Saturday, December 5, 2009

"Wavering Resolve": Obama's Afghanistan Address

On November 28 Political Policy posed the question as to which Obama commander-in-chief would emerge following his Dec. 1 address at West Point to outline his Afghanistan troop strategy. Would it be an inspirational, decisive commander-in-chief or an appeaser-in-chief for his far-left constituency? After reviewing the President's speech the answer is a multiple "guess"; both, neither, or some of the above.

Confused? So is most of the world. What was dished up by Mr. Obama at the "Point"? Certainly not a meat and potatoes definitive strategic game plan for victory in Afghanistan. It was more of a bowl of sophistic consume, spiced up with some hollow political placations and a dash of wavering resolve.

President Obama's address responded to Gens. Petraeus and McChrystal's request for additional troops to support their counterinsurgency strategy, but instead of 40,000 promised only 30,000. President Obama address responded to his own previous clarion call that Afghanistan was "...not a war of choice, but a war of necessity" with his address at West Point referring to Afghanistan as our "cause is just, our resolve unwavering" , but that he will dismantle our efforts there in 18 months, MAYBE! Resolve unwavering???

How confused are we? In Commentary Jennifer Rubin reports that the frustration and confusion surrounding the President's speech has caused a rash of head scratching.
"There is, it seems, some agreement that the speech last night was a bit of a mess. Bob Schieffer, noting that exit ramps have been constructed before the deployment, observed: ”I just don’t understand the logic of how that works.” John Dickerson at Slate, not exactly the heart of neo-conservatism, writes that he did order a troop increase: The rest, though, is a bit blurry. According to his speech, Obama is escalating while retreating, adding more troops while also setting a date for their departure. Obama said he was putting pressure on the Afghan government, but he didn’t suggest how."

Charles Krauthammer sums up Obama's contradictive Afghanistan strategy by writing in the Washington Post, "We shall fight in the air, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields, we shall fight in the hills -- for 18 months. Then we start packing for home." Krauthammer wonders as to the outcome of Obama's wavering resolve in Afghanistan , "If President Obama is so compelled to placate his left with an exit date today, how will he stand up to them 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?"

None of us expected President Obama to deliver an inspiring, rousing call to arms for victory in Afghanistan; Churchill, Roosevelt, Reagan or G.W. Bush he is not. In fact Obama used the word victory in his address at West Point this many times: "0"! His rhetoric as to American military victories certainly is not sophistic; on that point he is quite clear. In fact, our President seems to develop a nervous tick and has an abnormal aversion to the word "victory" when it comes to ensuring American military success.

President Obama said in an interview with ABC News, "I'm always worried about using the word 'victory,' because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur." (please, I know, but let's for now not question Obama's knowledge of the history of the Japanese surrender). But, then again, how does he square his categorization of Afghanistan as a "war of necessity" without victory. Our President is a challenge to keep up with on his "treadmill of sophistry".

What is most disconcerting about Obama's ambivalent Afghanistan strategy is the response to it by our allies, the Afghan citizenry and, most frightening, the al Qaeda/Taliban connection. As Krauthammer points out, "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?"

Ms. Rubin agrees with Krauthammer and others,

"I’m sure the Taliban are delighted to hear that, as are our foes around the world, who will be only too happy to have Obama “show strength” by bugging out of hard conflicts. It’s an inanity, the sort of thing a college grad student would say. We show strength in victory. We show strength by standing up to thugs. We show strength by building our military and not penny-pinching on Defense Department budgets. But don’t expect to hear that from this president."

So what is the takeaway from President Obama's address at West Point? Simply put another overdone photo-op at the mecca of U.S. military institutions in an attempt to prop him up as a "seeming" commander-in-chief. One hoped for so much more, but sadly he did not disappoint us with his show of weakness. One hoped the President would have conveyed at least half the resolve he has shown with his long-term efforts to socialize America's health care towards his Afghanistan policy.

But, to echo Ms. Rubin's sentiments, "But don’t expect to hear that from this president."

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