Last night, President Obama addressed the nation from West Point Academy, outlining his strategy for the conflict in Afghanistan. I watched the speech and came away with the distinct impression that, in stark contrast to his bungling, dishonest predecessor, the president was giving us some straight talk. His message? We're in trouble.
I felt that the president was clear-eyed and sober in his assessment of the situation. It ain't a pretty picture. And now, we can all see why this new policy has been so long in the making. (Beast Cheney, one of the pigs that is most responsible for getting us into this mess, calls it "dithering.")
Some of the passages that stood out most to me are these:
... in early 2003, the decision was made to wage a second war, in Iraq. The wrenching debate over the Iraq war is well-known and need not be repeated here. It's enough to say that for the next six years, the Iraq war drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention -- and that the decision to go into Iraq caused substantial rifts between America and much of the world.Here, the president is tip-toeing around the Bush administration's most heinous crime. As adherents to the Project for a New American Century, Bush's neo-conservative puppet-masters came into the White House with an agenda. They used the 911 attacks as a vehicle to implement that agenda. That is why they declined to pursue Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora. They didn't want to create headlines about significant US casualties and possibly dull the American public's appetite for war before they had had a chance to commit their Iraq crime. They succeeded and now we're left with this mess.
...as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan.I'm a pacifist. (At least on the macro level. Heh.) I hesitate to support any military action. Nonetheless, I say to my brothers and sisters in the peace movement that I will not be joining your protest marches yet. I believe President Obama when he says that this surge is necessary. And the president clearly states that this is not an open-ended commitment. I believe that we owe it to the Afghan people to try to leave a foundation for them, something that gives them a chance at establishing a stable home with a hopeful future. I think President Obama's plan is the only alternative that offers even a remote possibility of such.
Critics on the right will no doubt shriek: "If Bush had proposed this very policy you would have denounced him as a war-monger." To which, I reply: True enough! But Junior had already proved himself to be a liar with the Weapons of Mass Destruction canard and all the dishonesty of the pre-Iraq War debate. Junior is a fundamentally dishonest, stupid man. President Obama is made of better stuff and, so far, I believe he has been honest with me.
Also note that the date at which President Obama projects a commencement of troop withdrawals is 18 months from now: June 2011. This should be proof positive that the president is making his decision based on the deliberations of his national security team without regard to politics. If politics were his main concern, he would either begin withdrawal immediately to satisfy the left-wing of his base, or would name a date beyond the 2012 election, to inoculate himself from right-wing criticism. (And what a contrast from the previous administration, where its chief political operative, Karl Rove, sat in on policy meetings with regularity.)
... This effort [to shore up the Afghan government] must be based on performance. The days of providing a blank check are over. President Karzai's inauguration speech sent the right message about moving in a new direction. And going forward, we will be clear about what we expect from those who receive our assistance. We'll support Afghan ministries, governors, and local leaders that combat corruption and deliver for the people. We expect those who are ineffective or corrupt to be held accountable. And we will also focus our assistance in areas -- such as agriculture -- that can make an immediate impact in the lives of the Afghan people.This is a message aimed right at Bush lackey Hamid Karzai. The puppet regime installed by Junior and the gang is notoriously corrupt. There are reports that Karzai's own brother, Ahmed Karzai, is an opium baron. President Obama makes clear that this is not acceptable. Although it will rankle the Zombie King, Hamid Karzai will no longer be able to continue as a glorified corporate warlord courtesy of the US taxpayer. This is good news.
We're in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country. But this same cancer has also taken root in the border region of Pakistan. That's why we need a strategy that works on both sides of the border.I felt reassured by this statement. President Obama recognizes the importance of Pakistan. An unstable Pakistan is a lit fuse that threatens to detonate a full-scale global war. Anyone who can't see that just isn't paying attention.
...there are those who oppose identifying a time frame for our transition to Afghan responsibility. Indeed, some call for a more dramatic and open-ended escalation of our war effort -- one that would commit us to a nation-building project of up to a decade. I reject this course because it sets goals that are beyond what can be achieved at a reasonable cost, and what we need to achieve to secure our interests. Furthermore, the absence of a time frame for transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government. It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.This is a thoughtful rebuttal to the argument put forth by Mad Johnny McCain which asserts that by setting a "date certain" to begin withdrawal, we provide the Taliban with valuable information about the limits of American resolve. I find the rebuttal to be effective and reasonable. Nonetheless, the Republicans will continue with McCain's line of attack. As Air America radio host Ron Reagan said last night, the President has made himself vulnerable with this policy and the GOP will now make it Job One to portray it as a failure.
I refuse to accept the notion that we cannot summon that unity again. I believe with every fiber of my being that we -- as Americans -- can still come together behind a common purpose. For our values are not simply words written into parchment -- they are a creed that calls us together, and that has carried us through the darkest of storms as one nation, as one people.A noble sentiment. And I hope the president can succeed in achieving unity. But I have grave doubts about the possibilities for his success. I have great disdain and contempt for the right-wing freaks that make so much noise and cause so much destruction. If the president can help me to overcome that contempt I will be grateful and glad.
America -- we are passing through a time of great trial. And the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear: that our cause is just, our resolve unwavering. We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might, and with the commitment to forge an America that is safer, a world that is more secure, and a future that represents not the deepest of fears but the highest of hopes.This is not a happy message full of slogans and braggadocio like those we heard ad nauseum from Junior. This is straight talk.
Well, Mr. President, I'm on board for now. Godspeed.
Here is the speech, in its entirety.