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The media enabled Afghanistan’s collapse A gushing press corps made Biden feel invincible

They lapped up every word (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)


August 27, 2021   4 mins

When Joe Biden selected Jake Sullivan as his National Security Advisor, he gushed that Sullivan was a “once-in-a-generation intellect with the experience and temperament for one of the toughest jobs in the world”. No Senate confirmation is required for the NSA position, and the press took Biden at his word.

When Antony Blinken was selected as Secretary of State, Foreign Policy magazine hailed it as a “return to normalcy for weary diplomats”. Finally, when President Biden was elected, the New York Times raved that it represented an end to “four tumultuous years under Trump”;  the Los Angeles Times’s editorial board welcomed his election as a victory “for the American people”.

Biden, Blinken and Sullivan — three men who, less than a year ago, were cheered on as the sensible, cool-headed triumvirate capable of saving the West. Today that promise has been sullied. Instead, they will be remembered as three of the key figures responsible for the tragedy now unfolding in Afghanistan.

Until the sudden and complete collapse of the Nato-backed government in Kabul, the Biden administration had enjoyed its very own “special relationship” with the American media. They were frequently thrown soft-ball questions. They were always allowed to point to the villainous Donald Trump whenever they needed a scapegoat. The media corps is always on their side — and who can blame them? You can’t ask tough questions while munching on cookies from the Press Secretary’s mother-in-law. That would be rude.

To listen to Biden’s media cheerleaders over the past seven months has been about as exciting as reading Pravda. “America is back. Trump was an aberration. We are going to bring Americans together and heal. We’re giving people hope and change. Build back better. Let’s get high on DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion).” And so on. God knows it was tedious. But Biden’s team was more than happy to stick to this hymn sheet. Nobody leaked.

You would have thought that the new administration would have been able to exploit for just a bit longer the narrative of an experienced, selfless, prudent President Biden — the steady hand after the wrecking ball. Where Donald Trump was off-putting, rash and rude, Joe Biden could so easily be presented as cool — those Aviators, man! — thoughtful and cooperative. In short, Biden was poised to become to the United States what Queen Elizabeth is to the United Kingdom: a rock of reliability and continuity, an embodiment of national pride and humility all at once.

Instead, seven months into the administration’s tenure, the Biden administration hunkered down and made a decision that would erase years of progress. It’s all too easy to picture the various individuals, all at the height of their professional careers, huddled together in the Situation Room. Some old and wise. Some fresh-faced and gung-ho. All fooled by the conviction that they can do no wrong.

While Team Biden already resorted to its standard fallback of pointing the finger at Trump — who, admittedly, initiated negotiations with the Taliban and made the original deal to exit Afghanistan — it is the current President who accelerated the plan for full military withdrawal before even attempting to repatriate all American citizens, evacuate our Afghan allies or secure any guarantees on human rights (particularly for Afghan women and girls). It was Blinken who told Senator Lindsey Graham during his confirmation hearing that any US agreement with the Taliban should “absolutely” be “conditions-based”. Where are those conditions now?

Just weeks ago, Biden assured us there would be no images of Americans climbing on roofs to evacuate in helicopters like in Saigon. Now, with the August 31st deadline looming, it seems increasingly likely that some Americans might not make it out at all. Those who have applied for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) feel hopelessly abandoned. Our Nato allies look on with horror.

Speculation over what compelled Biden’s national security team to withdraw so suddenly without a proper contingency plan remains ongoing. Theories range from shrill claims about how “these men must be evil” to “experts” praising what they deem a calculated, realist approach to a never-ending war that was sapping attention and resources away from the bigger threats posed by China.

The more convincing argument, however, is more straightforward: The Biden administration screwed up because they had grown accustomed to uncritical support from the press. Instead of upholding their traditional role of checking and vetting individuals and decisions, for seven months the media has scarcely offered up a critical word of Biden. It was almost the exact opposite for Trump, who came in for relentless criticism — some of it fictitious.

Of course, nobody enjoys being hauled over the coals by the press corps. But it focuses the mind — unlike canine adulation. If enough people tell you that you’re going to be the most transformative president since Lyndon Johnson, it’s easy to forget how Johnson’s presidency ended.

That honeymoon period is over now. The situation in Kabul is now so dire that there is no option but to report on the failures of the administration. Even our new pedigree of activists journalists, for whom reporting is a form of proselytising, can no longer play defence for the President because the images coming out of Afghanistan are indefensible. When they learn that a toddler of one of our Afghan interpreters has been crushed to death in the vast and desperate scrum outside Kabul airport, Americans are rightly angry.

And so Biden now cuts an altogether different figure. After his briefings, he scurries away, fearing an inquisition. Meanwhile, his press secretary is starting to look like all press secretaries: her jaw set, her eyes tired, her implausible talking points delivered almost defiantly.

