The president said yesterday that peace talks with the Taliban over ending the war in Afghanistan are “dead” after the terrorist group staged a bombing in Kabul last week that resulted in the death of a U.S. soldier.
And those talks may have been “dead” at the exact moment the president said it and perhaps for minutes afterwards. But soon enough, they will continue in a discrete form.
How do I know this? Do I have internal White House sources or a man in the know? Is my crystal ball operating in rare form? Kinda.
My internal sources are the words and actions of the president himself. My man in the know is the business record of Trump himself. Crystal ball? History itself.
Donald Trump has said more than once, and anyway it’s a negotiating truism, that you never sit down to cut a deal you’re not willing to walk away from if you don’t get what you want. Reagan did it at Reykjavik. However, like Trump, he knew he was just setting up a better deal in a short span of time. Leaving the table for a moment is just to remind the other guys you’re serious and that they need you more than you need them.
What does the president want? He wants and needs the Taliban to behave for a time while we disengage. That means no bombings or otherwise deadly moves against our forces. Publicly, as opposed to privately, walking away, perhaps with an upcoming hard strike at the Taliban, will serve to expedite the successful execution of that goal.
Nixon’s December 1972 bombing of Hanoi, Operation Linebacker II, is a case in point. When the deal over ending the Vietnam War was close but the North Vietnamese were haggling over small details, Nixon walked away for a short time and used the pause to plaster the commies with B-52-delivered holiday joy.
Merry Christmas, Hanoi.
They were soon back at it and an agreement to get us out and to save face until our allies lost the war, just like in this scenario, happened in a couple of months. When you look not only at the president’s political negotiating stances, but also especially the way he ran his business, his strategy becomes clear. This is a move he’s used before in NYC real estate wars. He usually won there too.
Though, define win.
A win here is declaring a victory next year in the middle of the political season and getting an assurance from the Taliban that we’ll be allowed to leave peacefully. Then, after a “decent interval,” the Paks and the Iranians will move in and fight for turf. One of them will win, make Afghanistan a rambunctious satrapy, and we will have had clean hands for a couple of years already.
A cynical sellout? Men and treasure spent for nothing permanent? A cover-your-ass deal that only postpones strategic defeat?
Well, of course it is.
Welcome to geopolitics.