Monday Reads: Playing Hot Potato with a Costly WarPosted: August 23, 2021
Good Day Sky Dancers!
It’s hard to explain how much of what’s going on in Kabul today should rest directly and squarely on the bad faith negotiations of Trump’s Secretary of State–steal all the government booze–Pompeo. Please watch this smug, smarmy, man laugh while under questioning by Representative Allred who asks what we’re doing to ensure that our conditions will be good as we leave Kabul. It amazes me that more isn’t being made about Pompeo’s role in the chaos we experience now. It’s worth remembering that all this was negotiated about a year ago. Oh, wait, it was supposed to be negotiated at Camp David with Trump on the anniversary of 9/11 last year. President Tin Ear was stopped on that one however.
Here’s Chris Wallace on Fox News dumping on the man who created this mess as he lies his way to a nonanswer.
Jennifer Ruben’s opinion piece today at WaPo discusses “Why so many people find Biden an easy target.”
The vehemence with which many politicians and media pundits on the left and right have attacked President Biden should not be surprising. Given the chaotic and heart-wrenching scenes in Afghanistan, the commander in chief becomes an obvious target, especially for a press corps desperate to show they do not have a liberal bias.
But “chaotic” does not equal “failed,” and just because our intelligence community blew it big time — again — does not mean the United States has abandoned its Afghan partners. Since Aug. 14, we have evacuated over 37,000 people. The United States has enlisted a slew of allies to help receive refugees. And our allies remain united that they will not recognize nor extend aid to the Taliban until we are satisfied they have not hindered our evacuation and are respecting human rights.
Despite the torrent of angry media coverage, a recent CBS News poll found that 63 percent of Americans still want out of Afghanistan. And while Biden’s approval ratings have dipped (largely due to the covid-19 surge), the decline is less than one might expect. In NBC News’s poll, for example, he has dropped only one point among registered voters — from 51 to 50 percent — since April. So why is the media so determined to convey that Biden’s effort has “failed”?
Too many reporters adopt the talking points of critics of an administration, even when those critics have an interest to make Biden the fall guy. The media, for example, have parroted the right wing’s deliberate effort to impugn the Biden administration’s motives about “abandoning Afghans” (as it airlifts tens of thousands of them out the country) while ignoring the Trump team’s destruction of the visa system. With a straight face, reporters ask for the judgment of politicians and those in the military who lied for two decades about progress in Afghanistan — as if they and the reporters themselves hadn’t contributed to the rosy, false narrative about the Afghan army’s viability. And the media have run with the notion that the Biden administration broke Afghans’ “morale” rather than focusing on our utter failure to forge a national army, the endemic corruption in their government and Afghan leaders’ selling out to the Taliban for money.
The media almost by definition operates on anecdotes. They see European back-benchers criticizing Biden and squawk about a crisis among our allies. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Fox News’s Chris Wallace on Sunday:
From the get-go, I’ve spent more time with our NATO partners in Brussels, virtually, from before the president made his decision, to when he made his decision, to every time since. We’ve been working very, very closely together. We’ve gotten the G7 together, NATO together, the U.N. Security Council together. We had 113 countries, thanks to our diplomacy, put out a clear understanding of the Taliban’s requirements to let people leave the country. … I’ve heard, across the board, deep appreciation and thanks from allies and partners for everything that we’ve done to bring our allies and partners out of harm’s way. This has been a remarkable part of the effort. I’ve seen them stand up, step up to help out, including, as I said, agreements with more than two dozen countries now to help out on transit. And beyond that, we’re very focused together on the way forward, including the way forward in Afghanistan, and setting very clear expectations for the Taliban in the days, weeks and months ahead.
Which is the better indicator of our allies’ sentiments: stray comments to the media, or all of the actions Blinken outlined?
Listening to the people who served there is a good way to get out of the damn media’s obsessions with creating tempests in teapots and seeing what was going to be a difficult process–even if perfectly planned–as the problem of the guy who’s only had 7ish months of holding a 20-year-old hot potato. This is from the Kansas City Star and was written by Veteran Lucas Kince who served in that theatre: “I served in Afghanistan as a US Marine, twice. Here’s the truth in two sentences.”
What we are seeing in Afghanistan right now shouldn’t shock you. It only seems that way because our institutions are steeped in systematic dishonesty. It doesn’t require a dissertation to explain what you’re seeing. Just two sentences.
One: For 20 years, politicians, elites and D.C. military leaders lied to us about Afghanistan.
Two: What happened last week was inevitable, and anyone saying differently is still lying to you.
I know because I was there. Twice. On special operations task forces. I learned Pashto as a U.S. Marine captain and spoke to everyone I could there: everyday people, elites, allies and yes, even the Taliban.