For Afghanistan, the return of a critical press corps comes too late. But for Americans there is a lesson to be learned. Perhaps if the liberal media had done a better job during confirmation hearings and appointments, the situation in Afghanistan could have unfolded differently, with more effective leaders at the helm. Perhaps if earlier policy blunders had been subjected to closer scrutiny, this one might not have been so casually made.

“Democracy dies in darkness” was one of the many facile slogans adopted by the anti-Trump press in 2017, as if only their fearless reporting stood between America and a 1930s-style fascist dystopia. But as we are now witnessing, competent government instead dies when the lights are dimmed to flatter a new administration. When journalists and editors suspend their critical faculties, tragedy is bound to follow.


Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an UnHerd columnist. She is also the Founder of the AHA Foundation, and host of The Ayaan Hirsi Ali Podcast. Her Substack is called Restoration.

Ayaan

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Ludo Roessen
Ludo Roessen
2 years ago

Even our new pedigree of activists journalists, for whom reporting is a form of proselytising…”
That… is the problem with the west’s MSM… child journalist with campus brains informing the echo chamber….

Tim Bartlett
Tim Bartlett
2 years ago
Reply to  Ludo Roessen

To be more charitable they’re just providing their paying customers what they want to hear, so they don’t go elsewhere. Its not just MSM either, everyone does it. This is the only site I’ve found where you’ll see articles commissioned that 95% of the readership vehemently disagree with. Long may it continue.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Tim Bartlett

Yet many of these media outlets have lost readership and viewership, so they must at least be discussing their extreme bias.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
2 years ago

You would hope so, but too much of the MSM is subsidised – consider the BBC – such that it doesn’t have to consider the readers’ views. Moreover, the monopoly the left has obtained crosses all the old boundaries. Even the Telegraph is “woke” in much of its output now – especially in its arts coverage, not to mention its handling of social issues. On many of these it prevents comment for fear of exposing the displeasure of its own subscribers! Because many of its older readers don’t bother to go on line, they are often unaware of the extent to which their inhouse paper has been colonised by the left. And thanks to regulation, not to mention the decline in news readership, nobody can set up authentically conservative rivals. In short, the situation is ossified.

Anglica Bee
Anglica Bee
2 years ago
Reply to  Tim Bartlett

Spiked is also very good. https://www.spiked-online.com

Peter Dawson
Peter Dawson
2 years ago
Reply to  Anglica Bee

Quillette is also a beacon of free expression.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Dawson

They came under fire when Claire took on Bret Weinstein and published some substandard article on Ivermectin.

M Dance
M Dance
2 years ago
Reply to  Tim Bartlett

The New York Times is an excellent example of this. They have long since ceased to provide objective analysis of the issues but focus on pushing the line their (largely woke middle class) readers wish to hear.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  M Dance

They create the wish to hear their perverted agenda. This is propaganda, this is wishing to destroy USA by some mysterious dark force. The education system teaches these peverted ideologies in the young, then the MSM confirms it. This is all Planed, and it to destroy the free and return the world to a form of Fudalism of CBDC using social Credit scores, and UBI – but only if you think and act right. This is the Culturial Revultion and the MSM and Teachers are the Red Guard!

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Tim Bartlett

“To be more charitable they’re just providing their paying customers what they want to hear,”

NO<NO<NO ————–> They are manipulating their sheep like client/customers to produce the goals of the New World Order. Lord Haw-Haw was not just telling his paying customers what they wanted to hear.

Tim Bartlett
Tim Bartlett
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Careful you dont fall into The Guardian trap – ‘the proles are brainwashed by the media, and only we’re clever enough to see it’. I’m lucky enough to talk to many, many people and the variety of honest, thoughtful opinions makes my head spin. Give people more credit.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Tim Bartlett

I like to rant sometimes. see if anyone responds, they rarely do. But then I am a conspiracy loon – I have seen a very great deal of the world, and of people, and studied much history, and do actually believe all mess and decline is not just random, but is for nefarious reasons as often as not. You must admit something very big went on, 2-8 Trillion$$ are the numbers bandied about (Afghanistan is $2 T, Afghanistan + Iraq + Syria is $8 T)

The USA annual spending is 7 $ Trillion, deficit is 3 $ Trillion. This means we spent MORE than an entire year of USA budget there, to achieve NOTHING but chaos, over 20 years. If you think this just people making bad decisions you are being Very Naive indeed!

But everyone Must watch the USA Debt Clock to even begin to understand the $$$$ Reality. You will never see the world the same after watching the dials spin, USADEBTCLOCK https://usdebtclock.org/

Tim Bartlett
Tim Bartlett
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I don’t think its crazy to focus on borrowing and QE. Too much debt and a worthless currency will destroy any society I believe.

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
2 years ago
Reply to  Tim Bartlett

What age are they – the people you know with honest, thoughtful opinions?

Tim Bartlett
Tim Bartlett
2 years ago

It doesn’t seem to matter.

Allie McBeth
Allie McBeth
2 years ago
Reply to  Tim Bartlett

I agree – unexpected people can have enlightened opinions. Take thr social experiment (elsewhere on Unherd) where the coal miners were asked about global warming – with the expectation that they would ‘deny’ it. On the contrary, they did indeed believe it was something to worry about (I paraphrase).

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  Tim Bartlett

Once you have employed vast numbers of campus kid woke journalists your policy is kind of set . What are you going to do ? Sack them?
When the BBC online news calls Jacinda Arden ‘New Zealand’s beloved prime minister ‘ you know this is the work of a someone mired in student politics and employed for reasons of gender , race or some other identity qualification .

Last edited 2 years ago by Alan Osband
James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

I am an occasional commentator on the BBC, mostly but not exclusively on Corona. But maybe I’ve been cancelled for calling out so-called “experts” who spout their political opinions. For example, ALL BBC Corona experts seem to believe that no one in the West should get a booster shot because some health care workers in the developing world haven’t even gotten their first shot. OK, that’s an opinion. I disagree with it. BUT these frauds hide their raw politics behind science. You can hear that it almost troubles them to do this–they are knowingly lying on BBC for the world to maybe catch them–so they will start by sighing, and Saying, Yeah, that’s a tough one on the booster shot. But, it is inequitable to “take” the third shot, given so much discrimination in the world, white supremacy, etc. In short, they substitute their political views for science, but try to pass it off as science.
QUESTION FOR UNHERD READERS: How can one make a complaint to the BBC ombudsman and/or is there a way to begin a campaign to encourage Brits to NOT pay the license fee. Let’s face it, the BBC is a vessel of woke propaganda, similar to NPR in the USA. I used to comment on local affiliates of NPR and donate money; no more. I would like to make them realize that their job is not to be woke but to objectively report the news.
Many thanks….

Peter Dawson
Peter Dawson
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

There is a very strong and growing #DefundTheBBC movement on Twitter which is also moving up through the generations as younger people “don’t consume media” in the traditional way that people did in the 20th Century – the same applies to other outlets – younger folk now “curate their own menu of digital consumable” which unfortunately means that more and more contrary voices are being marginalised and even – what’s that word that they use to say someone in persona non grata – I know there is one somewhere near the end of my tongue you know the one they tried to do to J K Rowling.
Fortunately there are alternative platforms that allow critical and even dissenting voices a platform – to help ensure that “the science” – what ever the current fright show shit storm they are feeding us – is robustly challenged and with their own evidence based critiques – though even these are sometime brought down by the notoriously partisan “fact checkers”.

Edward De Beukelaer
Edward De Beukelaer
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Good luck: the BBC appears mostly to be a state propaganda tool for the moment…

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

America is a fascist country, and I’m not using the word “fascist” as mere vulgar abuse, I’m using it in its original, technical, classical form. Where you have the fusion of government, business and media interests in a leftist agenda of social unity and harmony, with everyone singing from the same hymnsheet and dissenting voices smeared and marginalised, you have a fascist country. And fascist countries don’t work.

They seem to work initially, but they destroy all creativity because creativity is anarchic and chaotic. A bit like Donald Trump’s government. Now we have a situation where Trump is starting to look like a visionary and buyer’s remorse is the prevailing orthodoxy in the country with regard to Biden and the Democrats. Trump would have pulled out of Afghanistan, but you’d never have seen scenes like this under his governance. Starting to miss him yet?

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
2 years ago

He lost the election. Somewhere along the line, he messed up. I say that as someone who wrote on this website I thought he’d “win big”.

Yes Trump go alot right, but somewhere he failed. He allowed his enemies to win. Thatcher and Reagan didn’t let that happen. Hopefully Boris won’t.

Conservatives need a good long look at what allowed Biden in. We can blame the MSM, the democrats, the activists. We can blame all of them, but at the end of the day, we are not blameless. If we continue to blame other people for all our problems, then we will loose and loose again, and the West will be poorer for it.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
2 years ago

If Trump lost because he lies then Boris is likely to lose for the same reason.

Peter Dawson
Peter Dawson
2 years ago

And if/when we do lose – we will all be very very sorry.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

Fas* ist as in National Socialism – do not forget the Socialism part. You knew the Left was Fas* ist as soon as you watched the all black clothed Antifa smashing skulls with the skateboards they carry as weapons in the riots.

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
2 years ago

I agree with this but for the caveat that Fascist Italy, for example, was at least patriotic. This form of fascism we have now hates the nation state on which it is built, which I suspect will make the experiment of this form of Fascism even shorter lived than its predecessors.

