Which Rationalization Will Apologists And Enablers Of The Biden Administration Settle On To Spin The Afghanistan Disaster?


The nominations are all in, and boy, there are a lot of them! Before we open the envelope, here are the contenders:

#1A. Ethics Surrender, or “We can’t stop it.”

#1B. The Psychic Historian, or “I’m on The Right Side Of History”

#2A. Sicilian Ethics, or “They had it coming”

#8A. The Dead Horse-Beater’s Dodge, or “This can’t make things any worse”

#13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”

#13A  The Road To Hell, or “I meant well” (“I didn’t mean any harm!”)

#15. The Futility Illusion:  “If I don’t do it, somebody else will.”

#18. Hamm’s Excuse: “It wasn’t my fault.”

#19A The Insidious Confession, or “It wasn’t the best choice.”

#19 B. Murkowski’s Lament, or “It was a difficult decision.”

#22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”

#23. The Dealer’s Excuse. or “I’m just giving the people what they want!”

#25. The Coercion Myth: “I have no choice!”

#28. The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times.”

#29A  The Gruber Variation, or “They are too stupid to know what’s good for them”

#31. The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now”

#36. Victim Blindness, or “They/He/She/ You should have seen it coming.”

#37. The Maladroit’s Diversion, or “Nobody said it would be easy!”

#38. The Miscreant’s Mulligan or “Give him/her/them/me a break!”

#40. The Desperation Dodge or “I’ll do anything!”

#41. The Evasive Tautology, or “It is what it is.”

#49. Ethics Jiu Jitsu, or “Haters Gonna Hate!”

#50. “Convenient Futility,” or “It wouldn’t have mattered if I had done the right thing.”

#51. The Apathy Defense, or “Nobody Cares.”

#51A.  Narcissist Ethics , or “I don’t care”

#52.  The Underwood Maneuver, or “That’s in the past.”

#54. Tessio’s Excuse, or “It’s just business”

#58. The Golden Rule Mutation, or “I’m all right with it!”

#60. The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do”

#64. Yoo’s Rationalization or “It isn’t what it is”

#69. John Lyly’s Rationalization, Or “All’s fair in love and war”

Some of these have been evoked by Joe Biden directly, others by his desperate defenders. I will not hold you in necessary suspense: the Unethical Rationalization settled upon by the defenders of the completely botched abandonment of Afghanistan, all of its people who relied on our commitment to their sorrow, and the so far undetermined number of Americans currently trapped in the country is…

50. “Convenient Futility,” or It wouldn’t have mattered if I had done the right thing.”

The description on the list reads,

“One of the more pathetic excuses incompetent and negligent individuals try to employ when they have made bad decisions with disastrous results is to argue that a better decision would have not made any difference, so, by implication, it wasn’t such a bad decision after all. It may or may not be the case that the irresponsible or incompetent decision wasn’t the only reason for the related harm, or that other decisions would have turned out just as badly.  That, however, is convenient speculation. If the decision was demonstrably careless, ill-advised, poorly reasoned or foolish and bad consequences follow, the decision-maker is accountable.

“#50 is the reverse of hindsight bias, in which a decision is second-guessed by critics based on information the decision-maker couldn’t have had when the decision was made. With Convenient Futility, the argument is that unknown and untested approaches to the problem or situation other than the one that was used couldn’t have been any more effective. It’s an air-tight, all purpose excuse, reflecting back on Rationalization #8, “No harm, no foul,” as in “OK, it was a bad decision, but since everything would have fallen apart no matter what, it’s no big deal!”

“The rationalization confounds law and ethics. I was once on the jury for a medical negligence lawsuit in which a woman was suing a doctor for causing her to go blind by giving her an incompetent diagnosis. The doctor’s defense was that she would have lost her sight anyway because she didn’t follow the treatment prescribed by another doctor. That defense worked: he wasn’t legally responsible for her blindness due to an intervening cause. Nevertheless, the doctor was still an incompetent, dangerous doctor. He was just lucky that his ineptitude didn’t blind her.

“It wouldn’t have mattered because the same thing might have happened even if I was competent‘ is still an admission of incompetence.

“Like many of the rationalizations on the list, #50 is sometimes fair and true. Those in charge are often held responsible for events that nobody could have foreseen or prevented. That, in part, is what makes the rationalization so useful for a failed decision-maker desperately searching for an excuse.”

