Simone: Hello, everyone. Welcome to Zooming In China. I’m Simone Gao. When U.S. Special Envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad signed the agreement for bringing peace to Afghanistan with the Taliban on February 29th, 2020, the hope for American officials was that this would be a peace agreement that enables withdrawal. Under the terms of the agreement, which was brokered during the Trump administration, the U.S. Would commit to withdrawing all troops in return for the Taliban’s promise to begin peace talks with the Afghan government and to guarantee that the Taliban would not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including Al-Qaida, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies. Khalilzad called it a day of hope. But a peace agreement only works if both parties honor it, and despite Taliban leaders’ refusal to hold peace talks with the Afghan government, the Trump administration began withdrawing troops ahead of schedule. Biden continued that withdrawal, even though U.N. Reports showed that the Taliban retained close ties with Al-Qaeda.
Simone: And as that final withdrawal began on May 1st, the Taliban followed close behind, taking the country by force. It seems clear now that what the Taliban wanted all of the years of negotiation with Khalilzad was a timeline. They wanted to know when the U.S. Would leave so that they could begin preparing for the result the world watched unfold. The Taliban first took the countryside, but little mention was made in the press. It wasn’t until their final siege on provincial capitals, leading to the taking of Kabul and the fall of the Afghan government on August 15th, that the world took notice, stunned at how quickly Afghanistan had collapsed, sold on the idea that the Taliban was uncontested by Afghan soldiers and citizens. The year and a half the Taliban spent preparing for this moment allowed them to sweep through like a brush fire, as the reporting of these events led us to believe. In truth, the fall was three and a half months in the making. Why did what happened in Afghanistan happen? What will be different after American troops’ disastrous withdrawal from the country? I had these discussions with Brian Kennedy, president of The American Strategy Group. Take a listen.
Thank you, Brian, for joining Zooming In China today.
Brian Kennedy: Great to be with you, Simone, as always.
Simone: Okay. So, you published an article recently on the Claremont Institute. So, in your article, you said the disastrous withdrawal of the American troops from Afghanistan is not the fault of just one person, President Biden. Can you explain that?
Brian Kennedy: Yeah, the the article was on the Claremont Institute’s website, called the American Mind, and it’s very popular with a lot of the the folks in the world of President Trump and those who follow his Make America Great movement. And so, I wrote it because I partly wanted to explain that a lot of blame was being put on President Biden as if this was just incompetence, the way they were getting out of Afghanistan. When in fact, I don’t think it was just incompetence. There may have been incompetence, but I was trying to argue that this was high government policy, that Biden and the Vice-President and the Secretary of State Blinken and General Milley and Lloyd Austin, the Secretary of Defense, they were all part of the decision-making process. And as a matter of high government policy, they decided to get out of Afghanistan this way.
Brian Kennedy: And so, just saying it was incompetence struck me as an incorrect assessment of what was going on. That this looks to me more like they’re trying to demoralize both the American people and the American military in getting out this way. And it’s important to realize that a lot of malfeasance can get covered up with incompetence, but this is not incompetence. This was intentional, because they had a choice. It’s, it’s not easy to move that many people. It’s not easy to make these momentous decisions. And so, this seems to me very intentional and designed, as I say, to demoralize the United States.
Simone: Right. That’s a very, very big claim. Before we before I asked you to explain more on that, I want to ask you, the decision to leave Afghanistan was not made by President Biden, but by President Trump. So, do you think that’s the right decision after all?
Brian Kennedy: Well, look, President Trump had run for President back in 2015 and 2016 on the belief that we have to end these forever wars, and President Trump was critical and worried about losing lives over there in Afghanistan and anywhere else, when it wasn’t clear why we were there. It’s one thing to have Americans in a theater of combat, like Afghanistan or Iraq, when they’re actually doing something to stop terrorists. But in Afghanistan, it had moved over time from stopping Al-Qaeda or the Taliban to actually doing a lot of nation-building there. And when we lose soldiers in that process, it’s not really fair to ask America’s sons and daughters or America’s mothers and fathers to give up their children for that kind of an enterprise. So that when President Trump said we were going to end our forever wars and bring our troops home, he had a very specific thing in mind, which is we had achieved our objective over there, which was to stop terrorism.
