A Lesson for Joe Biden

On Thursday night, Joe Biden delivered himself of brief remarks about the slaughter perpetrated earlier that day by Islamic terrorists at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan. At least 170 people were murdered, including 14 U.S. servicemen. Many more were injured. The commentator Scott Johnson spoke for most candid observers, I believe, when he wrote at Power Line that the president’s remarks were “pathetic and stupid. He gives human form to our humiliation. He embodies it. Anyone can see that.”

That is correct. And I think Fox News reporter Peter Doocy raised a question that was on many people’s minds when, near the end of Biden’s press conference, he said this: “there had not been a U.S. service member killed in combat in Afghanistan since February of 2020. You set the deadline, you pulled troops out, you sent troops back in, and now 12 Marines are dead. You said the buck stops with you. Do you bear any responsibility for the way that things have unfolded in the last two weeks?”

Biden’s answer? “Yes, but . . .” It giveth and it taketh away. The strophe: “I bear responsibility for fundamentally all that’s happened.” The antistrophe: “Donald Trump.” It was Trump who made a deal with the “tally-bahn,” you see, so, really, it’s not my fault, but his

Does anyone, even the most thoroughgoing NeverTrump enemy of the former president, think anything like this would have happened on Trump’s watch? 

There were so many horrible things about Biden’s cringe-making press conference, from the president’s body language—had he been supine, you sense that he would have curled up into the fetal position—to the gradually emerging realities that surrounded his talk. 

At the conclusion of his prepared remarks, it was time for questions. Biden then looked down at a piece of paper and said, aloud, “The first person I was instructed to call on . . . .” You would think his handlers would make some minimal effort to disguise their puppet’s subservience and incapacity. 

Did you know that when we stole away from Bagram Airfield at night we left behind hundreds of millions of dollars worth of grade-A military hardware, including 23 A-29 combat aircraft, three C-130 transport planes, 33 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, 170 armored Humvees, thousands upon thousands of rockets and grenades, nearly a million rounds of .50 caliber ammunition, and tens of thousands of rifles? In a stroke, we made the Taliban the best-armed radical Islamic organization in the world. 

Did you know that the United States is soon to be home to tens of thousands of Afghan refugees, many—if not most of them—Islamic fundamentalists? Did you know that, in its partnership with the Taliban (sounds odd doesn’t it?), the Biden Administration actually gave the Taliban the names of Americans and our Afghan allies. Yes, you read that right. “In a move no one can grasp,” Politico reported, “U.S. officials in Kabul gave the Taliban a list of names of American citizens, green card holders, and Afghan allies, believing the Taliban would allow them to enter the militant-controlled outer perimeter of the city’s airport. Lawmakers and military officials are outraged.” 

How about you? 

Why would the United States do that? No, it’s not that the people we elected to govern us trust the Taliban. Joe Biden made that clear. He doesn’t think the Taliban are nice people. But he is appealing to their “self-interest,” you see. We’ll partner with them, we’ll ask them to set up and man the checkpoints on the roads coming into the airport, and we feel confident in doing so because, after all, it is in their interest to play fair. They will do what they say they are going to do—and, more to the point, they won’t do what we fear they might do, things like attack Americans—and we will do what they want, i.e., leave Afghanistan. 

Have you ever heard anything so preposterous? In Notes from Underground, Dostoyevsky treated this liberalizing naïveté to some portion of the contempt it deserves. “Oh, tell me,” Dostoevsky wrote, 

. . .  who first declared, who first proclaimed that man only does nasty things because he does not know his own real interests; and that if he were enlightened, if his eyes were opened to his real normal interests, man would at once cease to do nasty things, would at once become good and noble because, being enlightened and understanding his real advantage, he would see his own advantage in the good and nothing else. . . . Oh, the babe! Oh, the pure, innocent child!

Joe Biden apparently thinks, or says he thinks, the Taliban will make nice because it is in their interest to do so. 

No wonder the Taliban are busy trolling the Biden Administration, posing with ice-cream cones, re-enacting the iconic flag-raising at Iwo Jima in American uniforms but with a Taliban flag, vowing to battle “climate change” and ensure women’s rights “under Islamic law.” Ha ha ha. That’s the playful side of an ideology whose dark purpose was summed up by an Islamic radical in the aftermath of 9/11. “We are not fighting so that you will offer us something,” he said. “We are fighting to eliminate you.” 

Accordingly, the proper response to this ideology is not to offer it partnerships in the hope that you can make a mutually satisfying deal that caters to everyone’s “self-interest.” On the contrary, the proper response is to understand, as Benjamin Netanyahu put it, that we are dealing here with “a war to reverse the triumph of the West.”

Our leaders, from a mentally compromised president through the puffed-up woke triumvirate of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd “stand down” Austin, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark “white-rageI-read-Karl-Marx” Milley, are constitutionally incapable of taking that reality on board. They are figures fit to lead the Eloi, not patriotic Americans. 

More and more people understand this, including some rank-and-file military personnel. One exceptionally brave Marine, Lt. Colonel Stuart Scheller, epitomizes the gathering sea change in a brief video that’s gone viral. Speaking to his commanders, Scheller noted:

We have a secretary of defense that testified to Congress in May that the Afghan National Security Forces could withstand the Taliban advance. We have [members] of the Joint Chiefs . . . who’s supposed to advise on military policy. We have a Marine combatant commander. All of these people are supposed to advise. . . . I’m not saying we’ve got to be in Afghanistan forever, but I am saying: Did any of you throw your rank on the table and say ‘hey, it’s a bad idea to evacuate Bagram Airfield, a strategic airbase, before we evacuate everyone’? Did anyone do that? And when you didn’t think to do that, did anyone raise their hand and say ‘we completely messed this up?’

He went on to explain “the reason people are so upset on social media right now is not because the Marine on the battlefield let someone down [but] . . . because their senior leaders let them down and none of them are raising their hands and accepting accountability.” Scheller was not surprised that he was relieved of his command for posting the video. The 17-year veteran knowingly put his career and his reputation in jeopardy to bring attention to the dereliction of duty by his senior officers. “My chain of command is doing exactly what I would do . . . if I were in their shoes,” he wrote

Meanwhile, the Biden Administration just announced it conducted a drone strike that may have killed two people who might have been ISIS-K “planners.” We don’t really know, however, because the Pentagon will not release the names of the targets.  In other words, as the commentator Raheem Kassam observed, “Joe Biden gave a list of Americans to the Taliban but won’t give the names of the terrorists he claims to have retaliated against to the American public.” I suppose the attack was in fulfillment of the little currant of tough talk someone inserted into Biden’s remarks: “We will not forgive, we will not forget, we will hunt you down and make you pay.”

Want to bet?

About Roger Kimball

Roger Kimball is editor and publisher of The New Criterion and the president and publisher of Encounter Books. He is the author and editor of many books, including The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine's Press), The Rape of the Masters (Encounter), Lives of the Mind: The Use and Abuse of Intelligence from Hegel to Wodehouse (Ivan R. Dee), and Art's Prospect: The Challenge of Tradition in an Age of Celebrity (Ivan R. Dee).

Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images

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