The speech, I think, was well-delivered and totally stunk on ice.
Beyond its defensiveness (did he have to tell cadets at West
Point that the previous guy was a disaster as Commander in Chief?
All true, but sort of besides the point), it is the sort of
half-a-loaf to every interest group that is muddled at its very
And as commander in chief, I have determined that it is in our
vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S.
troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin
to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the
initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow
for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan.
What does this even mean? If I were one of those 30,000 troops,
I'd be pretty distraught right about now. And I'd be looking at
every means possible to keep my head low until those magical 18
months are up and I know I'm gonna get demobbed back home. Why
30,000 rather than the 40,000 his guy in Afghanistan asked for?
Then there's this:
I make this decision because I am convinced that our security
is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter
of the violent extremism practiced by al-Qaida.
It's vital to our security but I can gaze into my (Mc) crystal
ball and know that I'm yanking these guys out in 18 months, with
the clock starting in 2010 (another strange moment of
defensiveness: "Let me be clear: There has never been an option
before me that called for troop deployments before 2010"). Later
in the speech, he condensed these points even more tightly:
What's at stake is not simply a test of NATO's credibility —
what's at stake is the security of our Allies and the common
security of the world.
Taken together, these additional American and international
troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to
Afghan forces and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces
out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.
Announcing troop increases designed to protect the world
and when they will come home strikes me as bad strategy,
regardless of how you feel about the war in Afghanistan.
While I think the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq
was never warranted, I think the invasion of Afghanistan was a
legitimate use of American military power. The country was on the
hunt for the people behind the 9/11 attacks and the Taliban
government was clearly working hand in glove with them. When the
trail went cold, the reason for us being in Afghanistan became
far less clear. Are we nation or region building there? And if
so, don't the myriad objections that Democrats and
Republicans alike used to throw up in opposition to such efforts
apply? If it's all about gutting al Qaeda and de-surging the
resurgent Taliban, then what's with the timetable for exit?
At least since the end of the Cold War, U.S. foreign policy has
been an ad hoc after-thought without a controlling idea or a
national consensus. President Obama's speech last night
exemplifies the lack of clarity that characterizes the past two
decades' worth of fogginess. And offers up at least 30,000
reasons not to be impressed.