Wednesday, December 02, 2009

On the President's speech

Overall, I think the President is doing what needs to be done in Afghanistan. I applaud his finally following General McChrystal's recommendatin for a surge. I like that he enunciated once again that the United States has been a force for good in the world's history.
Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, and the service and sacrifice of our grandparents, our country has borne a special burden in global affairs. We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple continents. We have spent our revenue to help others rebuild from rubble and develop their own economies. We have joined with others to develop an architecture of institutions – from the United Nations to NATO to the World Bank – that provide for the common security and prosperity of human beings.

We have not always been thanked for these efforts, and we have at times made mistakes. But more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades – a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, markets open, billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress, and advancing frontiers of human liberty.

For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for – and what we continue to fight for – is a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.
It's nice to hear President Obama make that statement. He might consider making it again next time he travels abroad.

There are a couple of questions I'd like him to have to answer. Given that he opposed the surge in Iraq and pronounced it a failure during the campaign, why does he support a surge now in Afghanistan? Was he perhaps, gasp, wrong before?

And secondly, what has changed in the plan he's endorsing now from the plan that General McChrystal gave him back in August? He was sure to defend himself against criticisms that he was dithering. Fine. I'm just wondering what was lacking in the proposal before that he is satisfied to have now. Is the only difference that he added a deadline for leaving?

He still seems to use the first person pronoun quite a lot.

I'm not the audience for this speech, because I already support the policy. I don't know that someone who was undecided or even opposed to the speech would find this convincing. As I heard Stephen Hayes point out, in one sentence he tells us that the security of the world depends on our success and in the next he tells us that we'll be pulling out in 18 months.
For 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.
In fact, the announcement of sending the troops is in the exact same paragraph as the announcement that they're going to be coming home.
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.
I can't think of any other president who sent troops to fight a war in such a "Push Me Pull You" manner." I'm glad that it wasn't a hard time limit, but still there is something disheartening about saying that this is a crucial mission and then immediately announcing we'll leave in a year and a half. What if our goals aren't achieved by then? The same argument about why we wouldn't name a date certain for pulling out of Iraq holds now for Afghanistan. You don't let the enemy that they just have to lay low for a year and a half and then we'll leave. What do we do if we aren't done in 18 months? Won't it still be crucial to our national security a year and a half from now? Or will it just not matter then?

When the President spends so much time in the speech talking about when we're going to get out, it just comes out as sounding so very defensive rather than a vigorous rallying cry for the country.

Would this speech convince someone opposed to the war there? I have no idea. What do you guys think?

Jennifer Rubin at Contentions didn't think that it worked for Obama to go to West Point for the speech. I disagree. These are some of the young men and women who will be risking their lives to follow this President's orders. It was fitting that he should address his remarks to them.

UPDATE: I see from Powerline that Chris Matthews referred to the President going to West Point as his going to the "enemy camp." Geez. They might not be enthusiastic about Barack Obama as their Commander-in-Chief, but they are not his enemies. They're willing to go fight and die when he orders them into battle. Hint to Chris: the President's enemies are not Americans but those we're going over to fight.

I have two former students at West Point. One is a senior and knows that he may well be deployed to Afghanistan when he graduates. That is what he signed up for and he says he's ready. I kept wondering if he were in the audience there tonight and what he was thinking. Those young men plus another student who's in the Marines ROTC and another who is applying for the service academies for next year are on my mind a lot these days. I've always thought that it takes a special person to sign on to the military in a time of war. Bless them.