In the Wake of Defeat in Afghanistan, the U.S. Must Shore Up Its Credibility Elsewhere

Aug. 18 2021

Contemplating the disastrous American retreat from Kabul, Eran Lerman addresses how it will affect the Middle East:

If the perception of an Islamist ascendancy takes hold, the implications for the region, and for the world, are liable to be profound. . . . The direct strategic impact of what happens in Afghanistan, landlocked between Pakistan, central Asia, and Iran, may be limited. [But] on the level of symbolism, namely the sense that “the arc of history” now bends towards Islamist victories, the imprint of the scenes from Kabul may be devastating. The consequence for regional stability could be severe; and vulnerable regimes may feel the need to cast their lot with the winners, or even to look to Iran for shelter.

As former U.S. allies are executed in a public way, and women are relegated back to servitude, the message to the rest of the Muslim world, and beyond it, could be quite dangerous. Has the West, and specifically the U.S., become what the prophet Isaiah called “a broken reed”?

Lerman goes on to suggest some damage-control measures:

To counter this impact as much as possible, it would be vital for the U.S. to demonstrate—elsewhere, since the Afghan case is clearly beyond salvation—that it is not a spent force. . . . Central to any such demonstration, given what we witnessed in Afghanistan, would be the way the U.S. deals with Iran’s defiant conduct.

One of the keys to the survival of the pro-Western forces in southeast Asia, after the fall of Saigon in 1975, had been their ability to come together—despite deep historical differences and grievances—in the form of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). It was created already in 1967 but was given its present form and functions only . . . in 1976; it was only during the mid-1990s, after the Soviet collapse, that Communist former enemies, including Vietnam, queued up to join it. To some extent, and despite the obvious differences, [ASEAN] can serve as a general template for those Middle East nations who fear the consequences of American retreat.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Afghanistan, Islamism, Middle East, Southeast Asia, U.S. Foreign policy

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship