In world affairs, first impressions can be misleading. Soviet and American generals were photographed toasting the triumph of a great alliance in 1945 but in the blinking of an eye the Cold War was underway and we were great enemies. Crowds pressed against the US embassy gates as Saigon fell and America lost a long, bloody war mere decades before Vietnam embraced a market economy and became a top tourist destination for Americans.
Statues are toppled, regimes collapse, city squares are thronged with tens of thousands of people demanding change, “Mission Accomplished” moments occur and yet what follows is not what the pundits caught up in the drama and imagery of individual events predict. With time, members of the Biden administration anticipate, we will come to see the events of the past week very differently.
In fact, with perspective, we may well come to see their exit from Afghanistan as part of a major, generational, foreign policy reset. In fact, if events unfold consistent with the president’s vision, this moment will be seen as a watershed in a return to American global leadership after two decades of misguided, erratic, damaging foreign policy in the wake of 9/11.