Does the Biden Administration Lack Foresight?
A. Altieri D’Angelo
It sure looks that way.
The Biden Administration (the Administration) has achieved some of its goals but has not delivered on key promises. Biden’s actions, however, have also highlighted an inability to anticipate problems. It appears the Administration lacks foresight. Afghanistan is but one example.
The chaotic exit from Afghanistan resulted, in large part, from inadequate planning by the non-military part of the Administration. Biden and his team knew the terms of the Doha Agreement well before they entered office in January 2021. The Administration held meetings as early as February 2021 to plan the exit strategy. To their credit, they recognized that the May 2021 departure date was an impossible goal and devised a plan to stretch out the withdrawal till August. But they did not acknowledge that there was not enough time to process the necessary visa paperwork to evacuate Afghan citizens.
Anyone with an open mind could have foreseen, in February 2021, that an orderly evacuation of Afghan citizens would have been highly challenging by the end of 2021, let alone in August. Aid groups clamored for more resources as soon as the President set the August departure deadline. But the Administration, lacking foresight, failed to grasp the scale of the task; and it never considered that the Taliban would be in charge of the country by the end of August. The evidence of a swift Taliban takeover was pervasive, but no one bothered to pay attention.
If the Administration had foresight, it would have started the evacuation process earlier and added resources. Or, at the very least, warned Congress and its allies of the magnitude of the problem. This lapse in planning led to the most embarrassing episode in American foreign affairs since the hasty exit from Saigon in 1975.
The Administration’s failure to increase testing for Covid is another example of being caught off guard. Medical experts have said repeatedly, for many months, that there will be Covid variants developing from time to time. Delta was the first and now Omicron. Omicron’s impact has overwhelmed hospitals and medical staff. The Administrations has come out and said that testing, vaccinations, and wearing masks would reduce the effects of Omicron. But there is one problem there are not enough testing facilities or home kits to help people.
How is it possible that we still lack the testing capacity given that the Covid pandemic first struck the U.S in January 2020? The Administration failed to foresee the urgent need for testing. Many other countries are far ahead of the U.S. in testing.
The lack of planning was evident in a White House press briefing. Mara Liasson of NPR asked why the United States chose not to emulate countries like the United Kingdom, which sends packs of seven free rapid tests to anyone who asks for them. The Administration had no good answer. The President’s spokesperson (Jen Psaki) first suggested, wrongly, that the tests used in other countries might not work. Psaki then pointed out that the U.S. had persuaded some retailers to lower costs and would soon require private insurance companies to start reimbursing clients who buy rapid tests. Liaison stated, “That’s kind of complicated, though,” She also said, “Why not just make ’em free and give ’em out, make them available everywhere?” Jen Psaki responded (sarcastically), “Should we just send one to every American?” “Maybe,” Liaison replied. To which Psaki asked, “Then what happens if every American has one test? How much does that cost?”
Yet, on December 21, President Biden announced that 500 million home test kits would be shipped to all Americans starting in January.
It was clear the Administration could not adequately answer Liasson’s questions. The Psaki exchange clearly shows that the Administration failed to develop a plan for more testing capacity. They did not anticipate a new Covid strain arriving so quickly. It was another failure of imagination.
Biden and his Administration also failed to plan for the passage of his Build Back Better Plan. Anyone watching Joe Manchin knew he would not give in unless he got everything he wanted. Unfortunately, the Administration did not expect such an outcome and was hugely embarrassed by Manchin’s December rejection of the plan. They had no Plan B. This episode made Biden, his Administration, and fellow elected Democrats look foolish and weak.
China and Russia are working together to keep the U.S. off balance; and seek to achieve, among other things, territorial gains in Ukraine and Taiwan. They are two heads of the same coin. Confronting one means confronting two simultaneously. Hopefully, Biden and his team see that linked threat.
President Biden and his Administration will suffer many more defeats unless they possess foresight. For the sake of the U.S. and the world, he must fix this planning defect immediately.