Our Best Stuff From a Week of Remembrance

How we’ve changed in the two decades since 9/11.

“Everything is going to be different now.” That’s the one thing I remember my husband saying as he and I stared at the television in the living room of our home in the Seattle area on that fateful morning two decades ago. A phone call from my brother in Ohio had woken us at 6:30, and when Jim immediately reached for the TV remote, dread set in. Had there been a natural disaster? Had the president been shot? The idea of an attack on U.S. soil never entered my mind. 

He was right, of course. In ways that were obvious immediately, and in ways that didn’t become apparent until much later. The unity and shared sense of purpose were a welcome change, albeit a fleeting one. The increased security around air travel (however necessary in the moment) was less so, on both counts. I remember the constant, low-grade fear of another attack. I say “low-grade” in that it felt inevitable, but we mostly didn’t change our behavior. People still woke up everyday and boarded planes or went to work in skyscrapers. 

That perseverance reflected a kind of optimism. But one thing I find myself thinking about these days is our collective grief. We came to know the stories of so many individuals who lost their lives that day. Not just the heroes who stormed the cockpit on Flight 93 or the firefighters who led people to safety before going into the towers one last time and never returning. We also learned about everyday Americans, from finance professionals and advertising executives to waiters and janitors, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We came to know the widows and widowers of those who died, the children who lost parents. We grieved, and we felt a sense of duty to honor them.  

I’m thinking about that mourning because we are living through a pandemic that has killed more Americans than the Civil War. And I just don’t sense that same sense of shared grief. There are some obvious reasons for it: The attacks of 9/11 were sudden and shocking. Civilians were targeted in an act of war. And it was an isolated incident, not a situation where people were dying every day for a year and a half. 

Still, I think it reflects an unfortunate reality in this country. Our social fabric has frayed to the point where we don’t grieve for strangers. In fact, we have often politicized their deaths. There’s an undertone of “told ya so” to the coverage every time a politician or media figure who fought against lockdowns dies of COVID. I understand why media outlets have taken to highlighting the stories of those who, while in the hospital fighting for their lives, express regret over not getting vaccinated. But I feel like those stories serve only to make their intended audience of vaccine holdouts more defensive. 

I wonder, if we had even the kind of unity we had in the days after 9/11, if our pandemic response would have been different. Yes, we were pretty good in the early months of lockdowns. And it’s true the strictest measures weren’t sustainable in the long term. We were let down by our political leaders. But I do wish we’d treated the virus as a common enemy, as we did al-Qaeda two decades ago. That we had come together to fight it rather than fighting each other.  Yes, everything is different now. And that’s too bad.

On that cheery note, here’s some of our best work from the week. Thanks for reading.

9/11 Was Never Going to Unite Us for Long

David recalls how, initially, the events of September 11, 2001, seemed like his generation’s Pearl Harbor. That it wasn’t was a good thing—“after all, Pearl Harbor marked the beginning of a far more deadly war”—but it also meant that the national unity we felt in the early days also dissipated more quickly. And just because jihadists didn’t present the same kind of military threat as the Axis powers didn’t mean they were harmless. “Though jihadists could never threaten our civilization, they could hurt us and hurt us badly. And if they hurt us enough, they’d change our nation in important and profoundly negative ways. There remained and remains an absolute necessity of national self-defense.”

Taliban 1.0, Chapter 2

For the last month or so, ever since we started getting hints that the Afghanistan withdrawal was going to happen but that it would also likely be chaotic, the statements coming from the Biden administration have been at odds with reality. And, frankly, Jonah is fed up. In his Wednesday G-File, he takes the State Department and other Biden officials to task for their stupefying statements, from “We have made clear our expectation that the Afghan people deserve an inclusive government” to the Taliban-led government being made up of “people who have very challenging track records” to the claim that what the Taliban really wants is acceptance from the international community. As he reminds everyone, “No one in the Taliban leadership has been living in the mountains, crapping in caves without the benefit of first world toilet paper, and letting their sons vaporize themselves so they can get reserved tickets to hear Larry Summers’ presentation at Davos.”

The Biden Administration and the Paradox of the Weak

The chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal was bad enough on its own. And however eager the Biden administration might be to move on, it’s going to have repercussions far beyond the region. Eric Edelman and Robert Joseph offer a detailed—and bleak—analysis of how our deficiencies will be exploited by our enemies: not just China and Russia but also North Korea and Iran. “The colossal policy failure that was punctuated by the heroic efforts of U.S. military and diplomatic personnel to evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghan allies from Kabul will in fact make reposturing to deter China more difficult. It is likely that more military capability will now need to be devoted to the counterterrorism mission with a revivified global jidhadist movement highly motivated by its successful defeat of the United States,” they write.

