Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

The Anti-War Movement Needs to Recognize Biden’s Achievements


The declaration of War on Terror in 2001 was enthusiastically greeted by a more-than-usually jingoistic American population rallying around the flag after September 11th. George W Bush’s sky-high approval ratings granted him wide latitude to engage with ‘terrorists’ (and other members of the ‘axis of evil’) around the world, notably in Afghanistan and Iraq. While Bush’s popularity, and that of the wars he started, waned over time, the willingness of the United States to identify and strike terrorist around the globe only expanded with the expanded use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), more commonly referred to as ‘drones’. Drone warfare, though frequently decried for its secrecy, lack of clear rules of engagement, and propensity to kill civilians, was utilized by President Bush but grew into a major feature of the Obama and Trump presidencies. Its persistence, as well as the apparently endless occupation of Afghanistan, became a symbol for many of the similarities between the two parties when it came to the use of American military force, some, like Glenn Greenwald, have used drone warfare and belligerent foreign policy (along with issues like privacy and criminal justice) to argue that indeed there is little significant difference between Democrats and Republicans. It became ‘common knowledge’ that no matter what party was in power, drones would be used to kill throughout the world, with little accountability, and American foreign policy would adopt a generally bellicose tone.

Then something unexpected happened—Biden stopped using drones. For many months in 2021, drone warfare ceased entirely. While strikes have since been used, including a tragic, panicked strike that killed many innocents in Kabul, their number and death toll have dropped precipitously. Airwars, an organization dedicated to tracking civilian deaths in these kinds of strikes, has noted 2021 as the lowest cumulative total of US-caused civilian air strike casualties since 2006. Another reminder of the War on Terror, the stationing of US troops in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, also ended in Biden’s first year as president, as those soldiers—and tens of thousands of civilians—were withdrawn in an evacuation that was itself broadly criticized as being disorganized or too hurried.



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