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What does Afghan defeat mean for US imperialism?

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Issue 2768
Joe Bidens US has failed in Afghanistan
Joe Biden’s US has failed in Afghanistan (Pic: Flickr/ Gage Skidmore)

The words of US president Joe Biden have come back to haunt him awfully quickly.

A little more than five weeks ago he said, “There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States in Afghanistan.”

He continued, saying, “The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”

That the pictures of helicopters taking off with embassy staff last weekend came from a landing pad adjacent to the embassy, rather than the roof, is not going to help Biden.

But this may be the least of his worries.

The US has spent two decades bogged down in unwinnable wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet its main rival, China, has been using its power to buy global influence.

While most of its investments are concentrated in the West and in neighbouring states, China now has considerable sway across Asia, Latin America and parts of Africa.

Biden and his allies have responded to this aggressively, calling for a military and economic alliance of North America and Europe against the Asian superpower.

Afghanistan—a bloody failure for US imperialism
Afghanistan—a bloody failure for US imperialism
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The New York Times newspaper summarised it—“Years of refashioning American foreign policy in reaction to the 9/11 attacks gave China the room to rise, Russia the room to disrupt and Iran and North Korea room to focus on their nuclear ambitions.”

But after the recent military failures, how can Biden ensure that US muscle is still respected in the regions it intends to dominate?

The most likely answer is to use its long-held military superiority. The US may now have a serious economic competitor, but its military power is unrivalled.

With bases all over the world, and remote technology readily at hand, Biden can easily lash out at any state that steps over his lines.

US drones can deliver deadly bombs to almost anywhere within hours.

And if a more powerful show of force is required, heavy bomber planes can be dispatched.

And he can draw on a range of supplicant nations to act as a proxy on the US’s behalf.

Long wars and military occupation are now deeply unpopular with the US public—and terribly risky.

So it is unlikely that the Biden administration will look to quickly embark on another.

But that is not going to make the world a safer place. Instead, the US is perhaps more unpredictable and therefore more dangerous.

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