Brian Kennedy: And then we ought to be moving American troops back home, but he had a very specific plan on how that should happen. And he didn’t want to do it in a way, wasn’t going to do it in such a way, that the prestige of the United States was at all compromised. And so, the idea was, remove American NGOs, the people who were working for the, the various humanitarian organizations, let our allies know we were leaving so that, so that they could take out their nationals as well. And then over time, if the situation on the ground was stable, then move out the American military. And so he had a very specific set of guidelines in that process, and that seemed perfectly reasonable to me because, again, we’d achieved our objective over there. And I think President Trump was, was, was acknowledging that and making good on his promise to, to end our forever wars abroad.
Simone: You just said it’s not fair to ask American parents to give up their children to, you know, on countries like Afghanistan, to do nation-building and stuff like that. My question is when is it fair, because this is not the first time America has done something like that. America intervened in the Vietnam War fought in the Korean War and you know, American parents gave up their children to help those countries. When is it the right thing to do? And when is it not?
Brian Kennedy: Yeah, that’s, I think you make an important distinction, and maybe the word fair is not quite the, uh, the right word, but like, if you look at the Korean War, it was to stop the spread of Communism. And when you look at the Vietnam War, it’s about stopping the spread of Communism. And it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to have the American military have a strategic objective to stop the spread of Communism such that American interests would be protected. Remember, when we were fighting in Korea or in Vietnam, we had a strategic concept about the island shield of Asia that so long as we were in places like Japan or Korea or Vietnam that the Communist Chinese would have to displace us from those countries before they could ever make war on the United States. And this was a strategic concept that had guided American strategists in very sensible ways.
Brian Kennedy: And so, so even if we were in Vietnam for, you know, trying to, trying to keep the South Vietnamese government in operation, it wasn’t just about, it wasn’t just about, or even primarily about, South Vietnam. It was about the United States and the security of the United States. When you transpose that to Afghanistan, in Afghanistan, when we first went over there, it was to go after Osama bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda network that was operating in Afghanistan. That was about the defense of the United States. So long as we were doing that, that made perfect sense. If an American soldier went over there and, and fought and died, it was clearly for the defense of the United States, but over time that morphed into the nation-building project. And that’s where things become much more difficult to understand, because, look, we have a military which is voluntary.
Brian Kennedy: So, people know when they join the military today that they could be sent to a place like Afghanistan and that they’ll be put in harm’s way. So, American, you know, men and women who are in our military, they do so freely, and God bless them for doing so. But when you’re making political and strategic decisions about that and their lives and the well-being of the country, a policymaker, whether it’s the President or the Secretary of Defense, has to think long and hard about putting such soldiers in harm’s way. Do they do it for the defense of the United States or for the betterment of the people of Afghanistan? One could argue that for maybe the last decade, much of what we’ve been doing is for the betterment of the people of Afghanistan and not much at all for the good of the people of the United States. And that’s where I think Americans rightly become concerned that their investment in the U.S. Military or having their sons and daughters enlist in the American military is not a good idea, because they’re not actually defending the United States. They’re helping some other nation. And I think at the heart of an America-first foreign policy should be, is this good for us–us, the American people–and then on a secondary level, is it good for our allies and the free world? It seems to me, that’s how you ought to judge these things.
Simone: Right. And also, I think just from the practical level, I think the Afghanistan debacle raised another question: can democracies be simply transplanted to other countries? Afghanistan, if you think about it, they had never had um, constitutional democracy. It had been ruled by warlords or occupied for thousands of years. Occupation, I mean corruption, is rampant. 90% of the population is illiterate. When our founding fathers designed the American system, they were aware of one thing: you can create a very good system, a system that has checks and balances, so the bad part of human nature would not be able to wreak havoc. However, in the end, the success of the system must rely on the good part of human nature, because the essence of a constitutional democracy is self-governance. People have to have the morality and capability to govern themselves. If they don’t, they can’t make a constitutional democracy work. So, I want to ask you, does this also explain why America failed in Afghanistan? I mean, and also is Afghanistan another example that this model just won’t work?
