The staggering collapse of the West-backed Afghan government and the stunning reclamation of the country by the fundamentalist Taliban occupies a strange place in the geopolitics of the 21st century. On one hand, it's the entirely predictable outcome of a decades long "forever war" that's mainly resulted in instability and misery for the people of Afghanistan. On the other, the speed and severity with which the events of the past week have occurred seems to have caught just about everyone off guard.
In the midst of this unambiguous disaster, pundits and politicians alike have reverted to their most base, primal instinct: covering their own asses in the hopes that no one notices they have no idea what they're talking about.
Take, for instance, this (since deleted) tweet from David Axelrod, the top adviser to former President Barack Obama, whose administration helped ensure — and escalated — America's continued military presence in Afghanistan:
As Axelrod presumably realized en route to deleting his armchair quarterbacking tweet, Hamid Karzai, the man pictured above, and current Afghan President Ashraf Ghani — who did indeed flee the country — are not, in fact, the same person. For an ordinary person who is not an expert in Afghan politics this would be an embarrassing mistake. For someone who literally helped craft the American policy that's gotten us to this point, however, it's downright shameful.
Similarly not doing himself any favors is current White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who seemed more interested in debating the optics of the last-minute evacuation from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul rather than addressing the degree to which the collapse of the Afghan government caught the Biden administration by surprise.
Republicans, meanwhile, have spent the past few days doing their best to make as much political hay out of all this as possible, turning the Afghan collapse into a cudgel to whack at President Biden while very conspicuously ignoring, downplaying, and at times even rewriting their own crucial involvement in America's failed attempt at Middle East nation-building — particularly efforts by the Trump administration to appease the Taliban authorities Republicans are now so eager to denounce.
For instance, if you visited the GOP's official website looking for the party's stance on former President Donald Trump's Afghanistan policy — including his push for the very withdrawal Biden actually oversaw — you'll get the following:
As The Washington Post's Dave Weigel noted on Twitter, however, just the other month the GOP was proudly touting the "historic peace agreement with the Taliban in Afghanistan" on the now-deleted page.
Also conspicuously missing is the triumphant statement from Trump himself, boasting about the "wonderful" and "positive" withdrawal from Afghanistan:
Wouldn't you know it, Trump's April 18 statement isn't on his website anymore. Go figure!
My personal favorite moment of conservative revisionism, however, is former Second Daughter and current GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, calling the situation in Afghanistan a "Trump/Biden calamity." Which isn't wrong, per se, but I would think Liz of all people might recognize she's leaving off a pretty crucial name in the list of people responsible for what we're seeing today.
To be clear, no one administration owns the responsibility for the chaos unfolding in Afghanistan now. Republicans and Democrats alike are culpable for their contributions to the instability that's left millions of Afghan people in danger and fearing for their lives. Obfuscation and rewriting history to score political points — from either side — isn't going to solve anything. And it certainly isn't helping the people who have, for decades now, been victims of what's become a hallmark of American foreign policy: failure.