Last edited 2 years ago by hayden eastwood
JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago

The MSM are an embarrassment but there are other forms of accountability that have also failed. All three branches of government (and the US military and State Dept) have beclowned themselves with deadly consequences. But, of course, how can we expect them to maintain order in Kabul when they can’t control Portland? We should be used to this kind of state incompetence after the spectacle of riots and falling statues. The people in charge do not seem capable of managing anything.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  JP Martin

Yes, how can America be “a force for good in the world” (as Biden noted in his inauguration speech) when, with the Democrats in charge, America could not even be a force for good at home?

“Peaceful protests.” Now that umbrella term that came from the Democrats for the disorder and chaos in American cities last year is just another way of saying Tough Cheese! to ordinary folk. That attitude has spilled over into Team Biden’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, I think.

JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago

How can it change when the American elite never suffer the consequences of their actions?

Sue Whorton
Sue Whorton
2 years ago

Portland still ongoing?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Cat Fan

My friend in Seattle had her house broken into and completely ransacked while she was away – she couldn’t get police to even come out to the scene. Defund the police
.

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago
Reply to  JP Martin

“But, of course, how can we expect them to maintain order in Kabul when they can’t control Portland?” Exactly. And what obligation is there to maintain order in Kabul if you fail to maintain order in Portland?

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago
Reply to  JP Martin

It is exactly the same in London. Extinction Rebellion has been allowed to take over.

RJ Kent
RJ Kent
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

Small scale disobedience by Extinction REBELLION this year and last doesn’t really seem to compare with disorder in the form of petrol bombs, gunfire and looting in the US!

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  RJ Kent

I agree. Extinction Rebellion is small beer compared to Portland (and other) US riots.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
2 years ago

Small beer today, a barrel of vodka tomorrow.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

They are taking a whole lot of time to get there. They need to study Antifa.

Allie McBeth
Allie McBeth
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Yes, a slippery slope

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  JP Martin

Expertise in foreign affairs comes in several forms

  1. Running a country such as done by ICS/Army.
  2. Running companies using native workforce, especiaslly undertaking dangerous work in remote ares- mining, construction, oil, etc
  3. As a Diplomat.

2 and 3 do not exist any more. No 3 basically amounts to reading newspapers, talking to other diplomats, listening to local politicians and national media and travel within the diplomatic area of the Capital. As politicians in West know even less than 3 , Diplomat is one eyed man in the land of the blind.
The Conequences are that the Government can have lost control of the poor parts of the capital and be completely ignorant as to what is happening in the country. The Government will not tell the truth to the Diplomats and based upon their very limited knowledge accept, everything is fine which is what took place in Iran with the overthrow of the Shah.
In Asia it is normal practice to support both sides until a clear winner emerges and loser is dropped.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

Excellent article. One cannot but think that this is a continuation of the beginning of the end of the USA as a world power. China and Russia must be delighted with Biden’s presidency.

RJ Kent
RJ Kent
2 years ago

China and Russia must be delighted with Biden’s presidency? Exactly. And it’s hard to believe that they and other opponents of the west didn’t do anything calculated to produce chaos in decision making, defence, society and economics in the US and elsewhere, with Covid engineered as part of that – or just a cherry on top stroke of luck.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  RJ Kent

Well, they were delighted with the Trump presidency.

Glyn Reed
Glyn Reed
2 years ago

One cannot but help that what is unfolding in Afghanistan and the tidal wave of refugees it has provoked was all planned. They want chaos.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Glyn Reed

Omar smiling with delight, the day the country died.

Hersch Schneider
Hersch Schneider
2 years ago

Great stuff Ms Ali, you’ve called it perfectly.

Richard Riheed
Richard Riheed
2 years ago

Agree! Wonderfully written article. Thank you AHA.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
2 years ago

” …. our new pedigree of activist journalists, for whom reporting is a form of proselytising …”

Exactly so.
Yet, since long before his election, there have been many, many commenters below the line pointing to Biden’s obvious mental decline.
He is so palpably unfit for any kind of office – yet being “Not Trump” was enough to convince the media that he was the right man for the job.
Whilst large numbers of the crowd have been yelling that the Emperor is quite obviously naked, we’ve been invited merely to marvel at his fabulous set of clothes – oh and those Aviators, maaan!

