President Obama’s speech at West Point tonight was a different speech than any I’ve ever seen him give before. It seemed disjointed and unorganized. Several things he said stood out for me tonight, starting with this comment:

Under the banner of this domestic unity and international legitimacy, and only after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden, we sent our troops into Afghanistan. Within a matter of months, al Qaeda was scattered and many of its operatives were killed. The Taliban was driven from power and pushed back on its heels. A place that had known decades of fear now had reason to hope. At a conference convened by the U.N., a provisional government was established under President Hamid Karzai. And an International Security Assistance Force was established to help bring a lasting peace to a war-torn country.

Think about this sentence:

Within a matter of months, al Qaeda was scattered and many of its operatives were killed.

Think about that statement against this backdrop: It took President Obama more time to decide on a strategy for fighting the war than it took to scatter al-Qa’ida and kill many of its top operatives. That isn’t leadership. That’s moisten-a-finger procrastination. One post I read earlier tonight reminded President Obama that he was “president of the United States, not the president of a university.” That sums things up perfectly.

Here’s another odd paragraph:

Today, after extraordinary costs, we are bringing the Iraq war to a responsible end. We will remove our combat brigades from Iraq by the end of next summer, and all of our troops by the end of 2011. That we are doing so is a testament to the character of the men and women in uniform. (Applause.) Thanks to their courage, grit and perseverance, we have given Iraqis a chance to shape their future, and we are successfully leaving Iraq to its people.

Thanks to President Bush’s steadfast desire to win that war and thanks to the military for killing the insurgents, the terrorists and the Iranians, Iraq now has a future to shape via its parliament. Had then-Sen. Obama cast the deciding vote, Iraq would’ve been left to the tender mercies of the Iranians in southern Iraq and AQI in northern Iraq.

The point I’m making is that that isn’t a reminder I would’ve used in a speech meant to rally troop morale in Afghanistan and it isn’t the type of reminder that Afghanistan needed of President Obama’s fickleness towards war.

Here’s another odd section of the speech:

This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak. 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. And 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.

No sooner had he said that then he said this:

We will meet these objectives in three ways. First, we will pursue a military strategy that will break the Taliban’s momentum and increase Afghanistan’s capacity over the next 18 months.

If a place is “the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda”, why is President Obama talking about exiting 18 after we’ve started? This doesn’t instill confidence in the troops that he’s serious about fighting this war to the finish.

No Obama speech is complete without the appearance of the strawman argument. Here’s tonight’s appearance:

First, there are those who suggest that Afghanistan is another Vietnam. They argue that it cannot be stabilized, and we’re better off cutting our losses and rapidly withdrawing. I believe this argument depends on a false reading of history. Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our action. Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency. And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border. To abandon this area now, and to rely only on efforts against al Qaeda from a distance, would significantly hamper our ability to keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and create an unacceptable risk of additional attacks on our homeland and our allies.

Second, there are those who acknowledge that we can’t leave Afghanistan in its current state, but suggest that we go forward with the troops that we already have. But this would simply maintain a status quo in which we muddle through, and permit a slow deterioration of conditions there. It would ultimately prove more costly and prolong our stay in Afghanistan, because we would never be able to generate the conditions needed to train Afghan security forces and give them the space to take over.

Finally, 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.

The group referenced in the first paragraph are clearly the people of the anti-war Left. Like Michael Moore, they’re opposed to war even when winning’s imperative to preventing future terrorist attacks. It isn’t a totally accurate dpeiction of the Anti-War Left but it’ll work for President Obama’a purposes.

The group referenced in the third paragraph is obviously the ‘in-it-to-win-it’ part of the GOP. Again, the depiction isn’t accurate but it’s how President Obama chooses to characterize what used to be called the Victory Caucus position. The Victory Caucus contingent isn’t for open-ended war. They’re just for not publicly announcing timeframes so the enemy doesn’t know how long they’ll have to hold out until we leave.

Timetables are liberalspeak for cutting and running.

Finally, I’m having difficulty identifying the group highlighted in the second paragraph. I haven’t heard anyone who’s advocated the status quo. I’ve heard the anti-war Left argue agaisnt adding troops. I’ve heard conservative hawks who’ve advocated giving Gen. McChrystal the troops he’s asked for so he could bring the troops home in victory. I havne’t heard people argue that the status quo is acceptable.

The rest of the speech had a meandering, messageless tone to it. He talked about confronting terrorists in Somalia and Yemen but didn’t talk about contfronting them militarily. Then he talked about diplomacy something before talking about the economy before finishing with this bizarre ending:

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.

How can he say these things after going on a worldwide apology tour? It’s just truly bizarre, which is fitting for this speech.

Finally, I never got the sense that President Obama’s heart was in this speech. For the most part, he read the lines just fine. The speech was a little too all-over-the-map but it wasn’t the problem. At the end of the day, he didn’t make the case with any fire in his belly. He certainly didn’t instill in the troops a steadfast commitment to the mission they’ll soon be waging.

Most importantly, he didn’t tell the Afghan government or our allies that he wouldn’t run at the first hint of trouble. Frankly, if I had to grade the content and delivery of the speech, I’d give the content a C- and the delivery a D.

We expect better from our commander-in-chief.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

3 Responses to “President Obama’s Speech Doesn’t Fit Together”

  • eric z. says:

    Is your point that you view this is the first troop escalation there since the first of the year? Or that the first did not matter? Facts are facts. Is your hope that the multi-deployment pattern in Iraq just be extended now via sending the same battle weary troops from Iraq to Afghanistan? At some point there’s burnout. Big question, would you restore the draft? Or is it that you sit back and criticize everything, either way he moves, and in advance and in hindsight, without any better answer to offer than Obama’s moves? It seems the latter, Gary.

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