‘On Afghanistan, Biden’s credibility is now shot’

Your digest of analysis and commentary from the British and international press

Joe Biden
President Biden had criticised Trump for his ‘irresponsible’ handling of sensitive government files
(Image credit: Brendan Smialowski/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

1. Joe Biden’s credibility has been shredded in Afghanistan

Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times

on finishing what Trump started

“If Donald Trump were presiding over the debacle in Afghanistan, the US foreign policy establishment would be loudly condemning the irresponsibility and immorality of American strategy,” writes Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times. But “since it is Joe Biden in the White House, there is instead, largely, an embarrassed silence”. True, Trump set the US on the path of withdrawal from Afghanistan “and began the delusional peace talks with the Taliban that have gone nowhere”. Yet “rather than reverse the withdrawal of troops, Biden accelerated it”. And this week the president “has been channelling Edith Piaf, claiming he had no regrets about pulling the rug out from under the Afghan government” and that the Taliban “overrunning everything” was “highly unlikely”. His credibility is “now shot”, Rachman concludes. The final collapse of the government in Afghanistan “looks inevitable” - and “it may come just in time for the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that originally led to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan”.

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2. Imagination is key to the revival of Britain’s seaside towns

Gaby Hinsliff in The Guardian

on a new Banksy mystery

A “string of artworks” that may or may not have been created by Banksy have been discovered along the East Anglian coast, “raising the tantalising prospect that like everyone else who couldn’t get abroad this summer, he just went to Norfolk and hung around in bus shelters instead”, writes Gaby Hinsliff in The Guardian. “Maybe it’s real, and maybe it isn’t, but it’s absolutely the sort of thing the British seaside is for.” Coastal towns such as Cromer and Great Yarmouth “get a miserable rap”, says Hinsliff, but this “staycation summer” has given “fading seaside glories one last chance to reintroduce themselves”. British seaside towns “may never realistically trump the Med as places to spend a sun-soaked fortnight”. But “they could make perfect short breaks for Britons in a climate-conscious era in which jetting off to Rome or Paris for the weekend feels too wanton”.

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3. If you skip the vaccine, it is my ‘damn business’

Jamelle Bouie in The New York Times

on vaccine confidentiality

When American Football quarterback Lamar Jackson was asked recently whether he’d been vaccinated, he declined to answer, insisting that “it’s a personal decision”. Another player, Cam Newton of the New England Patriots, had said “much the same” a few days before, notes Jamelle Bouie in The New York Times. But the idea that vaccination is a “personal and private decision” is “wrong”, Bouie argues. “Wearing a helmet while bike riding, strapping on your seatbelt in a car - these are personal decisions, at least as far as your own injuries are concerned. Vaccination is different.” Part of the reason why the US “has struggled to achieve herd immunity against Covid-19 through vaccination” is because “we refuse to treat the pandemic for what it is: a social problem to solve through collection action”, he continues. This “so-called freedom” is “practically maladaptive in the face of a pandemic”. That’s why “so many people treat the question of exposure and contagion as a personal choice made privately and why our institutions have made vaccination a choice when it should have been mandated from the start”.

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4. Britain needs the Royal Family more than ever

James Forsyth in The Times

on a ‘slimmed-down’ monarchy

“In different circumstances, Prince Andrew might be a rather active royal right now,” writes James Forsyth, political editor of The Spectator, in The Times. But the latest accusations against Andrew “make it almost impossible to imagine him returning to royal duties or public life”. The scandals surrounding Andrew, combined with “Prince Harry’s self-imposed exile”, mean that Charles “is getting his wish for a slimmed-down monarchy, if not by the route that he would have wanted”. But, despite all this, argues Forsyth, “the soft power asset that the Royal Family represents is arguably more important than ever”. The monarchy can provide much-needed stability “amid the teething problems of Britain’s new relationship with Europe”. “There is little doubt of the pull they, and the Queen in particular, have,” Forsyth adds. As the UK struggles to forge a new relationship with the EU, “these three generations of royals will have a distinct role to play”.

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5. If Edinburgh Festival fully embraces internet age, something truly great can happen

The Scotsman editorial board

on a pivot to digital

To those who grew up before the world wide web, life in the internet age can sound “fantastical”, says The Scotsman’s leader. One of the “few silver linings” of the Covid-19 pandemic “has been that it has forced us to embrace the online world as never before”. And the director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Nick Barley, has now called for the Scottish capital “to become the ‘world’s leading hybrid festival city’, in which people are able to watch talks and shows both in-person and online”. In all its various forms, the Edinburgh Festival “is full of a myriad of just-as-fascinating discussions and performances”, says The Scotsman. “Taking it out to the world really can be the start of something truly great.”

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