OPINION—Biden’s only path out of the Afghanistan vortex: a thorough reshuffling of his national security team




Joe Biden’s presidency is sinking fast.

To save it, he would have to take extraordinary acrions, like replacing the key members of his foreign policy team: Anthony Blinken, Jake Sullivan, and Lloyd Austin.

He doesn’t seem capable of taking such bold and decisive action.

Moreover, his personal ties to Blinken and Sullivan make it much more likely that he will choose “loyalty” to these younger men over the difficult actions he would be required to take in order to ensure his political survival, and that of a number of Democratic congressmen.

Blinken is his protegé, a smart staffer who has been at Biden’s side for twenty years. Blinken,the protegé, owes everything to Biden, while Biden is the mentor who has vast experience but as to foreign policy judgment, well, not so much.

Sullivan must remind Biden of his son, Beau, who tragically died from brain cancer, after serving a tour as a JAG officer in Iraq. Biden holds Sullivan in awe. He once introduced him as a once in a generation intelligence.

Austin has strong political ties. James Clyburn, a strong supporter of Austin, is largely responsible for Biden winning the Democratic nomination in 2016, and is someone Biden would not like to cross.

So a major cabinet reshuffle seems highly unlikely, as the Biden presidency continues to sink.

The Afghanistan withdrawal decision and implementation were so disastrous that Biden can only sink further the longer he defends them. The longer it takes for him to see this, the deeper he is likely to sink.

The withdrawal decision itself is indefensible, and arguments defending it are likely to appear more flawed, not less, as news continues to emerge from Afghanistan and the region over the coming years.

Will Biden face hard political reality and call in another foreign policcy team to save his oresidency?

However desirable this might seem to those who don’t want to see Republivan victories in 2022 and 2024, such bold action by Joe Biden does not appear likely.

The Trenchant Observer

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.