There’s a lot to unpack from President Biden’s one-year anniversary press conference — from his comments regarding a willingness to overlook a “minor incursion” into Ukraine by Russia — it doesn’t take a foreign policy expert, just every mother whose read “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” to understand the disastrous nature of such slippery slope statements — to his “I make no apologies for what I did” in Afghanistan proclamation.
The bottom line is the marathon press conference meant to inspire simply highlighted the administration’s inability to grasp the impact their policy choices have domestically and abroad.
While the tenuous situation in Ukraine deserves attention and analysis, it is the unapologetic stance towards the chaos wreaked in Afghanistan that is particularly galling. President Biden’s ‘sorry, not sorry’ moment came while we still have Americans and allies left behind enemy lines and an ongoing humanitarian crisis with Afghans facing an unusually harsh winter following the worst drought in over 30 years. Leaders all over the political spectrum, from Rep. Mike Waltz to Sen. Bernie Sanders, have lamented the ongoing catastrophe in Afghanistan. To everyone but President Biden, it appears there is a lot to feel remorseful about.
It should go without saying, but still must be said, that two seemingly contradictory things can be true at once — most Americans supported a withdrawal from Afghanistan but many disliked how it was done. A decision without a plan is no decision at all. Or worst case scenario, the whole debacle was the current administration’s plan, which just goes to show you what happens when policy is built around the lifecycle of a tweet rather than intelligence or watchdog reports that warned of the impending collapse.
Tragically, it’s not just Afghanistan that collapsed but also American confidence in the ability of President Biden to handle critical issues impacting the nation. When asked for a comment about this downward trajectory during the aforementioned press conference, Biden responded that he did not believe the polls. Admittedly, polls can be wrong but it’s difficult to reconcile an administration that campaigned on the promise of fact-based policymaking with the one currently unable to face the truth — things went badly in Afghanistan and continue to go badly to this day.
It’s not just the situation overseas that remains unsteady, a recent article by Military.com touted that the feared increase in veteran suicides following the withdrawal has not yet materialized but caveated it with the fact that the data is incomplete, there was a measurable increase in demand for mental health services post-collapse, and that a mitigating factor might very well be veterans’ “transition to concern for our Afghan allies.”
None of that paints a success story for an administration that left such glaring gaps in its withdrawal and refugee resettlement planning that private citizens, many of them veterans, had to rapidly coalesce to plug the holes left by poor policy. While foreign policy experts give President Biden a D/F report card on his handling of Afghanistan, many veterans simply feel “white hot rage.” I don’t know about you but if I brought home that report card or made someone I’m supposed to care about feel such deep anger, I think an apology might be in order.