Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley recently accused the Biden administration of "bungling" our Afghanistan withdrawal.
Haley added that Biden "must not also bungle the coming decision on whether to recognize these barbarians as Afghanistan’s legitimate government. Doing so would bring the United States even lower while raising up a regime that deserves nothing but scorn and isolation."
I hope that Biden ignores Haley's advice. The Kabul airport atrocities remind us that the new regime will be attacked by ISIS, which considers the Taliban too moderate.
No matter how awful the Taliban may be, to say it deserves "nothing but scorn and isolation," ignores the alternatives. The alternative to the Taliban is not a democratic government. We've tried that for 20 years.
The alternative will be like ISIS, even more awful than the Taliban. It will therefore not be in our interest to undermine the new regime, including refusing to recognize it diplomatically.
Nor should we blockade it economically. We should continue economic aid, minimizing the hardships Afghans will inevitably suffer during the first years of the new regime.
Aid will avoid giving the Taliban a plausible claim that its economic problems are not its fault. It will give us some influence on the new government.
It's not just Afghanistan. Conditioning recognition on our approval is bad policy. We should exchange ambassadors with all regimes that control a country and are willing to deal with us. It is never a mistake to try to talk things through, as most of us have learned from interpersonal relations.
Countries should be governed as well as their circumstances permit. But regrettably the best possible government will often fall below our standards of democracy and the rule of law.
The alternative to a bad government (by our standards) for such countries is either a worse government, or no government at all — a civil war, making daily life intolerable.
During my second semester at Adrian College our astronomer died, leaving nobody in the science faculty with any interest or background in astronomy. I informed Dean Darrell Pollard that, although I was no expert, I had a long interest in astronomy and had taken an outstanding undergraduate course at Willamette University. I volunteered to teach the course for the rest of the semester.
Pollard, like myself a political scientist, accepted my offer, commenting that I was "better than nothing."
That's how we should think about the Taliban regime. It will be better than nothing: no government, uncontrolled violence by gangs, militias and local strongmen. And it certainly will be better than ISIS.
The recent evacuations from Kabul airport prove that we can work with the Taliban. A joint statement by Reps. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) and Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), who visited the evacuation scene, refers grudgingly to this fact:
"We came into this visit wanting, like most veterans, to push the president to extend the August 31 deadline. After talking with commanders on the ground and seeing the situation here, it is obvious that . . . no matter what we do, we won't get everyone out on time, even by September 11. Sadly and frustratingly, getting our people out depends on maintaining the current bizarre relationship with the Taliban."
We already have diplomatic relations with countries like Saudi Arabia and Belarus. Retaining an ambassador in Kabul would not be a stretch.
U.S. foreign policy has too often been based on politicians' desire to win elections, not on our national interest. One example: Bitter Cuban exiles in Florida, a key swing state, have made it politically risky to exchange ambassadors with Havana.
President Biden should base his decision about recognizing the Taliban regime on our national interest and on that of Afghanistan's people, not on whether it is politically popular. If he does, I am confident he will retain our diplomatic presence in Kabul.
Paul F. deLespinasse is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science at Adrian College. Read Professor Paul F. deLespinasse's Reports — More Here
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