Posted by: adoseofliberty | December 7, 2009

Obama’s Dual Deal for the “War of Necessity”

Last week, after months of what some called deliberating and others deemed dithering, President Barack Obama outlined his strategy for the war in Afghanistan in a speech to the Cadets at West Point.  The full transcript can be found here.

The President plans to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan at the start of next year, a quarter less than the amount requested by General Stanley McChrystal back in September.  Obama also stated that he will begin to withdraw troops after 18 months, gradually handing over responsibility to the Afghan forces, noting that the United States will “execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground.”

Gabor Steingart of Der Spiegel, the popular German newspaper, wrote an opinion piece on the speech, saying it felt “false” and describing it as essentially a campaign speech combined with Bush rhetoric:

It was the least truthful address that he has ever held. He spoke of responsibility, but almost every sentence smelled of party tactics. He demanded sacrifice, but he was unable to say what it was for exactly.

An additional 30,000 US soldiers are to march into Afghanistan — and then they will march right back out again. America is going to war — and from there it will continue ahead to peace. It was the speech of a Nobel War Prize laureate.

Obama, he says, is tripling the number of forces relative to the Bush years, which will satisfy the war hawks in Congress and the country at large, but “just 18 months later, just in time for Obama’s re-election campaign, the horror of war is to end and the draw down will begin. The doves of peace will be let free.”  The timing here is disturbingly obvious.

Obama states clearly that he has “as commander in chief…determined that it is in our vital national interest” to send additional troops to Afghanistan.  He declares, “if I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow.”  He firmly acknowledges the huge stakes in this conflict and asserts the war in Afghanistan is “in our vital national interest” while simultaneously, and brazenly, outlining his explicit, rapid withdrawal plan that will follow the accelerated troop surge.

Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post takes to this point with critical questions:

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?

He gives three key ingredients for success in war: highly skilled and courageous soldiers, brilliant battle-tested commanders, and an unwavering Commander-in-Chief, personifying the will of the military and the nation behind them. The U.S. has the first two nailed, “the finest counterinsurgency force in history”, and Generals Petraeus and McChrystal, fresh from success in Iraq.  As for the third:

And that is why at such crucial moments, presidents don’t issue a policy paper. They give a speech. It gives tone and texture. It allows their policy to be imbued with purpose and feeling. This one was festooned with hedges, caveats and one giant exit ramp.

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