Stubborn Joe Biden just wouldn’t listen: Goodwin

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The big news from the White House Saturday morning was that President Biden had canceled his planned trip to Delaware for the weekend. 

My first reaction was a hopeful one — maybe he’s finally seen the light and realizes the Kabul situation is deteriorating at a terrifying pace. 

Maybe he’s staying in the White House to help craft a plan to speed up the sluggish evacuation and push back against the Taliban chokehold on roads leading to the airport.

No, no and no. 

In fact, there was no indication Biden was actually doing anything to change course in Afghanistan, or even considering modest changes to his failed policies. He just wasn’t leaving the building, probably because pollsters told him his approval ratings already are taking a hit and leaving town again during the crisis would look bad. 

In that case, he might as well go to Delaware or even Disney World. If he’s not going to be an actual president now, when would he be?

Legend has it that Nero fiddled while Rome burned, but Biden isn’t that cruel. 

He is, however, maddeningly arrogant and stubborn and, by putting his presidency on automatic pilot, created a calamity that jeopardizes the lives of thousands of Americans and many deserving Afghans while also humiliating the United States in the eyes of the world. 

Because Afghanistan is a war we have chosen to lose, our allies everywhere have to be wondering if America can be trusted when the chips are down.

Even Democrats are expressing concerns about the president as they learn more about what the White House knew and when it knew it. 

Reports show the military opposed Biden’s demand to pull all troops out and Secretary of State Tony Blinken was warned by Kabul embassy staff that the Taliban takeover was happening much faster than Washington understood.

A factor largely overlooked at the time was how our military sneaked out of Bagram air base in the middle of a July night without even alerting the Afghan commander, who arrived in the morning to find it empty. 

Khalil al-Rahman Haqqani, a US designated terrorist with a $5 million bounty, preaches in a Kabul mosque last week.
Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times / Polaris

The bizarre exit reportedly helped convince the Afghan army their fight was hopeless because they no longer had American air support.

Yet Biden stuck to his complete withdrawal plan and Blinken ­ignored the embassy warning

You can bet there were also many other flashing red lights we don’t know about that the administration chose not to see. 

That’s what ideologues always do — ignore anything that doesn’t fit their narrative of how things ought to be and will be. 

Although leadership sometimes requires a chief executive to tune out the ifs and buts and charge ahead, the trick is knowing when to listen to the doubters.

Joe Biden has never been a good listener, and age has not curbed his inflated sense of himself. Robert Gates’ famous remark that Biden “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades” bears remembering in light of how Biden approached Afghanistan once he got to the Oval Office. 

True to his campaign promise, he was determined to bring all the troops home and set the end date as Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack that led to the initial invasion. Persuaded later that that was a ghoulish mistake, he moved the date to Aug. 31.

Biden was not alone in wanting out, with Donald Trump also siding with the vast majority of Americans who thought the war had taken too long, was too costly and should be ended. 

Notwithstanding threats of severe consequences if Americans were attacked, Trump made a bad deal with the Taliban, demanding 5,000 prisoners be released and cutting out the civilian government we ostensibly supported. 

The former president is fortunate he failed to get all the troops out before the end of his term. Surrendering Afghanistan to the Taliban and midwifing the birth of a new terrorist nation was going to be a historic error, no matter who made it. 

An Afghan security force member walks on the empty Bagram air base after US forces fled quietly at night on July 5, 2021.
An Afghan security force member walks on the empty Bagram air base after US forces fled quietly at night on July 5, 2021.
AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File

Biden drew the short straw but could have reversed the policy, as he did with so many other Trump initiatives. Instead, he enthusiastically embraced it and most of the media applauded. 

As he made clear last week, the president saw no national interest in remaining any longer. 

Last April, in a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, where many soldiers who fell in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried, Biden was asked if making the decision to pull the plug on the mission was difficult. 

“No, it wasn’t,” he responded, according to Reuters. 

“To me, it was absolutely clear. Absolutely clear.” He might have added, the facts be damned. 

To justify his decision in recent days as the chaos and danger grew, Biden resorted to lies and fake news. As The New York Times said in a gentle “fact check” article, the president’s Friday remarks were wrong in three critical claims: His insistence that no NATO allies had criticized him is false, his statement that al Qaeda was gone from Afghanistan is false, and it’s not true that any American who wants to get to the airport can. 

The Saturday warning that Americans should not try to go to the airport because of a terror threat by the Islamic State illustrated the chasm between Biden’s cheery claims and the harsh reality in Kabul.

If the evacuation debacle were the only problem with Biden’s policy, it would be bad enough. But the long-term implications for the region and world are downright frightening. 

China and Russia, for example, say they are ready to work with the Taliban, and it’s probable they will recognize it as the legitimate government, which could jump-start the process leading to membership in the United Nations and other world bodies.

Then there’s nuclear-armed Pakistan, which shares a long border with Afghanistan and has a powerful Taliban presence of its own. 

 Former US President Donald Trump participates in a rally sponsored by the Alabama Republican Party at the York Family Farms in Cullman, Alabama, USA, 21 August 2021.
While former President Donald Trump did make a bad deal with the Taliban, it’s nothing compared to decades of foreign policy snafus by President Joe Biden.
EPA/ERIK S. LESSER

Indeed, elements of the Pakistan security forces created and funded the Taliban and might see the result in Afghanistan as reason to try again to overthrow the Pakistani government.

As former Ambassador Ryan Crocker writes in a Times op-ed, “Biden’s strategic impatience has given a huge boost to militant Islam everywhere.”

Crocker, who served courageously in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, among other posts in the Muslim world, said the outcome “has also been a huge boost for the Taliban, whose narrative now is that the believers, clad in the armor of the one true faith, have vanquished the infidels.”

It’s also true the Taliban are now literally clad in the armor of the American military and have vast stockpiles of its advanced weaponry.

All because Joe Biden ignored information he didn’t want to hear.

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