The foreign policy and military establishment will do everything they can to blame Biden, but the bottom line remains that Afghanistan is a massive failure on their part, and Biden is being asked to believe the same lies he was told as vice president (which, unfortunately, the president believed, although to his credit he didn’t). And as with DEFICITS, this is one of those issues on which reporters are allowed to openly editorialize about, so long as they defend the blob:
On Afghanistan, both Trump & Biden have been swimming against the main currents of opinion among military leaders (who want to avoid the conclusion that this is an embarrassing failure *on their part*) and a lot of reporters are very comfortable openly siding with the generals.— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) August 15, 2021
As recently as yesterday, they were still hoping that turning the Trump/Biden withdrawal policy into an embarrassing shitshow would successfully bully the White House into reversing course the way they squeezed Obama in 2009 and Trump in 2017.— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) August 15, 2021
If the new president hadn’t been Obama’s VP it probably would’ve worked.
They’d have told him “oh Trump messed this up, we just need a temporary surge of forces to push the Taliban back for a few years and get us a better bargaining position for a negotiated peace.”— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) August 15, 2021
But because Biden was in the room where it happened in 2009-2016 he’d already seen this play out and ripped off the band-aid. It’s ugly and unfortunate, but I think better than the alternative course available.— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) August 15, 2021
The point about the Taliban advancing even during the Trump surge is particularly important. Low-engagement occupation was never a serious long-range option; either the US was going to have to escalate again or leave. And the fact that the blob was never even willing to make the case for permanent occupation but kept pretending in public that one or two more Friedman Units could do the trick (although in private the knew otherwise) creates a strong presumption in itself that “leave” is the best of the bad choices.
And the quality of the arguments being made by the Forever War crowd hasn’t improved at all:
First of all note the rank demagoguery about invoking THE TROOPS, as if anyone is blaming them as opposed to the people responsible for making the decision to continue a war although it wasn’t accomplishing anything. But what’s especially amazing is the invocation of Saigon as an argument for continuing a war we all know that the brass has long since concluded in private was unwinnable. One more Friedman Unit and South Vietnam totally could have stood on its own!
Biden has his faults but one thing he’s good at is recognizing when bullshit artists are insulting his intelligence, which makes him well-positioned to deal with this.
And while I’m sure leaving could have been done better despite the lack of support for the policy — you can always say that — let’s remember who will always bear primary responsibility:
Twenty years ago, when the twin towers and the Pentagon were still smoldering, there was a sense among America’s warrior and diplomatic class that history was starting anew for the people of Afghanistan and much of the Muslim world.
“Every nation has a choice to make,” President George W. Bush saidon the day that bombs began falling on Oct. 7, 2001. In private, senior U.S. diplomats were even more explicit. “For you and us, history starts today,” then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage told his Pakistani counterparts.
Earlier this month, as the Taliban raced across Afghanistan, retired Lt. Col. Jason Dempsey, a two-time veteran of the war, stumbled across Armitage’s words. To Dempsey, the sentiment was “the most American thing I’ve ever heard” and emblematic of the hubris and ignorance that he and so many others brought to the losing war.