Americans should not have been left behind in the Afghanistan exit, according to Victor Davis Hanson at an event hosted by the Alexander Hamilton Society on Wednesday.
Hanson said that while 65% of Americans wanted to leave Afghanistan, about 70% are unhappy about the way it happened.
Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, a military historian, and a visiting professor at Hillsdale College. He said that former President Donald Trump’s election revealed how Americans felt about the Middle East.
“Donald Trump gets elected on the idea that these optional wars in the Middle East in a cost and benefit analysis don’t reflect our real interest,” Hanson said.
He said that Trump earned a reputation of deterrence in the Middle East during his term by killing ISIS leaders Qasem Soleimani and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. However, when President Joe Biden was elected, he made it clear that the military conditions enforced by the Trump administration would not remain.
Hanson said one of the reasons Biden’s Afghanistan exit failed was the agenda of the left in the upper levels of the military.
“In the military, whether we like it or not, the top one to four star levels have become woke,” he said.
Hanson added that the people now feel America will not protect its allies. As a result of America’s chaotic withdrawal, other nations are now taking risks they would not have otherwise.
Thomas West, professor of politics at the Van Andel Graduate School of Statesmanship and co-host of the event, said the withdrawful is a positive good. Both former President Barack Obama and Trump had wanted to exit the nation-state, but were unable to withdraw due to national security staff opposition.
“The great achievement was getting out,” West said.
West said the U.S. military should have seen the Afghanistan engagement as a punitive expedition.
“What happened in Afghanistan, in a nutshell, was that, in the name of freedom, we created the Afghan government and installed it and turned it into kleptocracy,” West added.
Hanson said that due to our limited resources, we must have limited scope of foreign affairs.
“Trump understood that the more that you try to defend everything and every cause, the less you defend any cause,” he said, “and we have a specific interest in preserving Western and Westernized governments and way of life in Europe and countries like Japan and South Korea.”
“Trump also understood there is a way to be deterrent, or what Tom called ‘punitive,’ without getting bogged down,” Hanson said.
America has 180 military bases around the world, and spends $200 billion of the $800 billion budget on them, notwithstanding the 220,000 troops in the U.S., Hanson said.
Hanson said that there is no justification for an exit which resulted in leaving Americans behind overseas. He estimated that 500 Americans remain in Afghanistan.
“Over a six or eight month period…you could have found all the Americans,” he said. “Now we are confronted with a situation that was not inevitable.”
Junior Quin Coulhour, AHS treasurer, thought the event was a great start to the year.
“I think it was fantastic to have two professors, not just Victor Davis Hanson, but also Dr. West, come in so we could have some alternative views on the issues,” he said. “I thought there was a pretty good diversity of opinions expressed within the audience during the Q&A with a lot of professors and ex-military.”
“I was especially impressed with the attendance, which set a new AHS record at over a hundred,” junior and AHS President Andrew Davidson said. “Victor Davis Hanson has earned his reputation as a world-class military historian, and I loved getting to hear his succinct summary of the Afghanistan debacle.”