Thoughts on President Obama’s Afghan war speech

Attacking during the Russian invastion of Afghanistan

Attacking during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan


Last evening President Barack Obama addressed the nation from West Point (His speech can be seen on C-Span). The focus of the last night’s speech by President Barack Obama was a troop surge of an additional 30,000 men and women into Afghanistan until troop withdrawal from Afghanistan begins in 18 months. The president did a very good job in a brief review of why we went into Afghanistan to begin with and a good job of communicating what he, as commander-in-chief, wants to see accomplished by the placement of $30B worth of additional military power in this year alone.

Three objectives:

1. Deny Al-Qaeda a safe haven.
2. Reverse the Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government.
3. Strengthen Afghan security forces and government.

Three strategic elements:

1. Pursue a military strategy that will break the Taliban’s momentum and increase Afghan capacity over the next 18 months.
2. Work with our partners and the United Nations to pursue a more effective civilian strategy.
3. Act with full recognition that success in Afghanistan depends on our partnership with Pakistan.

NATO troops in Afghanistan.  Photo: Getty Images

NATO troops in Afghanistan. Photo: Getty Images

President Obama responded to three counter arguments he’s already heard:

1. Afghanistan is another Vietnam. He gave three reasons why this is not like ‘Nam, including the fact that Al-Qaeda attacked us from Afghanistan.
2. We cannot leave Afghanistan in it’s current state, but keep only the troops we have. He objects that this would leave us in our current muddled condition.
3. Should not propose our time frame, some calling for an open ended campaign. The president states that we cannot afford a 10-year nation building program.

The president has already taken flack (see FOX News analysts) from not giving specifics as to how these things are going to happen. Frankly, I thought that’s why we have generals on the ground. They have the responsibility to work out the details. 99.9% of Americans are not military strategists and 100% of news anchors are not, therefore, spelling out of such details would not really help me know whether or not such information would help us reach his announced objectives. If the president had given 20 minutes worth of details he would have been derided for making the same mistakes made in Vietnam, to wit, letting politicians fighting the war instead of the military.

Whether or not President Obama has the clout or backbone to see it through will remain to be seen. Nearly a year into his administration, he has famously (as lampooned by Saturday Night Live) not closed Guantanamo though he repeated in this speech his intention to do so, while neglecting many other promises of his campaign (where he stands arm in arm with virtually every other holder of our nation’s top office). Personally, I’m thankful that he has not committed us to a war we cannot afford; heck, we cannot even afford the wars we have. I wonder if Dave Ramsey has been consulted on this…

I was at least glad to hear a reference to the average American making sacrifices, though I fear it is far to little and far to late. World War 2 saw community metal drives, rubber collections, etc, to provide raw materials for the war effort. War bonds were sold for financing the expense. People shut off their electric lights at night for the dual purpose of obscuring potential targets and saving the power. When the War on Terror started, we were famously encouraged to “Go shopping” as if Al-Qaeda would be defeated by the collective re-shoeing of American school kids and a new theater system in every home. That was and remains balderdash.

Being vigilant is a must without question and protection of the citizenry is a God given responsibility of any government. We have reached the point, however, where our economics must catch up to our ability to wage war afar while we fortify protection at home, lest we lose our capacity to do either.

A few specific quotes from last night:

“As president, I refuse to set goals which go beyond our responsibilities, our means or our interests.”

“We cannot simply afford to ignore the price of these wars.”

“Our prosperity provides a foundation for our power.”

“The nation that I’m most interested in building is our own.”

“America will have to show our strength in the way that we end wars and conflict…and we can’t count on military might alone.”

“We have forged a new interest with those in the Muslim world.”

“We must draw on the strength of our values…We must promote our values by living them at home.”

“As a country, we are not as young, and perhaps not as innocent, as we were when Roosevelt was president.”

Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.

  • Beth

    It’s encouraging to see a withdrawal timetable (and one that is less than McCain’s 100 years!), but I still have the attitude of ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’. Pessimistic I know, but I’m used to being disappointed by Washington.

    It will be interesting to see if, in 18 months, we can set Afghanistan in a position of stability that we’ve been unable to establish in the past 8 years, and if such a strategy exists, why haven’t we been implementing that all along?

    If certain foreign policy strategists are correct, what fuels terrorists is our very involvement in the middle east, and perhaps our departure will leave them without a cause.

  • Bobby

    Good article, I agree with alot of what you said and I see this troop deployment as a way to save face for President Obama. Al Qaeda will bide it’s time knowing the Americans will pull out in 18 months and return to their terrorist ways. President Obama never used the word “victory” in his speach. He appeases both political sides but ultimately will withdraw the troops without defeating the terrorists.

    I believe that the “Go shopping” plea and the return to near normal was a slap in the face of those planning more terrorist attacks. Part of their dream was to cripple our economy and we showed them we would not be terrorized. I believe we did our part to defeat Al Qaeda by buying shoes for our kids and not being scared of them.

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    • Marty Duren

      Knock yourself out.

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