America did indeed meet its most critical challenge of removing Donald Trump and his cohort from the White House, ending the most morally and ethically depraved presidency in likely the nation’s history. What apparently has not ended Is the gross ineptitude that too often pervades major administration decisions.
Yes, we now have a president and cabinet of people who have relevant resumés replete with experience and accomplishments in the areas of their leadership roles. And compared with their immediate predecessors, they are exemplars of decency, good intentions and good will toward men (and most notably, equally toward women and minorities). But considering the predictable disaster this administration has now wrought in Afghanistan, you have to wonder what they were smoking in the situation room when they (1) decided to abruptly remove all U.S. military forces in a matter of a few months, (2) proudly announced this clearly self-defeating time-table for all the world, not to mention the Taliban, to see, (3) acted on the most optimistic assessments (while ignoring ever-increasing contrary opinions) from our military and intelligence communities that one of the world’s most corrupt governments and unmotivated militaries would maintain at least some semblance of anti-insurgent stability in our absence, and (4) subsequently proceeded to publicly and repeatedly make statements totally contrary to what the most casual recollection of recent history and even a modicum of common sense would suggest.
No, no, and no we are told. No, this is no parallel to our chaotic departure from Vietnam (even as we are forced to immediately redeploy thousands of troops to protect our withdrawal). No, the comparatively few Taliban forces are no match for the hundreds of thousands of American-trained Afghan troops wielding the most advanced weaponry we could provide (in spite of the one area of agreement among all our intelligence sources that the Taliban would eventually prevail against weak-willed government forces). No, even after two decades of fighting, over 20,000 Americans killed and wounded and a trillion dollars spent, this is no war America has lost, having prevented terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS from taking hold (but in fact leaving the country in the hands of the terrorist Taliban).
And what finally is new for the Afghan people? According to President Biden, what happens to them is up to them. In what must be a disingenuous comment worthy of his predecessor, Biden declares the Afghans should decide their future for themselves — those millions who remain to face the music of Taliban Redux, yet another long-running American foreign policy horror show, choreographed by this president and his three immediate predecessors. (And just for the record, can you imagine the howls of rage from CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, et al, if this closing scene had been produced and directed by Donald Trump?)
The absurd irony is that President Biden, presiding over and directly responsible for the finale of this fiasco, was a witness to and participant in both our previous Vietnam and current Afghanistan debacles during four decades as a senator and a vice president. He seemingly appreciates the ultimate futility of American nation building but clearly failed to learn enough from the mismanagement of our military by every commander-in-chief for the last 58 years. (I am aware from personal experience that memory fades with age, but I am sure Biden cannot have forgotten that much futility.)
So “let’s be clear” as our politicians are wont to say, just before muttering their latest obfuscations. It was an arguably right decision to end America’s military actions in Afghanistan, even granting the virtually unanimous belief that a Taliban takeover of most if not all of the country was ultimately inevitable once we departed. And while apparently no one predicted the Afghan government and military both fleeing at first sight of the Taliban, it’s nonetheless appalling to witness the strategic incompetence and ensuing false narratives with which our withdrawal is being executed.
You can say it ain’t so, Joe. But please, let’s not go back down that road.