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.