, 08.17.2021 05:00 PM

My latest: Biden failed

It’s easy to get into war.  

Chuck Hagel said that, and he’d know.  Hagel is a much-decorated war hero, an ex-Senator, and the former Secretary of Defense in Barack Obama’s administration.

Hagel wasn’t perfect.  As a Senator, he voted to go to war in Iraq. He later admitted that was a mistake.

And, after 9/11 – the twentieth anniversary of which is just days away – Hagel voted to send troops to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban. As the war ground on, however, Hagel started to express concern.  

Said he: “We cannot view U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan through a lens that sees only ‘winning’ or ‘losing.’ Iraq and Afghanistan are not America’s to win or lose.” 

And, fatefully, Hagel also said: “We can help [Iragis and Afghans] buy time or develop, but we cannot control their fates.”

By 2011, Hagel wanted to “start looking for an exit” in Afghanistan.  “We need to start winding this down, “ he said.

They, we, didn’t.  The war – which saw Canadian involvement from 2011 to 2014, and led to the deaths of 158 courageous Canadian troops – continued apace. Until Joe Biden.

Biden, like Donald Trump, had promised to end the presence of the United States in Afghanistan.  It was a popular promise for both men.  The Afghan conflict had been the longest U.S. war, claiming the lives of 6,500 fighters and a trillion American dollars.

But – and it’s a big but – Americans, and the world, expected that the withdrawal would be conducted in an orderly, safe and timely manner.  For those countries who sent young men and women to Afghanistan – many of whom would not come back alive – we expected the winding down of the war, as Chuck Hagel put it, to be done right.

It wasn’t.

In recent days, those of us in the West have watched events unfolding in Afghanistan in horror. The total collapse of the Afghan military.  Chaos and anarchy everywhere.  Terrible tragedies – such as Afghans literally falling off of departing planes, so desperate have they been to get out.

And, most ominously, the Taliban – the biggest and most feared terrorist organization in the world – now runs an entire country. Those who are knowledgeable about the Taliban foresee them returning to what they did so often in the past – repressing women, crushing dissent, and conducting terror attacks in the West.

The government of Justin Trudeau, practically alone in the civilized world, has refused to rule out recognizing the Taliban terrorists as a legitimate government.  Typically, Trudeau has also overpromised and underdelivered on rescuing those Afghans who assisted the Canadians who served there.

But it is the Joe Biden administration that has failed the most spectacularly.

Speaking to the nation this week in a televised address, the U.S. president was simply awful.  He blamed the Taliban victory on Afghans themselves – and he attempted to shift blame to his predecessors.  He sounded defensive, and chippy, and impatient.

Biden – who I worked for during last year’s presidential race – was decidedly unpresidential.

It gives me no pleasure to say that the Afghanistan fiasco will leave an indelible stain on Joe Biden’s administration.  Unlike John F. Kennedy after Bay of Pigs, or Ronald Reagan after the Iran-Contra mess, Biden didn’t take responsibility. He tried to shift blame.  He tried to dodge the truth.

And the truth, as Chuck Hagel also once said, is that it’s easy to get into war.

But it’s never easy to get out.

[Kinsella was Jean Chretien’s special assistant]





  1. No question. And the other thing is, the Taliban is going to permit safe passage of foreigners. I think they will honour that. Where the shit hits the fan, is when western countries try to get out Afghan nationals that helped them in that war — you know, those same people that the Taliban consider “traitors”. Will they just frown and let them leave? I think not.

    So much for the genius Prime Minister’s contemplation that we could get them all out in the “coming months”…just another Trudeau mind-freezeTM at work. Typical and exactly as expected.

  2. Of course, no one can drive the bus over Joe so who gets to wear it? My vote is for Haines, the DNI.

  3. Peter Williams says:

    Don’t worry Justin tells us he discussed Afghanistan last night with Hilary Clinton.

  4. Derek Pearce says:

    I am heartbroken for the entire female population of Afghanistan. There’s probably going to be some type of underground railroad that hopefully develops, similar to the rainbow railroad in Chechnya and the middle East. But you can’t sneak out fully 50% of a country’s population.

  5. Ian says:

    I think you have a typo there in the years of Canadian involvement, should be 2001-2014, not 2011-2014.

  6. PJH says:

    “They will always break your heart” redux?……

  7. Pedant says:

    My opinion is the exact opposite.

    I thought Biden’s speech was magnificent. Best I’ve seen from a US president in my lifetime. Frank, blunt, and honest. He was correct to say that no more American lives can be sacrificed for another country’s civil war.

    I was skeptical but I think Biden has the potential to go down in history at Truman levels of greatness. I think part of what is driving him is that he is likely not planning to run for a second term, and he knows the Republicans are likely to retake Congress in January 2023. This is his chance to make big changes and he’s doing so.

