A majority of readers on both sides of abortion issue (64/7%) don’t believe that Roe v Wade will be overturned. This story will continue to develop as the week goes on but today we take another look at Afghanistan.
“Leaving Afghanistan” is the title of a Letter to the Editor from John Madigan of Barberton today. “The fault lies completely with the brass and the politicians.” So today we are running a Guest Editorial from the Dallas Morning News that addresses their remedies for Madigan’s contention.
“A 9/11-style commission is needed to examine the Afghanistan withdrawal.” The Dallas Morning News editorial, provided by our being part of the Tribune News Service, suggests a commission to investigate how something so bad could have transpired.
The lesson of presidential power is not learned from how it is exercised in the best of times but how it manifests in crisis. In crisis come mistakes and from mistakes hopefully come knowledge to improve future decisions.
A long list of presidential miscalculations in foreign policy have defined governing legacies, reshaping leadership for a sitting president and sometimes future occupants of the Oval Office.
In 1961, John F. Kennedy launched the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, a covert operation to overthrow Fidel Castro. From the start, an unsound strategy, woeful tactics and a trove of intelligence blunders doomed it. From that crisis, JFK accepted blame and reorganized his advisers and decision-making processes. When confronted by the Cuban Missile Crisis a year later, Kennedy asked the right questions and guided the nation to the other side of a nuclear threat that could have killed 80 million Americans in a matter of moments.
President Joe Biden has already said he will not demand resignations for the death of 13 service members and countless Afghans at the hand of a suicide bomber during the final days of the airlift. This week, Biden described the evacuation as an “extraordinary success” although Americans and Afghans who wanted to leave remained as the last plane departed without them.
Still, questions must be answered, both internally and externally, about the decisions and tactics leading up to and through the United States’ final moment in Afghanistan. Historians and pundits will debate whether the die of inevitability was cast years ago, but there can be no denial of the departure from Kabul, while historic and massive, heroic and tragic, also represented a failure of imagination.
We’ve heard that critique before in presidential history. Yale psychologist Irving Janis called the decision-making mistakes of the Bay of Pigs disaster as “groupthink,” which has come to describe the pursuit of consensus in a way that prevents alternatives from being properly considered. According to a Harvard Business Review case study, historian Arthur Schlesinger later wrote that “our meetings were taking place in a curious atmosphere of assumed consensus, [and] not one spoke against it.”
The nation must traverse the avenue of tough questions in regard to Afghanistan. The after-action review of the 9/11 Commission, an independent, bipartisan panel, identified missed signs, unresolved contradictory intelligence and information silos that collected crucial information but were unable or unwilling to connect to threat indications in other parts of government. The commission’s overall conclusion was that coordination and information sharing could have presented a clearer and perhaps actionable warning of the pending terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
Into this moment, we urge Congress to authorize an independent, bipartisan commission to review the final stages of the end of American presence in Afghanistan — from the Trump administration’s ill-advised unilateral peace agreement with the Taliban through the Biden administration’s chaotic evacuation.
This commission must have credible leadership along the lines of what Republican Tom Kean, a former governor, and Democrat Lee Hamilton, a former U.S. congressman, provided the nation after the 9/11 attacks.
Created by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush, the commission had the authority to subpoena witnesses and the credibility to maneuver the minefields of executive privilege and separation of power concerns. But most of all it wasn’t an effort to assign blame, but an effort to identify why signs that appeared so obvious in retrospect eluded the analysis that might have averted the deadly attacks on U.S. soil.
There are many Americans who can co-chair a fair-minded inquiry, such as former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican from Texas, and former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Democrat from Nebraska, who also served on the 9/11 Commission.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, former CIA director and retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former U.S. Rep. Jane Harman, and Leon Panetta, who has served as a White House chief of staff, CIA director and defense secretary, also would be good choices. These individuals and other men and women of good will would bring insight from having been in government during the Bush and Obama years, but they were either outside of government or were not part of the inner circles of the Trump and Biden administrations when policy most clearly shifted toward withdrawal.
We cannot overemphasize that this commission must look beyond partisanship and be an honest broker. The commission cannot be a repeat of the GOP’s partisan foray into the terrorist attacks in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, that claimed the lives of four brave Americans — Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. Nor should Democrats oppose an inquiry that touches an administration of their party as Republicans did when they voted overwhelmingly against an independent commission and a select congressional committee to review the Jan. 6 insurrection.
There are many lessons to learn from 20 years of war in Afghanistan, including missed opportunities, a shifting mission, the lack of a stable central government and the meddling of regional neighbors such as Pakistan. But the last two years, including the first eight months of the Biden administration when the withdrawal became a reality, deserve additional scrutiny and insight that only a commission of significant heft and a fair-minded approach can offer.
The war in Afghanistan and how that war ended will echo through American political circles for at least a generation. The light footprint that characterized the start of the war was likely a result of a hesitation to use American troops, a hesitation that lingered from the Vietnam era. So it’s crucial that we have a commission put on the record a full set of facts and the context in which decisions were made. Doing so will give us valuable insight and material lessons from this chapter in our history.
- The Dallas Morning News
“Should a 9/11-style commission be formed to investigate the Afghanistan withdrawal?” That is The Daily Post Reader Poll question for Friday.