John Colson: We all deserve blame, not just Joe Biden
Hit & Run
I’ve been reading, watching, listening and musing about what’s been going on in Afghanistan, and about the drubbing President Joe Biden has been getting over his handling of the withdrawal of the U.S. from its longest war in the nation’s history, and I’ve got to say that it has crystallized my feelings about the hypocrisy and magical thinking that has taken hold of our body politic in recent times.
For those who’ve been living in caves or under rocks for the past couple of weeks, Biden has taken on the task of completing a process started by the previous president, whose name will go unsaid but whose initials are DJT, and it has been an entirely thankless but completely necessary chore.
And that chore is to pull our troops out of an entirely no-win war launched by a Republican president, George W. Bush, early in 2002, in the wake of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 civilians in New York, Washington, D.C., and rural Pennsylvania.
Bush, unfortunately, pivoted our nation’s attention away from Afghanistan after we unseated its Taliban rulers, who had provided haven for the Al Qaeda terrorist group that planned and conducted the 9/11 attacks. Bush showed his true goal in terms of war in the Middle East, trumping up false claims that one architect of the 9/11 attacks was Saddam Hussein, the ruler of Iraq, and that Hussein had a stockpile of nukes and other weapons of mass destruction and was poised for a repeat attack on the U.S.
So instead of trying to consolidate our victory in Afghanistan and put our resources to work in helping the Afghans to fashion a democratic-style government (never a guaranteed outcome, I must note), we spent years, lives and money beating up Iraq simply because Bush felt his daddy, Pres. George H.W. Bush, had somehow been humiliated in the first Iraq War back in the 1990s.
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The result, in Afghanistan, at least, was that the Taliban were able to fade away into the hinterlands and plot their return to power. Which only took them about a decade and a half, as they engineered what some observers have called a “shadow government” that controlled roughly two thirds of the Afghan countryside even as the U.S. and NATO forces backed a severely corrupt and crippled puppet government in Kabul, the capitol city, and other urban centers.
By about 2014, many U.S. military commanders were admitting we were never going to come out on top in Afghanistan, though it took five more years of bloodshed, bombs and mayhem before we would admit it.
It was the 45th president, DJT, who cut the deal to pull out of Afghanistan, and a poorly conceived deal it was. It left the elected Afghan government out in the cold while making promises to the extremist Taliban bosses to pull out by a date certain, and eliciting shaky pledges of peaceful transition from the Taliban in return.
Then, when DJT was whipped by Biden at the polls in 2020, it fell to the 46th president, Biden, to either bring the Taliban back to the table to forge a better deal, or simply go along with the timetable and framework of the deal handed to him when he moved into the White House. He chose, correctly in my eyes, to do the latter, and now is reaping the ugly whirlwind that inevitably came on the heels of our withdrawal.
As Biden has said repeatedly, there were no good options open to him. Oh, he might have done things a little differently over the past several months, such as changing timetables for evacuating our Afghan allies to save them from certain assassination by the vengeful Taliban, but the plain fact of the matter is that this pullout would have been chaotic in any event.
As pointed out by numerous commentators, such as Mike Littwin of the Colorado Sun online news outlet, you don’t wage war for two decades in one of the poorest nations on the planet, propping up the country’s economy and its social structures even as you spend billions to train and equip the nation’s ragtag army, and then expect to pull out suddenly and easily once you realize you really can’t win this one.
Republicans, naturally, are heaping on the abuse against Biden, blaming him for everything that’s gone wrong in the withdrawal, when they know as well as anyone that there is plenty of blame to be spread around in both parties, in the military, and in the unfortunately lackadaisical attitudes and voting habits of our national electorate. We all share a bit of the blame here.
And, as opinion writer Jennifer Rubin noted recently in the Washington Post, Biden has decided it is his lot to take the hit for all this, simply because he promised he would get us out of this “forever war” and is making good on that promise.
“The insistence (by Biden’s harshest critics) that there must have been a painless way … is a fable too many insist on cultivating,” Rubin maintained, pointing her accusatory polemical finger at the media, Congress and three presidential administrations for getting it wrong.
The loss of life in the withdrawal process, she declared, “is heartbreaking.”
But, she concluded generally, “With a mainstream media obsessed with stoking partisan squabbling (about whom is to blame), and Americans refusing to process the consequences of their own choices, it does make one pessimistic about self-government.”
I agree entirely, and I hope you do, too.
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