Yesterday on CNN’s State of the Union with host Jake Tapper, Secretary of State Antony Blinken insulted the intelligence of the American people and the families whose sons and daughters fought and died in Afghanistan by stating assuringly, “This is not Saigon.”
Liberal CNN was surprisingly rough on a cabinet member of the Biden Administration, with Tapper calling out the secretary for being evasive about the rationale for withdrawing 2,500 troops and soon thereafter redeploying 5,000 to support the U.S. exit — after Taliban fighters have taken over the major cities in Afghanistan in a couple of weeks. When questioned about this seemingly inept maneuver, Blinken said that the president had anticipated contingencies, and that remaining in Afghanistan is not in the national interest.
Of course “this is not Saigon,” Mr. Secretary. And no one is debating whether remaining is in the national interest.
Secretary Blinken gets a “A+” for sophistry. The situation in Afghanistan is so obviously not Saigon. It is much worse. After Saigon fell, the Vietnamese civil war came to an end, with unification of the country. The new Vietnam did not threaten Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, and other countries in the region — or the United States. In fact, it eventually became an entrepreneurial, capitalist country with a decidedly pro-Western tilt, an opportunity for trade and investment with the West. With its contentious relations with China over territorial rights in the South China Sea, Vietnam today is among America’s allies in southeast Asia.
In the same interview with Tapper, Secretary Blinken further miscommunicated: “We went to Afghanistan 20 years ago with one mission, and that mission was to deal with the folks who attacked us on 9/11 and we have succeeded in that mission.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. After toppling the Taliban “folks” that supported the al-Qaeda presence in Afghanistan, the U.S. and NATO presence morphed into what is known as mission creep. Counterinsurgency became the objective, winning the hearts and minds of Afghan villagers through good works — the construction of schools and irrigation systems for example. Nation-building was added to the agenda, along with an effort to create democracy and convert a partly opium-based economy in a region run by feuding warlords for many centuries. Few, if any Americans, have credentials in these noble activities.
A Taliban government in Kabul is much more threatening than was the unification of North and South Vietnam. We have already seen how the Taliban, albeit an earlier generation, aided and abetted al-Qaeda in remote caves of Afghanistan where the 9/11 attacks were planned. As I have suggested in The American Spectator, to believe that through satellite technology, intercepts, drones, and insertion teams, as the Biden administration would have it, the U.S. has the assets to prevent major attacks against the West, is to believe in the tooth fairy.
Further, the next casualty of a Pashtun-dominated Taliban takeover could be Pakistan, with its double game of placating the Taliban yet assisting the U.S. and NATO at the same time. Two-thirds of the estimated Pashtun population of 45 to 50 million live in Pakistan, which has its own Taliban movement focused heavily on labor elements in Karachi, the largest industrial city of the country. We should expect to see more Pashtun nationalism at work in Pakistan, a country with an estimated 160 nuclear warheads.
Two years ago this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India revoked the status of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and declared it under direct control of New Delhi, the Centre as it is known. Distrust of the local government to address national security was a principal justification, but as I have also written in The American Spectator, Modi was prescient to batten down the hatches because of potential agitation in the Kashmir region, emboldened by the Kabul-based Taliban, once the U.S. and NATO withdrew from Afghanistan.
Secretary Blinken is eloquent and well spoken — so much so, that his argument appears earnestly plausible. Too bad that it is fallacious to the point of being deceptive.
Frank Schell is a business strategy consultant and former senior vice president of the First National Bank of Chicago. He was a Lecturer at the Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago and is a contributor of opinion pieces to various journals.
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