The speech, and what it meant

I don’t usually watch presidential speeches. Part of that is due to my poor hearing, and this is the first time there has been one since I got what are referred to at the Pico household as my bunny ears. Another reason is that, well, most of them have been boring.

The speech started out rather poorly in my view. The delivery was flat, and the audience unimpressed, visibly unimpressed. A lot of that, I think, was due to the subject matter: the President was talking about history, about past policy, about things he really didn’t like. President Obama’s delivery picked up some when he was past the policy part, when he was giving his reasons for his decision. He was on firmer ground here, personally, because this was the area that, as a politician, he is most comfortable. It never gpt to the old-fashion stemwinder type political speech, but it improved markedly toward the end. I checked the clock when I noticed the improvement in the speech, and it was 8:31 PM EST.

The audience reaction was very restrained. Two of what the President anticipated as applaude lines left the audience silent. This was, of course, a very disciplined audience, the Corps of Cadets at the United States Military Academy, a group of young men and women who will actually have to execute the strategy the President sets forth. I watched on NBC, and the cameras panned through the audience, and I saw a lot of serious, dead-pan faces. I did notice that the cameras focused on one female cadet in particular, of at least partially oriental descent. And there was a lot of focus on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to the exclusion, at times, of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who was seated beside her; I thought that strange, given the venue.

But delivery is one thing: the more important part is what the President said. Unfortunately, though he waxed eloquent toward the end about why we are in Afghanistan and why it is important and in our national interest to finish the job, he actually said only four things of any importance:

  1. He will send, beginning early next year, 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan;
  2. He considers Pakistan to be just as important a problem as Afghanistan, though in a different way;
  3. He wants to hold the Afghan leadership and people accountable for their own security; and
  4. He will begin drawing down troop levels in the summer of 2011.

Other than the number of troops to be sent, and the President’s planned end date, he really didn’t say anything new. The notion that the Afghans eventually have to take over their country’s security is nothing new; he has said it before, and President Bush said the same thing. The merging of the Afghani and Pakistani problems is not new; this was stated last spring.

And while noble phrases were many, and soaringly delivered toward the end, details were few. The intelligent and educated cadets certainly didn’t miss this: many knew that they’d wind up serving in Afghanistan, but I’m not sure that they picked up on what would be different, what the President’s strategy would actually be. Really, how could they, because the commander-in-chief never told us what it was.

My overall impression was that this was a speech which would satisfy few people. For me, the notion that our mission would be defined not by objectives achieved but by a date on the calendar seems ridiculous: it tells the Taliban, it tells al Qaeda, that if they can just hold out until July of 2011, they’ve won. What happens if the Afghan security forces are simply not ready in 18 months; the President never addressed that question.

I’d guess that our friends on the left will be disappointed as well. For all of the President’s protestations that we are not an occupying power and don’t want to be an occupying power, many liberals see us as just that, many see our presence in Afghanistan as morally objectionable. That President Obama has said he will increase our efforts and our troop strength there will cause some real howls, I would guess.

As I listened to this speech, one word started popping into my head: Vietnamization. This speech could have been delivered in 1969 or 1970 by President Nixon, telling us of his plans to gradually train and increase the responsibilities of the Republic of Vietnam.

President Obama specifically drew a difference between Afghanistan and Vietnam, saying that the Taliban movement was not a popular insurgency as was the Communist movement in Vietnam. Quite frankly, I didn’t buy that: if the Taliban didn’t have some popularity, they couldn’t survive, because guerrilla fighters need the cooperation of the people amongst whom the hide, to stay hidden and to stay fed.

In the end, President Obama drew a very direct parallel in his plan to what President Nixon did in Vietnam. President Nixon, after trying to win the war by expanding it into Cambodia, in an attempt to shut down supply and personnel inflows from North Vietnam, decided that it couldn’t be won, but that he couldn’t just cut-and-run.

The Communists recognized this, and very kindly offered President Nixon just what he wanted: negotiations and a peace treaty to give the United States a fig leaf of respectability, while the Communists would retool for the final push once the Americans were out. They knew, everybody knew, that once the American troops were out, there was no way in Hell the Congress would let them go back in, regardless of whether the Communists broke the Paris Peace Accords or not.

And that’s just what President Obama told al Qaeda and the Taliban. Give us 18 months to rebuild the Afghan security forces, and then we’ll go on our merry way. The Taliban, if they’re smart, will lay low, and let the United States do what it wants, because in 1½ years, we’ll be gone . . . and then they can do whatever they damned well please.

President Obama even touched on the real weakness of this, the fact that Pakistan has nuclear weapons. If the Taliban and al Qaeda are smart, they can wait out that 18 months, wait until American forces have “achieved their objectives” and mostly left, and then the Islamists can attack, and move on both the Afghan and Pakistani governments.

Why? Because the one thing I didn’t hear the President say was that he was going to hunt down and destroy the Taliban and al Qaeda. And if they are left alive, to fight another day, rest assured, they will fight another day.