How did Ethics Alarms arrive at this difficult decision? It became clear today that wherever they held the talking-points meeting, after which they sent out the memo to all Biden defenders, #50 was the choice. My sister, who I’m pretty sure was not on the distribution list but who watches MSNBC routinely sprung it on me this morning. Then I encountered it in a particularly disgusting form on Josh Marshall’s progressive blog, where he wrote in part of the collapse,

“…And it seems to be quicker than the White House figured. But by a month? Three months? Does that matter? I don’t see why. If anything, given the outcome, quicker is better – since a protracted fall is necessarily a bloodier fall….Certainly the way it’s played out has been messy, chaotic, mortifying. Many armchair quarterbacks have the idea that the US could have evacuated everyone who had worked with us in advance of withdrawal. But as I and many other have argued that’s a basic misunderstanding of the situation. If you evacuate everyone who might be endangered by the fall of the government in advance you are basically signing the regimes death warrant. You are saying you don’t expect the regime to last and that the fall will come fast. In retrospect of course, knowing that the regime did immediately collapse, sort of no loss. But of course the US couldn’t do that. The whole point of the almost 20 year enterprise was to build a state and an army that could stand on its own. The US was never going to prevent that regime from even trying to survive. My point here isn’t that there’s nothing the Biden administration could have done differently or better. At a minimum they could have been processing exit paperwork more rapidly in advance for translators and others who worked for the US, having clearer contingency planning for evacuations of personnel outside of Kabul for a rapid collapse scenario. My point is simply that to a great extent what we are seeing today was baked into the US mission in Afghanistan all along. It is ugly. And a lot of people are going to suffer.…”

But I guess what really cinched the win for #50 was when George Clooney weighed in and said that what Biden did wouldn’t have changed anything.

So this was unavoidable then:

“American citizens in Afghanistan should stay away from the international airport in Kabul, the U.S. Embassy now says. The development directly contradicts President Biden’s insistence Friday that Americans could proceed to the airport freely from the Afghan capital and that an “agreement” with the Taliban had been reached over the issue. “Because of potential security threats outside the gates at the Kabul airport, we are advising U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time,” according to a Saturday security alert from the embassy. The new guidance underscores the growing debacle, as contradictory White House statements confuse the crisis on the ground, with the U.S. scrambling to evacuate its citizens and Afghan allies from the clutches of the Taliban.”

John Sexton adds,

This leaked British memo underscores the idea that, yes, the withdrawal could have been done better. Our allies certainly seem to think so and in fact seem to have done a better job themselves in many ways under the same circumstances. In fact, the Washington Examiner is reporting today that a US general told his British counterpart that the British operations outside the airport (rounding up citizens and getting them to safety) were making America look bad by comparison. So, no, we’re not just dealing with 20 years of accumulated failure or the collapse of an illusion or whatever other tendentious crap Josh Marshall wants to throw out to feed the bruised egos of desperate Biden stans. We’re dealing with a poorly planned and executed withdrawal that could have been handled better in better hands. If you can’t admit that much at this point then the world of illusion you should worry about is your own.

Who knows, though? Rationalization #50 might work. It’s a proven winner.

13 thoughts on “Which Rationalization Will Apologists And Enablers Of The Biden Administration Settle On To Spin The Afghanistan Disaster?

  1. You don’t move the guys with the guns out of harms way before the other non military people. They cannot avoid that reality.
    I also don’t buy the argument that getting the non-military people out first would sign the governments death warrant. I believe the exact opposite would occur. Removing non combatants would signal we have confidence in them but our military is remaining to provide a reassuring backstop. Getting our people out first would telegraph to the Afghans that they can expect to have to fight for their country and the NATO allies will lend temporary assistance.

    I would remind Josh that had we stayed with a small footprint at Bagram airbase the status quo would have been likely into the winter months and would not have resupplied the Taliban with billions in weapons, aircraft, communications gear and night vision technology. This is not hindsight bias just evaluate the period from early in 2020 until now when we incurred only one combat death in 18 months.

    If we let Biden and his sychophants get away with rationalizing his catastrophic foreign policy moves then we are to blame. We must keep the fires burning under him without burning ourselves with with unsubstantiated hyperbole.

    • If we let Biden and his sychophants get away with rationalizing his catastrophic foreign policy moves then we are to blame.

      We? What do you mean, “We?” Certainly conservatives will want to keep this kicking as long as possible, and milk it for maximum effect. Independents and the Left will use any and all these rationalizations to forget about it. You know this.

      In the end, it will be the media reporting “Republicans pounce” over and over.

      • Glenn
        If the Left and independents win the day it is because conservatives or should I say small effective government proponents did not do enough to fight back. The Left wins because it has more resolve to win. Thus, if we run from the fight because we tire of fighting we are to blame.

