As the possibility of war looms in Ukraine and Taiwan, a recognizable cry can be heard all over Washington: The United States’ alleged loss of credibility following President Joe Biden’s Afghanistan pullout has emboldened Russia and China. But this predictable panic is only voiced when the U.S. fails to bomb a country; the U.S. breaking international agreements rarely provokes the same hysteria. Our expectations of American reliability have become so debased that we now presume that the U.S. will renege on international agreements when a new party comes to power. Yet, Washington’s so-called credibility mob says little or nothing when we betray our signature.
Washington’s so-called credibility mob says little or nothing when we betray our signature.
Exaggerated credibility panic is a deep-rooted tradition in Washington’s foreign policy establishment. When North Korea crossed the 38th parallel in 1950, President Harry Truman worried about European allies’ confidence in America’s commitment to protecting Western Europe. President Lyndon Johnson believed that retreat in Vietnam would embolden the then-Soviet Union and even undermine his domestic policy agenda. From Lebanon to Iraq to the former Yugoslavia to Syria, the credibility argument has been applied in the attempt to ensure that America always errs on the side of war.
President Barack Obama’s decision to forgo war after the Syrian regime crossed his ill-conceived “red line” purportedly begot a whole series of adverse developments around the globe: from Russia’s annexation of Crimea to Iran’s regional confidence. “Backing away from reacting once the red line was crossed impacted American credibility not just in the Middle East, but I think it was being watched in Moscow and Tehran and Beijing and Pyongyang and elsewhere, “Obama’s secretary of defense, Robert Gates, said. Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel concurred, saying the decision “hurt the credibility of the president’s word.”
President Donald Trump found himself in a similar situation when he announced that the U.S. would leave Syria and, as a result, not protect Syrian Kurds against Turkish attacks. The U.S. had partnered with the Kurds to fight the Islamic State terrorist group, but beyond that, it did not have any formal defense agreement with them. The U.S. does, however, have an obligation to defend NATO member Turkey. Still, Washington was unforgiving. Then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Brett McGurk, Trump’s special envoy in the fight against ISIS, resigned over the president’s decision.
Read the full article at MSNBC.com.