Biden’s Embarrassingly Low Bar for a Successful Withdrawal
My friend Charles Lipson succinctly summarized President Biden’s speech the other day claiming credit for evacuating all US troops from Afghanistan. “Every one of (his) claims is false. Calling the evacuation mission an ‘extraordinary success’ is worse than false. It is shameful. Biden is taking credit for a humiliating defeat that leaves thousands of innocents behind.”
In addition to those innocents, other things left behind include roughly $85 billion in top-line US military equipment. According to Jim Hoft, our Taliban adversaries now possess over 600,00 infantry weapons, 75,000 tactical vehicles and at least 200 aircraft, including 45 Blackhawk helicopters. In addition to the millions of rounds of ammunition, rockets and explosives now under Taliban control, certain luxuries once reserved for US elites were also discarded: encrypted cell-phones and laptops, stockpiles of advanced body armor and, for good measure, hi-tech biometric detection devices – useful for rooting out regime opponents, Christians, uppity women and other undesirables.
But the question White House spokesperson Jen Psaki is least likely to face from the adoring oopa-loopas in her press room is this: “Jen, if the Kabul operation was a military success, then how would President Biden define a failure?” Instead, the media machine instinctively reacts to any hint of Democratic failure by re-defining success in absurd ways: Not an unseemly strategic retreat under fire but an aerial Dunkirk that should be celebrated! You can almost envision Ms. Psaki tossing her hair as she effortlessly dissembles, “Sure, things got a little crazy there for awhile and yeah, we left some stuff behind but, c’mon now who cares? And no Americans are really stranded, and certainly not hostages; although we freely concede that some hard cases might be somewhat delayed-in-transit, OK?”
It is precisely the same intellectual defect that the eminent historian Roberta Wohlstetter famously described as “the slow pleasures of self-deception.” In his epic foreword to Wohlstetter’s classic work on Pearl Harbor, Nobel Laureate Thomas Schelling wrote in 1962: “Surprise, when it happens to a government, is likely to be a complicated, diffuse, bureaucratic thing…The results at Pearl Harbor were sudden, concentrated and dramatic…(but the) failure…was cumulative, widespread and rather drearily familiar.” I was fortunate enough to have Schelling as one of my grad-school professors. His teachings were often applied during my military career: but they came in especially handy afterwards when I became an on-air military analyst for NBC News. (Thomas C. Schelling, Foreword to Roberta Wohlstetter, Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision (Sanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press, 1962).
In early 2001, the brass at MSNBC asked me to act as technical advisor for a documentary they were planning to release later that year. Predicated on the far-out possibility of a terrorist attack on the American homeland, the creative team asked if its working title – “Attack on Manhattan” – made sense. I replied carefully. “Yes, Islamic terrorists attacked the towers in 1993 so it’s reasonable to assume they might do so again. Especially if they can apply some lessons-learned the first time.” We met periodically, eventually settling on a coordinated scenario where the main event was a small nuclear weapon smuggled into the basement of World Trade. We reasoned that a tightly confined but powerful explosion might even cause one tower to collapse against the other.
I forgot about the project over a summer where Florida shark attacks and the search for a missing congressional intern dominated network coverage. Connecting with the show’s producer just before Labor Day, I learned that “Attack on Manhattan” was tentatively scheduled to air during the third week of September: September, 2001.
So in one sense, I predicted the events that came horribly true on 9-11 – a day I spent entirely in front of TV cameras acting like someone who knew what was going on. But in another, I was just as shocked as everyone else, despite having an exquisite sense of the possibilities. MSNBC eventually broadcast “Attack on Manhattan” over a year later, a retrospective showing only the might-have-beens and what-if conjectures.
Twenty years down the road, my sense of irony is only deepened by recent events because our nation seemingly remains impervious to history. My book on mission-creep in Somalia concluded with the stark warning, “The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has limits.” But after 9-11, we boldly invaded Afghanistan, that Graveyard of Empires. We never applied those hard lessons from Somalia, much less asking an even more basic question, one that a British professor put to me many years ago when I was studying abroad: What will we do if we win?
It’s Okay To Admit Both Sides Had the Afghanistan Withdrawal Wrong
A couple weeks ago, under a piece I wrote about the fall of Afghanistan back into the hands of the Taliban, a regular commenter, who had previously supported a full U.S. withdrawal from the country, did something rather remarkable in today’s political environment. He admitted that he had been wrong.
