Joe Biden’s Surrender Is an Ugly, Needless Disaster
This is the culmination of four decades of Biden being wrong about our national security, and two presidents eager to end the war in Afghanistan without preparing for its end.
With the Taliban retaking Afghanistan amid a frenzied U.S. exit, I am reminded that Robert Gates, Barack Obama’s defense secretary, famously said that Joe Biden has “been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” That isn’t an exaggeration.
Biden opposed the Persian Gulf War (later, reversing his decision and saying George H.W. Bush should have gone all the way to Baghdad) and supported the Iraq War, before opposing the surge in Iraq (not to mention famously wanting to partition Iraq into three countries). As vice president, he opposed the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
This brings us to Afghanistan. As recently as a month ago, Biden denied a Taliban takeover was inevitable. Everyone knew that was wrong. Everyone except Biden, I suppose. Based on his horrible track record, we can assume he was being sincere. If he wasn’t, he would have demanded a more responsible exit plan before proceeding.
Biden inherited an Afghanistan where Americans were suffering few casualties, and where a small residual force was seemingly maintaining some semblance of order (not to mention preventing the country from once again being used as a staging ground for international terrorists to launch attacks against the U.S.). With his what-could-go-wrong withdrawal, he has managed to turn it into the tragic debacle that is happening now in front of our eyes.
To be sure, Biden didn’t do it alone. His predecessor, Donald Trump, deserves much of the blame. Biden claims that, by withdrawing forces, he’s honoring his predecessor’s commitment. But he has reversed lots of other Trump policies, didn’t adhere to Trump’s May 1 deadline for withdrawal, and could have easily cited examples of the Taliban not living up to their side of the agreement as reason enough to scuttle the deal.
The point is that Biden was not locked in to following through with Trump’s unwise “America First” policy. As much as Trump deserves blame for this situation (and so much more), the fall of Afghanistan is happening on Biden’s watch. This is his rodeo. This is, if not his Vietnam, his fall of Saigon.
Now, Biden is rushing troops back into Afghanistan to try and end or at least mitigate the optics of a desperate evacuation that leaves translators and other allies and Afghans who’d depended on us behind. But it’s already terribly late, as the civilians waiting for flights that may never come can vouch.
Some people believe that Biden’s real problem was his execution. For example, why would he refuse to leave a residual force behind, and why would he time his withdrawal for the summer fighting season? With more prudent logistics and better timing, Biden might have bought a cushion of time between the U.S. withdrawal and the Taliban takeover. That would have resulted in better PR for Biden, but the fundamental problem was the decision to withdraw U.S. troops without leaving a residual force behind—not the hamfisted way he did it.
It could have been even worse. Biden originally had this insane idea of linking the Afghanistan withdrawal to September 11, and that may be why he couldn’t wait for the fighting season to end before giving in. In his mind, he somehow thought that ending a 20-year war on this particular date would be romantic and symbolic. And it would. For the Taliban!
In this pathetic departure, with American arms again ending up with our enemies as they did in Iraq, Biden is reinforcing the notion that our enemies can simply outlast us. Likewise, he is demonstrating (as Trump before him did with the Kurds) that putting your neck on the line for this nation is a fool’s errand. These decisions will make any future military interventions that more difficult.
This naivete is on full display with the anemic threats the U.S. is now issuing. Their behavior could lead to “international isolation.” Executions, our embassy warns, show a lack of “human rights.” It’s not a perfect analogy, but I am reminded of Die Hard, when John McClane tries to use a police radio to report a terrorist attack and is threatened with an FCC violation: “Fine, report me. Come the fuck down here and arrest me!” The Taliban are pillaging, executing and pressing 15-year-old girls into “service” as Taliban brides while we are threatening to, what, ruin their reputation in the international community?
In short, it’s a shit show. If you had told me 10 ten years ago that Biden would be elected president to clean up after Trump, I would have worried about precisely this kind of mess. Trump was so chaotic and dangerous that Biden, who (aside from his track record of bad foreign policy calls) had been a handsy gaffe machine, looked like Abe Lincoln by comparison. Today, however, we are witnessing the one-two punch of the Trump-Biden era. The scene unfolding in Afghanistan is exactly what you might expect from a policy that both men endorsed.