74 Comments

  1. Ten words summarize what will prove to be the most devastating effect of President Obama’s speech at the United States Military Academy tonight:

    “After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.”

    What a dangerous message to send to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Those ten words can be equated to counseling our enemies to be patient for only a few more months and then they can resume their efforts to complete the job of destroying Americans on their homeland, free from interference of the US forces whose Commander-in-Chief does not support their mission enough to finish the job at hand.

    One of the president’s most famous campaign speeches began with, “Words, just words. Don’t tell me words don’t matter.”

    Well, Mr. President, I agree with you tonight. The ten words you uttered to the world, “After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home,” matter a great deal. Our troops are bound to pay a very high price for those words at the outset and, eventually, our nation may face the repercussions of your “words, just words.”

  2. From “Buggin’ Out”

    Jeff: (responded there)
    Funny how one’s political persuasion affects one’s perception of emotion. A liberal tweeter I follow posted “Obama looks physically pained telling cadets that he is deploying more soliders. About time a pres took this seriously” during the speech… basically the polar opposite of what Yorkie just commented. Clearly Yorkie and my tweeter were watching the same speech, right?

    My mind said to watch Christmas Vacation, but I decided to “listen” with the TV on in the other room. This way I could hear without an influence of visual cues or leading camera shots.

    I posted the SEIU speech to contrast an Obama that had fire in his belly, believed in what he was saying, and delivered with utmost inflections and bravado. So, it is possible for him to deliver a forceful speech.

    I did not hear a speech of firm conviction. What I heard was a low key speech of a tightrope walker traversing Niagara Falls. Exactly deliberate, and reserved and following a tightrope course.

    Most came across as Professorial as in a lecture to a Junior College on remedial history of SW Asia. No new ground covered. Without blaming Bush, he made sure we knew he was saying this is Bush’s fault. For the most part 70% of the speech replowed old ground and nothing new. 20% of the speech was plowing rocks, and the last 10% was devoted to giving Al-Q and the Taliban a roadmap and the keys to the city. All in all, it sounded and pretended to be laudable for the goals he set up, but the goals he set up said we’ll barely have time to set up, train, say you’re ready even if you aren’t, pull the tent pegs and leave.

    Now if I were UBL and the leader of the Taliban, I would send a letter of thanks for telling them to wait until 2012 and the country is your’s to do as you did from the late 90’s up to 2002. That is, set up a Wahabi brand of Islam that will be as repressive as it was before.

    For what little time is alotted, why wait for July 2011, just leave now for all the effect this will have.

    Just as in the documentary Blazing Saddles when the town was attacked by the outlaws, the preacher knew what was coming and just said, you’re on your own.

  3. Gretchen (and Yorkshire and Dana, for that matter) – “After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home” means nothing like what you think it means. Note the word “begin” (which I have helpfully emphasized). Our troop presence won’t simply vaporize in 18 months, but will more likely be drawn down over time after then. I saw an overarching strategy similar to the “surge” that was at least a qualified success in Iraq. If Obama’s objectives are met, the Taliban and al-Qaeda will be facing a formidable Afghan enemy that will slowly obviate the need for American troops. Obama wants this to happen in 18 months, but I’m not buying that this is a hard-and-fast deadline.

    Yorkshire – solemn occasions call for solemn speeches. He’s not trying to rile up his political base – he’s telling people why they’re about to risk their lives. A glib “fire in the belly” would have been offensive IMHO. That said, my eyes started glazing over about 20 minutes in, so you may be on to something here.

    Dana – it’s not the President’s job to set military strategy. Rather, it’s his job to set objectives and let military lifers like McChrystal do the real strategizing. In that respect, the lack of specifics is what we should expect. Obama has no expertise in planning a military operation – why should he try to meddle and strategize? He trusts McChrystal like Bush trusted Petraeus. Let’s hope McC is as worthy of our CiC’s trust as Petraeus turned out to be.

  4. Jeff:
    I know it was solemn, but I think the tone was lifeless. The comparison was between a sincere fire the troops up at SEIU, but in the solemn department, this was on life support.

  5. All we need is for Congress to cut off any funding to Afghanis and Vietnamization will be complete. Then I’ll start getting those emails from feminist groups complaining about the cruel and barbaric treatment of women again.

  6. If it is in our vital national interests that Afghanistan not become a safe haven for al Qaeda again, how does that cease being in our vital national interest once we pass a date on the calendar? If it is important that we defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban, why does it make sense that we would turn that job over to the Afghans if we can’t accomplish it ourselves by mid 2011?

  7. York wrote:

    I know it was solemn, but I think the tone was lifeless.

    I’d agree, for the first half of the speech; he picked up toward the end.

  8. Dana Pico:
    York wrote:

    I know it was solemn, but I think the tone was lifeless.

    I’d agree, for the first half of the speech; he picked up toward the end.

