All in or All Out? Biden Saw No Middle Ground in Afghanistan.
President Biden’s reductionist formula has prompted a debate over whether the mayhem in Kabul was inevitable or the result of a failure to consider other options.
As the American military withdrawal from Afghanistan capping an ill-fated 20-year war turned uglier and deadlier in recent days, President Biden has stood by his decision but at the same time repeatedly singled out one person in particular to blame: his predecessor.
Because President Donald J. Trump struck an agreement with the Taliban last year to pull out, Mr. Biden has insisted that he had no choice but to abide by the deal he inherited or send tens of thousands of American troops back to Afghanistan to risk their lives in a “forever war.” It was, in other words, all in or all out.
But that reductionist formula has prompted a profound debate over whether the mayhem in Kabul, the capital, was in fact inevitable or the result of a failure to consider other options that might have ended in a different outcome. The unusual confluence of two presidents of rival parties sharing the same goal and same approach has led to second-guessing and finger-pointing that may play out for years to come in history books yet unwritten.
In framing the decision before him as either complete withdrawal or endless escalation, Mr. Biden has been telling the public that there was in fact no choice at all because he knew that Americans had long since grown disenchanted with the Afghanistan war and favored getting out. The fact that Mr. Trump was the one to leave behind a withdrawal agreement has enabled Mr. Biden to try to share responsibility.
U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) gives a thumbs up ahead of the final passage in the House of Representatives of U.S. President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus disease (COVID-19) relief bill inside the House Chamber of the Capitol in Washington, March 10, 2021.
Joshua Roberts | Reuters
“This legislation is about giving the backbone of this nation – the essential workers, the working people who built this country, the people who keep this country going – a fighting chance,” he said.
The party contends Congress needs to inject more money into the economy both to alleviate suffering from a year of economic restrictions and to prevent future pain as normal activity slowly restarts. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., touted it after its passage as “consequential and transformative legislation.”
Democrats passed the bill as an improving economy nonetheless shows cracks. The U.S. added a better than expected 379,000 jobs in February as the unemployment rate dipped to 6.2%.
Still, 8.5 million fewer Americans held jobs during the month than did a year before. Black and Hispanic or Latino women have regained a smaller share of pre-pandemic employment than any other groups, according to government data.
More than 18 million people were receiving some form of unemployment benefits as of mid-February.
“Help is on the way,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said repeatedly Wednesday at an event where he and Pelosi formally signed the legislation.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., listens during an enrollment ceremony for the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, March 10, 2021, in Washington. Alex Brandon | AP
Republicans have argued the increasing pace of vaccinations of the most vulnerable Americans, combined with the gradual or even total reopening of many states, makes more stimulus spending unnecessary. They have accused Democrats of pushing priorities unrelated to the health crisis into the bill.
Some economists and GOP lawmakers have warned about the potential for massive spending to increase inflation.
“There is a real risk here, of this kind of massive stimulus overheating the economy. ... I just think it’s sad because we could’ve done, I think something much more targeted and focused on Covid-19,” GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio told CNBC on Wednesday morning.
After the February jobs report, Biden said passage of the stimulus plan would ensure the recovery would not falter.