It is time to stop playing Jenga with US foreign policy | Opinions

It is time to stop playing Jenga with US foreign policy | Opinions

“A terrible time for our country … I don’t know what you call it – a military defeat or a psychological defeat,” mentioned former US President Donald Trump in an August 17 interview on Fox TV. He was referring to the choice of his successor, President Joe Biden, to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan.

Some hours earlier it emerged that the Republican National Committee had eliminated a webpage from 2020 by which it praised Trump for the “historic peace agreement with the Taliban”.

Although the Republicans are struggling to cowl up their assist for pulling out of Afghanistan amid the fallout of the messy US departure, they, just like the Democrats, have recognized full effectively that it was inevitable and had to be finished. Media stories present many US authorities officers knew from early on the conflict was going mistaken and was unwinnable – if the aim was a political answer with out the Taliban.

As the world watches the Taliban re-establish the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan 20 years after it was toppled by a US-led invasion, one has to ask how is it that Washington harvested such colossal failure? How is it that 40 years after the Vietnam War, it repeated the identical errors – having no clear targets or exit technique? After so many US officers expressed doubts in regards to the conflict, why was there so little braveness to plan and execute correctly?

Many see worldwide politics as a recreation, and on this case, the sport is clear – Jenga. In Jenga, gamers take away items from a tower and set them on high till the tower falls. Nobody wins at Jenga; one particular person loses.

Three administrations in a row knew the tower would fall and no person would win. Still, they pretended in entrance of the American public that victory was attainable and delayed dropping by pumping trillions of {dollars} and sacrificing 1000’s of civilian and navy lives.

They didn’t put together for the second the tower would fall or take steps to assist successors handle the eventual collapse. The failure grew to become larger within the context of guarantees about nation-building, rule of regulation, girls’s rights and training, cultural change, and “dialogue” with the Taliban. In the tip, Afghanistan misplaced greater than 100,000 lives (at the least this is what is acknowledged), the US – 2,400.

Our historical past is littered with equally doomed foreign policy fiascos by which a short-term bias in favour of coercion preempted the long-term advantages of a constant policy of engagement and diplomacy.

Afghanistan and Iraq are the newest examples and Vietnam is a traditional one, however there are additionally the navy occupations of Haiti (1915-34), the Dominican Republic (1916-24), Cuba (1906-09), and Nicaragua (1912-33). None of those occupations produced democracy, improvement, or peace. They all mirror the imperial hubris of the American perception in whole victories, which fails to settle for compromise or partial achievements (as an illustration, killing Osama bin Laden ought to have been sufficient).

The low politics of buck passing – “the tower will fall but not on my watch” mentality – ignores these like Congresswoman Barbara Lee who known as for extra time and reflection to take acceptable responses to the 9/11 assaults. Still, we play the sport again and again, understanding full effectively that no person can win.

It is price asking what different Jenga predicaments bedevil US foreign policy? What are the opposite methods everybody is aware of will fail however no president needs to take the blame for permitting the tower to tumble?

One place to start is the raft of questionable unilateral US sanctions that trigger large ache and disarray however have by no means resulted within the meant end result of regime change. Instead, sanctions trigger struggling amongst massive populations and are sometimes counterproductive, offering a nationalist increase to in any other case tottering regimes.

Under the present situations of the pandemic, sanctions usually are not solely unproductive; they’re merciless and so they additional drain American energy. Worse, when unilateral complete embargoes don’t work, the everyday response in Washington is not to query their rationale, however to broaden them with secondary sanctions to third nations.

The most egregious instance is the sanctions in opposition to Cuba. Most affordable observers agree the embargo is ineffective, and nearly each nation on the earth in addition to the US and Israel votes yearly on the United Nations to condemn them. Still, no president needs to be the one liable for reversing the embargo with extraterritorial secondary sanctions, now in place for 60 years.

One may even argue that it helps the Cuban authorities to rally its inhabitants and brings Washington into battle with nearly each main ally around the globe. Rather than peeling away from Beijing and Moscow, it pushes Havana in direction of them. As a end result, the US continues its embargo, causes pointless struggling to the Cuban individuals, fails to produce change, and turns the US (not Cuba) into a global pariah in battle with its personal allies.

There is just one approach to win at political Jenga – don’t play. Imperial hubris leads us to construct towers doomed to fall. Each administration piles on new assets and deaths, hoping to delay the inevitable at the least till they go away workplace. It is time to recognise an unwinnable recreation as quickly as attainable – the US shouldn’t be an imperial energy, mustn’t occupy different nations, and may have the braveness to finish evidently unsuccessful methods.

Diplomacy, commerce and engagement, multilateralism, and peace, not conflict or sanctions, needs to be our default foreign policy instruments.

The views expressed on this article are the authors’ personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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