“We’ve been a nation too long at war. If you’re 20 years old today, you have never known an America at peace.” – Joseph R. Biden, August 31st 2021
President Joe Biden, like any politician worth his salt, is trying to sell you something. He’s not selling hoodies like AOC or ghostwritten books like the ones that built Bernie’s lakehouse. No, he’s bottled up a different kind of snake oil: comfort and reassurance.
Biden tells us we can leave Afghanistan with no real plan for protecting ourselves. That we can choose to finally embrace peace after a generation of conflict. That, in fact, the youth of today were robbed of knowing an America at peace.
Biden even tells us that he can keep us safe with only drone strikes, despite the fact that the CIA just evacuated most of their informants from the country. And, oh, the CIA director and the Secretary of Defense both admit we’re about to be blind.
As we approach a sacred anniversary on Sept. 11, let’s stop and recognize a few truths as Biden seeks to spin where we are and sell you on a false choice. You’ll notice some important things in the president’s messaging this Saturday. In fact, he previewed some of it just last week during the speech where he finally admitted Americans would be left behind and thousands of our closest Afghan allies left to die.
In a signal of his approach to statecraft, Biden reassured us he’d “continue to support the Afghan people through diplomacy, international influence and humanitarian aid” and “push for regional diplomacy and engagement to prevent violence.” Unless the State Department has numbers available, it’s unclear how many of our allies’ nooses will be untied by the hands of diplomacy and international influence.
So, on that morning, he’ll be selling us on embracing a whole new era. That’s the plan. An era where diplomacy and multilateralism are supreme over supposedly antiquated concepts like deterrence, preventive action, and American exceptionalism. He won’t mention that many of the conditions that led to 9/11 are again present in Afghanistan, while so few of the conditions that would allow us to prevent the next one are.
He won’t mention that there are critical missing pieces that would make a successful drone disruption campaign likely. That in other countries where we’ve pursued that policy we had allies on the ground, bases nearby, and intelligence networks up and running. He definitely won’t remind you that Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s overtures to the Taliban are almost verbatim to the ones tried by the Clinton White House in the 1990s.
As Biden hammers on the significance of twenty years of war, he’ll promise you that was when this whole ugly affair started. He’ll forget to mention that terrorists first tried to bring those very same buildings down way back in 1993. And that others tried to blow up the UN Headquarters on the East Side, and the Lincoln Tunnel, and, oh yeah, also the Holland Tunnel.
That they were actually mixing the chemicals in barrels over in Queens when we disrupted that plot, by the way. And then later that they blew up Americans in Saudi Arabia, and Africa, and off the coast of Yemen. Some of the victims wore military uniforms, others the Dockers of diplomats. Al-Qaida attacked on land and by sea, with one result in common: dead Americans.
And when he tells you about his plans to spend trillions nation-building at home, Biden will forget to mention that another Democratic president tried to manage the terrorist threat via pinprick airstrikes and appeals to the Taliban’s self-interest. That they were uninterested in our humanitarian appeals or in signing onto the latest climate pledge, back then it was called the Kyoto Protocol.
And he certainly won’t mention that by the end of President Clinton’s term, as he moved to Harlem to begin his celebrity post-presidency just miles away from where our enemies would strike, 15 of the 19 hijackers were already here in the country. For them, the war had already begun.
Jason Killmeyer is a counterterrorism and foreign policy expert specializing in emerging technology applications. Jason is the former Chief of Staff of Global Defense, Security & Justice at Deloitte Consulting LLP. He has a Master’s in Middle Eastern Studies with an M.A. thesis on post-invasion Iraqi politics from American University. Connect with him on Twitter here.