Everyone saying America’s reputation has been destroyed by the Afghanistan debacle “needs to take a deep breath”, says Stephen Walt in Foreign Policy. A decision “not to continue a futile war for less than vital interests” says absolutely nothing about whether the US would fight on more existential issues such as China gaining dominance in Asia. Getting out of Afghanistan allows America to focus time and money on bigger priorities. Even a minimal presence was costing $40bn a year.
History also offers reassurances. The “humiliating defeat” in Vietnam didn’t make Nato collapse or trigger America’s Asian allies to abandon it. In fact it was the Soviet Union that “ended up in the dustbin of history”. Britain was once derided as “perfidious Albion” because of its habit of making and breaking alliances. But allies knew this was driven by common interests rather than “blind loyalty”. A similar reputation for competence and hard-headed pragmatism is the reason America is so influential globally. So who should worry about the withdrawal? Wealthy nations taking a free ride on the US military, mostly. But China should also reflect on how “America is gradually coming to its senses and less likely to shoot itself in the foot in the future”.