Weekly Update 16-22 Aug 21

Clips on media/communication, national security, politics, sports, and pop culture worth knowing about in the days ahead. 

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Opinion: The Best and Brightest never recovered from Vietnam. Will Biden’s team fare better?

By David Ignatius, for The Washington Post

The Afghanistan disaster has rocked the Biden administration’s foreign policy team, which may need months to regain its sense of balance and momentum.
Senior officials don’t have time or emotional bandwidth now for broad questions about what’s next for U.S. foreign policy. In the sleepless days and nights of the past week, the White House has been focused — and sometimes shaken — by the chaos of the Taliban takeover in Kabul.

Three People I Would Interview About Afghanistan

By Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times

As I watch events in Afghanistan unfold, I find myself trying to ignore all the commentary and longing instead to interview three people: President Lyndon Johnson, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Mohammed Zahir Shah, the last king of Afghanistan.

This Is Not the Taliban 2.0

The group’s claims of having changed are probably more reassuring to those unfamiliar with its history.

By Graeme Wood, The Atlantic

When the Taliban first sacked Kabul 25 years ago, the group declared that it was not out for revenge, instead offering amnesty to anyone who had worked for the former government. “Taliban will not take revenge,” a Taliban commander said then. “We have no personal rancor.” At the time of that promise, the ousted president, Mohammad Najibullah, was unavailable for comment. The Taliban had castrated him and, according to some reports, stuffed his severed genitals in his mouth, and soon after, he was strung up from a lamppost.

Chronicle of a Defeat Foretold

Why America Failed in Afghanistan
By Christina Lamb, Foreign Affairs

In 2008, I interviewed the United Kingdom’s then outgoing military commander in Afghanistan, Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, in a dusty firebase in Helmand Province, where international troops had been battling the Taliban on a daily basis for territory that kept slipping away. The war in Afghanistan could not be won militarily, Carleton-Smith told me. He was the first senior coalition military officer to say so publicly, and the story made the front page of the British Sunday Times. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates promptly denounced Carleton-Smith to the news media as “defeatist.”

Opinion: Here’s why the U.S. national security apparatus keeps producing failures

By Fareed Zakaria, for The Washington Post

If you want one statistic to explain the failure of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan it is this: The National Security Council met 36 times since April to discuss it. Even more remarkable, this number was shared with the media to illustrate how well the administration had handled things. The U.S. foreign policymaking apparatus has transformed itself into a dinosaur, with a huge body and little brain, a bureaucracy where process has become policy.

Podcast: Defense & Aerospace Podcast Washington Roundtable 

By Defense and Aerospace Report

On this Washington Roundtable episode of the Defense & Aerospace Report Podcast, sponsored by Bell, we take a deep dive into the events in and around the US withdrawal from Afghanistan– our guests are Chris Jackson, a senior vice president at Ipsos Public Affairs, Dov Zakheim, PhD, former DoD comptroller, now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Jim Townsend, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Europe and NATO who is now with the Center for a New American Security, Dr. Patrick Cronin of the Hudson Institute and Chris Servello, a founder of Provision Advisors public relations firm.

What Joe Biden Is Betting On

When it comes to Afghanistan, those close to the president are relying on Americans’ notoriously short-term memory.

By Peter Nicholas, The Atlantic

Call it the white house’s dream scenario: In the end, the voters don’t blame Joe Biden. The president’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan simply aligns him with everyone else who has given up on the notion that the military could mold a fractious country into a stable democratic ally. The administration is hoping that grisly images of desperate Afghans clinging to a C-17 fade, replaced by collective relief that no more Americans will die in a murky, brutal war that spanned two decades and four presidencies. 

Did Defense (mis)management of contractors contribute to the Afghan debacle?

By Dov Zakheim, for The Hill 
The rapid collapse of the Afghan army and police, collectively known as the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), clearly caught the Biden administration by surprise and has prompted numerous post-mortems. Critics of the president’s decision to hold fast to his Aug. 31 deadline for pullout of all U.S. troops argue that he should have heeded the warnings of his senior intelligence and military officials that such a pullout would be premature.

How Biden Broke NATO

The chaotic Afghan withdrawal has shocked and angered U.S. allies.

By The Editorial Board
Remember when candidate Joe Biden said America “needs a leader the world respects”? Apparently President Biden forgot. Of the many consequences of his misbegotten Afghanistan withdrawal, one of the more serious is the way it has damaged America’s relationships with its allies, especially in Europe.
Afghanistan was an operation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and America’s NATO allies have invested significant blood and treasure in the conflict. That includes tens of thousands of troops over 20 years, more than 1,100 of whom were killed, and billions of dollars spent on the military operation and reconstruction effort.