Hersch Schneider
Hersch Schneider
2 years ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Exactly. Watching this sh*tshow unfold before our eyes, hour by hour just increases my contempt for the many who championed Biden for office. And mainstream media aside, where are all the Hollywood types that publicly endorsed him and even campaigned for him?
Just silence from these absolute cowards.
Michael Moore has even doubled down on what a great job he’s doing! He went all in with supporting Biden, now he cannot bear to back down

Last edited 2 years ago by Hersch Schneider
Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
2 years ago

Long before his mental deterioration, Biden showed the exact same callousness to those South Vietnamese who’d been working closely with US forces. Interpreters, embassy workers and others who were likely to be killed as collaborators by the North Vietnamese – who were abandoned to their fate.
“The United States has no obligation to evacuate one — or 100,001 — South Vietnamese,” said cuddly Joe at the time.
Once again, the media’s laziness, or silence, merely ensures that history repeats itself.
This is the same Biden and the same media who lambasted Trump as a heartless monster for trying to stem the tide of Central American “asylum-seekers” – they insisted that blanket acceptance of any who requested asylum was the only moral stance to take.
Yet now, the line reverts to “the US has no obligation, moral or otherwise, to evacuate foreign nationals.”

ï»żThe only surprise is that we haven’t (yet) heard CNN or the BBC refer to the terror attack at Kabul airport as “mostly peaceful”.

Christopher Elletson
Christopher Elletson
2 years ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Very good.

Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

I think if I were living in the country of Taiwan I should feel very concerned now because Uncle Sam won’t ride to our rescue if a well-armed group claims they are only taking back what was first theirs!

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Indeed. The parallel is hackneyed but just to consider: in 36, when the Rhineland went, the argument you suggest over Taiwan was widely deployed across the west. But it led directly to the crises of 38 and 39. Within a few years there was war. Then, just as now, the west was better armed than its likely foe, but the likely foe was catching up fast. Then, just as now, the left and the right were internally divided as to what to do: ideological left and patriot right were gung-ho for resistance; moderate left and economic right were all for peace and business. So argument was muted and complicated, issuing in little more than anxious squabbles. The fear is that the pattern will after all repeat itself, a variant of the so-called Thucydides trap. One can see why certain commentators, such as Mark Steyn, are convinced that we are headed for dangerous times.

Last edited 2 years ago by Simon Denis
Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

I often wonder if war could have been prevented if action had been taken in 1936. We also did nothing when Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia and that provided him with arms.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

Difficult to know whether or not it could have been prevented. Delayed, perhaps? But the mid-thirties saw the heights of pacifism – peace pledge union and so on; various socialist parties in the west promising total disarmament. Baldwin thought he might not have been returned to power if he had promised large scale military preparation. So there was no public backing for a strong stance. By 38, idealistic left wing pacifism was in full retreat, replaced by hard headed right wing appeasement – an infinitely more logical position – given that Germany had already rearmed and western military readiness was very shaky and defensive. In my opinion, we were still not ready to give guarantees to anyone by 39 and should have followed the logic of appeasement further, in the full recognition that war was more likely than unlikely. Combining diplomatic realism with further defensive preparation is the best prescription for peace in all circumstances – and war is always better avoided than embraced.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

The forward deployment of RAF squadrons to France in 1936, some meaningful troop and tank deployments too (200,000 men and tanks, say), and an order for three more Ark Royals would probably have done the job.
As late as 1941, war with Japan could also probably have been headed off. A serious naval deployment would have been difficult given three other German capitals were still in play, but the bit of the Commonwealth forces that Japan respected was the RAF. In 1941 the RAF had Spitfires to spare: it lost 700 of them shot pointlessly down over France.
If 700 Spitfires could be spared, then they could have been spared for Malaya instead. Malaya’s air defence consisted of 160 aircraft of which about 50 were outstandingly poor Brewster fighters. 300 Spitfires would have made all the difference, and certainly given Japan serious pause for thought.
China will invade Taiwan quite soon, I think. It’s got to the point now where even if there are US troops there, they will be focusing on their pronouns and their privilege, and will probably not fight. They’ll all just go straight into the Chinese bag. Biden’s had his Saigon and next I think he gets his Singapore.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jon Redman
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Very interesting. As to Japan, it is increasingly clear that the Roosevelt administration was applying a degree of pressure which knowingly risked an explosion. Britain had traditionally been friendly to Japan and occupied France had come to all sorts of arrangements with the Japanese vis a vis its Indochinese possessions, but by 1941 this counted for little.
As the perspective of time lengthens, much that was hidden or masked by the “authorised version” of history is coming to light, revealing a strain in western policy which actively flirted with conflict in spite of all that the appeasers could do. And yet, appeasement – which is just another name for containment – was very successfully applied to communism in the post war era, with one or two serious wobbles like “detente”.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Very good points. What terrified Britain was The Trenchard Doctrine which said the bomber would get through and cause 100K deaths. It was Chamberlain who insisted Britain had to be protected which in 1935 resulted in Hurricane and Spitfire being designed and Radar Started.
Also Labour leader Lansbury was a Pacifist and though replaced by Attlee in 1935, the Party did not support increase in defence expenditure.Orwell said conscription should have started in 1938 at latest but he was opposed. Our air defences were not ready until early 1940, especially training of pilots. Lack of pilots worried Dowding more than planes in Battle of Britain.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

