I cannot remember a time in my life when I felt sadder for my country or was more disappointed with one of its presidents.
When I was 13, Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace. I remember being upset at the time, worried about how the world would react to a president of the United States being forced out of office.
I remember the fall of Saigon. I was confused and embarrassed. How could our leaders have allowed this to happen? It caused me to rethink many assumptions I had about the United States and it’s place in the world.
I remember the Iran hostage crisis, with its daily tally of how many days American citizens had been held at the embassy in Tehran. That event made me more angry than sad, angry that President Carter wouldn’t or couldn’t do anything to get those people home, and when he finally tried, the effort ended with a military helicopter and transport crashed in the desert. I also remember that the situation wasn’t resolved until the day Ronald Reagan took office. It was then I learned something about perceived strength and weakness and the difference each has in shaping events.
Currently, I’m finding I’m angry, sad, confused and embarrassed all at the same time.
President Biden has proven himself to be a dangerously inept commander in chief. While that’s undoubtedly regrettable, it’s certainly no surprise. It was predicted by many. The man has proven many times over in his long career in government that his judgment falls something short of questionable. That his incompetence is now bringing real harm to American soldiers, citizens, and allies, and doing immeasurable damage to America’s reputation around the world is more a failure of the American electorate than it is of Biden himself. He’s always been incompetent. It was President Obama himself who told us we should never underestimate Joe Biden’s ability to “screw” things up — or words to that effect. We elected him anyway. What did we expect?
That said, I never realized until now, just how calculating the man is. Whatever you think of the war in Afghanistan, this country made a sacred promise to the Afghans who helped us in that war. We told them we would never turn our backs on our Afghan partners. We would not leave them in the hands of the Taliban. These are people who risked their lives, and the lives of their children and families, to support U.S. soldiers on the battlefields of Afghanistan. We would not walk away from them, leaving them to a fate too horrible to contemplate. This is America and Americans would never tolerate such a betrayal.
In the end, that’s exactly what we did.
“Getting you out of Afghanistan is just too dangerous,” we told them. “We’ll do what we can, but unfortunately, the Taliban says we can’t stay in Afghanistan anymore, and we’ve created a situation so tenuous, and our resolve is so feckless, we’re not about to challenge what the Taliban tell us we must do. We’re sorry, but the cost of keeping our word to you is just too high.
“We’re tired of being here, anyway, so you’ll just have to fend for yourselves. We have more important things to do now like passing huge infrastructure spending bills that benefit our own people. It’s time we ‘Build Back Better,’ so good luck to you all. If it makes you feel any better, we’re likely abandoning quite a few Americans in Afghanistan with you.”
To say Biden’s callousness has shaken me to the core isn’t overstating things. Maybe there have been other times in America’s past when we’ve dishonored ourselves in this way, but even if there are, it certainly doesn’t excuse the dishonor we are bringing on ourselves today.
If we allow Biden to do this; if we confirm as correct Biden’s political calculus that Americans are so self-absorbed that we will soon forget about Afghanistan and the humiliation the president has brought on us; if we are indeed so selfish and self-serving that we are comfortable abandoning to their fate those who risked their lives for us because we’d rather pursue additional welfare benefits for ourselves here at home, then it is we who deserve history’s scorn, perhaps more so than the president himself.
As it turns out, the saddest part of it all is, despite Biden’s race to get out of Afghanistan by Aug. 31, despite his bowing to the demands of the Taliban, and despite his willingness to leave behind thousands of Afghans who risked their lives to help us, 13 American service members were still killed in a single terrorist blast outside the Kabul airport, victims of the impossible situation into which Biden had forced them. These were the first soldiers to die in Afghanistan since February 2020. The inevitable result of American weakness.
Maybe it’s time for American strength and resolve. I just don’t think Biden has it in him. I don’t even think he understands why that statement is so damning.
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Chris Roemer writes from Finksburg. Reach him at email@example.com.