  2. I think they’ll go all in on “Nothing to see here, Move on.” More a tactic than a rationalization. I think they realize there are no good excuses or rationalizations, so they’ll just make it disappear. They don’t excuse or rationalize Joe’s senility, they just hide it and then ignore it when it inevitably pops up. Nothing to see here. Much as they’ve (the UAC) decided to simply hide and ignore Harris’s all encompassing deficits. They have complete control of the media and therefore the narrative. The entire Biden administration is a Jumbo. “[Fill in the catastrophe]? What [fill in the catastrophe]?

    • How many presidents have ever given a speech and then taken questions from pre-arranged questioners in a pre-arranged order and then referred to a three ring binder for the pre-arranged answers? And the media lets it go? This is all a big “Fuck You, Watch This, assholes,” to anyone not in power.

      • Not sure I agree that it’s “fuck you, watch this.” I think it’s more of a Hail Mary pass. Every once in a while, they work (hence the name). Right now, however, they’re desperately trying to save their legislative seats in 2022.

        And that’s pretty much all they have left.

        Their fellow travelers in the news media are obviously taking a page from the New York Times playbook with Hillary: when bad stories about her had gained enough traction that even the NYT could no longer ignore them, the Times would do a major piece on the topic a safe time margin out from the next critical juncture. This then allowed Hillary to deflect any questions as “old news.” A sleazy tactic, but effective.

        The media and the Dems know well that the shitshow in Afghanistan now means that the 2022 and 2024 general elections are the Republican Party’s races to lose. The media and the Dems also know that the Republicans are perfectly capable of doing so.

        • You’re in the business, AIM. You’re right, it’s probably just rope-a-dope they’re playing. It just bugs me all to hell but it probably shouldn’t. Standard crisis management. Grrr. But the arrogance is breath taking.

          • I don’t even think it’s a rope-a-dope. It’s desperation. They’re frightened, and they should be. Hence the repeated use of parseltongue in responding to questions. They can’t give a straight answer, because they know how damning the truth actually is.

            • Dems never despair, they just get more brazen. To them, it’s just a matter of time until they’re proven right. They’re on the right side of history. These rare instances when the narrative gets doubted by non lefties are merely speed bumps along the highway to wonderfulness and one party rule in all things. Basic Marxist theory applied.

  3. I confess I didn’t expect to see the name of the subject of my MA thesis (John Lyly) on this blog. Of tangential relevance to the subject at hand: “The rules of fair play do not apply in love and war” comes from Euphues, The Anatomy of Wit, in which the title character’s wit is contrasted with wisdom.
    The two terms can’t be total opposites, however, as the handling of this situation clearly lacks both.

    • Denethor was not just arrogant. He was paranoid and also resentful because he knew that Gandalf was planning to install Aragorn on the long vacant throne, and he did not want to give up his power. He was already borderline insane.

      However, looking into the palantir, which he should not have done, and seeing the black fleet pushed him further, and seeing the disaster that befell his remaining son in the retreat from the causeway forts drove him completely over the edge. It did not have to be so, when he was younger he had actually been a much more decent person.

      There are some parallels here, however, Biden was never really all that decent of a person, nor was he someone who would have been considered naturally in the line of succession. I do not know if he could be considered paranoid, however, whoever his handlers are, they are definitely fearful. They are seeing every aspect of this nation that would normally be good start to fall apart before their eyes. While they have spent the last 4 years looking inward for an enemy, the outward enemy has been gaining power and now just made this nation look foolish and ineffective. The thing is that Denethor at least was facing an enemy who could only be called a demigod, powerful, wicked, and with almost unlimited resources. Biden has now been made a fool of by the rulers of what was once considered a failed state.

      One other place where the parallel breaks down is that Denethor at least had a decent heir to follow him into office in the form of Faramir, although he treated him very badly. Should Biden collapse and be unable to fulfill the duties of his office, the person chosen as his designated successor is also not up to the task. If she were up to the task she would not be continually out of sight.

      Gondor was only saved in the end because it had an ally that came to its aid (Rohan), an effective ruler waiting in the wings (Aragorn) and someone who can only be described as a guardian angel (Gandalf) moving the pieces around the chessboard. Who is our ally? Who is the effective leader waiting in the wings? Is there anyone behind the scenes capable of maneuvering this nation out of disaster at this point? I’d really like to know the answers to those questions.

  4. I think, in the end, it will be a combination of #23, 37, and 38 with a dash of #52 (Joe Biden’s favorite when talking about the Afghans dropping from an evacuation aircraft).

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