The Withdrawal from Afghanistan was the Biggest Foreign Policy Blunder in American History

by: Joseph Bowman
Published: September 15, 2021


Since the collapse of Afghanistan and the re-ascension of the Taliban, comparisons have been made to the evacuation of Saigon in 1975. The imagery of United States helicopters evacuating panic-stricken South Vietnamese civilians as NVA tanks rolled into Saigon has been invoked many times over by the press. The administration was adamant that a fiasco like the evacuation of Saigon would not be repeated. The Biden administration, for all its failures, has succeeded in avoiding a situation like Saigon. Unfortunately, the collapse of Afghanistan, the chaotic evacuation, and the ongoing hostage crisis are nothing like Saigon and the end of Vietnam. What we saw with the U.S. failure in Afghanistan is far worse. It is the worst foreign policy blunder in American history, including the War of 1812, where we picked a fight with the British by invading Canada, who subsequently retaliated by invading the United States and burning down Washington D.C. Yes, the U.S. failure in Afghanistan is worse than even that.

For perspective, some background on the Vietnam war and the reality of what happened is necessary. Initially, the war enjoyed widespread popularity, but with the Tet Offensive in 1968, Communist forces attacked every major city in South Vietnam in a surprise attack. Public opinion dramatically shifted against the war, and America wanted out. By 1969, with the election of Richard Nixon, the process of turning the war over to the South, called Vietnamization, began. Finally, in 1973 with the signing of the Paris Peace Accord, the remaining U.S. troops in Vietnam left. It was not until 1975 that the South ultimately fell.

During Vietnamization, the United States never abandoned billions of dollars worth of gear to the North Vietnamese. Furthermore, the U.S.-backed South fought on for two more years. They did not collapse in a matter of weeks. Self-flagellation and exaggeration of American incompetence has been a persistent part of the American zeitgeist since the end of the Vietnam war. As a result, pontificating on the American failure in Vietnam and declaring that the United States lost the war is a favorite pastime of armchair Generals and communist sympathizing academics. The reality, though, is more nuanced. We left Vietnam under an agreed-on treaty. Our withdrawal was on our own timetable, which we dictated because everyone sitting at the table in Paris understood we were the dominant military power. Once we had agreeable terms, we turned the war over to the South Vietnamese, who in turn lost it two years after our involvement ended.

With Afghanistan, there is no ambiguity as to if we lost. The United States was decisively defeated. Although the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Army still field the best troops on the planet, they are hamstrung by our leaders. The chaotic evacuation shows the world that our military advantages are irrelevant because our leadership is feckless, weak, and quite frankly silly. During WWI, the Germans would say the British were “lions” being led by “donkeys” when talking about the fighting prowess of the British troops and how they were held back by incompetent generals. Under President Biden, the United States has shown the world that we have surpassed donkey-level leadership. Today our military are lions who are led by clowns with a child-like understanding of warfare and geopolitics. The calculations made by the Biden administration have been more detrimental to the United States and our world standing than any other decision made by any other administration. This includes President Madison, who presided over the War of 1812.

In the early days of the American republic, our relationship with Britain was tenuous, and to say the British lacked respect for the former colonies would be an understatement. One of the places this manifested was at sea. The British would board American ships and abduct Americans to serve in the British navy in a practice known as impressment. In 1812, President Madison responded by invading Canada and picking a fight with the world's largest empire. The ensuing war saw the British reinvade the United States and burn Washington D.C. to the ground. Of course, any foreign policy decision resulting in your capital city being burned down is a mistake and a big one. Still though with the war of 1812, there were gains made by the United States.

After the war, thtotal fiasco. We did not weather the storm and fend off a great empire. Instead, we've embarrassed ourselves and enriched our enemies with our equipment. Furthermore, the British walked away from the War of 1812, knowing American sovereignty was to be respecte perception was the United States had just fought the second war of independence and had won. Heroes such as Andrew Jackson were born. While the war was militarily a draw, the British still withdrew from the United States. Invading Canada may have been ill-advised, but the result was a unifying one for the US. The same cannot be said about Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is a ed. The Taliban has learned no such lesson. Hosting Al Qaeda and allowing them to use Afghanistan as a training and logistical hub was a lucrative and symbiotic relationship for the Taliban before 2001. There is no reason the Taliban would not sponsor terror again. They have no reason to make any future concessions to us. We have also signaled to other more powerful enemies we are incapable of defending our interests. We did not just leave Afghanistan, but we fled, and they took the country back along with our weaponry and dignity.

The Biden administration has portrayed what has happened as a success when it is anything but. They've called it an airlift to invoke images of the Berlin Airlift. This was not that. This was an unorganized retreat in which our enemies dictated our deadline to us. We fought a 20-year war and gained nothing from it. President Biden will go down as the President who presided over the worst foreign policy disaster in American history. 

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