After a series of disastrous and tragic days due to attacks by terrorist groups around the Kabul airport, U.S. President Joe Biden announced the end of the evacuation of Americans and allies from Afghanistan, marking the end of the longest intervention in U.S. history.
Biden faced harsh criticism for the decision from the Republican, conservative opposition, but also on the pages and screens of mainstream media. Polls show a drop in his approval rating after the events in Kabul.
However, that drop may not fall any lower in the coming weeks. For some years now, American society has not had much interest in what is going on around the world. The terrorist attacks on the twin towers and Pentagon 20 years ago, which triggered the wars and interventions against Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan and their results, led to exhaustion and disappointment beyond concrete acts of revenge, like the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden.
George W. Bush and Barack Obama after him — against the wishes of then-Vice President Biden — continued the intervention in Afghanistan based on that idea of nation building that had dominated a large part of U.S. foreign policy in the second half of the last century.
But since Donald Trump, who promised to put an end to foreign interventions, was elected, it was clear where the will of American voters lay. In fact, it was Trump who had negotiated the withdrawal from Afghanistan; Biden subsequently only adjusted the dates.
Biden said it clearly on Tuesday, Aug. 31: “As we turn the page on the foreign policy that has guided our nation the last two decades, we’ve got to learn from our mistakes. To me, there are two that are paramount. First, we must set missions with clear achievable goals, not ones we’ll never reach. And second, we must stay clearly focused on the fundamental national security interests of the United States of America. This decision about Afghanistan is not just about Afghanistan. It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries.”
Somehow, I think Biden’s decision will sit well with voters in a few months, including many conservative Americans.