Even during the presidency of George W. Bush when the Afghan war was launched, Iraq was a much more prominent topic. The debate in recent years over whether we should have troops in Afghanistan had been one primarily reserved for foreign policy experts and talking heads in the media.
The massive expansion of our counterterrorism infrastructure within the United States has made us safer from terrorist attacks than in 9/11 even if the Taliban should decide to help threatening forces once again.
In contrast to Vietnam, Afghanistan was not a debate that raged on the streets of America. As a result, the odds that this weekend’s events will make or break Biden’s administration seem small.
Given that we are in the middle of August 2021, with the next presidential election taking place in November 2024, it is difficult to see how Afghanistan will hold as a primary political force so many months into the future.
The issue that does have legs, the one which is most important right now to most average Americans, is the pandemic. Afghanistan will not compete for attention with all the problems and challenges that are still posed by Covid-19. The pandemic impacts our health, our livelihood, our education, and our communities in a way that is far greater and more immediate than the position of the Taliban.
As challenging as this might be for Biden to contend with — and as disheartening it has been to see a twenty-year war end with this outcome — Afghanistan won’t likely determine Biden’s fate if he decides to run for reelection. Nor is it clear it will have any significant impact on the 2022 midterm elections.
What Biden can’t do is to allow the challenges with Afghanistan to take his energy and attention away from real wartime test that he continues to face — the need to rapidly expand the nation’s rate of vaccination, develop better treatments for Covid-19, and guide the nation back to the normal we all tasted earlier this summer.