Now for the best of the rest:

  • Audrey Fahlberg spent the summer on a fellowship for the Wall Street Journal, but we’re thrilled she’s back. Check out her story about the Wyoming GOP primary and Donald Trump’s decision to endorse a former Liz Cheney supporter in the race against her.

  • South Dakota Republicans are trying to ban private vaccine mandates, but they aren’t getting any support from Gov. Kristi Noem. The fight centers around differing concepts of “liberty.” Andrew explains.

  • The U.S. government failed to deliver on its promise to evacuate Americans and the Afghans who helped our war effort, but private citizens are still working tirelessly. Charlotte details the challenges they are facing.

  • About 10 years ago, some of our leaders softened their views on the Taliban. That change in viewpoint ultimately doomed our mission in Afghanistan, Tom Joscelyn writes.

  • On the pods: Sen.Ben Sasse holds nothing back in his critique of the Biden administration’s Afghanistan policy in an interview with Steve and Sarah on The Dispatch Podcast. David and Sarah discuss the latest in the legal battle over the Texas abortion law as well as the indictment of a prosecutor in the Ahmaud Arbery case on Advisory Opinions. And on The Remnant, Jonah and Slate’s Will Saletan keep finding themselves agreeing more than they disagree.

Our Best Stuff From the Week We Left Afghanistan

Biden’s speech, Texas’ abortion law, and more.

A C-17 Globemaster takes off as Taliban fighters secure the outer perimeter, alongside the American controlled side of the Kabul airport on August 29. (Photograph by Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images.)

On Monday, the final American plane left the Kabul airport, ending our mission in Afghanistan. Note that I didn’t say “complete” our mission. We left behind some number of Americans—the Biden administration says the number is 100 to 200 but that doesn’t include permanent residents or green card holders—and, horrifically, up to 250,000 Afghans who are eligible for visas.

As Jonah noted in his Wednesday G-File (which I’ve also summarized below), “The administration seems to have convinced itself that this is just a summer media frenzy that will go away soon enough when the media moves on to the next controversy.” 

It’s easy to see how that could happen. This week, a controversial abortion law went into effect in Texas after the Supreme Court rejected an emergency challenge to it. David has a great explanation of the law and the Supreme Court decision, and he and Sarah also broke it down on Advisory Opinions. Abortion advocates are up in arms about the law, and are (incorrectly) accusing SCOTUS of effectively overturning Roe v. Wade.

And there are multiple problems on the pandemic front—and not just the fact that many states are running out of ICU beds as the Delta variant works its way through the U.S. This week, two FDA officials resigned over the Biden administration’s push for a third-dose booster shot of the mRNA vaccines. And in an episode that harkens back to the fight over hydroxychloroquine, people are trying to treat their COVID symptoms with ivermectin, a drug that is used to treat parasitic infections but is not approved to treat COVID. Some people are using a version of the drug intended for veterinary purposes, launching a thousand warnings against taking horse dewormers. 

Meanwhile, the House is making progress on the January 6 investigation, and the administration is trying to focus on getting its $3.5 trillion spending package through Congress. It’s important for us to cover all of these stories. We have and we will continue to do so. But we will not be taking our eyes off Afghanistan. For all of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s sternly worded tweets about holding the Taliban to its “commitment” to uphold its end of the deal, we know full well that the Taliban is not going to be any kind of partner. There are already reports of executions of Afghans who aided our effort. Al-Qaeda is a threat. There will be long-term ramifications for our foreign policy.  The news cycle might move on, but we’ll continue with our reporting and analysis for as long as it takes.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend, and thanks for reading.

Your Questions About the SCOTUS Texas Abortion Ruling, Answered

Late Wednesday night, the Supreme Court rejected an emergency challenge to Texas’ “heartbeat bill” that bans abortions after six weeks. The law itself is unusual, abortion is the hottest of hot-button topics, and the court’s decision was on procedural grounds, not the merits of the case. That led to a perfect storm of bad legal takes online, including claims that the court had effectively overturned Roe v. Wade. In the Thursday edition of French Press (🔒), David wades in with an incredibly helpful FAQ. He answers practical questions about why the law is unusual (it’s enforced by private lawsuits, which makes it difficult to challenge in courts), how the court ruled ( essentially “by saying that the plaintiffs sued the wrong defendants”), and what this has to do with Roe v. Wade (not much.) But he also shares his thoughts on the law itself: “I want to see Roe reversed and states act to protect unborn life, but I confess that I have very serious reservations about the Texas legislation. The reason why is simple—it represents a clever way to engineer temporary deprivations of constitutional rights.” 

