Thinking Citizen Blog — Afghanistan (Part Three): “A Dishonest Afghan Accounting” (WSJ)

Thinking Citizen Blog — Monday is Foreign Policy Day

Today’s Topic: Afghanistan (Part Three): “A Dishonest Afghan Accounting” (WSJ)

To put it bluntly, I have a very uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. I wrote my dissertation on World War Two. One of the most memorable events leading up to the war was the Munich agreement with Hitler in September 1938. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announced “Peace in Our Time” as war was avoided by ceding Hitler the Sudetenland (a piece of Czechoslovakia). Is Biden playing the role of Chamberlin in Central Asia? The image of Munich haunts me. Then there is the image of Pontius Pilate washing his hands. That said, I am not 100% confident that Biden is wrong. History has surprised me before. Today, some excerpts from an editorial in the Wall Street Journal that puts into words my gut feeling. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

ALWAYS GIVE THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT, BUT…

1. “American Presidents must make hard decisions, and we’re inclined to support them when they do so overseas in the national interest.”

2. “But President Biden’s defiant, accusatory defense on Tuesday of his Afghanistan withdrawal and its execution was so dishonest, and so lacking in self-reflection or accountability, that it was unworthy of the sacrifices Americans have made in that conflict.”

3. “The charitable interpretation is that this is what Mr. Biden really believes about Afghanistan in particular, war in general, and how to defend the US. The uncharitable view is that he and his advisers have decided that the only way out of this debacle is to lie about it, blame everyone else, and claim that defeat is really a victory.”

NB: “Neither is reassuring about Mr. Biden’s character, his judgment, or — most ominously — the long three-and-a-half years left in his Presidency.”

FOUR EXAMPLES OF FALSEHOODS

1. “Mr. Trump’s deal was rotten, but as a new President he could have altered it as he has so much else that Mr. Trump did. The Trump deal was based on the Taliban fulfilling conditions — such as negotiating a deal with the Afghan government — that they had already broken when Mr. Biden became President. Yet Mr. Biden claims he was both a prisoner of that deal and courageous in fulfilling it.”

2. “He also repeated that his only choices were total withdrawal or “escalation” with thousands of troops. His own advisers offered him alternatives in between as did the Afghanistan Study Group. He was so bent on withdrawal, and so quickly, that he refused to adjust the military plan even as the Taliban made gains and the CIA warned that the Afghan government was likely to fall.”

3. “Mr. Biden described the evacuation as if it were a triumph, and that his Administration had planned for such a contingency in case the Afghan military collapsed. That is, literally, unbelievable. Multiple media reports have revealed that the White House was caught by surprise and preparing for vacation en masse when Kabul fell. The military had to scrabble and stage a heroic effort to evacuate those who were able to make it to the airport. Mr. Biden wants to take credit for putting out the fire he started.”

NB: “Most dishonest — and dangerous — was the President’s assertion that the war in Afghanistan is now over.” No one in the jihadist movement believes that. The Taliban have won a major victory in the long war that Islamic radicals are waging against the US. They have secured Afghanistan for what is likely again to become a refuge for recruits for al Qaeda, ISIS-K, and the Haqqani network.”

THE CLEAR MESSAGE TO THE BAD GUYS — from a distance only

1. “The President finished his remarks with a discourse on the horrors of war, which no one denies. But in laying out the costs, and the human tragedies, he also sends a signal to the world about his own resolve.”

2. “He is telling rogues and autocrats that he lacks the will to send American soldiers into harm’s way.”

3. “He will conduct his counterterror war only from a distance, with unmanned drones.”

NB: “Those are useful and can save American lives. But they are no substitute for soldiers on the ground who can capture or kill the likes of bin Laden or rescue Americans held hostage. The hard men of Beijing, Moscow, Teheran, and the terror dens of Helmand will test Mr. Biden’s war-weariness.”

Opinion | A Dishonest Afghanistan Accounting

Here is a link to the last three years of posts organized by theme:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive

YOUR TURN

Please share the coolest or most important thing you learned in the last week, month, or year related to foreign policy. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in our life related to foreign policy.

This is your chance to make someone else’s day. And to consolidate in your memory something important you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is the key to depth of thought. The prospect of imminent publication, like hanging and final exams, concentrates the mind. A useful life long habit.

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