Dictators, Double Standards, and the Taliban

In her brilliant foreign policy essay "Dictators and Double Standards," Jeane Kirkpatrick made the commonsense case for always supporting our friends and opposing our enemies.  That policy might seem obvious, but Biden seems determined to pursue the opposite.

Like his Democrat predecessor Obama, whose first act in office was to remove the statue of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office, Biden is turning his back on our friends.  He abandoned Bagram airbase without even bothering to inform our allies in Afghanistan and fled with no apparent concern for the thousands of allied troops still in the country.  He has encouraged the flood of migrants traveling through Mexico and Central America, again without discussion with those nations.  His time seems reserved for long talks with Xi and Putin, and the Taliban, whom he has already supplied with $86 billion in arms and with whom he is discussing more American aid.  Biden has fallen into precisely the trap that Jeane Kirkpatrick warned against.

Strong American leadership would ensure our safety by deterring our enemies and securing our alliances.  Writing in the context of Jimmy Carter's weak foreign policy, a policy that negotiated the transfer of the Panama Canal and the loss of many countries to communism, Kirkpatrick warned of autocrats who had just taken control of Iran and Nicaragua and of others in Central America and Africa — and she was correct in every instance.  In the name of "liberalization and democracy," the misguided Carter policy undermined leaders such as Samosa and the Shah who were friendly toward the U.S. and helped install dictators who were opposed to our interests.  That approach is the hallmark of liberal foreign policy going back to Truman and JFK.

Biden's policy toward Afghanistan follows this pattern precisely.  He fled the country, abandoned our allies there with no warning, left thousands of Afghan interpreters to their fate, and showed the world how unreliable an ally America can be.

Kirkpatrick understood just how damaging this weak liberal policy can be, and her commentary applies to Biden and Obama just as it did to Truman and JFK.  Seventy years ago, many were asking, "Who lost China?," and it was clear that Truman and the U.S. State Department did.  Now we have lost Afghanistan to a government of terrorists, and we are losing in our strategic and economic rivalry with China and Russia as well, and for the same reasons: the liberal tendency to minimize the threats of our adversaries and to exaggerate the repressiveness of autocratic regimes that are our allies.  In this sense, Biden's shameful withdrawal from Afghanistan was a classic example of liberal policy.

As any student of history would understand that the first necessity for survival is economic and military strength.  Biden's spending priorities direct funds away from military (and police) and toward so-called social programs that are really just an attempt to buy votes through income redistribution and graft. 

Along with a strong economy and military, something further is necessary: a cohesive foreign policy that assures our allies and deters our enemies.  Biden does not even appear to know the difference.  Like Obama before him, he refuses to acknowledge the existence of "Islamic terrorists."  Even as they were killing our troops in Afghanistan, he was checking his watch — wondering, I suppose, when he would get to lunch.

In time, we may return to the wisdom of Jeane Kirkpatrick, who knew that one does not succeed by offending one's friends and coddling one's enemies.  Deposing friends and installing enemies is hardly a recipe for success, but it is just what Biden is pursuing in much of the world.  By reopening negotiations on the Iran agreement, he has removed pressure that would have prevented Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  By approving the Nord Stream pipeline, he has increased Russian leverage toward Western Europe and weakened the position of Ukraine and other allies.

Kirkpatrick wrote that Carter was "willing to negotiate anything with anyone anywhere," a remarkably prescient characterization of liberal policy that applies particularly to Joe Biden.  A better way of saying it is "cut and run" while pretending to negotiate.  So far, Biden's policy toward China has been all words, and there's little indication he would stand with Taiwan in the event of an invasion.

Carter's response to communist and Islamic revolution was, Kirkpatrick noted, "do nothing."  Biden's sleepy attitude toward adversaries around the world is the same.  In part, this is because progressives like Biden view the world in egalitarian terms that undermine America's motives, and that of allies like Israel, while portraying populist revolutionaries as democrats and humanitarians, when they are anything but.  If one truly believes in global "equity," as Biden appears to, one must bring America down a peg or three while turning a blind eye to China and other rising economies.

Back in the day, there was a postwar love affair between Western liberals and Mao, the murderer of 50 million of his own people.  Now there is a love affair between Biden liberals and the Taliban, as well as Russian oligarchs, Chinese communists, and global caravans crossing our borders.  In every instance, Biden's response is "do nothing."

Kirkpatrick concluded that Carter's foreign policy was driven by animus against the United States, and much the same is true of Biden's policies.  Biden's policies are failing America because, like progressives everywhere, he wants America to fail.  America, he believes, is guilty of untold crimes in the past, and it should not be allowed to succeed.  According to progressive thinking, our purpose should be to sacrifice ourselves and lift up others, like the Chinese and Iranians.

Jeane Kirkpatrick knew that the world was largely ruled by autocrats who were either friendly or unfriendly to America and its interests.  In the case of the Taliban today, with the Biden administration still determined to employ "negotiations" to get our citizens out, it's good to be reminded of just who our friends and enemies are.  President Trump understood and. hopefully, he or whoever is the Republican nominee in 2024 will convert this knowledge into sound policy.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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