Who Would Have Retreated Better Than Biden?
Republicans have a great deal to say about the incompetence of the Biden administration in evacuating Afghanistan, and they most assuredly have a big, fat point. Sadly, given the president’s decades of experience in foreign policy, the ineptitude was entirely predictable. Biden’s trademark mix of naïveté and swagger has been very much on display throughout this misadventure.
Biden’s track record in the Senate includes being a leading proponent for cutting off all funding to South Vietnam, which resulted in the chaotic retreat of 1975 and subsequent slaughter that set the template for the current Afghan disaster. Biden’s clamorous opposition of the policies of the Reagan administration that helped win the Cold War was legendary, particularly his hatred for the missile defense technology that we later learned was crucial in ending the Soviet threat and now helps protect America and its allies around the world. Biden voted against the first war with Iraq in 1990, for the second one in 2003, and opposed the 2007 troop surge there. That’s 0 for 3 on just one country.
No politician escapes failures on foreign policy, an arena in which the effort is usually to find the least bad option. But Biden is a special case. Through his 36 years in the Senate, he was brashly outspoken about his positions, whether it was demanding U.S. ground forces be deployed in the Balkan religious wars of the 1990s or in blocking aid to fight Soviet-backed dictators in Central America in the 1980s. But a senator can pretty much honk like a goose about foreign policy all he or she wants and never be held accountable. Presidents get all the blame when things go sideways abroad. Even so, Biden definitely would have been on a pretty short list of the senators most likely to fail at a foreign policy task as challenging as Afghanistan because of his brand of arrogant gullibility.
But who would have gotten the United States out of Afghanistan better? Which politician who might plausibly be in the Oval Office today would have done a better job?