President Obama’s Afghanistan Speech: Incoherence Wrapped In A Conundrum

A couple thoughts:

The New York Times got it right: It was two speeches.

The first, to appease the Left included tasty tidbits:
No torture, Gitmo, successful conclusion, pull-out.

The second, to placate anyone who loves freedom and protecting the innocent:
Troop increase, generals, brave, Iraq.

The speech inspired vitriol from the left because their take-home message was:
Escalation

The speech irritated the right because their take-home message was:
This will be over in 18 months no matter the mess it leaves.

Often, presidents are criticized for taking the center way and that making people unhappy is the natural course of politics. President Obama certainly looked like he knew this speech would be ill-received by all who heard it–except for the uncomfortable pauses before ovation lines. (Some didn’t happen at all.) But his speech didn’t articulate a center way. It articulate a nebulous way.

The speech was an ideological mess. It wasn’t even pragmatic. It was a political swing. This way will make these people feel better. Whoosh! This way will make these people feel better. Whoosh! Except, no one feels better and many feel frustrated.

Steve Schippert in the Washington Times says:

The prescribed influx of much-needed American warriors onto the battlefield is clearly and rightly the good. And the good can withstand the bad, a Taliban enemy in the absence of reliable partners in the Afghan and Pakistani governments.

But the glimmering light of the good will surely be eclipsed by the ugly, an incoherence of strategy beneath the surface sheen of a surge. The devil is always in the details.

Sending additional troops, whether decided upon from intellectual deliberation or from political calculation, is the right call. The details of their usage, the never-ending questions of “exit strategy” and the general unwillingness to commit to victory is wholly unacceptable.

As the commander in chief, the president must act with a clarity of mind and mission. In doing so, he sends a message that the American people will do what is necessary, for as long as necessary, to defeat those who would oppress others or hide while plotting additional attacks on innocents in Afghanistan, Pakistan or here in the United States. The necessity in doing so should be clear, as the Afghan people are resistant to American aid due to the questionable commitment we’ve made to them. In this vital aspect, the commander in chief has failed.

The Left likes to imagine the President’s inexact language and circumlocution as some form of rarefied, nuanced language. He’s intelligent. He doesn’t speak in absolutes. He uses big words like “successful conclusion” [whatever that means] rather than victory [self-evident: we win, you lose].

The problem is that words communicate intent. And in this case, the intent is muddied. One can’t help but leave the speech thinking that President Obama is putting troops in Afghanistan as a short term stop gap until something becomes politically obvious–public will turns entirely against the war effort, for example.

Will the Left denounce President Obama and start marching in the streets? We’ll see how righteous they really are. Do they believe the President when he says that in 18 months, this is over? This speech, ultimately, seemed like President Obama buying time–for himself.

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