He confessed that he hadn’t sufficiently researched what the conditions in Afghanistan had been in recent years. With little national reporting coming out of the country, public opinion long favoring leaving, and U.S. political leaders from both parties continuing to insist that we were fighting a costly, deadly, pointless, and “endless” war, he was inclined to agree that it was indeed time to go.
“I believed Afghanistan to be a worthless piece of rock where the Afghans refused to fight their own battles at enormous cost to US money and lives,” he wrote. “Over 70 percent of Americans wanted out of Afghanistan. And I believe 100 percent of them had the same opinion I had due to the lack of facts.”
He added, “I have been missing-in-action pertaining to the fact that this war 20 years old, saw young people, including girls, that grew up in an environment free of totalitarianism that permitted them to be educated. I can’t imagine being brought up in a society knowing that a murderous monster in the Taliban was patiently awaiting at the border. The fate of a 17 year old kid plunging to his death in his attempt to flee brought this reality home. I did not realize that over 50,000 Afghans died over the past 7 years fighting the Taliban and in many cases without pay or ammunition. It no longer appears to me that they were the cowards who refused to fight portrayed by the last two administrations.”
I took a couple things away from the commenter’s words.
For starters, he made a really good point about the false perception he and most Americans had of Afghanistan. Once widely seen as the “good war,” our continued deployment there eventually took on the same stigma as the “bad war,” Iraq.
The narrative went something like this: If we were still there years later, having to hold a Middle Eastern government’s hand while terrorist groups targeted our soldiers, it was time to call it quits. This reasoning was perpetuated not just by anti-war activists, non-interventionists, and media liberals, but also by a bipartisan consensus among the last three U.S. presidents (Obama, Trump, and Biden).
Few people of public influence were making a case for staying, even with that case being very strong. This included some traditionally hawkish Republican leaders, many of whom were worried about crossing Trump.
Coupled with dwindling media interest in the country (including the “conservative” media), few Americans understood that the U.S. had officially ended combat operations in Afghanistan back in 2014, and had since been serving in a supporting, stabilizing role, helping to train and provide resources for the Afghan National army, as well as lend a hand to NATO troops. Few understood that no U.S. soldiers had been killed there in combat for over a year. And last week, when 13 U.S. service members were killed in the Kabul attack, I’m guessing that most Americans were shocked to learn that our military hadn’t had a day that deadly in Afghanistan in a decade, and that we hadn’t lost that many U.S. service members there in any of the last several years.
Of course, in a sense, this is all a moot point now that we’ve completed our withdrawal, as mindbogglingly incompetent and stunningly callous as it was. So, let me get my second take-way from the commenter’s words. It has to do with character and credibility.
To be clear, I already respected this individual prior to his remarks. But one’s willingness to admit a political error, rather than spin it into an alternative narrative to save face or run interference for their side of the aisle, is so unheard of these days that it’s worth drawing attention to and commending.
After all, it’s a hard thing to do. No one likes to admit that they got something wrong, especially when it comes to politics. Back in 2016, in my political writing, I treated a Trump loss to Hillary Clinton as an inevitability. I was sure he would lose. And then he won… and I ate some crow. I didn’t enjoy eating it, but it was the table I set for myself, and I learned something from it.
Something I think is truly poisonous to our politics is the inability of people to admit that they were wrong, or even to acknowledge that they held a previous position once that position becomes politically inconvenient. Such examples aren’t hard to find (especially in recent years and with today’s politicians), but the topic of Afghanistan is particularly striking in this regard, because both sides really mucked things up and are now doing a lot of deflecting to pretend otherwise.
Let’s be real here. Any honest, serious discussion of Biden’s Afghanistan policy really should begin with one concession made by each side.
Trump supporters should concede that Biden’s policy was effectively the same as Trump’s. Neither was conditions-based, both meant a full and telegraphed withdrawal (against the recommendations of top military officials), and both foolishly recognized the Taliban as a counter-terrorism partner to the United States. (Heck, Trump even freed 5,000 jihadi prisoners at the Taliban’s demand). The only real distinction was that Trump wanted out even faster than Biden (May 1st to be exact).
One can argue that, had Trump won re-election, his military advisors would have managed to talk him out of the foolhardy withdrawal he’d begun and was clearly passionate about completing. Or… one can speculate, using whatever rationale they choose, that the withdrawal itself would have been less chaotic under Trump, with fewer lives lost and more equipment salvaged (or destroyed). I personally have no confidence that would have been the case, for reasons described in my last column and also the Taliban’s movements over several weeks. (Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it’s hard to get it back in). But it’s certainly possible that at least some of the chaos would have been mitigated.