Brian Kennedy: Yes. I think, I think that’s, I think that’s right. That’s very well said. Look, the American founders understood that free government of the kind we have requires self-government, so free government requires self-government. Self-Government is not an easy thing to achieve. One has to have an understanding about freedom, morality, certain habitual virtuous behavior that you engage in. These are things that come over a long period of time. And in America, one might argue that the American experiment in free government started with Magna Carta in England. So, we’ve been working on this for an awfully long time. It’s hard to take that model and simply put that in a country like Afghanistan, where they have no history of that. And they have the, have the overlay, as you suggest, of thousands of years of warlordism to run the country. And they have Islam on top of all that, which has created people in Afghanistan that are very violent as we’ve seen, and not well suited, as of yet, just based on, on everything we’ve seen, to self-government. We know from a, just a model point of view. We have the example of Taiwan.
Brian Kennedy: Now, Taiwan, you know, in, in China, you had, you had a Republic and then it, it was defeated by the Communists. And then you had the people from the Republic of China go over to Taiwan. And when they first did that, that was, that was not a full-fledged democracy. It was more of an authoritarian government that over time developed democratic institutions, and the people within the Republic of China on Taiwan developed democratic institutions to where today they’re a, a fully developed democracy, but it’s only because they’ve developed the institutions within both the government and within civil society that allow those things to develop. And so, if you go from a, excuse me, an authoritarian government that was favorable to human rights and with the idea that the goal is freedom, and you can develop the democratic institutions and civil society, you can have a success. And I think the example of what we’ve seen in, in Taiwan is clear. That’s a success story. There you go from not having a democracy to a democracy and, you know, God bless the people of Taiwan for having achieved that. But it seems to me that was their achievement. They did that. Now they’ve had allies around the world, but that was their achievement.
Simone: So, talking about Taiwan, the question that has been asked a lot recently within the Chinese community and also propagated by the Chinese media and diplomats is if Afghanistan’s today is Taiwan’s tomorrow. But President Biden, a few days ago, said Taiwan and Afghanistan are not comparable. He said we have made kept every commitment, we made a sacred commitment to Article 5, that if, in fact, anyone were to invade or take action against our NATO allies, we would respond. Same with Japan, same with South Korea, same with Taiwan. It is not even comparable to talk about that. So, what do you make of it? Do you think President Biden, uh, has a point? I mean, does he really mean that Taiwan is the same case as NATO and Japan and South Korea?
Brian Kennedy: Well, that’s an excellent question, and I would say I certainly hope he does. And we who believe in the defense of freedom and we who care about our allies in Taiwan, or Japan, or in Europe, we certainly want President Biden to be defending those countries based on the agreements we’ve made with those countries. Now, I will say transparently that Taiwan is very important to the success of the United States. If Afghanistan collapses, that does not affect the lives of everyday Americans. If the Communist Chinese were to try to take over Taiwan, or God forbid actually take over Taiwan, the economic relationship the United States has with, with Taiwan would be broken, and that would be a material harm on the economy of the United States. A lot of our advanced chip designs and actual computer chips that we use in so many of our electronics here in the United States would be gone, would be lost to us.
Brian Kennedy: And our economy would suffer a major, major hit because of that. And so, Taiwan is not only a free country that ought to be defended, but it’s actually vital to the security and prosperity of the United States. So, President Biden is actually right when he says there is something different between the two countries, but now we need to take the next steps and make sure that the American military is prepared to defend Taiwan and Japan and South Korea and the rest of our allies around the world. And Communist China should have no doubt that we’re going to do that. And so, everything we can do now to reinforce that ought to be done.
Simone: Hmm. Okay. You know, I think the world has gone through a lot of changes in the past two years from before President Trump you know, before President Trump and then President Trump’s trade war with China and post-President Trump, the COVID and everything. Do you think we have a, a new world order now?
Brian Kennedy: Well, unfortunately, I think we do, or we’re seeing one develop. I think there’s a lot of forces within the world that would like there to be a kind of great reset. You hear this talked about, written about, and I do think they want to create a world where the United States is not at the forefront, either militarily or politically. And the development of that world order was substantially accelerated with COVID and with the, you know, loss of President Trump and the awful election that we had here in the United States, which looks to be an election that was stolen. It is only now really being investigated. But part of that world order is a rejection of President Trump and that America-first foreign policy. And so, the struggle you’re seeing in, in America today is over what that’s going to look like in the future. Is America going to have a new world order and an embrace of the great reset, or is America going to turn and have an America-first foreign policy?
