Panditry in the episode
Tom Friedman, the seriously wise columnist for the New York Times who actually spent time in Afghanistan, told CNN the other day that many commentators were embarrassed to predict events in this vast and enigmatic nation.
He was interviewed on his column that day, which argued that the morning situation sometimes turns out to be less relevant than the way things look the morning after the morning after.
He meant that in general, but he also meant it in particular with regard to the current debacle in Afghanistan. And he didn’t mean literally the first and second mornings. It was metaphorical.
“Tomorrow after” stood for the immediate result. “Tomorrow after the morning after” stood for the next inventory. Both are inaccurate time periods, although it is clear that we are still in the original “morning after”.
America is still trying to get people out. Afghans who have been trained to provide vital public services are still hiding in their homes, endangering a functioning infrastructure. The Taliban are still promising tolerance as they beat up street demonstrators. Some still say the Taliban cannot farm this vast country without foreign aid, while others say the poppy-seed economy that supplies much of the world with heroin and morphine is something that even the US military couldn’t eradicate, Not to mention that the “informal economy” of Afghanistan in terms of consumer goods is enormous and of potential use to an unlawful extremist government regime.
In other words, keep a record of your horses, experts, and commentators.
The American political ramifications are one thing I would be more likely to predict, but not until we get there in the morning the day after tomorrow.
President Biden’s approval rating has fallen from over 50 percent the week before to below 50 percent last week. And it should have.
It’s one thing – the right thing – to withdraw from Afghanistan. Perhaps we’ve learned a lesson about trying to tame and recreate foreign lands.
It’s a whole different thing to have withdrawn in such a way that it indicates total ignorance and leaves a perfect mess of human despair and American shame.
Yes, Donald Trump favored the American exit, negotiated with the Taliban for it and released Taliban prisoners.
So what? Joe Biden is the president.
The effects of the debacle are, by and large, tragic, at least for the moment, on US domestic politics and life as well.
Many Americans do not get a safe and effective vaccine against a potentially deadly virus, at least in part because they believe their government is neither righteous nor competent enough to be trusted. If America looks like a fool to the world – and is made to look like it by religious nutcases in Afghanistan – it won’t help restore the faith.
Democratic thinkers claim to believe – and at least they hope – that these horrific images, for all hard heartedness, will fade.
They expect Americans to be content with what may be the correct judgment that Afghanistan was an American mistake from the start; that Biden was right to get us out, and that the morning after would likely have been a debacle, no matter when and on whose orders.
See Peter Baker’s Twitter post on Thursday, noted political reporter and New York Times writer: “The Biden team’s cold political calculation is that Americans don’t care what happens in Afghanistan as long as Americans are safe In cities like Boston, Austin, Chicago, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Fresno or Miami, there are no front pages about Afghanistan. “
Indeed, it is cold to make such a calculation. But American politics are cold and the calculation might be on the right track.
No one else has been able to do anything with Afghanistan, and by and large the product may be more important than the process – the product is ours out there, and the process are the idiots we seemed to be there and as we were leaving .
But here the morning after, another possible American political judgment is due the day after that.
The fact is that Biden’s only political currency was that he was not Donald Trump, but gloriously uneventful. His only job was to be better than Trump. The fact is that currency could be lost in persistent images of bodies falling from American planes, less in human tragedy than in Americans shrinking that not even the Trump administration could have caused any major mess.
In this calculation, Biden’s approval rating remains below 50 percent and the next Republican presidential candidate – and let’s remain happily generic for the time being – is more involved than before the Afghanistan story.
I probably rush too quickly for the morning after the morning after the morning after.
In current American politics (and in column writing), brief memories are the elixir of life.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame. Send him an email at [email protected] Read his Twitter feed @johnbrummett.