Biden’s Timeless Obsession

On Tuesday, Joe Biden addressed the nation on the end of our mission in Afghanistan, and Jonah noted that the president “came just shy of old man yelling at clouds crankiness.” Jonah has many critiques of the president—“In July, [Biden] mocked the idea that the Afghan government would fall, and then mocked Americans and allied Afghans for not getting out sooner. He said it wouldn’t happen, and then when it did happen he said it proved he was right. He said they were ready for this, but they were caught unprepared”—but he ends by noting what good we accomplished, and how those successes are going to be undone. “I’m at a loss as to why we shouldn’t be proud of the good things that came as a result. We didn’t go into Afghanistan to protect or educate little girls, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to deny those were good things.”

Who Would Have Retreated Better Than Biden?

Chris Stirewalt asks a question that is both complex and simple. Given that the Afghanistan withdrawal was so chaotic, and that Biden has a poor track record on foreign policy throughout his political career, someone could have done it better, right? Stirewalt rules out Donald Trump, the field of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, and the potential field of 2024 candidates. So maybe “who” isn’t the right question. “You’ll find your list remains pretty short for one big reason: Many of the folks who come to mind as foreign policy experts and skilled managers wouldn’t have done it at all,” Stirewalt writes.

Now for the best of the rest:

  • How does someone go from being a Tea Party activist handing out pocket Constitutions and tidying up after rallies to a full-blown conspiracy theorist? David traces the sad and disheartening path many Americans have taken the last five years.

  • Much of our attention has been on Afghanistan the past few weeks, but we can’t ignore Congress. In Uphill, Harvest and Ryan report on the latest in the January 6 investigation. The committee has been sending out various requests for information from government agencies, social media companies, and telecom companies.

  • In The Sweep, Sarah offers up bellwethers for the 2022 midterms (retirements, recalls, redistricting, etc.) and Stirewalt breaks down the crazy gubernatorial recall in California.

  • A year and a half into the pandemic, shouldn’t it be pretty easy to get a rapid test you can take at home? You’d think, but that’s not reality. Scott Lincicome explains why in Capitolism (🔒). 

  • And the pods: On The RemnantReason’s Peter Suderman joins Jonah for a lengthy conversation on Afghanistan, Bitcoin, cocktails, and more. You certainly don’t want to miss a podcast titled “Disco Ball of Asininty,” right? So check out Wednesday’s Dispatch Podcast. And for a little break from the news, listen to Sarah’s interview with Ben Folds on Advisory Opinions.

Looking for Hope After an Awful Week

Brave and honorable Americans stepped forward precisely when we needed them.

We’ve spent a lot of time the last few weeks focusing on everything that has gone wrong in Afghanistan and criticizing those whose decisions led to this embarrassing moment for America: The Biden administration, not just for the rushed and chaotic withdrawal, but its absurd insistence that this was unavoidable, and well—actually—everything is going just fine. The Trump administration, for negotiating a bad deal in the first place. We’ve been hard on the politicians who are speaking out against bringing in Afghan refugees, and (as you’ll read below), we’ve sought to remind people that Pakistan was part of the problem, for supporting the Taliban and al-Qaeda while taking aid from the United States.

It’s gotten hard to find the right words to discuss what has happened. Two weeks ago I described it as “frustrating.” Last week felt “bleak.” After the bombing Thursday that killed 13 U.S. servicemembers and upward of 170 Afghans, “grim” doesn’t quite cut it. Neither does “maddening.” 

So I’m going to hit pause on the negativity, just for a moment. ABC News broke a truly remarkable story yesterday, at precisely the moment we needed some hope. A group of special ops veterans—all volunteers—had been ferrying Afghan commandos and interpreters and their families to the safety of the Kabul airport. After rescuing 130 people over the first 10 days after Kabul fell, they incredibly managed to rescue 500 more overnight on Wednesday:

“Dozens of high-risk individuals, families with small children, orphans, and pregnant women, were secretly moved through the streets of Kabul throughout the night and up to just seconds before ISIS detonated a bomb into the huddled mass of Afghans seeking safety and freedom,” Army Lt. Col. Scott Mann, a retired Green Beret commander who led the private rescue effort, told ABC News.

