Leaving Afghanistan Was the Right Move, Time to Turn Our Attention to China

By Dustin Berna, Ph.D.

September 23, 2021

(Above) Dustin Berna, Ph.D. - Associate Professor of Conflict Resolution and Political Science Director of Assessment & Planning - NSU'S Halmos College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

The time had come for the U.S. to leave Afghanistan. Both Presidents Biden and Trump were correct, and it’s time we stop this bipartisan assault on their foreign policy decisions related to our withdrawal from Afghanistan. We must shift our resources (both military and financial) from nation-building to preparedness for a militarizing China.

We’ve all seen the disturbing images of desperate people trying to escape Afghanistan and the Taliban committing acts of brutality against peaceful protesters. As tragic as that is, we must accept that our withdrawal was the correct decision. Afghanistan was a losing proposition and remaining there ran counter to our own interests and national security. Both presidents realized this and had the conviction to act. We lost countless Americans and spent billions of dollars for nothing; it is not the job of the U.S. to spread democracy and be the global protector of human rights. A better allocation of those resources is toward the Pacific to prepare for our greatest threat, a militarized China.

The Taliban was able to take complete control of Kabul and its six million citizens in just 10 days without force. For the most part, they were welcomed into the city by countless Afghans, and their success left most American bewildered, angry, and heartbroken. We wanted to share the American dream where hard work and dedication can give one a better life. Where differences are protected by a constitution that ensures equality for all. We wanted girls to be protected and educated and able to determine their own futures. We naively assumed the Afghans wanted this too. How can we expect Americans to die protecting Afghani freedom when they refused to fight for their own? Their military and security forces simply ran away, and their democratically elected president fled like a coward.

We did not betray the Afghani people. We left every building-block they needed to establish and protect their democracy and they simply refused. We’re all left wondering, what was our national sacrifice for? It is clear there was no strategic plan to evacuate Americans and others from Afghanistan before the set deadline, as evidenced by the images we see on the nightly news. Despite this chaotic situation, more than 120,000 Afghans have been airlifted to freedom and that is something positive. The American people are welcoming Afghani refugees, and this compassion shows who we are as a people, and we should be proud.

It is time we give both Biden and Trump the credit they deserve for putting American interests and security first, something their two predecessors failed to do. President Bush created a constitutional democracy with a strong central government and weak provisional governments. This was his first and biggest mistake. What Afghanistan needed was something akin to our pre-constitutional republic; an Articles of Confederation where the federal government was weak, and the provinces and tribal regions had the bulk of the power. Under President Obama, billions of dollars were poured into a corrupt system where Afghan politicians enriched themselves and their friends, ignoring the needs of Afghani people. In part, this explains why the Taliban were able to gain control with almost no opposition.

Now that we’ve exited Afghanistan, it’s essential we turn our attention to China and start taking their military expansion more seriously. Over the last 20 years as we have attempted to nation-build, the Chinese significantly increased their military, developed high-tech weaponry that can reach our borders, tripled their navy, and successfully built islands in the Pacific to use as military bases. They have not wasted their capital, time, resources, or lives on nation building or spreading democracy; their resources go to ensuring their own national security.

We’re out of Afghanistan now. Our military must remain vigilant, and we must keep American interests as our main priority, or the next hot spot we’ll have to deal with will be China.

Dustin Berna, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Conflict Resolution and Political Science
Director of Assessment & Planning
NSU'S Halmos College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences