This president is known for wanting to look forward not backward. It is a frustration for anyone who cares about the crimes of the Bush administration. But no matter how much we dislike it, that is a characteristic of the man. Tonight’s speech about the beginning of the draw down in Afghanistan was a very good example of that.
There was not much mystery about the meat of the speech that everyone wanted to know. The White House leaked the details this afternoon and we knew going in that the there would be a removal of 10,000 troops by the end of this year, and another 13,000 by the end of 2012. For anyone that wants a quick end to this, our longest war, it is not going to be enough.
It is not as much as I would have liked but it could have been far less. After all many of us were expecting that the generals would talk President Obama in to more troops not less. Call it a small step in the right direction, but that is about all you can call it.
What was interesting about the speech is the things that did not deal with the Afghan conflict directly. He talked about the need to focus on the militants in Pakistan and made a strong statement that we would not tolerate any safe haven for terrorists. The English into English translation of that is “Pakistan, we don’t care if your pissed off about Bin Laden, if we get a shot at Zawahiri we are going to take it and we probably won’t tell you then either”.
The president went on to make the point that we can do these kinds of things without sending massive amounts of troops. Personally I hate the idea that we are going to have military hit squads running around the globe taking our terrorists. It is not the kind of America I am proud of. That said, it is perhaps a little better than having two wars going at the same time.
The president also made a strong point about the need for nation building here at home. It is clear that he wants to spend any peace dividend, not on tax cuts, but on rebuilding infrastructure and our economy at home. The fact that he laid out the trillion dollar cost of the last decade of war-making is important. Think what 100 billion a year for a decade could do for the nation.
As I said he made this speech in the manner that he is famous (infamous?) for, he is looking forward toward a time when we do not have hundreds of the thousands of troops in the field. With this speech he has signaled his intent to move away from the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war, and back towards the previous stance of use of force when threatened and the minimum use of force for the threat.
This would be great, but sadly three years of disappointment have taught me to be cautious about expecting this president to come all the way through with his promises. He has a disturbing tendency to over promise and under deliver.
One thing we can be sure of, and that is the Republicans will be squawking like a bunch of geese on meth that we are giving away the “victory” by even bringing home the modest amount of troops the president intends to withdraw.
They will say that it is more proof that he wants America to loose or the terrorists to win. The fact that their big tough he-man of a president let Bin Laden escape when this president had him killed will not even come up.
The fact is there is no other choice. This war must end. We can prop up the corrupt Karzai government only so long. The plan announced tonight had a major component that we had not herd before, namely that the Administration not only knows that any solution must include the Taliban, but that it is their policy to include any Taliban who break with Al Qaeda and are willing to work within the Afghan constitution.
This is a shift that we needed to have happen and it is another baby step in the right direction. All in all it could have been a worse set of goals that President Obama laid out. I am not happy, but I am not livid either.
I agreed with the president that we needed to make the effort to develop a stable Afghanistan when he sent more troops. I have since come to see that as a mistake. I have a little hope tonight that the president sees it that way too. Now if we could just convince him that things will not be better or different in 2014 and that he should accelerate our withdrawal from that county, that would be a really big step.
So, Firedogs, what did you think of the speech? The floor is yours.