    By then you were lost.

  9. The crux of the speech was this: “This review is now complete. And 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.”

    My take on the ’18 months’ was the same as Jeff’s. Obama has set this up as a benchmark/checkpoint moment, a time when we can assess and decide the next step, in my view a very wise move. And the lack of specific military strategic and tactical decisions is also wise, as these are strictly military decisions as Jeff mentioned, however, always subject to review by Congress and the Administration. It is also a reiteration of Obama’s later statement that we do not intend to be occupiers of Afghanistan. We must bear in mind, always, that it is their country, not ours.

    To me, the speech was in three parts. 1. Historical review of post 9/11 wars. 2. Presidential decision. 3. America in international context. It exceeded my expectations in that it was both effective and convincing, much to my surprise, as I went into it thinking that I would be opposed to the Obama decision based on my anti-war/pro-diplomacy proclivities.

    It was a given that no matter what Obama said, the Right would condemn it, as in Yorktown, Gretchen, and Sharon. I don’t include Dana, because he is willing to overview the entire speech and the context in which it was given, thus his publication of the entire speech and his summary of it. As usual, though, the Right objects, but offers no alternatives. Useless!

  10. “…the Right objects, but offers no alternatives.”
    This situation is the right’s choice. Quagmire. It is a little disingenuous for them to complain about the victim’s struggles.

    My random thoughts:
    Our president called it war, yet Congress never declared war. Should we be worried that our Congress is useless?
    I’m wondering how our foreign policy would differ if Bush had just continued his rule for another year.
    Many people laugh at the conspiracy theory about the military-industrial complex being in secret control of the country. So, imagine it was true. How would things be? Would we be continually at war, and laying the groundwork for future wars? Would none of them be related directly to national security? Would popular support and Congressional will have no impact on our wars? Would more than half our GNP go to the military-industrial complex? Would our politicians that promise change act like the guys they replaced? While we quibble over gay marriage and non-existent gun control legislation? Would it be very lucrative to be a government contractor? Would our politicians have ties to these companies?

    I’m a little discouraged.

  11. Dana: If it is important that we defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban, why does it make sense that we would turn that job over to the Afghans if we can’t accomplish it ourselves by mid 2011?

    Which is why I’m skeptical that the July ’11 thing means anything. Our goal is to defeat or at least neutralize them by then. However, if we’re making progress against them by July ’11, I doubt we’ll start the withdrawal then if there’s still work to be done. Introducing the idea of a timeline is a signal to the Afghan people that we’re not there forever. He’s essentially saying “take responsibility for your own country and help us kick some Taliban/al-Q backside and we’ll be on our way out.” I think he actually said something to that effect about being their friend and not their patron…

  12. As usual, though, the Right objects, but offers no alternatives. Useless!

    No, Perry. That last adjective should be reserved for yourself who, ostrich-like, continually demands that “alternatives” be posted before him yet never acknowledges them.

    It’s tiresome, really. This is why you’re a complete waste of time in the comments.

  13. Perry said: “My take on the ‘18 months’ was the same as Jeff’s. Obama has set this up as a benchmark/checkpoint moment, a time when we can assess and decide the next step, in my view a very wise move.”

    Is that what he said Perry? That after 18 months he will reevaluate? That this will be his benchmark/checkpoint moment? Wow – you must have some inside information that no one else knows because that’s not what I heard. I head him say troops will begin to come home.

  14. Nosy:
    Perry said: “My take on the ‘18 months’ was the same as Jeff’s. Obama has set this up as a benchmark/checkpoint moment, a time when we can assess and decide the next step, in my view a very wise move.”

    Is that what he said Perry? That after 18 months he will reevaluate? That this will be his benchmark/checkpoint moment? Wow – you must have some inside information that no one else knows because that’s not what I heard. I head him say troops will begin to come home

    Why guess, here’s the words BO spoke

    This review is now complete. And 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.

    No matter what is happening, we’re buggin’ out!

  15. Nosy, Yorkie, funny how you haven’t taken Obama at his word for anything until it suits your preconceptions to do so. My thought is that this deadline, like any other deadline we’ve had in Iraq or elsewhere (see also: health care passage deadlines), is a flexible one that depends on the progress being made in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I don’t think there’s any evidence to suggest that if our objectives are not met in 18 months we’ll leave anyway.

  16. Jeff:
    Nosy, Yorkie, funny how you haven’t taken Obama at his word for anything until it suits your preconceptions to do so. My thought is that this deadline….

    My thoughts could be the earth is flat, but it isn’t. BO’s words were “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.” What is unclear here Jeff?

  17. Yorkie, I think Jeff is suggesting you shouldn’t take Teh Won’s word about the draw-down seriously since you haven’t taken anything else Teh Won has said seriously. Jeff is missing the obvious “tell” in those words: “I’m not in it to win it, so just wait the US out.”