There will be time later to reflect on the fact that veterans who had already risked their lives in service to our country felt obligated to do so once again to rescue those who had helped them, since no one else was. But for now, when it feels like we’re in a moment of decline, it’s an important reminder of what has made America great. And it’s going to make one heck of a movie.

Those brave vets weren’t the only ones taking risks. Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, a Marine infantry officer, posted a video online criticizing military leaders for the way the withdrawal was conducted.  

Scheller predicted that the video would end his military career, and he was correct. He was relieved of his duties almost immediately. And his response is another cause for hope: “My chain of command is doing exactly what I would do … if I were in their shoes,” he posted on Facebook after acknowledging his firing.

 “America has many issues… but it’s my home… It's where my three sons will become men.  America is still the light shining in a fog of chaos.  When my Marine Corps career comes to an end, I look forward to a new beginning.  My life’s purpose is to make America the most lethal and effective foreign diplomacy instrument.  While my days of hand to hand violence may be ending … I see a new light on the horizon.”

The Afghanistan withdrawal is a stain on our country’s history that is bound to invite further challenges. The Taliban and al-Qaeda are emboldened by our defeat. Adversaries like China and Russia are no doubt watching. 

When we are tested, we’re going to need people with the bravery of the vets who went to Afghanistan to rescue their allies, and people with the honor of Stuart Scheller.

Thanks for reading, and please check out the important work we did this week.

A Defeat of Choice

The past two weeks have seen increasingly hard to believe news stories out of Afghanistan: Kabul falling to the Taliban in days rather than months, desperate Afghans falling from U.S. airplanes, parents passing children over barbed-wire fences to U.S. soldiers. But even with that—and even with warnings of potential terror attacks—the bombing that killed hundreds, including 13 U.S. troops, was a shock unlike any other. In a rare staff editorial, our editors decried the gobsmacking statements coming out of the White House—that the airlift is some kind of triumph, that these events were unavoidable—and took the Biden administration to task for the fiasco that has resulted from its decision to withdraw. “The best case for leaving some American troops in Afghanistan was never grounded in talk of ‘nation building’ or love of ‘forever wars,’ but in America’s core national security interest. Preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan is in our interest because the Taliban is our enemy.”

The Moral Legitimacy of Our Actions in Afghanistan

We can debate many things about the war in Afghanistan: specific policies, mission creep, troop drawdowns, surges, etc. (And in fact, Paul Miller detailed the blunders by every administration to oversee the Afghan War just last month for The Dispatch.) But one thing that has never been questioned, as veteran Steve Stampley notes, is the moral legitimacy of our efforts. We were the good guys, he writes. Objectively. And there is danger in forgetting that. “Yet, since the advent of the Trump administration, our nation has moved with alarming speed to reject the fundamental truth that America’s strength in the world is a worthwhile force for good. This is a catastrophic mistake.”

It’s Time to Hold Pakistan Accountable

As Danielle Pletka notes, there is plenty of blame to go around for the debacle in Afghanistan. But not enough attention has focused on Pakistan. Pakistan aided our anti-Soviet intelligence efforts throughout the Cold War and helped funnel money to the mujahideen after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979.* But it also helped give rise to the Taliban, and provided a safe haven for many jihadists—including Osama bin Laden, of course—after 9/11. “Pakistan has long profited by playing both sides, taking arms and dollars from the United States to defeat enemies in turn supported directly by Islamabad,” she writes. “And Pakistan’s American supporters—many in the military who trained with Pakistani officers, others in the intelligence community who have worked with their counterparts for years—have regularly won the day against critics, arguing there is no counterterrorism fight without Pakistan.”

What We Know—and Don’t Know—About ISIS-K

The Islamic State-Khorasan Province claimed responsibility for the bombing outside the Kabul airport that killed 13 U.S. service members and more than 100 Afghans. Thomas Joscelyn offers up a primer of who the group is, why these jihadists don’t get along with the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and what kind of threat ISIS-K is outside of Central and South Asia. And then he tackles the tricky question—if ISIS-K is our enemy and the Taliban is its enemy, does that mean we should rely on the Taliban at least a little bit? “Sometimes the enemy of my enemy is just my enemy—not my friend,” he writes. “Such is the case with the Taliban.”

