September 2, 2021
Peggy Noonan, “The Afghan Fiasco Will Stick to Biden; It hit at his reputational core. He no longer comes across as empathetic, much less serious,” Wall Street Journal, September 2, 2021 (6:23 pm ET).
Peggy Noonan gives voice to what many people are thinking about Joe Biden after watching him up close for the last two weeks, as the horrible consequences of his disastrous decision to withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan begin to play out. There will be further consequences, which are likely to have a much greater impact on his presidency than he apparently imagined.
Not every Peggy Noonan column is great. But when she marshals her talents, and takes careful aim, they sometimes are. Known for her probity and measured judgments, when she does state clearly strong negative judgments, people take note.
Her column today is one of her great columns, expressing what countless Democrats, as well as Republicans, are thinking tonight.
The damage to the president is different and deeper than his people think, because it hit at his reputational core, at how people understand him. His supporters have long seen him as soft-natured, moderate—a sentimental man famous for feeling and showing empathy. But nothing about this fiasco suggested kindliness or an interest in the feelings of others. It feels less like a blunder than the exposure of a seamy side. Does he listen to anyone? Does he have any people of independent weight and stature around him, or are they merely staffers who approach him with gratitude and deference?
August 31, 2021
For an overview of the Afghanistan catastrophe, reduced to its essential elements, see
“Joe Biden, Captain of the Titanic, which just hit the iceberg of Afghanistan,” The Trenchant Observer, August 25, 2021.
There is no rational defense of stupidity.
To base a country’s foreign policy on domestic opinion, polls, and expected election outcomes is stupid, as countless historical examples illustrate.
The majority of voters are ill-informed and have no serious understanding of what is involved in foreign policy decisions. The country depends on an informed foreign policy elite, government foreign policy experts, and leaders intelligent enough to listen to them and follow their advice.
Joe Biden set out to do something else: to adopt a foreign policy that benefits the middle class.
It’s just a slogan. Not even Biden or his National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan or his Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has the slightest idea what it means in operational terms.
I guess what it means for Joe Biden is that it will engender public support and help him and Democrats at the polls in future elections.
It is a stupid and doomed approach to foreign policy, premised on a lack of informed and enlightened presidential leadership. It is a recipe for following the predilections of uninformed masses, e.g. the views of people with strong opinions who couldn’t begin to tell you what countries border, e.g., Afghanistan, or whose intelligence services have supported the Taliban for 20 years.
Now following such a stupid approach to foreign policy, President Biden has revealed, through his disastrous decisions relating to the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, the fact that he has no strategic sense or understanding of the world, of the myriad factors and forces which interact to produce realities in the field of foreign affairs.
He has an extensive record working on foreign policy issues, as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as Vice-President in the Obama administration, and now for seven months as President of the United States.
But you can’t fill a bucket with a hole in it.
Those who have observed Biden over the years know that all of his experience has not produced sound judgment. However, it has produced hubris, and an astounding emotionality and stubbornness. To those who argue that Biden at age 78 is over the hill, it may be countered that Biden was always over the hill, someone who Bob Gates in his 2014 memoir wrote has been wrong on almost all tbe major foreign policy decisions over the last four decades.
What can we expect Biden to do or say at this point about Afghanistan?
Does it matter?
He has decided to surrender to the Taliban by withdrawing all American troops from that country, and executed that decision in an incredibly botched manner, e.g., leaving computer records of those who worked with the U.S, and its allies in Taliban hands. These include not only translators and other military officials, but also intelligence officers and their informants.
Millions of other Afghans, who believed in American assurances that the U.S. would stand by them and support the democratic project in Afghanistan, have been summarily abandoned to harsh fates at the hands of the Taliban.
What could Joe Biden say in a speech about Afghanistan?
The only thing he could say that would help the United States would be that he is firing Antony Blinken, Lloyd Austin, and Jake Sullivan for the roles thay played in this catastrophe, and that he is bringing in men and women of real stature to build a new foreign policy team.
Anything else he might say, you can rest assured, will be just more smoke and mirrors.
The Trenchant Observer