The truth is that the Afghan National Security Forces was a jobs program for Afghans, propped up by U.S. taxpayer dollars — a military jobs program populated by nonmilitary people or “paper” forces (that didn’t really exist) and a bevy of elites grabbing what they could when they could.
You probably didn’t know that. That’s the point.
And it wasn’t just in Afghanistan. They also lied about Iraq.
I led a team of Marines training Iraqi security forces to defend their country. When I arrived I received a “stoplight” chart on their supposed capabilities in dozens of missions and responsibilities. Green meant they were good. Yellow was needed improvement; red said they couldn’t do it at all.
I was delighted to see how far along they were on paper — until I actually began working with them. I attempted to adjust the charts to reflect reality and was quickly shut down. The ratings could not go down. That was the deal. It was the kind of lie that kept the war going.
So when people ask me if we made the right call getting out of Afghanistan in 2021, I answer truthfully: Absolutely not. The right call was getting out in 2002. 2003. Every year we didn’t get out was another year the Taliban used to refine their skills and tactics against us — the best fighting force in the world. After two decades, $2 trillion and nearly 2,500 American lives lost, 2021 was way too late to make the right call.
What I have read repeatedly from folks on the ground is that the only people that try won the 20 year-long war were military contractors and corrupt government officials in Afghanistan. You can read my Friday reads for more on that from former NPR reporter Sarah Chayes.
The reality of Biden’s follow through with the result of the Trump/Pompeo man-crushes on the Taliban is explained by CNN’s John Harwood. “Why Biden’s Afghanistan exit wasn’t about good politics”. We always knew what Biden wanted because he stated his opposition to the failed Obama Surge while he was VEEP.
In ending America’s longest war, President Joe Biden did something popular. It was never going to help him politically.
That was true before damaging images of chaos and desperation filled American television screens last week. The reason is that public opinion about the Afghanistan conflict, as with most overseas events and issues, remains ill-defined and loosely held.
Even after 20 years, the conflict that ended with the lightning Taliban takeover represents a distant blur for most Americans. Only a small sliver of the US population has a personal connection to the war through service in the all-volunteer military. Its duration through years of diminishing troop levels and casualties led much of the public to tune the story out.
Pollsters who have tracked the subject describe opinions no firmer than jello. Asked whether the American military should stay or leave, majorities say leave. Asked whether the military should leave or stay to continue counterterrorism operations, majorities say stay.
Either way, voters have not counted Afghanistan among their top-priority concerns. Survey research on foreign policy, observed Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson, “is always very fluid.”
That reality means that neither side of the long-running debate on the war can unambiguously claim the upper hand in public sentiment.
From the initial push for war by the Bush administration to the idea of a surge by the Obama administration to the total dump it on the Taliban and let Biden deal with it by the Trump administration there has been one bad commitment to bad ideas after another. You all know I’ve never been a big Biden fan. I have to say he’s the only President that just decided to get it done and be done with it. The collapse of Kabul was always inevitable since the Afghanistan people and their regionalism vs federalism approach to things has seriously been misunderstood by many “experts”. It still seems this was another nation-building opportunity that only enriched the military-industrial complex. That’s my thoughts.
In other news, the FDA has given the Pfizer vaccine full approval.
Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine has been known as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, and will now be marketed as Comirnaty (koe-mir’-na-tee), for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA), including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.
“The FDA’s approval of this vaccine is a milestone as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. While this and other vaccines have met the FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for emergency use authorization, as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. “While millions of people have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated. Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S.”
Since Dec. 11, 2020, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine has been available under EUA in individuals 16 years of age and older, and the authorization was expanded to include those 12 through 15 years of age on May 10, 2021. EUAs can be used by the FDA during public health emergencies to provide access to medical products that may be effective in preventing, diagnosing, or treating a disease, provided that the FDA determines that the known and potential benefits of a product, when used to prevent, diagnose, or treat the disease, outweigh the known and potential risks of the product.
FDA-approved vaccines undergo the agency’s standard process for reviewing the quality, safety and effectiveness of medical products. For all vaccines, the FDA evaluates data and information included in the manufacturer’s submission of a biologics license application (BLA). A BLA is a comprehensive document that is submitted to the agency providing very specific requirements. For Comirnaty, the BLA builds on the extensive data and information previously submitted that supported the EUA, such as preclinical and clinical data and information, as well as details of the manufacturing process, vaccine testing results to ensure vaccine quality, and inspections of the sites where the vaccine is made. The agency conducts its own analyses of the information in the BLA to make sure the vaccine is safe and effective and meets the FDA’s standards for approval.
I am without patience for anyone not getting the vaccine. I’m still ready to tell them to go to their crazy places–churches, Republican Party National Headquarter, Mara Lago, etc.– to get treatment and stay away from our children and healthcare workers. More and more employers are mandating vaccines and I’m really down with that.
So, what’s on your blogging list today? This war and pandemic stuff is wearing me out!