  18. No, I’ve taken Obama at his word. I may not have agreed with what I heard but I took him at his word.

    Are you saying we aren’t going to start bringing our troops home after 18 months? Because if that’s what your suggesting it’s the exact oppositve of what he said. So who’s not taking him at his word? Me or you and Perry?

  19. From Spiegel Online:

    One can hardly blame the West Point leadership. The academy commanders did their best to ensure that Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama’s speech would be well-received.

    Just minutes before the president took the stage inside Eisenhower Hall, the gathered cadets were asked to respond “enthusiastically” to the speech. But it didn’t help: The soldiers’ reception was cool.

    One didn’t have to be a cadet on Tuesday to feel a bit of nausea upon hearing Obama’s speech. 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.

    So the commanders of our future officers had to try to pump up enthusiasm for the Commander in Chief’s words. And there is no proof that there is no respect for the Commander in Chief? And, despite the attempt to pump up the enthusiasm, the reception was cool. And there is no proof that there is no respect for the Commander in Chief?

    One didn’t have to be a cadet on Tuesday to feel a bit of nausea upon hearing Obama’s speech. It was the least truthful address that he has ever held.

    And there is no proof that Obama is offending our allies?

  20. I was unimpressed with the speech, in part, because Obama can’t help but sound so impressed with himself. I also didn’t like the way he continues to stick it to Bush over Iraq. He says this won’t be like Vietnam, but didn’t have any concise explanations as to why. I also agree with those who say the speech lacked punch. We needed a Churchill, what we got instead was Oprah.

  21. I have no qualms about not taking Obama at his word here, especially when his words have the potential to directly contradict each other. Obama did two things in the speech – he set objectives and he set a deadline to meet those objectives. If the Taliban and al-Qaeda are not taken care of by July 2011, one of those things clearly has to give. Smart money says it’ll be the deadline that gives.

    John, exactly how is “we’re going to kill you and then leave” helpful to the Taliban?

  22. And how do you call a plan to start pulling out in 18 months “bugging out”? Do you know exactly how those 18 months will go?

    Eric: “I was unimpressed with the speech, in part, because Obama can’t help but sound so impressed with himself.”

    You read a lot into what Yorkshire heard as a “lifeless” speech. Perhaps you’re projecting.

  23. Yorkshire concludes: “No matter what is happening, we’re buggin’ out!”

    Obama’s remark about starting to withdraw troops after 18 months is purposely not precise, in my view, because he gives no details about the rate of withdrawal. Therefore different interpretations are understandable. In other words, Obama’s statement is conditional, conditional upon the circumstances at that time. It also seems to be a warning to Karzai that we are not going to stay there indefinitely.

    I find Obama’s speech to be very cleverly constructed, starting with the history, giving his solution in one short paragraph without much detail, then ending with how he views America’s role in the international sphere, covering the past up through his vision of the future. Thus most of the speech most Americans will find themselves in agreement, with the exception of the fringes on both sides of the aisle.

    Even though I am against war unless used as a last resort in defense, I realize from a practical standpoint that we are there and cannot just walk away from our commitments and from our damage. Therefore I can live with the 18 month effort that Obama has proposed. At the 18 month point, although not labeled as such, I think of it as a benchmark/checkpoint, a date that we will all have in mind, looking forward to any progression or digression that occurs in the meantime.

    I was really glad to hear Obama address homeland security, because this must be our prime focus, as I have said on here before:

    “And we cannot count on military might alone. We have to invest in our homeland security, because we cannot capture or kill every violent extremist abroad. We have to improve and better coordinate our intelligence, so that we stay one step ahead of shadowy networks.”

    In my view, from this point on, the speech was simply magnificent!

  24. I was pleased that Obama addressed the nuclear arms issue:

    “We will have to take away the tools of mass destruction. That is why I have made it a central pillar of my foreign policy to secure loose nuclear materials from terrorists; to stop the spread of nuclear weapons; and to pursue the goal of a world without them. Because every nation must understand that true security will never come from an endless race for ever-more destructive weapons – true security will come for those who reject them.”

  25. How important is it that we emphasize diplomacy to solve problems?

    “We will have to use diplomacy, because no one nation can meet the challenges of an interconnected world acting alone. I have spent this year renewing our alliances and forging new partnerships. And we have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim World – one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity.”

  26. Values are meaningful only if we live by them:

    “Finally, we must draw on the strength of our values – for the challenges that we face may have changed, but the things that we believe in must not. That is why we must promote our values by living them at home – which is why I have prohibited torture and will close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. And we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples. That is who we are. That is the moral source of America’s authority.”

  27. Here is an eloquent statement of American Exceptionalism for which we can all be proud:

    “Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, and the service and sacrifice of our grandparents, our country has borne a special burden in global affairs. We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple continents. We have spent our revenue to help others rebuild from rubble and develop their own economies. We have joined with others to develop an architecture of institutions – from the United Nations to NATO to the World Bank – that provide for the common security and prosperity of human beings.

