Sergi Rodríguez López-Ros
Deputy Rector of the Universitat Abat Oliba CEU of Barcelona
his summer we have all witnessed, half perplexed, half saddened, half indignant, the abandonment of Afghanistan to its fate, after showing them Western democracy has been withheld from them, following the United States in its abandonment of the country to the jihadists. It must be said that the Spanish Armed Forces have performed a real logistical feat, with our minister and our ambassador at the forefront, evicting in record time the Afghans and their families who had collaborated the most in the diplomatic and military mission of our country there.
Biden’s attitude, which unfortunately recalled the shameful abandonment of Vietnam in 1975, has made clear what he himself verbalized days later: no more “large military operations to remake other countries. Moreover, I refuse to continue a war that no longer serves our vital interests in the national security of our people.” We could reflect a lot on the decision, but not on its execution: rushed, clumsy, dramatic. Well-informed sources claim that more than 175,000 Afghans who were part of the American dream have been trapped, despite the Taliban’s pledge of freedom for them.
In any case, it is clear that there is a historic cycle change in the United States stemming from the crisis of its global economic leadership, increasingly contested by China. The United States seems to avoid getting bogged down in a military operation that brings it nothing economically. Not for nothing did the country’s debt exceed $28 trillion on March 1, 2021, for the first time in its history; that is, the sum of all the outstanding debt of the federal government. Recall that in the Reagan era, in 1988, debt was only half of U.S. economic output. Hence his military race to drown the Soviet Union. Now about two-thirds of the debt is owned by US Social Security, the collapse of which could bring the giant to the brink of internal conflict.
This Biden Doctrine (2021) is a break with the Truman Doctrine (1947), whereby the United States would militarily support “free peoples who are resisting attempts at subjugation by armed minorities,” basically as a check on communism. However, also against the Kirkpatrick Doctrine (1985), by which it would support anti-communist dictatorships in the Third World. From Biden’s own words (“a war that no longer serves our interests”), it is clear that the Monroe Doctrine (1823), of non-interference of the European powers in the American continent, and the Roosevelt Doctrine (1904), of defending American economic interests in the world, are still in force. In other words: the United States will no longer fight to bring democracy but to maintain its economy.
Hence the alliance it has recently forged with the United Kingdom, which many Europeanists naively considered hopeless after Brexit, and Australia, which has become the midfield of the world geopolitical and geoeconomic struggle as the largest liberal democracy and capitalist economy close to China. This alliance represents a check – not a checkmate – to NATO, which sees a split emerging to create a Champions League within it, and to the European Union, which is out of the game because it has neither its own army nor a uniform foreign policy. This is the reason why it has followed the United States in its withdrawal, a response which, militarily, has been exemplary in Spain.
However, and this is the most worrying aspect, it is a big step towards a bipolar world: Auskus -and soon India- against China and Russia. The aim is to prevent China from configuring the South Sea as a Mare Nostrum. Let us remember that 25% of world trade passes through the Strait of Malacca. But this does not short-circuit the new Silk Road, which has its internal passage through Russia, Central Asia, the Middle East and Turkey. In the face of this, the United States will be stepping up its presence in Central and South America to prevent it from supplying China with the grain it needs for its livestock and to feed its population.
Turbulent times lie ahead. The Afghanistan flap is going to provoke a bipolar global scenario in which many populations will be exposed to authoritarian regimes, with the Middle East, Central Asia and Asia-Pacific at the center of the game board. The United States has almost everything at stake: to go back to square one, that of 1898.
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