The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.
Phil Harriman, a former town councilor and state senator from Yarmouth, is the founding partner of Lebel & Harriman, a financial services firm. Ethan Strimling, a former mayor and state senator from Portland, is the president of Swing Hard. Turn Left, which promotes progressive policy at the local, state and national levels.
Ethan: I have to say, it’s a little hard to take the hypocrisy of all these Republicans who heaped praise on Donald Trump’s negotiated timeline to exit Afghanistan, who are now screaming that Joe Biden is a failure for carrying it out.
Phil: Not going to speak for them, but in my opinion this is a multi-president colossal embarrassment. However, at what point in Biden’s presidency do the headlines he creates become his to solve versus blaming the last guy?
Ethan: I don’t see Biden not accepting the problem. In fact, just the opposite. He has taken responsibility for 20 years of past presidential failure and is finally being honest with the American people that staying simply delays the inevitable.
Phil: Honest? Biden said a month ago that it was “highly unlikely” that the Taliban would overrun Afghanistan.
Ethan: He was obviously wrong about that, but I blame that on his intelligence and military officers. I am sure they didn’t want to tell him that $2 trillion spent nation-building and training Afghan soldiers was wasted.
Phil: You mean like Intelligence reports of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that were then pinned on then-President George W. Bush as lying?
Ethan: Touche. But there is plenty of evidence that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney wanted the evidence to read a certain way in order to justify the war they were going to launch regardless.
Phil: I expect when the evidence comes out, the same will be said for Biden. He came into office wanting this exit, regardless of the evidence provided to him on what would occur.
Ethan: Yes, Biden, correctly, has wanted us out for years. In fact, that is the same position Trump held. Unfortunately, Trump negotiated with the Taliban to release 5,000 captured insurgents, which left U.S. troops vulnerable if we didn’t exit this year.
Phil: Those 5,000 prisoners were exchanged for a cease fire against our troops. Trump further reduced our troop presence by 20,000 in preparation for this moment. He had developed lines of communication with the Taliban and they understood his resolve should they break the agreement. Unfortunately, the change in administration meant the Taliban saw an opening and they are taking it.
Ethan: I think you are wearing some serious orange-hair-colored glasses if you think the Taliban wouldn’t have taken Kabul just as swiftly under Trump. Once he told them when we were leaving, they simply spent the past year preparing for the march into the presidential palace.
Phil: If Biden had stuck to the May 2021 planned departure, and focused on transferring our Afghan supporters to safety in the interim, rather than turning his back on them in my opinion, we might not see people falling to their deaths from clinging to wings of a plane taking off.
Ethan: It turns out that we were wrong, once again, in believing that we could train a foreign military to quell an insurgency. Nation-building in the Middle East is clearly not our strong suit.
Phil: This failure from beginning to end hopefully motivates Congress to also leave South Korea and Germany where we have been “keepers of the peace” for decades. Perhaps then we could focus our capabilities on protecting our southern border from people entering our country.
Ethan: Speaking of entering our country, I hope you are fully on board with granting asylum to every Afghan who requests to enter our country.
Phil: These are people truly fleeing a life-or-death situation. They are exactly who our asylee and refugee laws should be serving, so yes.
Ethan: Let’s hope they can get here before all is lost.