    We have not always been thanked for these efforts, and we have at times made mistakes. But more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades – a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, markets open, billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress, and advancing frontiers of human liberty.

    For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for – and what we continue to fight for – is a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.”

  28. What is amusing Perry, is that when I or others on this site express the same thoughts about America as those above, we are ridiculed or demeaned. Odd, isin’t it?

  29. Jeff wrote:

    Which is why I’m skeptical that the July ‘11 thing means anything. Our goal is to defeat or at least neutralize them by then. However, if we’re making progress against them by July ‘11, I doubt we’ll start the withdrawal then if there’s still work to be done. Introducing the idea of a timeline is a signal to the Afghan people that we’re not there forever. He’s essentially saying “take responsibility for your own country and help us kick some Taliban/al-Q backside and we’ll be on our way out.” I think he actually said something to that effect about being their friend and not their patron…

    If your assessment of what the President meant is accurate, then why was a date given at all? The American people are going to look at this as a promise, that, come July of 2011, the troops will start to be withdrawn. Are you suggesting that the President has made a promise he might not be able to keep?

    I just don’t know to what we’ve been treated. Was this a commitment on the part of the President to finish off al Qaeda? It sort of sounded like it, but then there’s that withdrawal date again.

    The President said:

    And 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.

    There’s nothing in there about, we hope to start bringing troops home then, if we achieve the goal of improving the Afghan security force sufficiently. What if it is slow in getting done or even seems impossible to get done?

    The President made two completely contradictory statements: that it is in our vital interests to defeat al Qaeda and prevent Afghanistan and the Pakistani border from becoming safe havens for al Qaeda:

    This is no idle danger; no hypothetical threat. In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror. This danger will only grow if the region slides backwards, and al Qaeda can operate with impunity. We must keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region.

    and:

    Finally, there are those who oppose identifying a timeframe 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 we can achieve at a reasonable cost, and what we need to achieve to secure our interests. . . . That is why our troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended – because the nation that I am most interested in building is our own.

    Which is it? Is this a goal we must achieve, or is it a goal on which we don’t want to devote too many resources? We cannot fail, but if the cost of success is too high, we’ll withdraw?

    In one way, Jeff was right:

    it’s not the President’s job to set military strategy. Rather, it’s his job to set objectives and let military lifers like McChrystal do the real strategizing.

    But it is the President’s job to set our overall foreign policy objectives, and the notion that the objective has been set, achieve victory, but you only have 1½ years or 3 years or 5 years to get it done, and then the clock expires is making a game out of this, like managing the clock in a football game.

  30. Jeff wrote:

    Nosy, Yorkie, funny how you haven’t taken Obama at his word for anything until it suits your preconceptions to do so. My thought is that this deadline, like any other deadline we’ve had in Iraq or elsewhere (see also: health care passage deadlines), is a flexible one that depends on the progress being made in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I don’t think there’s any evidence to suggest that if our objectives are not met in 18 months we’ll leave anyway.

    The text of the speech is here; can you find in it the kind of qualifiers you seem to think exist therein?

  31. Mr Hitchcock quoted Spiegel Online:

    One can hardly blame the West Point leadership. The academy commanders did their best to ensure that Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama’s speech would be well-received.

    Just minutes before the president took the stage inside Eisenhower Hall, the gathered cadets were asked to respond “enthusiastically” to the speech. But it didn’t help: The soldiers’ reception was cool.

    The response certainly was disciplined!

    There were a couple of spots, one just blatantly obvious when the President paused for applause, where applause was expected, and never came. But the audience consisted primarily of the young men and women who would be the actual instruments of President Obama’s policy; he told them, directly, to their faces, that some of them will die. I think that would be pretty sobering.

    The United States Military Academy is one of the three most selective colleges in the country: it requires intelligence, hard work, discipline, academic rigor, physical fitness, personal courage and an incredible commitment to put your life on the line for your country. These cadets can’t be buffaloed: they know and understand what is being said, and they are astute enough to know what is not being said as well. They are far too disciplined to tell you what they think; they will do their duty uncomplainingly.

  32. The pull-out date is set in stone. So says Barry O. Yup, hold out, terrorize the townsfolk into not cooperating, wait till the pull-out, behead everyone who cooperated with the US, own a nation and nearly own a nuclear nation.

  33. And here’s a question for Perry and (to a lesser extent) Jeff: When was the last time members of the military had to be encouraged to be enthusiastic for a CIC speech?

  34. The word or concept of Victory is not in his speech either. The biggest action items are we’re sending 30K troops, we’re pulling out in July 2011, and the Afghan Armyis to be trained.

    Now all the Taliban and Al-Q need to do is blend into the civilian population, pretend the allies won the war, have them go home, and the counttry goes back to the 8th Century by the end of 2011.

    And this took three month to figure out.