I have seen this suggestion so many times. It implies that ‘we’ were at fault, and could have avoided WWII.
No. The truth is that the political leaders at the time, and the people who elected them, had no stomach for war, and their actions at the time, appeasement and lack of rearmament, were the direct consequence.
Until that time, the active policy of the government was DISarmament, with the figleaf that we would always have 10 years warning before a possible war, and when that was abandoned 7 years before the war, it was accompanied by the policy statement “…… this must not be taken to justify an expanding expenditure by the Defence Services….”. 

Last edited 2 years ago by Colin Elliott
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Quite so. My one caveat to all this would be to offer a third alternative to your “fork in the road” of fighting or relinquishing authority – it is to hunker down in fortress west, at last closing down the immigration bonanza and slashing bureaucracy to fund military defences. This would involve the dissolution and replacement of the EU with an authentic, cheap and culturally founded association of sovereign states – the first among many other slash and burn and adapt policies, made urgent now by looming danger.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

The women of Sparta were trained to fight and expected their men to do so. I suggest it is the massive decline in Spartan spirit by men and women is the problem. Spartan Mothers told their sons to die rather than live as cowards as it would dishonour them. The Regimental Sergeant Majors of The Highland Regiments have been known to tell their men not be cowards as it would dishonour their Mothers.

Marco Annunziata
Marco Annunziata
2 years ago

Right on the mark and very well written. I would add that the years-long sycophantic, propaganda-style attitude of the media also helps explain Biden’s unrepentant press conferences. Against all evidence he has claimed that our allies have been fully on board and are not criticizing us; that his military advisers never counseled him to keep a small military presence in the country; that he was prepared for every contingency; that Americans and other foreigners had no difficulties reaching the airport. For years the media has allowed and helped the political left to define its own reality (“mostly peaceful” protests, Governor Cuomo as anti-Covid hero, etc); Biden is still operating under that Orwellian assumption.

M P Griffiths
M P Griffiths
2 years ago

A superb article- the sycophancy exhibited by the American Left and the media in particular towards this awful, awful man had me shaking my head in disbelief. Every single one of the personality traits supposedly possessed by Trump and which made him unfit to be president were also there in Biden, and in most if not all cases the evidence for their existence was far stronger; and now the USA really does have a corrupt, incompetent and senescent creep occupying the White House, and the world is in a very dark place indeed.

Last edited 2 years ago by M P Griffiths
Terry Needham
Terry Needham
2 years ago

I don’t mind journalists having opinions that differ from mine. I have every right to feel aggrieved though when they deliberately fail to do their job.Having seen the latest news from Kabul, I am not over-dramatising when I say that their failure can cost other people their lives.

David NebeskĂœ
David NebeskĂœ
2 years ago

The MSM first declared Trump absolutely evil and then believed their own propaganda. The problem with absolute evil is that fighting it justifies every lie, every deception, and every crime.
If Trump were gone, maybe MSM would start doing its job criticizing the administration’s indefensible actions. But Trump is still here. I am afraid that MSM will continue to fight him by any means and will continue enthusiastically glorify the incompetent corrupt administration of the senile president.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

The MSM made Trump evil because they are out to destroy America. If it was not him it would just be another thing.

Deborah B
Deborah B
2 years ago

Having watched Biden’s address last night I was shocked by his rambling and incoherent arguments.
And, more worrying, he seemed to equate the loss of life in Afghanistan with his son’s death from cancer. Does he not know the difference between a personal tragedy caused by a serious disease and the tragic victims of a brutal suicide bombing in Kabul? For which he should accept blame?
Aside from the soft landing he’s enjoyed from the US media …which I’m sure has given his administration a false sense of security, surely the biggest questions should be asked of the huge numbers of highly intelligent and experienced officials in multiple state departments. How was this allowed this to happen? Biden may be doddery but if sufficient powerful people around him had said, “No! We have to overturn Trump’s policy and develop a better, more humane, more practical and workable plan.” Then this tragedy would not be happening.
I cannot believe anybody in the US administration with any understanding of the situation in Afghanistan would agree to a withdrawal based on a symbolic date, designed to make America feel good.
Bet Americans aren’t feeling very good now.
So hopefully the MSM will do its proper journalistic due diligence now and root out what exactly happened in this decision making process.
We all need to know.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago
Reply to  Deborah B

Joe Biden’s constant public reference to his dead son is repugnant. He uses it as a weapon, a manipulation. This man is not fit for office.

yp54797wxn
yp54797wxn
2 years ago

“It was almost the exact opposite for Trump, who came in for relentless criticism — some of it fictitious.”
Almost all of it was fictitious.

earlene xavier
earlene xavier
2 years ago

Many of us ‘deplorables’ knew exactly what was coming with a Biden administration, and I am saddened but not surprised by the horrific tragedy currently unfolding in Afghanistan.
Not only is Joe Biden corrupt, incompetent and demented, I feel he has a mean nasty streak in him as evidenced by past remarks he has made regarding civilians caught up in military conflicts.
My heart bleeds for the families of our brave military and the civilians, killed or injured over the past few days. What a nightmare and it need not have happened!

