And there was the hastily cobbled together presidential address. Joe Biden’s royal bungling of the Afghanistan withdrawal has drawn comparisons to Saigon under Gerald Ford, but it’s actually par for the course in the War on Terror.
Afghanistan and Iraq have now managed to humiliate four presidents, foiling their attempts at nation-building, transitioning, surging, withdrawing, assassinating, arming, de-Baathifying, COINing and hearts-and-minds winning. Obama and Trump transcended this chaos to a degree, the former by focusing on his domestic agenda and the latter with his emphasis on personal drama. But that chaos was still there, even if it was raging half a world away.
Biden deserves credit for trying to correct the mistakes of his predecessors by calling Afghanistan a day. He appears to be sticking to the mission, even as he throws out his back on every banana peel from here to Jalalabad. But parts of his speech still sounded like they’d been mad-libbed by Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz.
Addressing the terrorists, Biden pronounced, ‘We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.’ He added, ‘We will respond with force and precision at our time, at the place we choose and at the moment of our choosing.’ Always ‘at the moment of our choosing’, these things – only to discover it’s the local jihad chapter that’s got nothing but time.
Yesterday’s drone strike wasn’t exactly the second coming of Shock-and-Awe: Pentagon spox says names of 2 ‘high profile’ ISIS-K planners killed in airstrike won’t be released.