CNN: Boy, Biden sure is facing a lot of crises all of a sudden

He sure is. One can give him a partial pass on COVID’s resurgence since the rise of the Delta variant was out of his hands. But the other three here are squarely on him.

Even COVID is only a partial pass. Many millions of senior citizens are sitting around waiting to be infected as the immunity from shots they received six or seven months ago ebbs. What are Biden’s CDC and FDA doing about it? Jack at the moment, to all appearances.

I have no sense of how the catastrophic lightning fall of Afghanistan’s government will play with voters. Americans have wanted out for a long time; Biden granted their wish with alacrity, essentially unplugging the U.S. military presence there rather than powering it down. Maybe most of the country will shrug and think, “We gave them 20 years. There was nothing more we could have done. It was time to go.” But Afghanistan’s collapse is happening so quickly, and is apt to turn so ugly, that I suspect many who would have tolerated a more gradual Taliban takeover on the theory that was nothing more we could have done will watch with horror and think, “Surely we could have done more than this.”

It’s already begun within Biden’s own administration, in fact:

The spectacle of the Taliban overrunning the U.S. embassy in Kabul and posing for photos with captured American materiel will wound voters’ patriotic pride too:

“Joe Biden’s credibility has been shredded in Afghanistan,” writes Gideon Rachman at the Financial Times today. Not just Biden’s, though. Ours too. The immediate implosion of the state we propped up is a searing, provocatively dangerous national humiliation:

If Donald Trump were presiding over the debacle in Afghanistan, the US foreign policy establishment would be loudly condemning the irresponsibility and immorality of American strategy. Since it is Joe Biden in the White House there is instead, largely, an embarrassed silence…

The US failure makes it much harder for Biden to push his core message that “America is back”. By contrast, it fits perfectly with two key messages pushed by the Chinese (and Russian) governments. First, that US power is in decline. Second, that American security guarantees cannot be relied upon…

China is already the dominant economic power in east Asia. But most Asian democracies look to the US as their main security partner. So it is very helpful to Beijing if Washington’s credibility is undermined. Of course, the situations and stakes in Taiwan or the South China Sea are different from those in Afghanistan. But events there will still resonate around the world.

The failure to build a functioning state in Afghanistan is a long-term, thoroughly bipartisan one. The failure to anticipate how quickly the Taliban would race towards Kabul is Biden’s alone. He and Tony Blinken seem to have genuinely believed that the fight for the country between Ashraf Ghani’s army and the mujahedeen would play out over months if not years and might well end in a stalemate with each side in control of part of Afghanistan. If they didn’t believe that, they wouldn’t have said things this embarrassingly wrong in recent memory:

What sort of apocalyptic intelligence failure convinced them that the battle between the Afghan army and the Taliban would last months, not weeks?

Did we ever — ever — understand what was happening on the ground in Afghanistan?

Is there just some sort of government blind spot about it? I don’t know how else to explain how Blinken’s staff could have sent this tweet on this particular day:

Afghans allied with the U.S. have been relegated to begging acquaintances here to try to find them and their relatives safe passage out of the country before they fall into the Taliban’s hands and are executed. That’s what committing to alliances means in this case.

Will Americans shrug at all of that because they’re in their 20th year of “Afghanistan fatigue” or will they watch the bloodletting and conclude that a more competent administration surely could have hatched a withdrawal plan less chaotic than what we’re seeing?

I know how I’d bet. Here’s CNN reflecting on how “infrastructure week,” which was supposed to the most triumphant of Biden’s presidency to date, ended up feeling like defeat on all fronts.

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