Earlier this week President Joe Biden said the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan marked the ending of an era where the US tried to “remake other countries” by military means. But is the US really ready to give up the mantle of “leader of the free world”?
Under attack from the Republicans and from some of his own NATO allies for the way in which the US withdrawal from Afghanistan had led to the chaotic collapse of the pro-Washington government and the fall of Kabul, President Joe Biden came out fighting this week.
He told the White House press corps pulling out of Afghanistan after 20 years of military deployment was the right thing to do and added: “I was not going to extend this forever war. And I was not going to extend a forever exit.”
Biden said he was “ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries.”
But Adriel Kasonta, a writer and political commentator, said he doubted the US would be able to give up interfering militarily or politically in the affairs of countries in Asia, Africa or Latin America.
Mr Kasonta, former chairman of the international affairs committee of the Bow Group, a British conservative think-tank, said he thought Biden was aware that most Americans were pre-occupied with other issues such as the pandemic and the economy and were unwilling to see another generation of troops sent overseas to fight a war in Afghanistan which was feeling as pointless as the conflict in Vietnam.
Mr Kasonta said the US was keen to portray China, Iran and Russia as a new “axis of evil” – a phrase originally used by President George W. Bush to describe Iran, Iraq and North Korea.
Mr Kasonta said: “There will be a strong push to say China is supporting Iran. I’ve read articles in the Israeli press saying the main antagonists are Iran and China and the US has to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.”
He said at the end of the day the US military-industrial complex had to justify the enormous amounts the Pentagon spends on weapons and infrastucture – last year it went up by four percent to $778 billion, three times as much as China spent and more than 10 times Russia’s outlay.
“The biggest victors of 20 years of war in Afghanistan were the defence contractors,” said Mr Kasonta, who pointed out a recent article in The Spectator which said the Afghan National Army had paid a US company £20 million [$28 million] for forest camouflage – despite Afghanistan not having any forests.
When the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended US military spending dipped for a while but then a new enemy emerged – the Islamist threat, which was erroneously linked to Saddam Hussein and Iraq by the dodgy dossier on Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Spending on the military is around 12 percent of the federal budget – four times as much as it spends on education.
Mr Kasonta said: “It takes money away from US taxpayers who have been hit by the pandemic, by hurricanes and forest fires.”
But he said lobbyists for the military-industrial complex keep up a constant “war mantra” because it pays their salaries and boosts the profits of massive defence contractors like Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics.