Let me say it straight from the shoulder… I’m not a big fan of Joe Biden as president. From spearheading America’s flight from Afghanistan to the current conflicted economic environment the administration is determined to cheer as rosy, while simultaneously decrying as hard times and painfully inflationary, it feels like the presidency is his in name, but that the hard work of the office remains, somehow, out of his grasp.
I’ve never met him, but maybe he’s a nice enough old man. I’d be willing to go so far as to say he’s probably well intentioned. He might even be successful his role as head of state (à la Elizabeth II) where the main function is unveiling plaques, making proclamations, and waiving at crowds. I have to believe that even those who supported him during the election have found him wanting when exercising his awesome constitutional role as head of government. His performance when it comes to the hard stuff could, charitably, be called something between mixed and abysmal.
I’m certainly not advocating for a return to the batshit crazy administration of Donald Trump and his band of merry insurrectionists, but the fact that Joe was popularly recognized as the best available option really should concern every one of us. The best thing he could possible do would be to, as soon as the midterms are over, go on television and announce that he won’t seek a second term. I’m sure I’ll still hate the next contender’s policies, but the job deserves someone more engaged and energetic.
1. Opinions. Having an opinion is a fine thing, but it’s helpful to remember that not all opinions are created equal. I don’t know at what point we decided the ideas of random cranks on social media carry equal value with the opinions of those who have spent a lifetime studying medicine and health policy, but here we are. It’s just the latest bit of the long thread of anti-intellectualism that weaves its way through American history. At some point, though, it would be really nice if we could hold dumbasses up to public ridicule and shame rather than lionizing them as telling secret truths “that no one wants us to know.”
2. Joe Biden. In an interview this week, President Biden defensively maintained that there was no for American forces to get out of Afghanistan “without chaos ensuing.” Having spent a fair amount of my early career working in various emergency response activities, I’ll admit that they are often messy… but the heart and soul of managing through a crisis is having a sense of what to do after you get hit in the face with a shovel. The answer shouldn’t be telling American citizens to get to the airport while in the same breath warning them that the US Government has no plans to ensure their safe conduct to the airport from other locations in Kandahar – let alone any poor bastards stuck elsewhere in the country. That’s before we even get into a discussion about the responsibility we have for Afghan nationals who worked with and for us over the last two decades. The handling of this last gasp of American power in Afghanistan heaps shame and ignobility on the President of the United States, the State and Defense Departments, and the entirety of the United States of America.
3. Bandwidth. That’s it. That’s all the bandwidth I’ve got for this week. Between the continued rise of misguided opinion over verifiable fact and the absolute debacle in Afghanistan, I simply haven’t had room to process anything else this week. I’m sure there were a million other points of annoyance I walked right past, but there’s only so much anyone should be expected to process in a single sitting.
I went to work as a very small cog in our uncle’s great green machine in January 2003. America’s war in Afghanistan was already more than a year old by then. I worked every day from then until now as part of an organization “at war,” even if the rest of the country wasn’t. Even on days when it didn’t seem to be, Afghanistan was always in the background of everything.
I’m not a grand strategist and don’t intend to pass myself off as anything other than someone who has done some reading and existed, tangentially, on the far extremity of the fight for the last two decades. There are too many people whose real world experience and voices should be rightly amplified as we come to terms with the debacle that ends our benighted involvement in Afghanistan.
Having grown up seeing the grainy images of the fall of Saigon – taken three years before I was born – I never imagined I’d see an echo of that moment played out live on the weekend news. How we could so badly bungle this “final act” of the long war, how we could have squandered so much blood and treasure, and how it went to shit so very quickly can and should haunt this generation of bureaucrats, soldiers, and statesmen as an example of what happens when we get it exactly wrong.
These last couple of days have got me feeling some kind of way. I don’t recommend it.
One of the best parts of working for Uncle is the people you get to meet. I almost physically bumped into President Bush while I was coming out of the john at FEMA headquarters and have met Members of Congress, department secretaries, and other official worthies at equally odd times and places. Today, I got to sit in on a talk given by Sal Giunta. It’s a name some of you might recognize. In 2010, he became the first living Congressional Medal of Honor recipient since the end of the Vietnam War. Though he disputes the appellation, he is the operative definition of what it means to be an American hero.
The trouble with meeting legitimate heroes, of course, is it tends to force you to reevaluate all of your own griping and complaining. Aww. Poor baby. You don’t like going to meetings? You hate updating all these damned PowerPoint slides? Should we get you a Medal of Honor too? Touché.
So if you’re wondering why nothing annoys Jeff this week, it’s because after listening to a Medal of Honor recipient, nothing that annoys me is even worth a second thought.
The vile corpse of Osama bin Laden has barely settled to the bottom of the sea and I’m already hearing and reading snippets from those who would ask us to be filled with regret at the loss of “even one human life.” Maybe you are more enlightened than I am, because I cheered when I heard the news that brave Americans had gone deep into harms way to end his vile and retched existence on this earth. Bin Laden was a bad man who did bad things and the world is far better for his departure from it. The fact that he used a woman as a last ditch attempt to shield his own miserable hide proves only that he died as he lived – a coward.
Remember one thing if his death unnerves your delicate sensibilities – He chose this path, not us. I’m glad he’s dead and I hope 100 more of his like join him at the first available opportunity. Does this make me a bad person? I doubt it. It makes me a sane one whose only regret is I’ll probably never run into one of the SEALs who masterfully carried out this assault to personally thank him for his service.
As much as some would like to, we can’t wish away all the bad things in the world. Evil can’t be rolled back by doling out more hugs and passing out gold stars. It’s only stopped and put on the run because of the rough men who stand ready to do violence on our behalf. If there’s a hell, I’m sure bin Laden is in it. I hope tonight’s menu features the finest pork barbeque in all the land.