Twenty years ago this August, the mainstream media was focused on the disappearance of Chandra Levy, a twenty-four-year-old intern at the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The case attracted attention as it was revealed she had been having an affair with former Gary Condit, a former Democratic lawmaker from California. The focus on the case all but ceased on September 11, 2001.
Just like that the world turned its attention to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The subsequent U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, followed by the liberation of Iraq some two and a half years later, defined the presidency of George W. Bush. He will always be the president who infamously “dragged” the United States into the Global War on Terror.
Yet, after the fall of the Afghan capital to the Taliban this week, President Joe Biden may be forever remembered as the president who lost that war. Already, Biden has seen his numbers fall in the polls. While the country has remained deeply divided politically, Biden had approval numbers far exceeding his predecessor—only to see his mishandling of the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan bring those numbers down.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s tracker, which utilizes a weighted average of polling, President Biden’s approval sat at just above 50 percent last Friday. The numbers had continued to plummet further, given that he was largely silent and out of sight over the weekend as the Taliban regained control. As of Monday afternoon, Biden's approval was at just 49.9 percent, the lowest since he took office in January.
Unfit for Office?
Throughout the weekend and into Monday, there had been repeated calls that Biden was not fit to remain commander-in-chief after his handling of the events in Afghanistan. It was just weeks ago that Biden praised the Afghan security forces and said they were a far larger and better-trained fighting force than many of the United States’ NATO allies. However, in just a week nearly the entirety of Afghanistan fell to the insurgents.
Across social media, the president was repeatedly mocked by his critics, with the hashtags #WheresBiden, #BidenDisaster and #25thAmendment Trending.
Passing the Buck
Prior to speaking to the American public on Monday afternoon, the White House had issued a statement, in which Biden seemed to cast the blame on former President Donald Trump.
“When I came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor—which he invited the Taliban to discuss at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 of 2019—that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021, deadline on US forces. Shortly before he left office, he also drew US forces down to a bare minimum of 2,500,” Biden said in that statement.
“Therefore, when I became president, I faced a choice—follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies’ forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country's civil conflict,” he added. “I was the fourth president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan—two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth.”
During his address on Monday, Biden did say that as president the buck does stop with him, but also said that the Afghan security forces lacked the will or determination to even stand up to the Taliban. He had said he accepts responsibility for the withdrawal but added again that he didn’t want a future president to have to make the same difficult choices.
“I am president of the United States and the buck stops with me,” Biden added. “I am deeply saddened by the facts we now face, but I do not regret my decision to end America's war-fighting in Afghanistan and maintain a laser-focus on our counter-terrorism mission there and in other parts of the world.”
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.