June 17, 2024

no John Kennedy

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
He’s no John Kennedy
By Douglas Cohn
          WASHINGTON — This is President Joe Biden’s Bay of Pigs moment, but the man did not meet the moment. On April 17, 1961, the U.S. sponsored invasion of Cuba at that location failed, and President John F. Kennedy, a decorated combat veteran of World War II, soon stepped to the podium and acknowledged error:
          “We intend to profit from this lesson. We intend to re-examine and reorient our forces of all kinds—current tactics and our institutions here in this community. We intend to intensify our efforts for a struggle in many ways more difficult than war, where disappointment will often accompany us.”
          Then, he accepted blame:
          “There's an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan. . . . Further statements, detailed discussions, are not to conceal responsibility, because I'm the responsible officer of the government . . .”
          Kennedy lived the title of his book, “Profiles in Courage.”
          The debacle unfolding in Afghanistan is presenting President Joe Biden with a similar moment, as with Kennedy, a moment of his making, and he acknowledged its magnitude:
          “The past week has been heartbreaking. We've seen gut-wrenching images of panicked people acting out of sheer desperation. You know, it's completely understandable. They're frightened. They're sad. Uncertain what happens next. I don't think anyone, I don't think any one of us can see these pictures and not feel that pain on a human level.”
          Then there was this:
          “What interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point, with al Qaeda gone? We went and did the mission. You've known my position for a long, long time.”
          This is rationalization, a straw man argument. The issue at hand is not whether the U.S. and our allies should be in Afghanistan, although there is ample justification for that course, most notably the risk of the Taliban soon becoming active in Pakistani politics. That organization is based in and supported by Pakistan, a nuclear power, and it just might bite its feeding hand.
          However, the immediate issue is extrication. Clearly, mistakes have been made, and they have been made by the president. Military leaders advised him against a cut-and-run policy. Even the Russians are noting that their retreat from Afghanistan in 1989 was orderly.
          Did not the president consider contingency plans in the event of an Afghan military collapse? Did he not realize that a U.S. pullout would leave American citizens and Afghans who had supported our efforts without a means of extrication? In the event, he was compelled to reinsert 6,000 ground forces to secure the airport outside Kabul, the Afghan capital. Yet, even that plan went awry when it became obvious that Americans and Afghans alike would have to fend for themselves as they run the Taliban gauntlet to the airport.
          In simplest terms, does the president really believe it is reasonable to assume Afghans can assume safe passage past Taliban fighters by showing papers linking them to the United States?
          In the end, the unfolding nightmare, which the president says is not analogous to our 1975 exit from Vietnam, is in fact worse with women throwing babies over the airport wall, men dying after hanging on to airport wheels, and thousands of Afghans crowding outside the airport for days in a baking sun without shelter or sanitary facilities.
          And it could get worse. At any moment bombs could go off, automatic weapons could mow down crowds like wheat, and inside the city and throughout the country executions could erupt. These things could happen like spontaneous combustion or even through overt Taliban planning should that terrorist organization decide to show the world that the U.S. did not voluntarily leave but was driven out.
          Yet, these are the things of contingency plans – apparently not the president’s strong suit.
          Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2021 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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