Thursday, August 19, 2021

What Biden threw away

"The events we're seeing now," President Biden said Monday afternoon, amid what he called the "gut-wrenching" horror of Kabul's fall, "are, sadly, proof that no amount of military force would ever deliver a stable, united, secure Afghanistan."

Five weeks ago, he said the opposite.

In July, Biden described the Afghan military as "better trained, better equipped, and more competent in terms of conducting war." He scorned the idea that the Taliban could seize the country, and denied that his military and intelligence advisers were warning that a precipitous US withdrawal would be disastrous. "The likelihood there's going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely."

Not for the first time, Joe Biden was wrong on a key foreign policy and national security issue.

Yet despite abruptly reversing his message on the threat posed by the Taliban, he was as inflexible as ever on getting US troops out of Afghanistan. "We will end America's longest war after 20 long years of bloodshed," Biden repeated, as he had ever since launching his presidential bid two years ago. That had been Donald Trump's position, too; at one point, Trump even signed an order ordering US forces out by Jan. 15, 2021. Until it was removed a few days ago, a page on the Republican National Committee website was still praising Trump for cutting a deal with the Taliban "to end America's longest war."

It is strange, this talking point about Afghanistan being the "longest war" or a "forever war." Yes, the United States has been involved in Afghanistan for almost 20 years, but the last time American forces suffered any combat casualties was Feb. 8, 2020, when Sgt. Javier Gutierrez and Sgt. Antonio Rodriguez were ambushed and killed. Their sacrifice was heroic and selfless. But it makes little sense to speak of a "forever war" in which there are no fatalities for a year and a half.

Nor does it make sense to apply that label to a mission involving just 2,500 troops, which was the tiny size to which the US footprint in Afghanistan had shrunk by the time Biden took office. There are more American military personnel than that assigned to the East African nation of Djibouti (3,000), to the Rota Naval Station in Spain (3,000), to the Persian Gulf monarchy of Bahrain (5,000), and to Kuwait (13,000).

In terms of battlefield risk to Americans, Afghanistan has not been a hot war zone for years. Compared to the peak US presence a decade ago, when 110,000 troops were deployed, 98 percent of America's personnel in Afghanistan have long since come home. "An endless American presence in the middle of another country's civil conflict was not acceptable," Biden insisted, but the US military presence in Afghanistan was nowhere near as "endless" as some other deployments. American soldiers entered Germany in 1944 and 35,000 American soldiers are there today. In April, just before the White House confirmed Biden's plan to remove all troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced that the huge US military presence in Germany would be expanding by another 500. Should we call that a forever war, too?

What about Korea? More than 70 years after the United States arrived in Korea to defend the South, nearly 30,000 US troops remain there on high alert, a military tripwire in one of the world's most dangerous environments. But not even Biden would walk away from the defense of South Korea's people. Why does he care so much less about Afghanistan's people?

The United States currently deploys nearly 30,000 active-duty military personnel in Korea, a military tripwire in one of the world's most dangerous environments. US forces have been in Korea since 1950 — half a century longer than they have been in Afghanistan.

Hoover Institution scholar Timothy Kane, an economist and former Air Force intelligence officer, decries the "lazy assumption that Afghanistan is eternally undeveloped" and that US boots on the ground have not accomplished great good. "Unlike most conquering armies," he said in an interview, "American troops provide security and investment in the local populace."

Literacy among Afghans has doubled since the Americans arrived in 2001. Infant mortality rates fell by half. Access to electricity, once denied to more than 3 in 4 Afghans, is now nearly universal. When US forces entered Afghanistan, there were just 900,000 children attending school, and all of them were boys. Earlier this year, that number had reached more than 9.5 million, and 39 percent of them were girls.

All this was being sustained in recent years, and the Taliban was being held at bay, with just a relative handful of US troops to provide intelligence, logistics, and air support. "Once American credibility had been established," observed Kane, "the marginal cost of staying the course was minimal." The cost of throwing it away will be far, far higher.


The New Normal in the Permanent Emergency

Just when the authorities allow us to take off our masks, they demand that we put them back on. Americans might reasonably wonder if there will ever be a return to “normal.” But obey we must, lest we be in gross violation of the mandates created for us by our betters, who know, better than we do, what’s best for us.

From the onset of the lockdowns, one of their loudest critics has been Fox News host Laura Ingraham. Miss Laura has repeatedly expressed her disdain for the term "the new normal.” Even so, the regular old “old normal” had its problems, one of which was how we handled “congregant settings.” We weren’t very prudent about how we mingled, massed, rubbed shoulders, and got together, i.e. congregated.

Efforts to practice “social distancing” in packed congregant settings are sorely tested in many of the activities that we Americans take for granted, such as attending sports events, movies, concerts, bars, restaurants, demonstrations, insurrections, riots, and so on. People like to cram themselves into arenas and work themselves up into an ecstatic quasi-religious frenzy when their tribe’s team carries a ball across a goal line. And all the while they’re breathing on each other and spraying spittle. Young people, especially, have a need to be with each other, and in cramped quarters, as when they queue up to get into exclusive nightclubs, like Studio 54 back in the old days. How many cases of the coronavirus have been passed to the immuno-compromised by young people who’ve attended all-night raves or today’s equivalent of Studio 54?

One of the features of the old normal that we need to leave behind is how we dealt with congregant settings. This kid thinks that attending certain gatherings, like rock concerts, is a version of Hell. But there’s one type of congregant setting that I do go in for, but it involves a more sophisticated group of congregants than rock fans, and that’s opera.

During a 1975 performance of Tristan und Isolde in Dallas, several audience members were having major coughing fits. Finally, in Act 3, their Tristan, the late great Canadian tenor Jon Vickers, had had enough, and from the stage yelled this at the audience: “Shut up with your damned coughing!

Compared to the devastating virus dreamt up for 12 Monkeys, the Wuhan virus is more like the coronavirus that causes the common cold, it’s even rather benign compared to the Spanish flu of a century ago. Despite that, the Democrats are using the pandemic for their own ends. The mandates and lockdowns are the means by which the Dems hope to lock in their political power permanently.

The lockdowns only make sense when protecting the immuno-compromised and the elderly; in other words, those who should already have been locked down, sheltering in place. Rather than a quarantine of just those folks, the authorities quarantined everybody, and in doing so killed off countless small businesses and livelihoods.

If the vulnerable had isolated and hunkered down to wait for a cure, the rest of America could have stayed open for business with just a few safety measures, which was exactly what essential workers did. The lockdowns are one of the more unnecessary and harmful things government has ever inflicted upon the People.

The Democrats have made COVID-19 into “the worst thing ever” to justify their shotgun approach to lockdown. Paradoxically, the more arbitrary and unreasonable the strictures of their lockdowns, the more they seem to lock in their authority.

The Democrats’ New Normal is an authoritarianism that they want to last forever. And the Dems don’t seem to worry about resistance from the People. After all, you aren’t gonna violate the “Permanent Emergency Code,” are you, Mr. Cole?


Tennessee Governor Bill Lee Makes Masks Optional in Schools

On Monday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed an executive order allowing parents to opt their children out of any Wuhan coronavirus mask mandates imposed by school districts in the state.

“No one cares more about the health and well-being of a child than a parent,” Lee wrote in his Twitter announcement of the order. “I am signing an EO today that allows parents to opt their children out of a school mask mandate if either a school board or health board enacts one over a district.”

Lee’s order states that parents of K-12 students in any Tennessee public school have the right, via a written notice, to exempt their child from wearing a mask at school, on a school bus, or at any school-related functions.

With the beginning of the school year looming, Tennessee Republicans had encouraged Lee to call a special session of the state legislature to settle the mask issue. House Speaker Cameron Sexton praised Lee’s order in a series of tweets on Monday evening.

“Gov. Lee’s executive order issued today is good news in affirming a parent’s right to make healthcare decisions for their children,” Sexton wrote. "I feel confident the immediate need for a special session has been averted in the interim by using executive orders. However, the House still stands ready to act if the call comes.”

Unlike the executive orders signed by other GOP governors, such as Texas’ Greg Abbott and Florida’s Ron DeSantis, Lee’s order does not explicitly prohibit school districts from enacting mask mandates. In fact, two of Tennessee’s largest school districts, Shelby County Schools and Metro Nashville Public Schools, have left their mask mandates in place.

Lee’s order comes as the mask debate is heating up at school board meetings in Williamson County, Tenn. Last week, a group of parents attending the Williamson County Schools meeting confronted pro-mask mandate board members and doctors as they tried to leave. And on Tuesday evening, a pro-mandate father invoked the Bible as he railed against “careless” anti-maskers in a now-viral speech.




No comments: