President Biden arrived in office with the southern U.S. border secure and Afghanistan in a state of fragile equilibrium.
Eight months later, the border continues to be deluged with migrants overwhelming our capacity to properly house and process them, and we are evacuating our personnel from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul overrun by desperate Afghans fleeing the Taliban.
The crisis at the border and the stunningly swift defeat in Afghanistan are entirely on Biden. He took sustainable situations and overturned them out of ideological fixity and fantastical wishful thinking.
The outcomes were utterly predictable. Indeed, anyone who knew anything about the border or Afghanistan warned what would happen.
The debacles haven’t been the product of forces beyond Biden’s control; events didn’t take a hand, he did. These are man-made disasters.
Throw on top the crime wave in U.S. cities that is a product of the left’s enthusiasm for fashionable anti-cop sentiments, and the picture is of a party that is unable to maintain order or rationally calculate the downside consequences of its rhetoric and policies.
One hallmark of the Biden approach has been laughably false assurances. He maintained at a press conference in March that there was nothing unusual going on at the border, when the historic surge had already begun. Only last month, he confidently predicted that there’d be no dramatic rooftop evacuations from Kabul, when a rapid collapse of the government was always a distinct possibility.
Then, there are the ineffectual warnings. Biden officials have repeatedly told migrants to stop coming to the U.S. border, when they have every incentive to continue to do so, and his representatives tsk-tsked the Taliban about sweeping to power by force — something that they have fought to do for 20 years — because it would supposedly harm the group’s international image.
And, finally, the rank blame-shifting. Biden’s team has outlandishly tried to argue that President Donald Trump somehow created the conditions for the border spinning out of control, when the truth is that Trump, after false starts, figured out how to get a handle on it. Biden points the finger at Trump, too, on Afghanistan.
Here, he has more of a case — the so-called peace deal that Trump cut with the Taliban was a travesty that undercut the Afghan government. But nothing forced Biden, who has happily reversed field on most Trump policies, to abide by an agreement that the Taliban violated from the outset or to execute a withdrawal that kneecapped the Afghan army in the midst of fighting season and a gathering Taliban offensive.
He was the one whose exit denied the Afghan army the U.S. air support and logistics it had always depended on, who left without securing a nearby base in the region, who didn’t care enough about Afghan allies who had risked their lives for us to ensure that they could get out of the country, who sent a message of abandonment that was a blow to Afghan morale from the top all the way down.
It’s a particularly galling Biden rhetorical move to use the catastrophic failure of the Afghan forces that he helped bring about to insist that his decision to leave was the only responsible one. He’s gone from claiming we could safely leave because the Afghan security forces would do just fine on their own, to arguing we had no choice but to get out because they couldn’t manage without us.
Both at the U.S. border and in Afghanistan, Biden merely had to keep in place what he inherited to sustain success or at least avoid disaster. On the border, Trump’s pandemic-era controls and his agreements with Mexico and Central American countries were sensible and tested. Afghanistan was more difficult, but with some determination and finesse, Biden could have maintained the minimal U.S. commitment that had forestalled a Taliban takeover for years.
Instead, in both cases, he quite literally chose chaos.
(Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review.)
© 2021 by King Features Synd., Inc.