Earlier this summer I had the chance to talk to an Air Force general about Afghanistan, and between us, we came up with a prognosis that might best be described as “bad but acceptable.”
While the brigadier wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) comment officially on administration policy, he could still tell me about the mission that would continue even after the last American boot left the ground.
Well, a caveat. There were going to be a few American boots left on the ground, even after a “complete” withdrawal. So long as there remained a somewhat U.S.-friendly central government in Kabul — even if its rule didn’t extend outside the Kabul city limits — we have, or needed to have, an ongoing intelligence effort in Afghanistan.
There are lots of bad guys who call Afghanistan home. Bad guys in need of killing before they get trained up enough for another 9/11.
As the officer told me about all this and more — things I knew or at least suspected — I summed up our post-withdrawal position as best I could.
“So you’re saying we’ll still need to bomb some bad guys over there, but they’ll be harder to find,” I said.
“That’s a fair assessment,” he agreed.
As I wrote above, “bad but acceptable.” More often than anyone in government is ever willing to admit, “bad but acceptable” is the best case.
Presidentish Joe Biden pushed “bad but acceptable” out the skyscraper window like a frustrated wife trying to fake her husband’s suicide.
Before Biden’s murderously rushed pullout, the worst-case scenario was that we’d still have lots of bad guys in need of bombing, but no friendlies in Kabul to help us find them.
If we’re being frank, that’s the scenario I expected as the non-details of Biden’s non-plan for withdrawing became known.
There was no real plan, just a reckless determination to get literally everything wrong about a pullout we could have safely effected at any time between 2003 and right before Biden became commander-in-chief.
“Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to f*** things up,” Barack Obama reportedly warned, the one time I heeded advice from Barack Obama.
Also for our VIPs: Oh God, Not Like This
But then I went and did it anyway.
What Biden has left us with today is something even worse than yesterday’s worst-case scenario.
Maintaining even a residual air presence over the bad-guy-infested wastelands of Afghanistan was going to take some small amount of political will on the part of POTUS, and stomach on the part of the American people.
Biden just showed he doesn’t have the will, and after what we all saw on TV these last two days, I’d be surprised if Americans still had the stomach for it.
Could you blame us, after seeing Afghan civilians clinging to, and then being flung to their deaths from a United States Air Force cargo plane fleeing from Kabul?
Our beyond-the-worse-case scenario is now this: Biden handled Afghanistan so visibly and damnably poorly that Americans will completely turn our backs on the place — to our own detriment.
Who wants to risk one more F-18 sortie just to bomb a couple more terrorists? Who wants our aging and shrinking Air Force to carry another load over the place that humiliated us live on international TV?
Yet if we don’t, al Qaeda and Who Knows Else will be rehearsing the next 9/11-scale attack in no time.
But a big old “Meh” will be the likely and understandable response to those dangerous facts on the ground.
On Biden’s watch, we’ve descended very quickly from the best-case to the worse-case to the beyond-the-worst-case scenario.
As I write these words, I can’t help but wonder if that’s by design.
On the one hand, continued air raids on terrorist camps keep the American “peace” movement employed. On the other hand, another 9/11 attack means another crisis that won’t go to waste.
Please tell me I’m being too cynical because I really need to hear that right now.