For some of us who have been in and around Washington for decades, that which seems high drama to the uninitiated draws a yawn from veterans of the city’s numerous examples of political performance art.
So earlier in the week, watching pretty much our entire defense leadership team throw Biden and the US State Department overboard, was old hat. It’s the standard move when you’re in an “every man for himself” fix. These guys have their eyes on careers post-Biden. Thus they can’t have their reputations sullied by one little misstep that wasted 20 years of lives and treasure and was the most embarrassing military humiliation this nation has suffered since Vietnam, if not Kasserine Pass.
James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation, just as your humble analyst- a military and political veteran, notes the dancers at this particular Kabuki theater.
It's exactly what many of us were hearing during the failed #Afghanistan withdrawal 👇👇👇
Gen. Milley and Gen. Austin blame the State Dept. for botched withdrawal
It's still no excuse and why give the perimeter of the airfield to the enemy? shamefulhttps://t.co/TcsY0EoDjo
— Sara A. Carter (@SaraCarterDC) September 30, 2021
Carafano: One of the things I miss most about being part of the military was the curt phrases that said everything you needed to know about almost anything. Among my favorites was when, after a long meeting, someone would snicker, “That was a Kabuki dance.”
I’m not sure how many military people are actual devotees of ancient Japanese culture, but they all, from buck private to four-star general, got this reference to a stylized drama with a predictable ending. And so it was Tuesday when some of the Pentagon’s top brass headed to Capitol Hill to testify. Those expecting a Kabuki dance were not disappointed.
In the hearings, everyone played their roles. To mix some metaphors: Democrats played defense. Republicans went on the offense. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin; Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley; and Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., commander of the U.S. Central Command played goalie, dodging slap shots and passing off the puck whenever they could.
The focus of the hearings were on the cataclysmic withdraw from Afghanistan and the reemerging threat of terrorism from South Asia – though predictably, Gen. Milley was also grilled about his phone call with senior Chinese military leaders.
All the predictable questions were asked. All the answers were predictable as well. They amounted to a concerted effort to cover for President Biden’s disastrous decision-making with every possible excuse. Every effort was made to shift the blame to the Afghans, the previous administration, or others—though surprisingly they didn’t go back to blaming Adam, Eve and the serpent for abandoning Americans, our allies and equipment and leaving behind the foundations for the next 9/11.
What was most interesting about the stylized ritual of the Washington blame game on the Hill was what wasn’t said. None of the officials testifying were willing to detail the full scope of the military advice given to the president. After the hearings, no one is better equipped than before to parse the precise role of the president of the United States in the greatest military and geo-political setback since Vietnam.
What we learned Tuesday is that everyone in Washington is well-practiced at their parts. If we are going to get transparency and accountability over what happened in Afghanistan and the threats we now face as result, we are going to need an independent, non-partisan commission like we had after 9/11.
We need a real investigation, not one that looks to diffuse the issue by giving us a history lesson of the last 20 years. We deserve an inquiry that looks at what really matters — how we left Afghanistan, where we are now, and what we are going to face in the future.
For more from David Kamioner read him at davidkamioner.substack.com