Few American presidents have been faced with such an amalgam of issues as Joe Biden. In several ways the problems on his agenda are often compared with the issues President Franklin D. Roosevelt had to deal with in the 1930s, especially when considering domestic and foreign affairs.
Raging fires out west, tropical depressions threatening from the Caribbean, climate change looming larger and larger, a pandemic that refuses to flatten, and a stubborn GOP that only begrudgingly cooperates with infrastructure bills and ending the filibuster.
Biden also has to pay attention to the political developments in California where Gov. Gavin Newsom struggles to beat back the calls for his recall, and there’s the turbulence in Texas and Florida that could be critical in the 2022 midterm elections. The GOP is pulling out all stops to regain control of Congress, including an ensemble of measures to increase voter suppression.
But here, lately, these matters pale in comparison to the mounting dilemma coming from abroad, particularly the chaos in Afghanistan following Biden’s move to withdraw troops from the “Forever War.”
He may have been a bit hasty in his opinion that the Taliban would not be able to take control of the country in an immediate fashion, perhaps naïve or poorly informed. Whatever the case he now has to reap the human disaster now occurring there and pouring 6,000 troops there contradicts a policy he has been voicing since he took office. But now the options are few.
“The buck stops here,” he announced the other day in defending his strategy to withdraw his forces from the troubled country.
Some have criticized the timing and the process that now has every vestige of the tumult at the end of the war in Vietnam.
Biden has agreed to take responsibility for the turmoil in Afghanistan but some of the blame belongs to his military and Pentagon advisors. Were their heads in the sand, were they unaware of the dangers of a revived Taliban, the situation of 20 years ago when the Russians were forced to depart?
Biden is caught in the throes of fixing what previous presidents had put in place or ignored, including the most recent occupant of the White House. Yes, the buck stops with Biden, and not another cent should be added to the nearly trillion dollars and more nearly 2,500 lives lost in a country that poses no immediate danger to our borders. Okay, it was a base that nurtured the 9/11 attacks, but other countries were also involved. The U.S. must put aside the notion that it can be the global cop and focus on the diplomatic and humanitarian issues so redolent now in Haiti and Ethiopia.