And the arena right now is the Hamid Karzai Airport on the edge of Afghanistan’s capitol city Kabul and the lonely man in the arena is President Joe Biden.
A previous president, John F. Kennedy, concisely described Biden’s current dilemma when he wrote, “Victory has a thousand fathers but defeat is an orphan.”
So very true, but from my safe position up here in the arena’s stands, and notwithstanding the suicide bombing of Aug. 26, the president was dealt a losing hand even before he assumed the job last January.
1- His predecessor, Donald Trump, had negotiated a May 21 withdrawal date – lock, stock and beer barrel – that Biden had to re-negotiate to August 31.
2- The semi-vaunted Afghan Army and Air Force, trained by the best soldiers and pilots in the world, left their posts so fast that the Taliban had a hard time keeping up with the retreating elements.
3- President Ashraf Ghani fled the country with only the clothes on his back and is now in seclusion so Biden’s only choice was to work with the Taliban in the evacuation of over 120,000 individuals who desperately desired to depart Kabul before the victors arrived. That largest airlift in history continues as I write this column and will end completely in approximately 36 hours.
4- It was left to Biden to not just talk about ending America’s longest war but to get it done under the most trying circumstances he did not create. Bagram Air Base was abandoned because it would have taken thousands more soldiers and marines to defend this last month.
Republicans, of all people, are organizing in Washington to make ending the war a 2022 campaign issue. It may well be but if they do that will bring Trump’s performance back to center stage as well.
And finally, the one thing that always seems to be missing, regardless of who the president is at the time, is how to get out after we win, or lose the adventure.