War is hell. Every day in Afghanistan reminded a series of American presidents, Soviet strongmen and British imperialists. The USA defeated Al Qaeda and killed Osama bin Laden. It should have ended then, if not before. President Trump promised that it would. His administration negotiated a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban. President Biden abided by it, and began the pullout as the Afghan Army vanished virtually overnight. Its leaders, too, had negotiated with the Taliban.
The United States was left to defend the airport and get as many loyal Afghanis safely to freedom as possible. The military did a courageous job of shipping out well over 100,000 people in a week amid chaos where everyone is armed to the teeth. Nobody controlled Kabul. Images of the choppers taking off from the Saigon embassy roof, while Vietnamese tried to scale the walls in vain hope, came immediately to mind. Thirteen American soldiers died when an ISIS suicide bomber attacked an airport gate. They knew it was coming but could not spot it in the maelstrom of war. They were trying to save freedom-loving people.
The critics lay this at President Biden’s feet. He was the one urging President Obama to get out of Afghanistan and Iraq. His late son served over there. He ordered the military to withdraw as it was clear our presence could not stand further. All the people who got us into this war were the first to get on cable news to assail Biden.
As a more sober reality prevails, the record will show a logistical achievement of getting people to safety. And we will be free of the place where empires go to die.
The American public is tired of endless, pointless wars. It cares more about continued economic growth through a resurgence in the pandemic. It is alarmed by endemic drought, wildfire and hurricanes. It expects that government will respond to these exigent crises. It does not expect us to build a government where governing is impossible.
Biden will be judged on getting more people vaccinated, on helping tamp down chronic gun violence, and on keeping food and housing affordable. Americans understand that the only reason we are in the Middle East is for the oil, not for Afghani or Iraqi liberty. They want hydrogen from biomass over oil. They want wind and solar power — here. The people know it’s the answer. Jimmy Carter knew it. Biden needs to deliver on a renewable energy revolution that finally frees us from the vise of the Middle East and the terror of the climate crisis.