I wish I could agree with Jack Ohman on this one.
Given the disloyalty of the Republican Party in recent years — resisting inquiries into the insurrection and helping to keep the pandemic raging, etc. — it’s easy to condemn them for their role in second-guessing Biden throughout the evacuation from Afghanistan, with, yes, the assistance of Fox News.
But second-guessing the evacuation has been non-partisan, and I welcome Ohman’s use of a sports term, because it seems indeed to have become a sport.
For those resistant to sports, “Monday Morning Quarterback” refers to the fan who knows exactly what the coach and players should have done, the day after the game.
And for those resistant to history, Britain and Russia’s 19th Century rivalry over Afghanistan was known as “The Great Game.”
So here we are, but the Monday Morning Quarterbacks are not simply the GOP and Fox.
Centrist and even liberal reporters and commentators have been describing the endgame as “a fiasco” and “a disaster” and “catastrophic,” which raises the question, “Compared to what?”
Name some of the times — Hell, name any of the times — when a major combatant has left the field without victory and done it neatly, cleanly and with all personnel and equipment intact.
They mirror what Matthew Dowd predicted, in a Tweet I quoted then.
Example? One of the NPR correspondents responded to Biden’s speech yesterday (here’s the text), calling it “defensive” and criticizing him for “pointing fingers” and casting blame on others, when other observers said he was explaining his decisions and citing the reasons he took them.
Again, the sports analogy: If you listen to the press conference after a game, you can readily tell the sportswriters who are simply soliciting a quote from the coach to flesh out the story they’ve already written in their heads.
You’ll pick up the same vibe at a White House press conference, though it’s not always as obvious as Peter Doocy’s endless attempts to get Jen Psaki to confirm his pre-determined report.
And here’s the final part of my Great Game metaphor: Ted Littleford makes a point few others seem willing to dwell upon, which is that Biden was handed the ball for the last seven months of a 20-year war in a near-hopeless situation, with troop strength stripped to bare bones and the Trump White House having sat on exit visas to further muck up the works.
The analogy being the blowhards who sit around the barroom after the game, complaining about an overthrown pass or a missed call by the refs in the last minute of the game, as if decisions and performances over the other 59 minutes had nothing to do with the final score.
Which reminds me of the days when Instant Replay was new, and using it to settle referees’ calls was proposed. Legendary NFL ref Tommy Bell said he’d agree to review a catch, as long as he could also call any holding that turned up on the tape.
His point was that every play includes flaws, errors and rule violations, however minor and irrelevant. Complaining about one suggests an impossible perfection everywhere else on the field.
Ditto in the real world. We evacuated some 124,000 people, about twice the number the most optimistic had predicted might be possible, about 95% of them Afghanis.
So NPR interviewed a woman whose grandmother couldn’t get aboard.
None of this should detract from Clay Bennett (CTFP)‘s point, that we have left Afghan women to an uncertain fate.
That’s certainly true, though it should also be noted that we are maintaining both contact with and international economic pressure on Afghanistan’s new government to make sure they keep their promise to allow free passage out of the country for their citizens.
Nor is it clear how many want to leave, though the chaos at the airport suggests there will be attempts to do so.
In particular, it’s not clear whether women in Afghanistan will be markedly worse off than women in the more conservative portions of Iran or the Arab states, bearing in mind that Saudi women still face legal barriers our good friend with the bone saw had promised us were a thing of the past.
And it’s not all about Islamic culture, as Steve Brodner points out.
Women’s rights are under ghastly threat in India as well, and in a variety of other nations, including places in the fully-developed world where politicians bluster over the rights of Afghan women while repressing those of our own.
This should not diminish our concern for Afghan women.
But, while we pressure the Taliban to keep their word about free passage, we should also keep all women in mind, and spend less energy on blaming and more energy on organizing.
Juxtaposition of the Day
There is the matter of the $300 million a day we were spending in Afghanistan, and what we might do with it here.
That’s a bit like not buying a new wide-screen TV on credit: Deciding not to spend money you didn’t have doesn’t free you to run up the card on something else.
Still, as Telnaes suggests, it’s a helluva lot of pointless debt, and pointless deaths, particularly since we told our own kids we were too broke to feed, medicate and educate them.
Britt’s accusation is more pointed, and greedy plutocrats indeed made a whole lot of money over the adventure, though at least most of the materiel was made in this country rather than in overseas sweatshops, which is why we keep building ships the Navy doesn’t want and airplanes the Air Force doesn’t need.
Shipyard workers vote, and war is good for Wall Street, too.
My grandfather’s theory was that we should make weapons, then dump them in the ocean and make some more, instead of using them to kill people.
Seems like a reasonable compromise, though Biden’s idea of making wind turbines here would also create jobs, and we could stand them up in the ocean instead of just tossing them in.
Though the oligarchs are already complaining about what that will do to the views from their seaside mansions.