Consequences of Failure: The Politics of Saigon and Kabul | RealClearPolitics

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The abrupt U.S. defeat in the Afghan war has invited parallels with the fall of Saigon in 1975. That event, too, included televised images of panicked crowds...
desperately seeking to flee the country, victorious tyrants luxuriating in the presidential palace, and American-made military hardware scooped up by a bitter adversary.

As vice president, Joe Biden offered his own predicted parallel. If the U.S. left Afghanistan and its government fell, there would be no political price to pay. "We don't have to worry about that," Biden reportedly told diplomat Richard Holbrooke. "We did it in Vietnam. Nixon and Kissinger got away with it."

Biden's chronology was a bit off. The U.S. withdrew military forces from South Vietnam in 1973 under Nixon, but our ally did not fall until April 1975 under Gerald Ford. Nevertheless, now that the Afghan collapse has occurred under his watch, Biden's contention bears examination, on both ends.

Thus far, in the (very) short term, Biden's prediction that a U.S. president withdrawing from Afghanistan would not suffer politically has not been borne out. To the contrary, the Afghan catastrophe has been criticized vigorously by members of both parties. Public opinion polls show that roughly two-thirds of respondents disapprove of how Biden handled the withdrawal. Most concerning for the president, his overall job approval rating has plummeted, falling below 50% and putting him "underwater" in late August for the first time in his presidency. As of Sept. 23, Biden's approval rating according to RealClearPolitics polling average was 46%, his disapproval 50%. It is not easy to disentangle Afghanistan from ongoing COVID problems or the chaos along the Texas border as a source for Biden's declining popularity, but it clearly played a major role.

What about Biden's interpretation of Vietnam? In the short run, he was essentially correct. Gerald Ford did not suffer politically when South Vietnam fell. The best evidence comes from Gallup surveys. A week and a half before the collapse, Ford's approval rating stood at 39%. It was at 40% a few days after the government fell. In the next 11 Gallup surveys…
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