  35. John C.: “What is amusing Perry, is that when I or others on this site express the same thoughts about America as those above, we are ridiculed or demeaned. Odd, isin’t it?”

    Liberals love America, too. Get it through your heads. I don’t know what examples you have of being ridiculed and demeaned, but I’m guessing your vocal pride in your country has been piggybacked onto ridiculous thoughts, and your patriotism has been justification for acts we disagree with.

    What you perceive as hatred of America is just our active voices trying to help guide the nation. If you don’t believe that’s American of us, then you’d better stop talking trash about the Obama administration, you disloyal citizen! America! Love it or leave it!

  36. If you don’t believe that’s American of us, then you’d better stop talking trash about the Obama administration, you disloyal citizen!

    So, I guess the trash talk of Bush for eight years was “constructive criticism?” Don’t ya just love double standards?

  37. “So, I guess the trash talk of Bush for eight years…”

    It was sarcasm. Just trying to point out that my criticism isn’t any more anti-American than yours.

  38. Obama never mentions Bush by name, but there is no doubt that Obama is dealing with issues created or neglected by the last administration. That’s part of the history that leads to Obama’s strategic decisions about moving forward in Afghanistan.

    Moreover, there are huge differences between Bush and Obama: For example, Obama has neither a Cheney, a Rumsfeld, or a Rove! The “trash talk” against the Cheney/Bush Iraq war, and against tax cuts favoring the rich, was well deserved

  39. Getting back to the speech and Obama’s decision to escalate, although Obama did not mention it because he could not, there is little doubt in my mind that this Afghanistan decision is all about Pakistan, a politically unstable country, under attack by Islamic extremists, and a substantial nuclear power which could come under the influence or control of these same Islamic extremists.

    Thus Pakistan is a major threat to our security, therefore we must have a substantial military presence next door, in Afghanistan, to counter this threat by assisting the Pakistanis.

    The 18 month window gives us an opportunity to assess whether the current fight by the Pakistan government against extremists, with our help, is progressing in our favor regarding our own security.

    Additionally, General McChrystal claimed that the security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated, that the Taliban is strengthening. The McChrystal analysis proposes a military strategy to counter this while simultaneously mollifying the Afghani concerns about our apparent occupation of their country.

    For these reasons, I have come to the point of supporting the Obama strategic decision about Afghanistan.

  40. Sure. Do a thread on how liberals love America, then we can really get into it. I’d love all you libs to tell me exactly what it is about our country you love.

  41. By the way, speaking on how liberals love America, where did Pho go? There’s a real America loving liberal.

  42. Oh, I understand now John, in order to demonstrate our patriotism, we need to pass your litmus test? That is more revealing of you than you can imagine, and is certainly not what our constitutional democratic republic is all about, not even close!

    I’ve also missed Phoenician, and have wondered if his illness has worsened. I wish him well!

  43. Not asking for a litmus test. I just would like to explore exactly what liberals love about America. I want to see through their eyes what makes America a great country. Don’t get defensive. It’s my curiousity not a trap. I would like to compare and contrast those qualities of American life, culture etc., that define the difference between left and right.

  44. John, Dana, I still don’t buy that the pull-out date is “set in stone” any more than the health-care deadlines were. The deadline was put in the speech for the benefit of two groups of people – Americans who are queasy about a never-ending war and Afghans who feel like the Americans came to conquer and dominate permanently. It was a signal that the war has an end and we’ll be out of Afghanistan sometime. The specific date was needed as a guarantee that this won’t be an open-ended commitment… but I don’t think that Obama will pull out if there’s still progress being made and work to be done by July 2011.

  45. Jeff:
    John, Dana, I still don’t buy that the pull-out date is “set in stone”

    So it begs the question, WHY WAS IT SAID and in conjunction with there is no open ended committment. It’s one or the other.

  46. Jeff:
    Yorkshire, did you read the rest of my comment?

    I did, and it confirms what I think about BO’s committment. He won’t come clean with his plans. If he doesn’t pull out 7/11, he looks wishy-washy, and if the job isn’t done, it looks like cut and run. The worst thing he did was commit to a date.

  47. Jeff:
    Yorkshire, did you read the rest of my comment?

    I did, did you read his speech? This was an appeasement speach. Place blame on others, set 7/11 to appease the Left, send 30K to appease the right, and show the allies you are incapable of making a firm decision with three months of thinking.

  48. Yorkshire: “He won’t come clean with his plans.”

    You bemoan the info he gives to the other side with a pull-out date, yet you’re disappointed he isn’t discussing tactics in front of the world?

    Anyway, he’s a president. He doesn’t decide tactics. He sets the goals and the generals decide the tactics.

  49. John, on your ‘love America’ question: The answer concerns behaviors more than words. For example, those on this blog who care enough to try to understand the issues and comment on them, irrespective of party or ideology, are showing their affection and loyalty to this nation.