    • Gloriousus et Liber says:

      I am with the vet in this clip from MSNBC:


      And it saddens me as someone who wanted Biden to defeat the Mango Mussolini. I saw lots of blame being tossed (deservedly) the last administration and (undeservedly) on Afghan security forces who lost their support. The fact is, this shitshow happened Biden’s watch. He had a choice in how this turned out. If he ignored intelligence and pressed on in creating this humanitarian disaster, he will wear it, deservedly. The only thing saving him from a Republican drubbing is their own whopping hypocrisy on the subject.

      Again, the vet in the link above encapsulates my feelings on this. A lot of blame casting and ignoring of advice.

    • Pedant says:

      Completely serious.

      Disengaging from Afghanistan was always going to be a chaotic undertaking, whether it happened now, 5 years ago, or 5 years from now. It would be immoral to risk even one more American life on this quagmire.

      I’m very surprised by many of the presumably left-leaning or centre-right commenters here who have apparently morphed into neocons. Have we learned nothing from the past disastrous US attempts at “bringing democracy” and “nation-bulding”?

      I applaud the courage of President Biden to stand up to the military and media establishment and defense contractors and do what is right for his country.

      • Pedant,

        I can’t speak for anyone else but my beef is not with the withdrawal, which was inevitable, but with the lack of planning, contingency scenarios and phased plan for the withdrawal, not to mention a continuous and steady ongoing plan for the evacuations of friendlies and their families who helped NATO forces. In Canada’s case, those evacuations should have started in 2015 and continued at a regular pace right up to this day. Ditto for the United States and other NATO countries. We threw so many of those people away and it’s way beyond a mortal sin.

  8. Steve T says:

    The longest-lasting lesson from Afghanistan is that some places in the world simply will never benefit from foreign intervention – and most likely things will be worse overall for our trying.
    Twenty years is a mere blip in history, and yet as you point out, thousands of Afghan and Western lives have been lost trying to keep the Taliban from power.
    Next time (and make no mistake, there will be a next time), the sad truth is that we may just need to let these countries descend into their own morass from the start – because that’s where they will end up.
    Many analogies were made to pre-WWII Germany when this Afghan mess began, but perhaps that’s not always a good analogy.

    • The Doctor says:

      I think a guest on Bill Maher’s show put it perfectly the other day: Afghanistan in 2001 was not Western Europe in 1945. That was at the heart of the mistake and the miscalculation.

      Anything beyond kicking the Taliban’s ass, removing safe havens for Al Qaeda and capturing and killing Bin Laden and other AQ personnel was misconceived. I feel badly for the women of Afghanistan but it’s not America’s job to look out for them and it’s not America’s job to turn Afghanistan into a functional country (beyond the normal exercise of American foreign policy) and it never was.

    • Walter says:

      The other lesson is that when at war, the other side is the enemy.
      You can’t mix a war against 10% of the population with a humanitarian effort against the 90%.
      First, win the war. Hope there are no civilian casualties, but the only goal is to win the war.
      Then have a (Marshall) plan for humanitarian aspects.

  9. Mark says:

    As for your statement that “The government of Justin Trudeau, practically alone in the civilized world, has refused to rule out recognizing the Taliban terrorists as a legitimate government”, perhaps you wrote this before seeing:


  10. Quo vadis says:

    Perhaps you missed the video clip where he says he would be open to recognizing the Taliban. Before the pivot.
    Not only displaying his ignorance but proving that unless his handlers pre-script his response he is totally at loss in generating coherent thought

  11. Gilbert says:

    It was reported that Justin Trudeau phoned Hillary Clinton for advice about Afghanistan. Who is the American president? Where are our own advisors? I don’t think this news makes the White House happy.

    • Gilbert,

      They were too busy in the PMO…still trying to master counting orally from one to ten. Trudeau wants them to show him how as soon as they get it. But I digress from calling Hillary.

      • And if you were Biden, frankly, would you be in the mood to take genius’ phone call smack in the middle of a major crisis? That’s why Trudeau has been reduced to calling the B Team.

  12. The President is the Commander In Chief of America’s armed forces. Another poster mentioned President Truman, and with respect to that President, he was the one who stated “the buck stops here”. President Biden is responsible for the fiasco that is the current situation in Afghanistan. Everybody knew they were leaving, however, compare the exit of the Russians to the Americans. One was an organized and dignified departure, the other a disaster. It looks as though America can’t organize a one car parade right now (although I’m not sure we look any better to be fair). There is no doubt the President was caught unawares by what happened, but he is responsible. As a cynic once stated, “It is often more dangerous to be America’s friend than her enemy”. This one is going to hurt.

  13. Gilbert says:

    The Soviet Union evacuated properly. The USA did not.

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