghanistan as a guide, will US treatment of Taiwan island be any different?
The author is a retired Marine Corps infantry officer who now serves as a US civil servant in the Pentagon
Question: What do Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Lebanon and Vietnam share in common? Answer: Abandonment by an imperialist US. It is quite natural for a gambler to quit and cut their losses when bets and investments go sour. So it was with colonialism, and so it goes again with modern American expeditions as both were and are still fueled by opportunism, not necessity. Using factual history as a guide, will the fate of Taiwan island be any different?
In each case, the saint-like political and military elites guilted Americans, pressing them to demonstrate stamina and hold a line that guaranteed US survival and the prosperity of future generations. These were sold as noble, long wars where the causes justified open-ended sacrifices. But US elites are opportunistic gamblers; anything but saints. Win or lose, the conflicts made, and continue to make them wealthier.
The ends were always the same. The US abandoned all the above causes when the profits of defense industry elites and politicians declined, and losses loomed on the horizon. All the while mourning parents, spouses, children, and damaged veterans had their lives turned upside-down forever. Many sensed they had been deceived, but the gratuitous ceremonies led by teary senior officials, all of whom were protected from harm in the wars they advocated for and led from distant combatant command posts, functioned as opiates to sedate the commoners’ tragedies.
“The US withdrawal from Afghanistan will also have a global impact, especially weighing on its image and credibility,” the Op-Ed in a Taipei-based newspaper said, “as Washington’s strength in maintaining the global order will be challenged, and the power confrontation in Indo-Pacific strategy targeting China will be questioned.”
An article in the New York Times by Steven Erlanger, the Times‘ chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe, entitled Afghanistan’s Unraveling May Strike Another Blow to US Credibility, argued that at a time when many in Europe and Asia were hoping that Washington would reestablish US’ firm presence in international affairs, the retreat has “heightened the sense that America’s backing is no longer unbounded.”
The article especially mentioned the island of Taiwan, along with Ukraine, the Philippines and Indonesia, who now feel the US’ hesitation “all the more strongly” among others across the globe.
Many people cannot help but recall how the Vietnam War ended in 1975: The US abandoned its allies in South Vietnam; Saigon was taken over; then the US evacuated almost all its citizens in Saigon. And in 2019, US troops withdrew from northern Syria abruptly and abandoned their allies, the Kurds. Some historians also point out that abandoning allies to protect US interests is an inherent flaw that has been deeply rooted in the US since the founding of the country. During the American War of Independence, the US humbly begged the king of France, Louis XVI, to ally with it. After the war, it quickly made peace with Britain unilaterally and concluded a peace treaty with Britain that was detrimental to France’s interests. This put Louis XVI’s regime in a difficult position, giving cause for the French Revolution.
The geopolitical value of Afghanistan is no less than that of Taiwan island. Around Afghanistan, there are the US’ three biggest geopolitical rivals – China, Russia and Iran. In addition, Afghanistan is a bastion of anti-US ideology. The withdrawal of US troops from there is not because Afghanistan is unimportant. It’s because it has become too costly for Washington to have a presence in the country. Now the US wants to find a better way to use its resources to maintain its hegemony in the world.