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
2 years ago

The bigger question is why did the ‘liberal’ media support the election as President of the United States of a man clearly suffering from the onset of dementia. Did no one think there might be consequences?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

It was more important to get power.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

It was ever thus. The MSM have always given the Democrats an easy ride.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

They had a touch of the Comical Ali about them in terms of their suspension from reality.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

That being another nice mess he’d gotten him into? Surely not. Biden had no problem once in office overturning Trump’s projects, signing executive orders day after day. Maybe Team Biden muttered a “Well, well done” when the Abraham Accords were quickly read off a things-to-do (or things-to-undo) list back in January.

D Ward
D Ward
2 years ago

On the other hand, if only the Coalition Govt of 2010-2015 had done that to all the damage Bliar’s New Liebour had done.

Or Treason May btw 2015&2019.

Or even Boris , now.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

It’s been like the shock of the fall of Singapore was to the British, in very early 1942. Except I don’t know if Team Biden is genuinely shocked. Is it in denial? It seems to be now saying “I told you so” if American troops on the ground get killed at the airport. “The longer we stay there 
”

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
2 years ago

“a decision that would erase years of progress” the author suffers from the same hubris as the US and UK administrations. Over 20 years the US investment benefitted the contractors and the corrupt. It did not build democracy in the hearts of villagers in large parts of Afghanistan or an acceptance that religious beliefs should be subordinate to secular laws or a love of invaders. It does not seem that it even tried to. The outcome would not have been different with Trump though had there been just a little bit of self-doubt the evacuation could have been better. In either event the millions of women that gained a taste for western individuality were never going to enjoy what it could bring.
Yes the media needs to be critical but Administrations also need to listen to critcisms.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

Some truth to “did not build democracy”. Perhaps Trump could have seen that the only way to defeat the Taliban was to depend on the provinces. Allow them greater autonomy and their own Army where clan attachment rather than simply money would build fighters. Pakistan needs a nation dedicated to Islam to avoid India. I don’t think Trump would have allowed the Taliban to rule Afghanistan.

Mike Bell
Mike Bell
2 years ago

So many commentators blame Biden for the chaos in Kabul when the main reason is the collapse of the government forces. Even the Taliban were taken by surprise. In one interview (post collapse) a Taliban spokesperson said they had assumed that the government would defend Kabul and that they would enter negotiations for power-sharing.
If this had happened, the foreign forces, interpreters etc could have left in good order.
The shocking dereliction of duty has been the media – so out of touch with what was really happening in the rest of Afghanistan that they were all taken by surprise.
They continue to interview traumatised West-supporters with almost no coverage of ordinary folk in Taliban-held parts of the country.
Have just watch Rory Stewart’s brilliant documentaries (from 2011) https://youtu.be/6a7bP49ehKQ Well worth a watch. The Collapse of the UK forces in the 1st Afghan war of 1840 happened over a weekend. – do we not bother to learn our history and just end up repeating it?
Even in 2011, when a ex-Soviet commander is asked for his advice to the US and UK forces says: Go home as soon as you can.

Matt B
Matt B
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Bell

Per UK diplomat Rodric Braithwaite’s book Afghansty – a great look at the Russian experience. The US denouement, or undoing, is no real surprise.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt B
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Bell

Started watching them. Very interesting indeed.

J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago

I feel sure that â€œour new pedigree of activists journalists, for whom reporting is a form of proselytising” will find a way to defend their preferred administration against the charge of hopeless incompetence.
Agreed. The MSM will downplay it as much as possible, but more importantly the American people are sick of war in the middle east. They just want out. I very much doubt the Afghan withdrawal will hurt Biden and the dems in the mid-terms next year or in 2024. My neighbors are much more interested in domestic issues such as ensuring their kids return to school this fall.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago

Democrats never make mistakes. They’re infallible. Any mistakes that Democrats might appear to make are actually the fault of the nearest responsible Republican. Who you gonna believe? Foreign policy “experts” or your own lying eyes and common sense?

