It’s surprising that Joe Biden doesn’t wear the jester’s cap more often. He has a long history of gaffes and blunders, but he has been relatively restrained since assuming the office of Vice-President.
During an interview with Newsweek’s Leslie Gelb, Biden was going along fairly well describing why the U.S. needs to be in Afghanistan – keeping Pakistan stabilized, keeping American allies in charge of Kabul, etc. He even addressed the reason that we are fighting the Taliban, which was their failure to turn over Osama bin Laden and prevent al-Qaeda from operating on their territory. And then, he came up with a real zinger:
Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That’s critical. There is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy because it threatens U.S. interests. If, in fact, the Taliban is able to collapse the existing government, which is cooperating with us in keeping the bad guys from being able to do damage to us, then that becomes a problem for us.
The Taliban probably begs to differ. When two sides are firing bullets and rockets at each other, they are universally considered enemies. Universally, except for Joe Biden’s world.
The White House said that Biden’s words were taken out of context. Others have said that the Taliban are part of the Afghan identity and no threat to the U.S once we leave Afghanistan. That is true only in the sense that the threat to the U.S. would come from al-Qaeda who would probably begin to operate in the country again, just as Biden hints at. Contrary to Biden’s words, that would threaten U.S. interests.
That’s not to say the U.S. shouldn’t leave Afghanistan. The chance for victory came in the first couple of years when the Taliban was in shambles, but there never were enough Americans on the ground to finish this war until it turned sour.
The United States is now over ten years into its longest war with no end in sight. Simply, Joe Biden is wrong that the Taliban is not “our enemy.” No nation on earth has ever fought for ten years against an opponent that was not an enemy.
This is a major slipup that must be hurtful to the families that lost loved ones in the war and for soldiers who put their lives on the line daily.
Even without a war against the Taliban, it would be difficult to describe the Taliban as anything but an enemy of the values we hold. Under the Taliban, women and children are treated like chattel, dissent in not tolerated and law becomes what religious fanatics want it to be.
That’s not a threat to American interests? Imagine if half the world had Taliban-like governments, it wouldn’t be a friendly place for American values.
The Taliban are doing their best to halt modernity. They are firmly entrenched into a cultural world of medieval-like mores. There is no way not to describe them as an enemy to developing world values about human rights. Biden is flat-out wrong on this one and deserves a rebuke back to reality.