It’s easy to place the blame for the demise of what passed for democracy in Afghanistan at the feet of President Joe Biden.   You could do that and you would be wrong.  It would be be more accurate to spread the blame around to the three previous administrations which kept the government propped up for decades under the false belief that one day, some day, the Afghan army would be able to protect the country on it’s own.  That didn’t happen, and many U.S. military veterans who served in Afghanistan writing today believe it was never to be.

One of the smartest takes we’ve seen today comes from the Washington Post’s media critic Margaret Sullivan.  The headline says it all:  “The Afghan debacle lasted two decades. The media spent two hours deciding whom to blame.”

That’s especially true for right-wing media commentators who are desperate for a “what about” moment with President Biden to counter the never-ending disasters from the Trump administration.  Sullivan writes:

The situation is tragic, no doubt, and the images of the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul on Sunday are stunningly memorable, but the blame has to be spread much more evenly. Biden has been in office for just over seven months; the always untenable Afghan war — and its sure-to-be-terrible ending — has been a disaster for decades. It cuts across political parties: begun by a Republican, George W. Bush, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and presided over by two Obama terms and four years of Trump.

But if you read social media today, it’s slammed with wall-to-wall criticism of President Biden. Some of that is completely fair.  But keep this in mind.  A poll taken just before the Taliban takeover showed a vast majority of Americans support bringing the troops home.  That includes President Biden.  Sullivan writes:

What’s not fair, though, is scolding punditry like the piece on the Fox News site by August Pfluger, the Republican congressman from Texas and an Air Force veteran, who characterizes the “Biden doctrine” as “Hear no evil, see no evil, stop no evil.”

You can chalk that up to sheer partisanship, of course, but so far there’s not enough thoughtful, context-rich news coverage to counter it. And so a false idea can take root:

That a war that cost trillions over two decades, killed many thousands, and was destined to failure from the start is the sole fault of the president who — hamstrung by all that came before him — was the one to end it.

As always, the media moves too quickly to the blame game, allowing the most extreme punditry to carry the day. When history is in the making, as it surely is here, that’s far from the best approach.

Finally, some of the finger-pointing should be aimed at other countries. Why should the U.S. be solely to blame for defending a country thousands of miles away? One of the countries also facing backlash is Great Britain. The BBC writes, “The withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan is Britain’s biggest foreign policy disaster since the Suez crisis of 1956, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee has said. Tory MP Tom Tugendhat said the UK had ‘abandoned the Afghan people‘”.
Then there are Russia and China, two countries just waiting to step into the Kabul calamity for their own selfish motives. The Washington Post writes that China “fears that the ascent of an extremist Islamist government on its western border will foster unrest in the adjoining province of Xinjiang, where Beijing has waged sweeping crackdowns on the Uyghur population that have been denounced by the West.”