Tom Jennings
Tom Jennings
2 years ago

Ms Ali is wrong in one particular. She says that competent government dies when “the lights are dimmed to flatter a new administration “. The lights were dimmed much earlier. We had a presidential candidate run for office from his basement, avoid any critical coverage or any tough questioning. Those who argued that this man was a fading politician in his dotage were vilified. I would argue that the lights weren’t dimmed. It was a campaign of gas-lighting. The results are now plain for all to see.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago

Regardless of the media, Biden made the decision about getting out well before he became President. In Obama days he wanted out. So he foolishly stalled the May 1 Trump date, stopped listening to advisors, set the date for a historic announcement on Sep 11 to announce his victory. He is too befuddled to fully understand the tragic consequence. We await the full story in a few years.

William Blake
William Blake
2 years ago

A spot on assessment. The media have become self important and forgotten their role which is to examine and provide well researched unbiased comment. They have assumed a responsibility they don’t have and appear nowadays to be following and promoting their own agenda.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
2 years ago

You can only “create your reality” for so long. The second the empire took a step back the trillions of dollars on weapons, training, buying loyalty, and creating a 300,000 man afghan army evaporated into dust. This is a two decade long failure. We should thank Joe for finally forcing a gullible public and media into dealing with the truth of it all.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Boylon

Whether withdrawal is the right or the wrong thing to do is arguable. What is not arguable is the way in which it has happened, which looks as though dates were announced in Washington without regard for detailed planning.
Agreed, Trump started down the slippery slope, but Biden has gone out of his way to show how wrong Trump was is in everything else.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago

You guys are really too much. This is a sorry spectacle, but just why, why, why do you think that Trump would have done better than Biden?

First, it was Trump who decided on the withdrawal, and speeded up the process to get a win in before the election – thus losing leverage over the Taliban. Second, doing better would have required careful planning, consistency and foresight, and as a minimum willingness to keep a long-term presence if the Taliban refused to cooperate. When did Trump ever display any of those qualities? Third, in hindsight, the only thing keeping up the regime was continuing US support. The moment it was clear that that support was going, the regime would be likely to collapse immediately, just like it did now, making an orderly evacuation impossible.

Biden, like Trump, surely thought that after twenty years of trying there was no good result to be got, and you had to cut your losses and leave. Quite likely he imagined that the regime would last for a year or so, like South Vietnam, so the blame could be deflected away from the US. This was incompetent, yes, and the refusal to at least try to take the time and resources to make a decent withdrawal was heartless (even if the end result might still have been the same). Just do not pretend that Trump would have done any better.

David George
David George
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

We can’t be sure of course Rasmus but at least Trump’s plan involved maintaining troops and, hopefully order, while civilians and Afghan allies were allowed safe passage and while military equipment was removed.
Melanie Phillips has a great essay out on this and the wider implications.
Excerpt: “Yes, it’s true that the misbegotten policy of withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan was laid down by President Donald Trump last year. 
But it was Biden who not only failed to repudiate that policy (as Justin Webb points out in The Times, Biden signed up to isolationism back in the seventies as a result of Vietnam) but actually accelerated the date of withdrawal — grotesquely, just for the PR stunt of being able cynically and misleadingly to announce “mission accomplished” in Afghanistan on the iconic date of 9/11 this year. 
It was the Biden administration that then compounded this disastrous error by failing to grasp what was plain to anyone with eyes to see — let alone with the whole apparatus of US intelligence to inform him — that the Afghan army was collapsing as a result of the imminent US withdrawal and that the Taliban were rapidly taking over the country. 
It was the Biden administration that brought about the astonishing situation in which the world-beating might of the US armed forces was unable even to secure a civilian airport.
It was the Biden administration that created the panic driving thousands of desperate Afghans to the gates of that airport, and who were then trapped between the murderous Taliban and the overwhelmed American and British soldiers who were unable to process such a huge number within the Biden-imposed deadline. 
It was the Biden administration that turned those Afghans, along with the US soldiers themselves, into sitting ducks for the human bombs of the jihad.
Now Politico has reported that the Biden administration actually gave the Taliban a list of names of American citizens, green card holders and Afghan allies to to be allowed entry into the Taliban-controlled outer perimeter of the city’s airport (dwarfing the story in today’s Times that, in the panic to flee the British embassy in Kabul, Foreign Office staff left scattered on the ground at the British embassy compound documents with the contact details of Afghans working for them as well as of locals applying for jobs).
https://melaniephillips.substack.com/p/the-wests-delusional-fifth-column

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I don’t know if Trump would have done much better. Why is that relevant?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

It is relevant be cause a lot of people on this forum use it as a handy reason to bash Biden and praise Trump by comparison. Biden and his government have ineed been both callous and incompetent. But Afghanistan is 20 years of incompetence and failure, spread over four presidents, and the botched withdrawal is a shared endeavour between Biden and, yes, Trump, who rushed the process through. There is blame enough for everybody. It is not a good occasion for sectarian crowing.