Biden Was Right

I’ve always been annoyed by back-seat drivers and Monday morning quarterbacks, who always KNOW how they could have “done it better” than someone who was under pressure and didn’t meet their standards, whether that someone was a quarterback or a politician. Very occasionally, the armchair strategists are right, but mostly they couldn’t have done it better… or even as well, with the possible exception of doing it better than Trump.

Hindsight’s a great predictor after the fact.

Getting out of Afghanistan would ALWAYS have turned into a scramble. The basic structural system was a recipe for disaster. Take a partly semi-modernized capital, propped up and supported almost entirely by the United States, with a “government” that was often governing in name only and only in places where Afghan troops, with American backing, could hold back the Taliban. Add a culture that, outside of Kabul and a handful of other places, hadn’t changed significantly in at least a thousand years, and a “country” that has no truly “national” identity and is split into tribal factions based on brutal fundamentalist versions of faith. Outside of Kabul, there’s essentially no modern infrastructure except that supplied and maintained by American and other allied military.

What was holding the entity named Afghanistan together was the military and associated contractor presence spearheaded by American soldiers and technocrats, a presence resented by the majority of the population outside Kabul, and even by many within the city.

When you start removing those soldiers and technocrats, the areas they leave lapse back into previous patterns – except for Kabul, which lapsed into chaos, because a significant percentage of the population there doesn’t want to return to the culture of a thousand years previous, but can’t escape.

The only way to stave off what happened would have been to continually increase the U.S. military presence there. Those who argue that maintaining a small U.S. presence in Afghanistan would have stabilized the situation can’t or won’t read maps. As the U.S. military presence receded, the areas controlled by the Taliban increased.

To get out of Afghanistan required reducing the U.S. and allied presence… and the Taliban moved in. Even if the withdrawal had started earlier or lasted longer, the results would have been similar because neither the U.S. nor its allies would have been able politically to remove and assimilate the hundreds of thousands of Afghans and their families who are vulnerable to Taliban abuse and possible atrocities. There are already difficulties in dealing with a “mere” hundred thousand or so.

Blaming Biden for the mess is just a simplistic response to twenty years of wasting huge amounts of money and thousands of American lives, and it also ignores the fact that he was opposed to remaining in Afghanistan in the beginning.

But it’s so much more satisfying to blame someone who’s stopped the years of bleeding money and lives, if not perfectly, than to admit that it was a misguided mess all along.

7 thoughts on “Biden Was Right”

  1. Lourain says:

    I agree with EVERY SINGLE POINT!

  2. Michael Creek says:

    Both Biden and Trump recognized the futility of remaining in Afganistan. Now Biden is reaping the harvest that Bush, Obama and Trump sowed. Pity that the Taliban is going to inherit huge quantities of arms, gifted to the previous government. Mischief and destabilization in vulnerable parts of SE Asia and in the subcontinent may be expected.

    1. R. Hamilton says:

      I think that even if a withdrawal was the best move, it could have been handled much better. Like by keeping Bagram Airbase until it was done, or by considering the offer to take over security for the capital city pending full withdrawal, rather than have the Taliban take it over. Although I tend to think that with a fairly modest number, we could have kept it reasonably stable for some years longer. It’d probably take a generation, but we were a good part of the way there already.

      But for what it’s worth, I’ve recently read reports that quite a few of the weapons, esp. the higher end ones, were disabled before the withdrawal was completed. I certainly hope so.

  3. Daze says:

    End 2001 I watched an interview with a Russian General, who said (roughly) – “we put in 100,000 men and killed a million Afghan men of fighting age, and then we left without achieving our objectives: what makes you think you can do better?”.

  4. Tim says:

    We British received a very bloody nose in the mid/late 1800s after invading. We should have learned the lesson that fighting essentially a skirmishing army is bad news for a major power who do not fight that way.

  5. Tom says:

    My reading suggests that the British were dragged into The Great Game by the government’s support of the East India Company. Superior military demonstrations in Afghanistan, Balkans, Caucuses, SE Asia or Sahel Africa are not a problem for the US and others. It is the idea that we think we can change a nation’s culture that is puzzling. Changing a Theocracy based system to a democratic or communist system is likely to fail just as psychologist tell us that it is impossible to change a personality without destroying the mind. To do something similar to a nation would require something like genocide (or the camps of Xinjiang).

    Condoleezza Rice preceded by Colin Powell, followed by Hillary Clinton and now John Blinken plus the associated Secretaries of Defense and National Security Advisors failed to sway Cheney and Obama listened to Biden but apparently did not hear him; so whatever data gathering, analysis, and synthesizing went on in our government during the last 20 years came to naught.

    What I do not understand is why a capitalist nation failed to pull the funding from an evidently doomed investment ( I think Trump’s deal with the Taliban was for the money he could divert from the military to his wall). Iraq has oil and Afghanistan has minerals but the private US companies made money off the US citizens building infra-structures for Afghanistan and not by corporate raiding the invaded nations.

    The cost of Afghanistan and the US other problems may be very expensive from the assurance of other nations point of view. To that point there was a perceptive article from a section of the USAF in 2013 – about deterrence and assurance but of interest now because of Trump and Afghanistan:

    https://www.usafa.edu/app/uploads/OCP69.pdf

  6. Joe says:

    If one wants to keep having NATO allies, one should at least have the decency to consult with them first.

    The US invoked article 5 in 2001, and they responded. Then the US just dumped Afghanistan throwing mud on NATO allies’ politicians’ faces.

    The UK defense minister is asking whether the US is still a superpower. Germany’s CDU called this a debacle. This is unprecedentedly harsh criticism.

    One would be foolish to expect them to be so eager to help the next time the US asks. This is a bad blunder. One president who does not consult his partners can be dismissed as an anomaly (Mr Trump), two is a pattern.

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