Beware the Troop-Withdrawal Bait and Switch
One becomes a hardened cynic when following US foreign policy. Such pessimism is justified: looking at nearly two decades’ worth of nation building abroad and a seemingly shatterproof consensus on foreign policy interventionism in DC $6 trillion and roughly seven thousand American lives later, America’s foreign policy machine appears to be chugging along just fine.
The election of Joe Biden as president may represent a partisan change in terms of who will be the face of the country. In terms of substance, however, it may not amount to much. Biden has a long track record of promoting interventions abroad such as the bombing of Serbia in 1999, and he voted to authorize the 2003 Iraq invasion. Although Biden has previously expressed skepticism about the troop surge in Afghanistan and intervening in Libya, the cabinet he is currently assembling—starring various neoliberal interventionists such as Neera Tanden, Anthony Blinken, and Jake Sullivan—shows no real signs of a foreign policy shake-up.
Indeed, the Biden administration may not directly thrust the US into new conflicts. Biden himself has even suggested that he wants to end America’s never-ending excursions abroad. However, Biden’s brain trust will likely maintain coercive policies such as sanctions, color revolutions, and black operations on deck to ensure a degree of continuity for the American liberal hegemonic project. Biden himself still wants to maintain residual forces abroad under the guise of running counterterrorism operations in countries such as Afghanistan.
Is the Possibility of Permanent Troop Withdrawals a Pipe Dream?
Americans have naturally grown tired of DC’s activist foreign adventures, which in many cases prompted them to pull the lever for Donald Trump in 2016—who was perceived as the most prorestraint candidate both in the Republican primaries and in the general election that year. Despite the promising rhetoric about reversing the previous foreign policy errors, the Trump administration ended up being a mixed bag. Things did get somewhat interesting in 2020, though. At the end of July, the Trump administration announced that America would be reducing its military presence in Germany—a country that has had a US military occupation since 1945—by pulling twelve thousand troops out of Germany. Fast forward to November: the Trump administration announced its plans to withdraw twenty-five hundred troops from Afghanistan.
On the surface, these announcements sounded good, but the devil is always in the details. In a piece for the Wall Street Journal published this past summer, Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, assured the newspaper’s neoconservative readership that troops stationed in Germany would be shifted to other hotspots in the Indo-Pacific and eastern Europe.
Article from Mises Wire