A President unwilling to admit the withdrawal could have been handled better
Biden’s decision to set a date for withdrawal was the boldest and riskiest of his presidency so far. And while he accepted a kind of general responsibility for everything, he accepted responsibility for nothing specific.
Biden is done with Afghanistan. Is Afghanistan done with Biden?
The President clearly wanted to give a presidential speech to mark the end of America’s longest war and to avoid a wonky to-do list for the challenging follow-up that might be more appropriate for a Secretary of State.
Biden dealt perhaps understandably with much of the unfinished business in Afghanistan — what to do about remaining Americans; what about Afghans at risk; how to deal with the Taliban; and what about humanitarian assistance.
Paradoxically the one issue that required more detailed comments from the President and will be treated most harshly by his critics was the issue Biden himself identified as the only vital national interest America has in Afghanistan: How to protect the homeland from terror attacks.
A speech for America
If US allies were looking for apologies and reassurance, they surely weren’t going to find it in Tuesday’s speech. Biden reached out a couple of times empathetically to the Afghan people and vowed to continue to help those Afghans at risk. There was a quick reference to human rights, a mention of competition with China and Russia and a stern warning to terrorists that America will neither forget nor forgive. But this was not a foreign policy speech.
Despite its imperfections, this was a powerful and evocative speech by a President who believes to the depths of his soul that, for the benefit of American national interest, the good of the American people and those who serve, the decision to end America’s longest war was the “right decision; the wisest decision and the best decision.”