(Graphic via Financial Times.)
I don't really want to get too deep into this idea, but I think one of the biggest problems with the coverage of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is one of denial: I just don't think that the media was prepared to deal with the war ending, and can't seem to shift off the idea that somehow, President Biden must be responsible for the whole of what is going on right now, even if the facts are staring them in the face. The reporting on the war is that it has been rife with mistakes that have prolonged the war, enabled corruption, and created an Afghan military that was dependent on US air power and materiel support backstopping them before Biden was elected. And yet?
It feels like there is an unwillingness to see the evacuation efforts as a success because it means the war wasn't. As if this final, visual, physical evidence of the failure is the worst damage to the illusions some people wanted to manifest. As long as we were there still, maybe, somehow--? The effort would pay off. But take a look at the graphic I posted above--by the time the US got going, it was time to go.
Critics of the Biden administration can talk about whether dealing with the Taliban now strikes them as abhorrent (it's actually necessary because who else is there?), but where have they been? It's true we only have one president at a time, but it's bizarre to forget the previous ones ever existed. The previous administration cut out the Afghan government we were supporting in order to deal with the Taliban because they knew what was coming. They very likely enabled the lightning speed of the fall. And were heedless of internal criticism.
But who was it we were cutting out? And weren't the deals that resulted in the Afghan military folding set in motion way back in 2020 when the Trump deal with the Taliban was made, before Biden started the pullout? Because, while Trump can now say he would have gone back on his word (and his withdrawal from the JCPOA confirms that he cares little for the value of the US's word) we know what he said about what Biden should do, until he had the opportunity to be a backbiter. (I think the "ruse" notion is not actually so unlikely, as that even as early as just post-impeachment, Trump, contra his claims that he won the election, knew he wouldn't win and and legitimately wanted to set up Biden for a shitty transition. But in the off chance Trump won or one of his ugly little challenges kept him in office, yeah, he'd feel empowered to renege on any damn thing.)
So there's a lot of denial. People who don't want to acknowledge their dirty hands or the questions they left unasked, or officials who want to fix their poor records on this subject. And of course, people got rich on the contract opportunities in nation-building, whether it went well or not. (Erik Prince is still making bank on human tragedy because of course.)
So when breath is given to even Hank Kissinger's vegetable opinion--I only have one question: How is he still alive? Why are we still giving voice to horrorshow people who can only give us cynical ways to be wronger and more morally tainted to accomplish dubious goals?
Our foreign policy house is rife with abuse and dysfunction. Our media still herald our bad old father figures because they gave us monstrous examples to learn from. We can do better. We can learn from failure and the gift of bad optics. We can do better by nations without our freedoms and resources by being the example we mean to set.
Biden is breaking a terrible cycle, and his administration is, in the evacuation, demonstrating the great logistical strength and discipline that can be accomplished when people understand their clear mission. The uncertainty evidenced by things like not knowing just how many US citizens there were to be evacuated, who needs to be evacuated, etc. also are a part of denial. A delayed preparation for an inevitable outcome, one so seemingly far off in some minds that even high school students (even in the time of COVID-19) thought to visit the war-torn country regardless of the international news.
I don't know the fix for any of this. I can only recommend people surface from their ideals and drink of the realities, whether they taste great or are less filling or whatever. And then re-evaluate accordingly.