The great Greek statesman and military leader Pericles (495 – 429 BC) said, “The best guardians of a society are leaders with the wisdom to recognize their duty and the virtue (courage) to do it.” Both elements are essential characteristics for our leaders. We may elect smart people who are not wise and good people who are not brave. But what we need are wise and virtuous leaders who fear loss of honor more than fear of losing elections.
Of course, our leaders are as human as we are. We all fall short of the ideal. It is not perfection we need from our politicians but the ability to recognize it when they have taken the wrong course and the character to modify their behavior in the face of great pressure to continue on a destructive path. If we apply these standards to America’s involvement in Afghanistan, we can see the virtue in our original reactions to the attacks of September 11, 2001. We were morally obligated to our fellow citizens who lost their lives to properly respond. Osama bin Laden was the Al-Qaeda leader who planned the 9-11 attacks. America needed to punish Bin Laden, which we did by assassinating him in Abbottabad, Pakistan, May 02, 2011. Our course of action was morally just and our direct attack on Bin Laden was measured. It took us almost 10 years to bring him to justice but we should have and we did.
Once Bin Laden was eliminated our leaders from President Obama, President Trump and President Biden should have carefully and incrementally withdrawn our military presence while we protected the Afghanis and others who helped us. We can still engage in such a process. Any timeline, whether May 01, 2021 or September 11, 2021 or any anniversary of previous attacks or any other date is simply one we choose. We need to carefully and slowly withdraw our forces. Artificial drop-dead dates for our leaving encourage the Taliban to simply wait us out; which they are doing.
It will not be a popular decision of President Biden and our other leaders to reinstall enough troops to protect Americans and those allies of America who need to immigrate. However, popularity should not be our goal, virtue should be.