However, the real problem, as Chris Stirewalt effectively argues, wasn’t just a few weeks of incompetency and dishonest messaging from the administration. It was the policy itself.
Afghanistan falling back under Taliban rule, along with all of the human-rights atrocities, murder, lawlessness, lost intel and strategic positioning, and terrorist invigoration that came with it, was both administrations’ recognized outcome. Regardless of what they said publicly, they knew it would happen (though assuredly believing it would take longer than it did), and they decided it was an acceptable consequence of U.S. withdrawal.
What Biden’s supporters should concede is that, counter to what the president has been saying, Biden was under absolutely no obligation to advance the policy of his predecessor. He consciously chose to, he’d wanted to leave Afghanistan for a long time (regardless of the conditions on the ground), he pulled the trigger on this mess, and now he — not Trump — owns the results and should be held accountable for them.
But is either side making those concessions?
To be fair, some on the left (outside of the administration) have been more willing than I was expecting to rightfully lay the blame on Biden. This has included, as Bernie Goldberg wrote in a recent column, a number of liberal journalists.
And on the right, some prominent Trump supporters in the media have been calling things straight as well:
This is totally Biden’s shit show — he owns it. But how can anyone defend Trump’s releasing 5,000 prisoners at Taliban’s demand? And to put it another way, if Biden had released 5,000 prisoners at Taliban’s demand before bug out, what would MAGA-world be saying?
But people like Andrew McCarthy seem to be the exception rather than the rule. Many others are now acting as if they hadn’t supported the policy that led to the chaos they’re currently decrying in front of the cameras.
I’m talking about people like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who advocated for withdrawing from Afghanistan when Trump was president (even praising Trump’s “deal” with the Taliban), but claimed last week that he was against a full withdrawal, and touted how well our prior presence in Afghanistan had been working to keep the peace.
I’m talking about people like Senator Josh Hawley, who also outspokenly supported withdrawing from Afghanistan under Trump. Hawley even praised Biden back in April for following through with the policy (while chiding him for not moving fast enough). Now Hawley’s calling on the president to resign.
I’m talking about people like Newt Gingrich, who’s been assailing Biden day after day on social media and Fox News, slamming the president for placing trust in the Taliban. It’s a valid criticism, but last year Gingrich praised Trump for doing the same thing.
And of course, I’m talking about regular folks on social media and in political comment sections who were all on board with getting out of Afghanistan ASAP… until a different guy actually did it.
Again, no concessions that they or the guy they were supporting were wrong on any of it, or even reckless or naïve in their actions and aspirations. Just a seamless partisan transition to the other side of the argument.
Of course, a number of people in the pro-Biden camp haven’t been any less embarrassing. Check out this alternate-reality take from Matthew Dowd:
The fact is the most honest and competent moments of presidential leadership on Afghanistan over the last 19 years was the last two weeks or so. Don’t we want leaders to tell us the truth and serve the public? That is exactly what president Biden did.
Yes Dan, pro-life Americans are just like the Taliban. Nailed it. Ugh.
No one likes to be on the wrong side of an argument, but it really shouldn’t be this hard to just admit when your own side screws up. It shouldn’t be this hard to recognize that a screw-up is still a screw-up, no matter who commits it.
The willingness to do so is not only good for your character and credibility (including when you’re critiquing your political opponents), but it also helps your side recognize their mistakes, and hopefully do better going forward.
If you’re nothing but a “yes” person for your team, and a “no” person for the other, you can certainly make it far in the world of partisan political commentary, but you’re also helping to assure that our leaders, policies, and culture have little incentive to improve.
And when it comes to issues like terrorism and national security, we should all have a vested interest in improvement.
Last April, I wrote a piece for this website arguing that a full withdrawal from Afghanistan would be a terrible, costly mistake. I described how the “endless war” mantra, originated and popularized by the left (including President Biden) and later adopted by much of the right (including President Trump), was neither a rational nor serious reason for abandoning our hard-earned progress, national security advantages, and relative stability in the country.