Executive Positioning Takeaways From New NY Governor Kathy Hochul’s Press Debut

By Sophie Maerowitz, PR News

“Can you hear me now? …Can you hear me now? Sounds like a commercial.” As she tested the mic, Kathy Hochul, current Lieutenant Governor and incoming Governor of New York, flashed a little of her trademark charm at a press conference at the State Capitol on Aug. 11, her first of several press appearances since Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation a day earlier. Gov. Cuomo, who will retain his title until his resignation becomes effective Aug. 24, has been at the center of the news cycle on the national, and even global, stage as a New York Attorney General investigation uncovered years of Cuomo’s sexual harassment of women staffers, many of whom came forward in recent months.

Can Gov. Newsom Keep His Job? A Recall Effort in California Shows a Dead Heat.

By Shawn Hubler and Jill Cowan, The New York Times

President Biden sent an urgent message last week to the most populous state in the nation: Keep Gov. Gavin Newsom “on the job.” On the airwaves, Senator Elizabeth Warren, the prominent progressive from Massachusetts, has been repeatedly warning that “Trump Republicans” are “coming to grab power in California.” Text messages — a half-million a day — are spreading the word on cellphones. Canvassers are making their case at suburban front doors. As some 22 million ballots land in the mailboxes of active registered voters this week in anticipation of the Sept. 14 recall election, Mr. Newsom — a Democrat elected in a 2018 landslide — has been pulling out all the stops just to hold on to his post.

CAVASSHIPS Podcast – What Does the End of Afghanistan Mean for the Navy…If Anything?

By Defense and Aerospace Report

This week…US forces again are headed to Haiti to try and help in the aftermath of another devastating earthquake. We talk with a veteran of several humanitarian assistance/disaster relief missions to try and get a handle on what’s involved. And with the US withdrawal from most combat missions in the mideast what might that mean for the huge naval presence that’s been maintained for over 40 years? We’ll take a look.

About 200 US Marines head to Haiti in wake of devastating earthquake

By Philip Athey, Marine Corps Times

The Corps is sending roughly 200 Marines from the Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, based 1st Battalion, 6th Marines to Haiti in support of the military’s effort to help the nation after it was struck by a devastating earthquake. Haiti was struck by a devastating 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Saturday, which quickly was followed by a tropical depression on Monday. So far the disasters have resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 people, Reuters reported on Thursday.

Russia’s Battle for the Black Sea

Why Moscow’s Moves Could Determine the Future of Navigation 

By Angela Stent, for Foreign Affairs
On July 25, President Vladimir Putin gave a rousing speech in St. Petersburg to mark the 325th anniversary of the founding of Russia’s navy. Speaking in front of a statue of the fleet’s founder (and Putin’s favorite tsar), Peter the Great, he declared, “Today, the Russian Navy has everything it needs to secure the defense of our native country and our national interests. We are capable of detecting any submarine, surface or airborne adversary and dealing them an imminent strike if necessary.”

New Naval Academy commandant plans to bring in-person conversations back

By Heather Mongilio, The Capital

The mission of the Naval Academy has not changed since Col. James P. McDonough graduated 27 years ago. McDonough, who goes by J.P., is now one of the people in charge of fulfilling it as the 89th commandant of the Brigade of Midshipmen. Already, McDonough has worked with the plebes and the midshipmen who were at the academy over the summer. The class of 2025 is excited and physically ready for the academy’s challenges, and he’s enjoyed working with them so far.

Naval Academy expels 18 midshipmen after finding they cheated on physics exam

By Heather Mongilio, Capital Gazette

Nearly 20 midshipmen were separated after a Naval Academy investigation found they cheated on a December 2020 physics exam. Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck initiated an investigation into the General Physics I final after being made aware that midshipmen possibly used outside sources, including visiting websites, during their online exam, according to a press release from the academy. Midshipmen also used an anonymous chat platform to discuss the exam after.The academy announced the investigation in December.

In Florida, Texas And Arizona, Defiant School Leaders Are Sticking With Mask Mandates

By Clare Lombardo, NPR

Across the country, as students and teachers head back into school buildings in the midst of a COVID-19 surge, school superintendents in Florida, Texas and Arizona are standing firm against state leaders who say masks shouldn’t be mandated in classrooms. On Wednesday, the Biden administration reinforced its support for those school leaders. “I’m directing the secretary of education, an educator himself, to take additional steps to protect our children,” President Biden said at a White House press conference Wednesday.