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Despite Delay, Biden’s Afghanistan Exit is a Win for Conservatives

Biden looks poised to finish what Trump started.

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 14: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks from the Treaty Room in the White House about the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan on April 14, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden announced his plans to pull all remaining U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by September 11, 2021 in a final step towards ending America’s longest war. (Photo by Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images)

President Biden announced yesterday that he would withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan  by September 11. This is, of course, a symbolic nod to the 20th anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks that prompted America’s longest war. Let’s not make it a habit for twenty-year-anniversaries to mark the end of wars.

But it’s also a delay of the exit date to which then-President Donald Trump committed last year: May 1, 2021. Will Ruger, writing at The National Interest, nails the implications here (Disclosure: Ruger is a member of the board of the American Ideas Institute, which publishes TAC):

The September date is nerve-wracking since time is a seedbed for mischief in war termination decisions. Thus, advocates of withdrawal should keep the pressure on and Biden should pay great heed to the implementation process, goad foot-draggers, and try to get out ahead of schedule.

Indeed. But President Biden’s decision should still be seen as a win for conservatives who were emboldened by President Trump’s denunciations of America’s endless wars. The initial reaction of those opposed to Biden’s announcement—and, really, the cast of characters itself who are opposing the move—is telling. Predictably, NeverTrumpers like David French and Bill Kristol have circled the wagons to oppose Biden’s withdrawal. (Wasn’t Biden their guy last fall?)

The most comical reaction, as it usually does, belongs to Max Boot, who wrote on Twitter, “The US is abandoning all the girls going to school, all the women in the workforce, all the brave soldiers fighting the Taliban, all the young entrepreneurs starting businesses, all the government officials trying to build a fragile democracy.” Yet in a way, Boot helps to clarify the foreign policy debate: Should American forces be deployed to encourage workplace diversity in entrepreneurial start-ups in far-off lands? Or should they be focused on defending American national interests?

The divide here is not Republican versus Democrat. It’s the permanent national security establishment versus those in the “provinces” who actually fight their wars. (Although, as our politics continues to realign and the Republican Party welcomes more working-class voters into its ranks, restraint in foreign policy may very well become a more partisan issue—with conservatives owning it.)

For now, we should be thankful that there are enough restrainers left on the Left to pressure the Biden administration into honoring Trump’s Afghanistan withdrawal—albeit belatedly—and after a full twenty years, we should make sure they see it through.

Be on the lookout for full coverage of the Biden administration’s press conference on Afghanistan in TAC tomorrow.

about the author

Emile Doak is the executive director of The American Conservative.  He is a graduate of Georgetown University, where he studied political philosophy and theology, and previously worked in education before returning to the field of his studies.  His writing has appeared in First Things, Front Porch Republic, Crisis Magazine, and elsewhere. A proud native of Herndon, Virginia, Emile and his wife live in the historic district of their hometown with their two daughters.

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