Afghanistan, obviously. I guess I should talk about that for a minute. It was a bad idea, right from the beginning. But Americans were in such a bloody mood after 9/11. Fuck it, we said, let’s go kill something. We did. Only 12% of Americans were against the invasion of Afghanistan in the beginning, even though the memory of our failure in Vietnam was still fresh in our minds and culture. We were mad, though, and dumb. Americans can be so bloody dumb.
But that’s one of the things that has helped us to build an empire, I suppose. Collective, single-minded stupidity. Groupthink. Boy, don’t piss the Americans off; they can be of one vengeful mind like no culture on Earth. Man, they’re still pissed off about those colonial taxes.
We were ready for vengeance in 2001. Myself included. I was still so pissed off in 2003 I wrote a big paper on invading Iraq in defiance of my Critical Thinking professor. He gave me an A. My math teacher, a professed anti-Bush liberal, gave me a lot of shit. I was in my 30s, so I was closer to my instructors than a lot of my classmates. I even tutored some writing and mathematics at the behest of my progressive mentors. But I had my own damn ideas. I was still recovering from my Limbaugh conditioning in the 90s.
Where was I?
Oh yes, it was a bad idea from the start, the invasion of Afghanistan. But once we engaged well, you know, it was hard to pull out. Remember Vietnam? Remember the pictures of our escape at the end?
By the time Bush had left office I had managed to break my conditioning. Think for myself. Become independent. By the time Barack Obama came on the scene I wasn’t into groupthink or vengeance anymore. I thought Bush was an idiot and that we’d never do worse than him. Then I started seeing Sarah Palin and her ridiculousness and realized someone like that would be the stupidest president ever. I was proven right when Trump got elected pulling the same overall schtick. What a disaster that term was. Well, you know.
But though Obama was a better president, and overall human, than the man who preceded him and the man who followed him, even he didn’t have the wherewithal (balls?) to stop the fool’s war. It was going to be a PR disaster, and all three presidents who oversaw the Afghan War before Biden knew it. Not on my watch, they seemed to say. They all talked about getting out of Afghanistan but who wanted that failure, that inevitable chaotic exit, marked on their record? Who wanted to be the one to lose the forever war?
Joe Biden. It turns out the answer was Joe Biden.
Maybe it’s because he’s older. Somehow we made that a campaign thing, a negative attack. He’s too old. He’ll never last. He’s going to go, or already is, senile. Maybe.
Or maybe he’s the Gray Champion Howe and Strauss spoke about: the venerable man who combines the qualities of the archetypal “leader” and “saint,” whose presence ushers in the next generational turning. Maybe Joe Biden isn’t scared of how he’ll be viewed; maybe Joe Biden just wants to do the right thing.
I don’t know. I do know the War in Afghanistan had to end so marks to the president for doing that. It sure looks to the impulsively skeptical eye, though, that the process of getting Americans and their allies out of Afghanistan has been botched. Though, at the time of this writing, there have been no American casualties amid the chaos and the process of evacuation is still ongoing. I guess we shouldn’t tally the score until the whistle blows.
There’s going to be a lot of recriminations in the weeks and months to come. We can say for sure, however, that Joe Biden did indeed have the balls to call a play when three other presidents punted. The war is over. The aftermath of war is ongoing, as it always is, but pretty soon wiki will change its WiA end date from “Present” to “2021” and it’ll all be academic then.
Two-thirds of all Americans, and a majority of each major party, believe today that the War in Afghanistan is not worth fighting. Well, it isn’t. It never was. Getting out, ending it, was and is priority one. There will be casualties when we leave, particularly to the Afghan people who helped the Americans during the war, but even more if we stay. We should do everything we can to help those people we leave behind. We better. But we can’t fight a war for them any longer. We shouldn’t have started it; we needed to end it.
I don’t think Joe Biden will go down in history as one of the greatest US presidents, on the list with Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, JFK, or even Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Nor will he be listed by historians among the worst, like Andrew Johnson and Donald Trump. But it’s early and I could be wrong. Biden rolled out the vaccines. He got agreements from both sides of the legislature on a major recovery act and a long-needed infrastructure bill. He oversaw the end to America’s longest war. That’s his first 6 months.
Presidents, like quarterbacks, get too much credit for victory and too much blame for defeat. In a real sense, they are the figureheads for a time in history more than the sculptors of history themselves. Overseers, at best. How history judges Joe Biden later is up to history, not me. But ending the War in Afghanistan was the right thing to do, and (by proxy) he did it. He’ll have many challenges yet to come, we all will. But, who knows. We may just have our Gray Champion yet.