Now, the best of the rest:

  • Months after Arizona Senate Republicans hired Cyber Ninjas—notably not an election firm—to carry out its unofficial audit of Maricopa County’s ballots from the 2020 election, the company’s report is expected soon. And ahead of its release, election officials are pushing back on expected claims of voter fraud and disinformation. Check out Khaya’s report.

  • Even before the horrific bombing on Thursday, our handling of Afghan refugees has been disastrous. Amanda Rothschild is reminded of the mid-1940s, when Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr.  worked to expose negligence in processing visas for Jewish refugees and alerted FDR. She calls on someone—maybe Samantha Power or Antony Blinken—to take the same step with Joe Biden.

  • The Biden administration has approved third doses of the mRNA COVID vaccines for all Americans. James Capretta and Keiran Allsop take a look at what this means for our commitment to deliver vaccines to countries in need.

  • Folks, we have a problem with math. Not necessarily addition or subtraction or even pre-calc. Just with big (really big) numbers. In Capitolism, Scott Lincicome breaks down why this is really bad: People, thanks in part to bad reporting, misunderstand the threat posed by COVID to vaccinated people. It creates bad public policy, with multitrillion  dollar spending packages and politicians who think we can pay for them by taxing billionaires.

  • We can’t forget the pods: On Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah are joined by Mitchell Berman for a discussion on the jurisprudence of sports. Come for the curling talk, stay for the robot umpires. On The Dispatch Podcast, Rep. Mike Gallagher expresses his frustration with the Afghanistan debacle in a conversation with Steve and Sarah. And on The Remnant, Jonah and A.B. Stoddard hit on all the hot-button topics: infrastructure, racial progress in America, COVID, and Afghanistan.

Correction, August 28: This piece initially reported an incorrect date for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Our Best Stuff From a Bleak Week

The debacle that is our withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Hello, everyone. What a week. When I was composing my newsletter a week ago, I wrote about how the Biden administration’s original pledge to withdraw American troops by September 11 was, at best, odd and to many, downright offensive. I noted that he moved the withdrawal deadline to August 31. But I struggled with how to phrase my next thought, finally settling on, “Now, however, it seems like the anniversary of 9/11 could be even bleaker.” I cited military analysis that said Kabul could be “isolated” within a month of our departure and fall within 90 days, but the way that the Taliban had been steamrolling through provincial capitals, that seemed like wishful thinking. In the back of my mind, I wondered if the Taliban would try to take Kabul on September 11, as a final humiliating gesture. But that was just weeks away, and I’m not one for predictions, so I hedged my wording. 

Late Sunday morning, I was drinking coffee and watching TV—not the news—when my husband looked up from his phone and asked, “Did Kabul fall?” “What?” I responded. “No way.” And then I reached for my phone. Minutes before, I’d gotten the news alert that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had fled the county. Well then. 

As hard as that was to believe, much of what followed over the next few days was outright surreal. I saw a video from Kandahar with dozens of bodies laying in the streets, with people just driving by. There were heartbreaking scenes from the airport: people running alongside an American cargo plane as it cruised down a runway and desperate parents passing infants forward to U.S. soldiers, among others.

Once again, I’m going to keep this intro short because it’s a better use of your time to read our coverage of this debacle. We have excellent analysis from Tom Joscelyn, who’s been beating the drum on how our withdrawal is ill-advised since the Trump administration was negotiating with the Taliban; David, who served in Iraq and explains why the Afghan military couldn’t stand up to the Taliban; and contributor Paul Miller, who takes a look at the larger implications of this moment. And those are just a few of our pieces. Thanks for reading.

The Fall of Kabul and the Decline of World Order

The scenes coming out of Afghanistan are heartbreaking and frustrating, not just because of the human suffering but because of what it shows about America’s willingness to stand up for freedom and democracy. Paul Miller, a veteran of the war who served as a National Security Council staffer in both the Bush and Obama administrations, argues that while the fall of Kabul is “not the most important geopolitical event of the 21st century,” it doesn’t have to be. It’s enough that it continues a trend toward authoritarianism and tyranny that threatens the liberal world order. It’s a bleak but important warning. “The same dynamic can take hold in international politics,” Miller writes. “If we are so demoralized that we do not defend the free world in the next contest—in Taiwan, say, or Latvia—then it will be vastly easier not to fight the one after that, and again after that. The rest of the world will quickly believe that the free world has lost its will.”

