In a few decades time, will historians judge that the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan was wise?
Will the uncoordinated withdrawal of the NATO allies enable the USA to maintain its position as the world’s No1 power by shifting its geostrategic focus from the sprawling, continental and militarily ungovernable Middle East to the Indo-Pacific region?
There, it faces an increasingly armed and politically aggressive China, its greatest rival, even before Russia, and whose goal is to be on a par with America militarily by the mid-2030s.
Released from its commitments in Afghanistan and soon in Iraq but retaining its leadership in NATO as an anchor of stability in Europe vis-à-vis Russia, the US will be better able to shift its attention to the Indo-Pacific region and deploy its military might there. This will primarily consist of naval and airborne capacities, which are likely to be partially financed by a reduction in land forces.
However, military might can only be part of an overall policy. In a new world order shaped by great power rivalry, the USA will have to rely more than ever on diplomacy. There is also a growing awareness that aspects other than purely military ones are gaining importance.
China’s current stance is puzzling. It claims world power status but is it really striving to replace the USA as the world’s No1 power? What effect will the expansion of Beijing’s strategic nuclear potential have on Chinese nuclear strategy, once the American mainland can be reached? Is it China’s goal to annex Taiwan militarily?
Beijing cannot currently afford a military conflict with the United States. This is a reassuring prospect that will ensure that common sense prevails and limit an arms race. For now therefore, the rivalry will be played out on the economic and technological fronts.
US diplomacy has started to strengthen ties to Japan, develop relations with the ASEAN states and renew security guarantees for Taiwan.
Its high point so far has been the inclusion of Australia in its geostrategic concept through the agreement between Canberra, London and Washington (AUKUS) of the summer 2021, in which France was not only ousted as a European ally and replaced by London but also deprived of a €50 billion contract for the delivery of French submarines that was unilaterally terminated by Australia to the benefit of the USA. All with the blessing of Boris Johnson! The British Prime Minister thus showed his true colours and what he thinks of the Entente Cordiale (The Lancaster House Treaties) with France.
As for the joint planning of European defence, the European Union will have to consider very carefully how far it can rely on the breakaway United Kingdom with its unrealistic great power ambitions. Nevertheless, British capabilities will be needed to expand NATO’s European pillar, which is also intended to relieve pressure on the United States in the western hemisphere.
Even if it turns out that the US decisions were truly wise, the way President Biden has treated his allies is unworthy of America and damaging to NATO.