Gen. Douglas MacArthur once quipped, “Rules are mostly made to be broken.” Nowhere is their violation more consequential than in the theater of war, where lives hang in the balance. Afghanistan’s returning Taliban overlords are demonstrating their disdain for policies they established that are meant to guide the nation’s transition from factional terrorism to functional governance. It is understood that Marquess of Queensbury Rules of fair play are foreign to these internecine combatants. Still, there can be no peaceful outcome to the treachery the Taliban is practicing.
The U.S. State Department has marshaled a body of global allies in condemning the Taliban over the “summary killings and enforced disappearances” of former Afghan security forces. “We underline that the alleged actions constitute serious human rights abuses and contradict the Taliban’s announced amnesty,” read a statement released Saturday by the U.S., EU, Great Britain and other nations.
The extrajudicial kidnapping and execution of more than 100 police and intelligence officials violate an agreement accepted by Taliban leaders following their overthrow of the Afghan government in August. Human Rights Watch reported in November that the nation’s new leaders had ordered former security forces to register with authorities in return for a letter guaranteeing their safety. Instead, the information is being weaponized as a means of rounding them up for execution or imprisonment.
Is it surprising that those who traffic in terror have trouble with integrity? No. However, it is unsettling to realize that they are not the only ones.
Americans cannot forget President Joe Biden’s sudden abandonment of the secure Bagram Airfield in the dead of night without alerting the base’s new Afghan commander. Nor can they unsee the images of frantic civilian crowds begging U.S. troops for evacuation assistance, hapless individuals clinging to the fuselage of departing U.S. jets before falling to their deaths, and the faces of 13 brave Americans killed when callously left exposed to suicide bombs.
Moreover, memories are tormented with the knowledge that hundreds of American citizens and perhaps thousands of U.S. legal residents are still — still — trapped in enemy territory where Mr. Biden abandoned them.
As China menaces Taiwan, and Russia closes in on Ukraine, populations coping with the threat of invasion cannot help but feel that long-standing U.S. pledges of resolute support — now the responsibility of the man who abandoned Afghanistan — are little more than empty promises.
MacArthur lost his command when, during the Korean War, he effectively made up his own rules. The Taliban, though, faces nothing more consequential than unflattering press releases as a result of its treacherous treatment of the Afghan people. With his puzzlingly incompetent Afghanistan pullout, Mr. Biden has contributed his own entry to the annals of treachery.
Codes of conduct are essential for human coexistence. Sadly, peace is not possible when rulers adopt the practice of “Rules for thee but not for me.”
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