When the ‘Strongest Tribe’ Leaves

Biden faced a torrent of criticism for his comments Monday that “American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves. We gave them every chance to determine their own future. We could not provide them with the will to fight for that future.” Few who critiqued that statement, though, are as well-suited to do so as David, who has witnessed firsthand how we train soldiers to defend their own countries. He explains that our support—air support, military intelligence, the ability to maintain and repair complicated equipment—gave those forces an advantage they lose when we suddenly withdraw. It also gave them hope. “Our allies went into the fight with a trump card in their back pocket,” he writes in French Press. “Remove the trump card, and you strip that hope. In fact, remove the trump card, and they can’t even truly fight the way they’ve been trained to fight. You tell the ordinary soldier in the field that if they call for the cavalry, no one will come to their aid.”

No, Mr President. Al-Qaeda Is Not ‘Gone’ From Afghanistan.

Thomas Joscelyn is not a Dispatch fact-checker, but he played that role on Friday, filing his Vital Interests newsletter right after Biden’s latest address on Afghanistan. At one point, Biden responded to a question by saying this: “​​What interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point, with al-Qaeda gone?” Joscelyn debunks the claim swiftly, writing that through his work with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, he and a colleague have tracked AQ members in 18 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. He also points to jailbreaks by the Taliban to free imprisoned AQ fighters, and he reminds readers about the Haqqani Network, which has close ties not only to al-Qaeda but also the Taliban. “President Biden may not know it, but the defeat of the U.S.-backed government wasn’t just a win for the Taliban. It was a win for al-Qaeda.”

‘We Will Be Great Americans’

By now, you’ve probably seen photos of Afghans crowded into C-17 cargo planes, huddled on the floor and waiting to be taken to safety. The images inspire, for most of us, mixed feelings: sadness that they need to leave their homes and possessions and possibly family behind, and frustration that it came to this—but also hope that a brighter future awaits them. Not everyone feels that way, though. In Capitolism, Scott Linciome takes a break from writing on trade wars and antitrust to call out the partisan talking heads who took to the airwaves to complain about the prospect of Afghan refugees resettling in the United States. He lays out the case for a liberal refugee policy that goes beyond “it’s the right thing to do.” He debunks the ideas that refugees are a drag on the economy and a threat to our security, points out that refugees are typically younger than the general population, and argues that “opening our doors to people fleeing oppressive regimes also can weaken adversaries via ‘brain drain.’” He writes: “The U.S. government needs to rethink our approach to refugees in this country and to reverse the long-term deterioration of support for those fleeing oppression and violence around the world—in not only the middle east but also Cuba, Venezuela, China, Hong Kong, and elsewhere.”

Fact-Checking Biden’s Latest Statements on the Afghanistan Withdrawal

As Thomas Joscyelyn noted, President Biden’s claim that Afghanistan is “gone” is absolutely not true. But that wasn’t the only whopper Biden told when taking questions after his address to the nation on Friday. He also claimed that the Taliban was not impeding efforts by Americans to get to Hamid Karzai Airport to be evacuated. Alec and Khaya were on the case.

The best of the rest:

  • The Afghanistan debacle has taken attention away from the Biden administration’s Iran policy, but it can’t be ignored. Behnam Ben Taleblu and Andrea Stricker call attention to the six fruitless rounds of talks to reestablish the Iran nuclear deal, and highlight that the rise to power of hardliner Ebrahim Raisi signals that the Islamic Republic has no real interest in returning to it. 

  • Polling has shown for years that Americans would prefer we not be in Afghanistan. In The Sweep, Sarah writes about the many flaws of surveys on policy issues—the issues are complex, it’s hard to ask questions in a non-leading way, and people’s opinions don’t always fit into a tidy multiple choice format.

  • Is the best way to reduce carbon emissions a sweeping, top-down approach like the Green New Deal, or many, many smaller technological innovations? Todd Myers argues that history is on the side of innovations, and details a few examples that could add up to big changes. 

  • Andrew and Charlotte wrote on the refugee situation, pointing out that fights over whether to evacuate Americans or Afghans first are fruitless, since it’s so difficult for anyone to get to the airport.

  • On the pods: Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake joins Jonah on The Remnant to discuss Afghanistan. For a little diversion, check out Sarah’s tale of a wildlife rescue mission with a happy ending on Advisory Opinions. And on The Dispatch Podcast, Steve, David, and Tom discuss—you guessed it—Afghanistan.

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