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Biden and the Afghanistan crisis | Ticker VIEWS



President Biden made the right strategic decision on Afghanistan. Here’s why.

On August 11, President Biden was riding high.  The Senate had passed not only the $1 trillion bipartisan agreement on infrastructure, but the $3.5 trillion budget blueprint for the lion’s share of the Biden domestic policy agenda:  education, seniors, childcare, climate change, and much more. It all pointed to victory on Capitol Hill.

Two weeks later, by August 25, Biden had been plunged into the biggest crisis of his presidency: the complete collapse of Afghanistan and evisceration of plans for an orderly withdrawal from that country.  13 soldiers killed, many more wounded, in the worst loss of life by US forces in Afghanistan in a decade.

Also shocking was the intelligence failure that upended how Biden wanted to see the war concluded and Americans brought home safely. As the Washington Post reported Sunday:

“In June, U.S. intelligence agencies had assessed that the Afghan government would hang on for at least another six months. By August, the dominant view was that the Taliban wasn’t likely to pose a serious threat to Kabul until late fall.

The outcome stunned top U.S. officials, several of whom had been on vacation when the weekend began, having expected the pro-Western government to hang on for weeks, if not months or even years longer.”

The President met the plane carrying their bodies when it arrived in Delaware, and it was an occasion of overwhelming grief

And there may be more murderous acts before the evacuations are complete.  As Biden warned on Saturday: “The threat of terrorist attacks on the airport remains high. Our commanders informed me that an attack is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours.”

Even in the most monstrous atrocities, however, there will be ugly politics – especially in Washington.  Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett struck a high chord of meaning in his meeting with Bide on Friday. “The American service members lost their lives on a mission to save other people’s lives, and that’s the very definition of courage and sacrifice.”

But that comfort does not last long

From the Republicans, there are calls for the resignation of Secretary of State Tony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. Several Republicans are calling for Biden to be impeached.

Western allies are questioning the leadership and judgment of President Biden and his foreign policy team and are wondering how steadfast the US under Biden will really be. 

And there is criticism from some Democrats. Rep Jamie Raskin was a stalwart in the impeachments of Donald Trump. “Up until the point of Afghanistan, people were very impressed by the organization and seriousness and maturity of the Biden presidency and its administration. Whether it fundamentally tarnishes that or not remains to be seen.”

The end of the war in Afghanistan is a part of Biden’s legacy as president – but hardly its totality

Ronald Reagan was scorched in the Iran-Contra crisis and the deaths of 241 Marines in a terrorist truck bomb attack in Beirut. 

Obama was hit hard by fallout from Libya and Syria as was Gerald Ford in the fall of Saigon. But that is not what their presidencies are principally remembered for. Other presidents were defined by historic foreign policy failures:  Jimmy Carter and the hostages held by Iran, Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War, George W Bush and Iraq.

This is because nothing matters more than passing the domestic policy agenda

At home, and for what Biden wants to deliver to the American people, it simply does not matter, as long as Democrats in Congress are united, whether Biden lost political capital because of Afghanistan — because nothing matters more than passing the domestic policy agenda. The past two weeks in Afghanistan have no bearing on the vote on any Democrats on Biden’s domestic initiatives.  And they hold the power to enact it.

If they fail to execute this year on a Biden agenda they strongly support, they will suffer truly immense political losses in the midterm elections next year. That, and not Afghanistan, is what will define Biden’s legacy – and theirs.

Read more by Bruce Wolpe here.

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