“The buck stops here,” said the Finger Pointer in Chief yesterday while blaming everything from Donald Trump to the weather for the catastrophic collapse in Afghanistan. The editorial board of the Washington Post agrees — on where the buck actually stops. One can get a sense of this agreement in the video montage of Biden’s speech they put together:
They agree so much with Biden on the buck’s itinerary that they struggle to find a historic parallel to his “blunders” in a scathing response to Biden’s speech yesterday:
President Biden’s blunders in what is — suddenly — a Taliban-dominated Afghanistan may be measured in many ways. One is by searching the sorriest episodes of U.S. foreign policy history for an analogy. Former defense secretary and former CIA director Leon E. Panetta drew a comparison with the Bay of Pigs, the 1961 U.S. attempt to overthrow Cuba’s Fidel Castro, which ended with hundreds of CIA-backed invaders killed or captured after President John F. Kennedy denied them air cover.
Another parallel: the desperate plight of U.S. allies at the fall of South Vietnam in April 1975. Images of Afghans, terrified of Taliban rule, clinging to a departing U.S. military aircraft — some fell to their deaths — are indeed reminiscent of the last days in Saigon. Imagine how desperate a person must be to risk piggybacking on a moving airplane; such is the betrayal of the trust so many Afghans placed in the United States.
Worse, this was avoidable.
They scoffed at Biden’s attempts to claim that Trump tied his hands. Even acknowledging the fecklessness of the deal Trump sought, the Taliban had repeatedly violated its terms. Why didn’t Biden act as though he was the current president and do something about it?
Mr. Biden might have renegotiated the withdrawal deal his predecessor, Donald Trump, cut with the Taliban. Certainly the Taliban’s repeated violations of that pact gave Mr. Biden a legitimate reason for doing so. A regional diplomatic push for a more sustainable political deal was outlined in February by the congressionally authorized Afghanistan Study Group.
The truth was that Biden wanted to get out of Afghanistan, a position he has held since 2009, long before Trump went into politics. That was an arguable position, and still is. However, the WaPo editors point out that such a plan required strategic and tactical thinking, not simply leaving without even bothering to pack up our materiel first:
But even if you reject all of these arguments — as Mr. Biden did, claiming any presence would have led to more combat for U.S. troops — the pullout need not have degenerated into catastrophic spectacle. He could have planned to leave maintenance contractors, who kept the Afghan military’s medevac helicopters and other crucial aircraft in flying shape, knowing that air support was critical to that army’s ability and willingness to fight. He could have foreseen the need to maintain some presence until Americans and allies had left the country.
In short, the president could have listened to the many seasoned hands — inside and outside his own administration — who advised him that there were alternatives to precipitous, unconditional withdrawal.
And finally and forcefully, the editors found Biden’s attempt to blame the betrayed Afghan military — bereft of air cover, thanks to Biden’s abrupt withdrawal of the contractors — disgusting:
Yes, the Afghan military’s demoralization and failure to fight came as a rude disappointment, as the president emphasized, but it’s fair to ask why, if he was sure the cause was lost, their quick surrender came as such a surprise to him. The blame-shifting is especially unseemly given that some 66,000 Afghan fighters have given their lives in this war during the past 20 years, alongside 2,448 U.S. service members.
There isn’t a hint of Republican pouncing or whataboutism in the WaPo’s condemnation of Biden. Nor is there any in the Wall Street Journal’s less-surprising editorial scourging of Biden over the Afghanistan debacle:
Like all good liberal internationalists, Mr. Biden thinks you can achieve a diplomatic outcome by diplomacy alone. Mr. Biden’s claim that the U.S. will continue to support the Afghan people and stand for human rights and the women of Afghanistan is the same kind of internationalist twaddle. The Taliban is taking the women of Afghanistan back to the Dark Ages, and the “international community” will do nothing to stop it. Mr. Biden’s words of “support” will be cold comfort when the Taliban knocks on the doors of women who worked in the Afghan government.
We had hoped that Mr. Biden would accept some responsibility and explain how he would fix this mess. He did none of that, making it clear that he himself is the main architect of this needless American surrender. It does not bode well for the rest of his Presidency.
The world has seen a President portraying surrender as an act of political courage, and retreat as strategic wisdom. As we write this, the world’s rogues are looking for ways to give him a chance to deliver a similar speech about other parts of the world.
Indeed. Look for Taiwan to be the next target, and Xi to welcome Biden’s remarks about how Americans don’t want to send their children to die to keep some small part of the Chinese people free. Jazz has more on that in our next post.