    Another example in this thread, although words, is the two of the paragraphs that I highlighted from Obama’s speech, one on American Exceptionalism (5:53 pm), the other on Values (4:49 pm), in this thread. Only an American who loves his country could write with such passion, a little like a love letter.

    Another example is GW Bush’s service as President, even though I disagreed with most of his policies. There was never any doubt in my mind that he loves this country.

    I think you see my point.

  50. Perry:
    Yorkshire, did you read my 9:34 am comment, which also addresses your question?

    One thing I do remember was BO saying he would nuke Pakistan while on the campaign trail. Pakistan presents a problem due to India, and with India and Pak having nukes. I think you are saying about invading the border tribal areas of Pak. That’s similar to the Ho Chi Min Trail in Laos during Viet-Nam. But what is dissimilar is we may get the help of the Pakistan Army where Laos didn’t exactly have one.

  51. Yorkshire, you are aware, aren’t you, that we have special forces operating in western Pakistan, as well as the CIA and mercenaries conducting a secret war there. That indicates how seriously we take the threat to our national security of the extremists in Pakistan, and suggest to me, as I said before, that Afghanistan is really all about Pakistan.

    I do not think your memory is correct about Obama threatening to nuke Pakistan, as I am sure I would have reacted strongly against that idea. Do you have a reference for that? Google did not lead me to anything.

  52. Eric: “I was unimpressed with the speech, in part, because Obama can’t help but sound so impressed with himself.”

    You read a lot into what Yorkshire heard as a “lifeless” speech. Perhaps you’re projecting.

    No, it was an unimpressive speech. Obama bashing Bush, Obama impressed with his own rhetoric, but no mention of winning or victory. It was pablum, not Patton.

  53. some of you righties have real short memories – back when the wound was fresh, you guys talked about Vietnam like it was treason to say the whole affair’d been conducted less than brilliantly

  54. Perry noted that President Obama is handicapped by not having the best people around to help him with his decision-taking:

    Moreover, there are huge differences between Bush and Obama: For example, Obama has neither a Cheney, a Rumsfeld, or a Rove!

    Clearly, President Obama’s advisors are, at best, second rate. The President and the country would be much better served if President Obama did have people with the intelligence, drive and perception of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Karl Rove in his administration.

  55. Perry wrote:

    Getting back to the speech and Obama’s decision to escalate, although Obama did not mention it because he could not, there is little doubt in my mind that this Afghanistan decision is all about Pakistan, a politically unstable country, under attack by Islamic extremists, and a substantial nuclear power which could come under the influence or control of these same Islamic extremists.

    Thus Pakistan is a major threat to our security, therefore we must have a substantial military presence next door, in Afghanistan, to counter this threat by assisting the Pakistanis.

    OK, so we are all agreed here that the idea of Islamist terrorists getting their hands on atomic weapons is a very bad thing, and Perry, at the very least, has few qualms about the use of military force, if necessary, to prevent that.

    That naturally raises the question of Iran. Iran is attempting to build atomic weapons, and Iran already has a demonstrated history of supplying weaponry to its favored terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, Hamas and the Taliban.

    Given that Iran is already known to supply weaponry to terrorists, why wouldn’t the Iranian nuclear program be at least as big a worry as Pakistan’s atomic weapons? If we can justify the use of American military power to keep terrorists from getting their hands on Pakistani nukes, wouldn’t the same hold true concerning Iran?

  56. Perry:
    Yorkshire, you are aware, aren’t you, that we have special forces operating in western Pakistan, as well as the CIA and mercenaries conducting a secret war there. That indicates how seriously we take the threat to our national security of the extremists in Pakistan, and suggest to me, as I said before, that Afghanistan is really all about Pakistan.

    I do not think your memory is correct about Obama threatening to nuke Pakistan, as I am sure I would have reacted strongly against that idea. Do you have a reference for that? Google did not lead me to anything.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Yorkshire:
    Perry:
    Yorkshire, did you read my 9:34 am comment, which also addresses your question?

    One thing I do remember was BO saying he would nuke Pakistan while on the campaign trai

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dc4qnpu3N0M&NR=1

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/02/AR2007080202288.html

  57. Dana Pico:
    John C asked:

    By the way, speaking on how liberals love America, where did Pho go? There’s a real America loving liberal.

    Hmmm, go get a leg chopped off on Friday and I was back posting the next Tuesday

  58. After all is said and done I have always stipulated time goals in life. I don’t know Obama’s motives, but I know I set a goal and a time frame in which to accomplish it. It could be to achieve a certain level of gross sales, personal income or just about anything I’ve ever done. I grade my success partly on how close I come to hitting the goal within the time frame. Time frames help me gauge where I am and help me decide what I have to do to get where I want to be at the time goal. Perhaps this is what Obama is doing. I don’t usually achieve my goal within the set time but at least I know where I am at any given point. By the way, I never change my time goal. If I miss it I take note of how “off” I was so I don’t make the mistake again. But I usually do.

