Washington : Chaotic scenes in Kabul accompanied the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The fundamentalist Islamic group was able to retake power after President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw the remaining US troops from the country.
The withdrawal brings to a close nearly 20 years of American military presence in Afghanistan.
Without the ongoing prospect of U.S. military support, the Washington-backed Afghan government quickly fell – and on Aug. 15, 2021, the Taliban declared the creation of a new political order, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
The withdrawal was widely popular in the United States, when first announced by Biden on April 14 – the majority of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, favored an end to the military presence in Afghanistan.
The withdrawal, however, has brought significant costs for the people of Afghanistan. The Taliban has proved itself willing to engage in widespread violation of basic human rights – in particular, the human rights of women.
The decision to withdraw is likely to lead to enormous suffering in the years to come. A hypothetical decision to remain in Afghanistan, however, would also have led to significant moral costs – that decision would continue to put American soldiers in harm’s way. As a political philosopher whose work focuses on international affairs, I have tried to understand how ethical reasoning might be applied to such cases.
The first, and most important, ethical question might be: Was the United States justified in withdrawing its troops?
A second question might involve asking about how the moral wrongs that are now emerging in Afghanistan should weigh upon the American conscience. Should American political leaders regard these wrongs as, in some fashion, their responsibility?
More broadly, is it sometimes possible that, in doing the best available thing, we are nonetheless guilty of doing something morally wrong?