Of course, I knew those arguments wouldn’t change anyone’s mind. Others with much bigger soapboxes had been making them for some time, including military experts and advisors, and a relative handful of conservative commentators and Republican leaders (who were mocked as “neocons” and “war mongers” by both sides). I knew the withdrawal was coming. The facts on the ground didn’t matter one bit.
It didn’t matter that the U.S. had formally ended combat missions in Afghanistan almost seven years earlier.
It didn’t matter that our presence in the country had been reduced to a small, relatively inexpensive footprint. Only 2,500 U.S. troops were stationed there, acting purely in a supporting role to the Afghan army, mostly from within well-protected U.S. facilities. The mission was serving as a successful deterrent to Taliban aggression, and there hadn’t been a U.S. combat-related death in well over a year.
It didn’t matter that staying in Afghanistan provided enormous strategic advantages in the collection of vital intelligence on terrorist groups, and going after bad actors in neighboring regions.
It didn’t matter that our presence in Afghanistan was now welcomed by the vast majority of the country’s citizens, including a generation of women who’d risen from unspeakable oppression and torture, and enjoyed freedoms they’d never thought possible. Unfortunately, the pain, suffering, and death they’ve faced in recent days is only the beginning.
No, all that really mattered (and purely for political and presidential legacy reasons) was that we get the heck out of there… and do so ASAP.
The previous administration had wanted us out of Afghanistan by last May, and as with Biden, Trump’s withdrawal plan was not conditions-based. Furthermore, it included the asinine proclamation that the Taliban had actually become a counter-terrorism partner to the United States, and that they would be helping us by “killing terrorists” after we left.
Of course, we also all remember Trump’s obscene plan to invite Taliban leaders to Camp David for a good-ol’-boy sit-down on the anniversary of 9/11, in hopes of schmoozing them into giving up their jihad. It was ultimately called off, but the administration’s negotiations did lead to 5,000 Taliban prisoners being released, many of whom are now serving as battlefield reinforcements as the group takes back over Afghanistan.
But Trump’s no longer our president. He may have started this harebrained initiative, and compelled much of the modern right to either support it or keep their reservations silent, but Biden (despite his statements to the contrary) was under absolutely no obligation to complete it. It was a choice he consciously and decisively made as president.
In other words, Biden owns this.
The horrific, heartbreaking results of his decision are playing out on television right now for the world to see. We have disgraced ourselves as a nation, deeply damaged our credibility and trustworthiness abroad, and are demonstrating to entire world exactly what utter defeat looks like.
The results of our withdrawal:
More war, not less.
More troops in Afghanistan, not fewer.
Less confidence in US leadership, not more.
A growing terror threat, not a receding one.
Emboldened, not cowed, near-peer competitors.
Great job, everyone. https://t.co/8GbOtI8FCo
And the most maddening part about all of it is that none of it needed to happen.
People of good faith have been arguing that this was the inevitable outcome of pulling out of Afghanistan, regardless if it had been done today or many years in the future. And you know what? They’re probably right. But that’s a big reason for why we shouldn’t have left.
Today, we have well over 150,000 U.S. troops deployed outside of the United States. That includes about 28,000 in South Korea… because of a war that started over 70 years ago. Should we pick up and leave because it too is an “endless war”? I hear few people making that argument.
People of good faith would perhaps also argue that South Korea is different in that no U.S. soldiers have died there in combat in many many years. It’s a fair point. As mentioned above, we unfortunately lost one of our own in Afghanistan as recently as February of 2020.
But as conservative commentator Noah Rothman points out, “…to call that an unacceptable level of risk calls into question U.S. deployments to places like Kosovo, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain and Kuwait, where U.S. soldiers also lost their lives last year.”
Have you heard anyone calling for us to leave these places? I haven’t.
As I’ve previously written, it’s difficult to see how any serious cost-benefit analysis of the situation in Afghanistan would have favored full withdrawal over even just the status quo of the past few years. People of good faith can argue that the past several administrations made plenty of mistakes in Afghanistan, and they should therefore share some blame for the country’s current condition. That’s fine, but it doesn’t change the reality of what the situation actually was when Biden was elected. Presidents aren’t handed a time-machine to correct past wrongs when they’re sworn into office.
Was the government of Afghanistan, including their military, too dependent on U.S. support? Yes, but it was an effective partnership. And when we severed that partnership, we disabled them:
Lastly, people of good faith have been arguing that while we still should have left Afghanistan, we should have at least done so with a better plan for first getting out our people, interpreters, and equipment. While I don’t agree with the first point (for the reasons stated above), I can’t believe anyone would argue against that second one. What we’re seeing under Biden is an unforgivable shit show — worse than anything I could have imagined.
