Friday, December 04, 2009

Why Obama's ambivalence to the Afghanistan misssion matters

President Obama's speech was being listened to not only by Americans, but by our enemies. And they now know that Obama is so ambivalent to his mission that all they have to do is hunker down and wait until we pull out. And those in the area who have to decide whether or not to support our efforts at dangerous risks to themselves and their families must weigh Obama's unwilling decision against the implacable will of the Taliban and other terrorists in the group. Charles Krauthammer lays this out.
Which made his last-minute assertion of "resolve unwavering" so hollow. It was meant to be stirring. It fell flat. In August, he called Afghanistan "a war of necessity." On Tuesday night, he defined "what's at stake" as "the common security of the world." The world, no less. Yet, we begin leaving in July 2011?

Does he think that such ambivalence is not heard by the Taliban, by Afghan peasants deciding which side to choose, by Pakistani generals hedging their bets, by NATO allies already with one foot out of Afghanistan?
Instead we got a politician's speech.
Obama's surge speech wasn't that of a commander in chief but of a politician, perfectly splitting the difference. Two messages for two audiences. Placate the right -- you get the troops; placate the left -- we are on our way out.

And apart from Obama's personal commitment is the question of his ability as a wartime leader. If he feels compelled to placate his left with an exit date today -- while he is still personally popular, with large majorities in both houses of Congress, and even before the surge begins -- how will he stand up to the left when the going gets tough and the casualties mount, and he really has to choose between support from his party and success on the battlefield?

....And this commander in chief defended his exit date (vs. the straw man alternative of "open-ended" nation-building) thusly: "because the nation that I'm most interested in building is our own."

Remarkable. Go and fight, he tells his cadets -- some of whom may not return alive -- but I may have to cut your mission short because my real priorities are domestic.

Has there ever been a call to arms more dispiriting, a trumpet more uncertain?