“I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy.” – The Ranger Creed

“I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.” – The POW Code of Conduct

“I will never leave a fallen comrade.” – The Soldier’s Creed

America never abandons their own. This simple concept has been a cornerstone of the American way of war since before our Nation’s founding. In every major conflict, America’s armed forces have gone to nearly any length to retrieve a fallen comrade or a prisoner captured by our enemies. So much so that sometimes the toll of a rescue adds to lives already lost. Yet, this is the price America has always been willing to pay, and the promise that we’ve always kept, particularly to those who serve. In 2014, amidst the debate over the rescue of Sergeant Bowe Berghdal, President Obama stated, “The United States has always had a pretty sacred rule, and that is: We don’t leave our men or women in uniform behind.” 

From the Ranger Creed to the POW Code of Conduct, America’s compact with her armed forces and for those in uniform to each other is clear — no matter the cost, you will be brought home. While this began as a military principle with origins in the French and Indian War, it seeped more deeply into the American consciousness following Vietnam and was cemented with the establishment of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. What followed was a policy which extended more broadly to encompass all Americans, and for generations the message to our enemies could not be more clear: that which you do to one of us, you do to all of us. And America never forgets.

Until now.

Under the Biden administration our State Department has thrown this idea to the wayside and has instead adopted a policy of weakness. Speaking on January 23, a senior State Department official declared that “as President Biden has said, military action by Russia could come at any time. The United States Government will not be in a position to evacuate U.S. citizens in such a contingency.”

These are not the words of the world’s leading superpower. These are the words of an administration seemingly unconcerned with the abandonment of both our people and our norms. With totalitarian regimes such as Russia and China looking for every opportunity to exploit fragility and instability, this message could not come at a worse time for America or her allies.

After the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, confidence in America and her brand is already severely shaken. Speaking on the floor of the British Parliament, Tom Tugendhat, chairman of parliament’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee made the case for ending the “special relationship” between America and the United Kingdom — a phrase first used by Churchill to emphasize the critical and longstanding bond between our two nations. He argued for Britain to shift away from looking to America as a leader in order “to make sure [they] are not dependent on a single ally, on the decision of a single leader.”  

Such a declaration would at one time have been unthinkable, but the consequences of Biden’s doctrine of abandonment has shaken our allies and caused them to reassess what were once considered fundamental truths about the world’s leading democracy. 

By abandoning our citizens abroad, we only embolden those who would see America and our ideals of freedom removed from the international stage. It is no coincidence that Russia is now planning a full scale invasion of Ukraine, all the while blaming the United States for inflaming the crisis. In a way, Putin is right: it is Biden’s fault. Only through consistently demonstrating such abject weakness and betrayal of principle could Russia have felt emboldened to carry out this plan.