The notion that the west has a duty to act in extreme situations has been buried in the rubble of Afghanistan and Iraq

He wanted to be Franklin Roosevelt; he ended up as Jimmy Carter. That’s the conventional conservative wisdom on Joe Biden and his handling of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. “The Afghan debacle will destroy the Biden presidency,” declared one longtime Republican pollster, confident that Kabul 2021 will do to Biden what Tehran 1979 did to Carter.

The assumption is that those initial, chaotic scenes at Kabul airport, with desperate Afghans clinging to planes as they took off, the heartrending stories of faithful servants of the US left to the mercies of the Taliban, and the sight of Afghanistan’s new masters posing with abandoned US military hardware worth billions, will together add up to a humiliation that the American public will not forgive. The assumption is that defeat is unpalatable – and that those images looked like defeat. And that even if that defeat was 20 years in the making, it was Biden left standing at the final hour and so he will bear the blame.

Jonathan Freedland is a Guardian columnist

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