Brian Kennedy: I myself think the American people are foursquare behind that America-first foreign policy. And so, that new world order, as it were, is not going to be, you know, foist upon the American people easily. And so, big debates I think are going to happen over the next several months of what that looks like. Especially as we head into 2022 and the mid-term elections, especially as we get more and more evidence coming out of the various states about whether the 2020 election was stolen or not. We have an audit, you know, the results of an audit in Arizona coming up. We have new audits beginning in Wisconsin, some in Michigan, some in Georgia. And so, American politics right now is very fluid. And there’s a lot of things going on that the mainstream media is simply not covering. And so I think over time, the the so-called new world order, it may happen, but it’s not going to happen easily. And it may get created without the United States. The United States, it seems to me, is very likely to remain the leader of the free world. It may not be that right this minute because of the leadership in Washington, but I will be very surprised if over time we don’t reestablish the United States as the leader of the free world. That is its proper place. It is compatible with the principles of the country. And it’s also compatible with the principles and desires of the American people.
Simone: Hmm. Talking about that, I have two questions. Do you think the results of those audits in different states will actually have a impact on 2022 and also, you know, the Biden administration seems that at least up till today, they didn’t show a lot of weakness towards the CCP. Do you, do you agree? How do you rate their you know their, their policies against the Chinese Communist Party?
Brian Kennedy: Yes. let’s take the latter first. The Vice-President Harris has been speaking tough about China and the Biden administration more broadly has seen the dangers of Americans investing in Chinese companies, Communist Chinese companies. And so, I do think there is a very strong remnant of some of President Trump’s policies that some in the national security community have been advancing within the Biden administration. And people are, are, you know, they’re sold on the concept that the Communist Chinese are a threat and a danger to the United States, and you hear that from some serious parts of the administration and from Congress. So, I expect that’s going to continue and that will be a good thing, because that shouldn’t be a controversial proposition. Now, as far as the audits go, I think what the audits are going to show you is that the system of voting we had in 2020 was filled with the ability to have a massive amount of corruption. That the ballot box was stuffed with a lot of illegal ballots.
Brian Kennedy: That looks like that’s what we’re going to see in a variety of these states. We still haven’t gotten to the bottom of whether or not the actual electronic voting system operated correctly. Hopefully, we’ll get that out of Arizona and Georgia and Michigan. And finally, I think if we, if we get a clear understanding of that, that should have implications for how we ought to run the elections in 2022, because the worst thing that could happen is that people become cynical about whether their voting system even works or not. And one reason to get to the bottom of 2020 is, one, to find out what really happened, and two, to point us in the right direction for 2022 and 2024. But we can’t get there if we don’t know what happened in 2020, and everybody in the country–Republican, Democrat, Independent–should have a clear interest in making sure that that happens.
Brian Kennedy: Because if Joe Biden won legitimately, everyone should get behind him. Everyone should support him. Even if they disagree with him. But if he, if he didn’t win legitimately, we then have some real, you know, understanding and a real analysis to do on how best to move forward. Because the last thing we can have in a free society is a president who’s been elected illegitimately. And you see in his current lack of popularity, his poll numbers are really, really going down very quickly. And that would suggest that he didn’t have very much popularity to begin with. President Biden. And so, that would reinforce the notion that there was a problem with the election. Presidents don’t become this unpopular, this quickly. And so, that’s one more reason we have to get to the bottom of what really happened in 2020.
Simone: Okay. All right. Thank you so much, Brian.
Brian Kennedy: Thank you, Simone. Great to be with you.
Simone: This concludes our program for today. Please like share, subscribe and donate to us if you like our content. Also, head over to my new membership website at zoomingin.Tv. You can get video/audio formats of my shows, full transcripts and in-depth reports only available to members. I will also do live Q and A with members on the website. $5 a month or $50 a year. Cancel anytime. Please check it out. Thanks again. And I’ll see you next time.