The chaotic scenes from Afghanistan have shattered President Biden’s carefully constructed image of a leader in charge and experienced in foreign affairs. Presidencies often get derailed by events not of their making, but Biden owns his willful refusal to heed warnings from the CIA and Joint Chiefs on what would happen with a precipitous withdrawal.
This generation’s “best and brightest” predicted it would take one to three months before Kabul would fall. It happened in six days and potentially threw a wrench into Biden’s vision of becoming a truly transformational president with legislative accomplishments to rival those of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, which could have been much greater if not for that Democrat’s stewardship of a war he’d inherited. While LBJ’s accomplishments on civil rights and voting rights are often invoked today, he left office after just one full term as a president universally scorned, his agenda unfinished and pushed to the background by hundreds of thousands of anti-war protesters furious about the troops and the money he’d poured into an unwinnable conflict in Vietnam.
Now, Biden will be remembered as the president so determined to withdraw from Afghanistan that he was willing to return the country to a pariah state that could serve as a terrorist haven. While the domestic political impact remains to be seen, as most Americans were ready to bring our longest war to a close, there’s no way to paper over the images of desperate people clinging to the wings of the last departing jets and the American flag lowered at the embassy in Kabul.