President Biden seems to have been in denial throughout this entire process, from the (supposed) planning stage to the rapidly deteriorating situation as we began withdrawing our troops. While I’m not convinced things would have gone any smoother under Trump, that doesn’t really matter.
Biden’s the guy in charge, and his administration should be held accountable for all of it.
Last week, while defending his decision to remove all American troops from Afghanistan, President Biden said of the Taliban threat, “I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped, and … more competent in terms of conducting war.”
My mouth dropped open at those words, and it wasn’t just because I hadn’t previously heard anyone — including top military leaders and members of the Biden administration — attempt to make such a case. What also got me was that the statement flew directly in the face of what was currently going on in Afghanistan… including in real-time reporting from the region.
Civil war was already underway, led by a Taliban offensive in the northern part of the country (a traditional area of government strength). Not waiting for the completion of our withdrawal, the Taliban (in concert with al-Qaeda) had been making huge territorial gains across the nation through various combat operations. According to the Long War Journal, they’d already taken over 20 percent of country, half of that (38 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts) in a mere six days. Without U.S. support for the first time in many years (not even airstrikes), lots of Afghan troops had already laid down their arms, abandoned their posts, and sought refuge in surrounding countries.
Biden’s ‘Baghdad Bob’ moment wasn’t all that different than the president’s claims a few months ago that the border situation between Mexico and the U.S. was under control.
Things have since worsened in Afghanistan. Just about every day there are new reports of Taliban gains. The group now holds at least 139 districts, nearly tripling its territorial rule in the span of just two months. Several provincial capitals are now in their cross-hairs.
This incursion was not only predictable, but actually predicted… by just about every military and intelligence expert on the region (everything but the speed at which it has occurred).
The Taliban’s ultimate goal is to restore the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Islamic State that was overthrown by the Northern Alliance almost 20 years ago, shortly after 9/11. But for that to occur, the U.S. needs to be gone — something that Biden now says will happen by the end of August.
American withdrawal is shaping up to be a huge mistake by both President Biden and President Trump — one that would have failed any reasonable cost-benefit analysis in regard to U.S. interests and national security. The faulty “endless war” narrative (which is remarkably never applied to a number of countries where we’ve had U.S. soldiers stationed for much longer), and leaders looking to carve out a significant foreign policy spot for themselves in the history books, have trumped the reality, resources, and hard-earned stability on the ground.
Prior to our withdrawal efforts, U.S. combat operations and casualties in Afghanistan had been very rare. No U.S. solider has been killed on an operation in well over a year. Our role there had been a supporting, stabilizing one. We’d been helping to train and provide resources for the Afghan National army, as well as lend support to NATO troops. We had a light and relatively inexpensive military footprint, the presence of which served as an effective deterrent against the Taliban (and their human rights atrocities), an important hub for anti-terror intelligence gathering, and a strategic regional advantage against neighboring threats.
Yet, Biden said in that same press conference last week, “I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation to achieve a different outcome. The United States cannot afford to remain tethered to policies created in response to a world as it was 20 years ago.”
The statement undoubtedly sounded good to many Americans… but it was also nonsensical.
What we’d seen in Afghanistan in recent years (not 20 years ago) resembled more of a “cold war” situation than anything else. American withdrawal, however, is already producing something much closer to the type of war that Biden described. The worsening conditions are far more likely to, at some point, bring back U.S. military operations inside the country. Biden clearly didn’t learn this lesson during the last administration he was in, when the U.S. had to send troops back to Iraq to deal with the horrific ISIS insurgency brought on by our premature withdrawal from the country.
I understand the frustration many Americans have had with the Afghan government’s inability to — on their own — prevent a radical extremist takeover of their country. It’s a sad reality (despite Biden pretending otherwise), and I’ve shared that frustration for a long time.
But an open-ended hand-holding operation, that had become a small but lucrative investment for the United States and our allies, was absolutely worth keeping. I’m afraid that will become more and more apparent in the coming weeks and months.
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Leaving Afghanistan is a Mistake
David French of The Dispatch wrote a compelling piece earlier this week on how the decision of President Biden (and before him President Trump) to pull all U.S. and NATO forces out of Afghanistan isn’t driven by U.S. strategical interests, but rather the flawed (but popular) narrative that our efforts there over the past two decades have largely resulted in failure.
