Joe Biden, Captain of the Titanic, which just hit the iceberg of Afghanistan

President Joe Biden, Captain of the Titanic

Sometimes a metaphor can help us understand a complicated reality, highlighting the most important features so that we can keep them clearly in mind.

With respect to Afghanistan, the metaphor that comes to mind is that of President Joe Biden as Captain of the Titanic.

Biden steered the ship directly at the Iceberg

A big difference from the historical example is that unlike the captain of the real Titanic, this time Captain Joe steered the ship directly at the iceberg, despite all the warnings of his top officers and their urgings to change course.

To be sure, President Trump set the ship on a course headed toward the iceberg.  But it was Captain Joe who, after being provided all of his bearings and with ample time to change course, decided to steer the Titanic directly at the iceberg.

The Titanic hit the iceberg, and is going down

The Titanic hit the iceberg.  As the ship is sinking, Captain Joe has dug in and is insisting he made the right decision to steer at the iceberg.

He and his officers go on television frequently to defend his decision to hit the iceberg.

Now, Captain Joe is working hard to ensure that all of the first-class passengers get into lifeboats and safely away from the sinking ship

Captain Joe and his officers’ are on television touting the fact that the crew is doing an outstanding job in getting the first-class passengers into the lifeboats and safely away from the ship.

He has promised that he will get all of the passengers in steerage who have worked for his company into lifeboats, which will be supplied by other ships coming to the area to help in rescue efforts.  The only problem is that those ships are days away, and the Titanic is sinking fast.  It looks like they will not arrive before the Titanic goes down.

The world, glued to their television sets, is focused on how many of the first-class passengers are finding places in the lifeboats, and the race between the ships bringing additional lifeboats and the inexorable progress of the ship going down.

Accountability for the disaster

Captain Joe and his officers point to the great job they have done in getting first-class passengers into lifeboats and safely away from the ship.

Relatives and friends of those in steerage are not satisfied with this explanation, and demand accountability.

Other captains and some leaders of the industry are demanding that Captain Joe and his officers be held accountable for the decision to steer directly into the iceberg.

This is the debate.

Future reports on television are likely to show the ship going down with those who are in steerage still aboard.

Scenes such as those in the movie Dunkirk , which graphically showed sailors drowning, are expected.

The Trenchant Observer



The Trenchant Observer is an international lawyer with a historian’s eye.  A former Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, where he received the degree of Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law (S.J.D.), he is also a summa cum laude graduate of Stanford University, where as an undergraduate he received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the Best Senior Honors Thesis in History.

The Trenchant Observer has been following Afghanistan closely since 2005, when he worked in Kabul as the Team Leader of group of six lawyers charged with advising the government on modernizing its criminal justice process to better meet international human rights standards.


About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.

1 Comment on "Joe Biden, Captain of the Titanic, which just hit the iceberg of Afghanistan"

  1. Michael Mauldin | August 25, 2021 at 1:49 pm |

    Clever commentary. One wonders if putting more heat on a subject will transform it into a better less critical subject.
    If one can bring some light to a dark subject, in helping solve problems that might be better. Not just the USA but the world is is ‘heating up’ inside out and outside in…all of us are on the Titanic in this view. And it seems all of us are fighting for seats on too few lifeboats.
    Refugees are flooding in and the tide has turned against all of us. This is the time when we
    find out if our faith/religion/beliefs will get us through.

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