  59. I like your approach about planning the future, John, and I do think that is exactly what Obama is doing with his 18 month Afghanistan checkpoint.

    Yorkshire, on Obama and nuclear, thanks for the reference. As you can see, your memory had it wrong. Obama took the use of nuclear weapons against Afghanistan or Pakistan off of the table, whereas Hillary would not. I was unaware of that debate, but I support the Obama policy.

    On Phoenician, I am now concerned, hearing that he is not posting elsewhere, as it suggest a worsening of his illness. He posted his email address once, which I saved, so I will make an inquiry.

  60. Dana asks:“If we can justify the use of American military power to keep terrorists from getting their hands on Pakistani nukes, wouldn’t the same hold true concerning Iran?”

    Big difference, Dana, Pakistan already has nukes, alleged to be in the 60 to 100 range, Iran does not.

    With Iran, as I’m sure you know, there are strong international diplomatic efforts and sanctions in place in an effort to curtail their nuclear weapons development.

    On Iran’s side, it is worth noting that they have a nuclear weapons giant well within striking distance of their country. It seems to me that if we could get Israel to begin to reduce their nuclear weapons cache, that may be conducive to get Iran to desist. If you were Iranian, would you take a similar position, to develop nuclear weapons capability?

    Iran’s distrust of Israel is likely similar to Israel’s distrust of Hezballah and Hamas. Again, terrorism is in the eyes of the beholder. So one solution to terrorism is to generate policies that would lesson tensions between the adversaries. I also observe that religious absolutism and extremism (Islam, Judaism, Christianity) is always an important element in these tensions, so moderation/education needs to be addressed as well.

  61. Perry:

    Yorkshire, on Obama and nuclear, thanks for the reference. As you can see, your memory had it wrong. Obama took the use of nuclear weapons against Afghanistan or Pakistan off of the table, whereas Hillary would not. I was unaware of that debate, but I support the Obama policy.

    I must have been nailing my thumb to the wall or something, but I did remember somebody nuking Pak ans probably turned and saw BO there.

  62. Perry, you had me right up to “religious absolutism”. Modern Christians and Jews do not believe in conquering, subjugating and converting non-believers. You fail to see the governments and states you want to have dialogue with are Moslem Califates. The state is the religion. We are not at war with the Taliban or Al Quaida, we are at war with Islam. Or at least they are at war with us. It is Islam which produces these terrorists with the blessing of Allah. Failure to see and believe your own eyes can be disasterous. I understand as an American it is distasteful to realize an entire religion hates us but the facts are clear. Islam preaches we are corrupt, less than human and should be killed or converted to Islam. In many mid east countries it’s not even illegal to murder an infidel (that’s us). To permit those who blatently state they WANT to kill us obtain nuclear weapons is beyond stupid, it’s criminal. It’s like letting Hitler take Poland and doing nothing about it knowing full well the price we will pay later is too horrible to contemplate. But then again, we did just that. Whatever Hitler did multiply by a thousand and that’s what Moslems who believe they are acting in the name of their god will do with nukes. You have to understand, guys like Hitler wanted to conquer territory, Moslems want to destroy all non-believers and go to heaven. The Nazi’s actually wanted to live, these clowns actually want to die.

  63. Perry wrote:

    Big difference, Dana, Pakistan already has nukes, alleged to be in the 60 to 100 range, Iran does not.

    Wouldn’t that make it easier and wiser, then, to use military force to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons; that would insure that Iranian nuclear weapons are never given to terrorists. THink of it as the difference between a vaccine and treatment of an existing disease.

    On Iran’s side, it is worth noting that they have a nuclear weapons giant well within striking distance of their country. It seems to me that if we could get Israel to begin to reduce their nuclear weapons cache, that may be conducive to get Iran to desist. If you were Iranian, would you take a similar position, to develop nuclear weapons capability?

    Given that several countries — the United States, the United Kingdon, France, Russia and China — have intercontinental-range delivery systems for nuclear weapons, every country fits your description of “hav(ing) a nuclear weapons giant well within striking distance.” Using your logic, everyone ought to build their own nukes.

  64. Why? With all of the tensions of the Cold War, the fact is that the USSR and the US never engaged in a shooting war; I’d give a lot of credit to the outsized nuclear arsenals, with their redundant civilization-destroying power, for preventing such.

    As you reduce nuclear stockpiles, each one retained has an ever-increasing value. More, if nuclear armed nations have only a couple of nuclear weapons, credible attack scenarios can be developed which would place a premium on a first strike to take out your enemy’s nuclear weapons, in which the chances of success are ever-increasing, and the penalty for failure would still be survivable.

  65. The President and the country would be much better served if President Obama did have people with the intelligence, drive and perception of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Karl Rove in his administration.

    Ah, Dana. Your sense of humor is quite sublime at times.

  66. Pingback: Common Sense Political Thought » Blog Archive » Maybe he just didn’t want to have to bow again

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