He asks an important question, evoking the mindset of Americans on September 12, 2001, when many of us were just learning about Osama bin Laden, and had remained glued to our television screens for hours, watching and re-watching the horrors of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history:
“If I had told you then, at that moment, that the United States was about to embark on a military response that would, over the course of the next twenty years, 1) almost immediately depose the Taliban and ultimately kill Osama bin Laden, 2) defend our nation from enduring even a single further large-scale terror attack, and 3) cost fewer American combat fatalities in Afghanistan than were lost in a single day on 9/11, would you have thought, ‘sounds like we lost’?”
The answer, of course, would be no.
Yet, the failure narrative has become conventional wisdom among most Americans, even if they don’t really think about Afghanistan all that much these days. And that narrative, in the year 2021, has been preserved almost entirely from the premise of how long we’ve been there… not so much the mistakes of the past (of which there were plenty), and next to nothing to do with the current mission.
But that “endless war” meme is a powerful one, once parroted primarily by the likes of Code Pink and Michael Moore, before mainstream Democrats and Donald Trump adopted it years later for political purposes.
It hasn’t seemed to matter to many people that U.S. combat operations and casualties in Afghanistan have been pretty rare for some time now. In fact, no U.S. solider has been killed on an operation in over a year. Our role in the country these days is a supporting, stabilizing one. We’ve been helping to train and provide resources for the Afghan National army, as well as lend support to NATO troops.
Our presence in the country (that comes at a relatively small cost and small number of troops these days) has served as a deterrent to extremist groups. One can argue that such stability is fragile, but I’d call that an argument for staying, not leaving. We saw what happened when President Obama pulled our troops out of Iraq, against the advice of military leaders who are similarly advising President Biden not to pull out of Afghanistan. Jihadists (ISIS) predictably overtook the region, thousands were killed, and we had to send troops back in to a situation that was far more dangerous than when they’d left, to deal with the problem.
Shouldn’t we have learned something from that?
Staying in Afghanistan also provides a strategic advantage for going after bad actors in neighboring regions.
For example, the operation that killed Osama bin Laden and retrieved invaluable intel from his compound in Pakistan (which resulted in many more severe blows dealt to the al-Qaeda’s network), was launched out of Afghanistan.
Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who has served as a trainer for the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, wrote in a recent piece, “It is difficult, if not impossible, to see how the U.S. could have conducted that raid otherwise. And Biden’s strategy will make it only more difficult to launch special operations raids behind enemy lines in the future.”
I get that we’ve been in Afghanistan for a long time. I get that there’s a difference between having a prolonged military presence there, and having one in countries like Germany and Japan (though it’s not as profound of a difference as some make it out to be). I also get that over the past twenty years, we’ve made a lot of mistakes in Afghanistan, fueled by over-optimism toward what could be achieved culturally, democratically and militarily in the country.
But failing to meet certain objectives isn’t failure in and of itself. As French pointed out, we’ve succeeded in Afghanistan well beyond what any of us could have imagined 20 years ago. Withdrawing from the region now, based on an outdated perception, and not the realities of the current mission (nor the risks of ending that mission), can only squander or reverse those successes.
President Biden may be emboldened by the idea of getting his name in the history books as being the guy who said “enough’s enough,” but unfortunately for the United States and much of the world, Islamic extremists don’t exactly approach things that way. In fact, Biden’s needless withdrawal from Afghanistan will be interpreted by them as an enormous victory in what they view as the real “endless war.”
“Tens of thousands of jihadists around the globe are poised to celebrate America’s defeat in Afghanistan,” writes Joscelyn in his piece. “Their movement was given a large boost by the defeat of the Soviets a generation ago. Now, America’s defeat will be commemorated on September 11, 2021—the end date chosen by President Biden. It was a tone-deaf decision to select the 9/11 anniversary. Any other date would have been better. It means the jihadis can now remember how al-Qaeda brought the war to America on that date, and America completed its retreat from Afghanistan exactly 20 years later.”
If Biden’s so concerned with optics, perhaps he should pay closer attention to that one.
Note from John: I’ve been writing a weekly non-political newsletter since October, covering topics like art, music, humor, travel, society and culture. I’ve been surprised by, and thankful for, how many people have been signing up for it. If it sounds interesting to you, I’d love for you to subscribe (it’s free).