Foreign Policy

Obama on Afghanistan: Full Text And Fully Disappointing


Here's the full text of Obama's speech on his Afghan surge last night.

The speech, I think, was well-delivered and totally stunk on ice. Beyond its defensiveness (did he have to tell cadets at West Point that the previous guy was a disaster as Commander in Chief? All true, but sort of besides the point), it is the sort of half-a-loaf to every interest group that is muddled at its very core.

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.

What does this even mean? If I were one of those 30,000 troops, I'd be pretty distraught right about now. And I'd be looking at every means possible to keep my head low until those magical 18 months are up and I know I'm gonna get demobbed back home. Why 30,000 rather than the 40,000 his guy in Afghanistan asked for?

Then there's this:

I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of the violent extremism practiced by al-Qaida.

It's vital to our security but I can gaze into my (Mc) crystal ball and know that I'm yanking these guys out in 18 months, with the clock starting in 2010 (another strange moment of defensiveness: "Let me be clear: There has never been an option before me that called for troop deployments before 2010"). Later in the speech, he condensed these points even more tightly:

What's at stake is not simply a test of NATO's credibility — what's at stake is the security of our Allies and the common security of the world.

Taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.

Announcing troop increases designed to protect the world and when they will come home strikes me as bad strategy, regardless of how you feel about the war in Afghanistan.

While I think the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq was never warranted, I think the invasion of Afghanistan was a legitimate use of American military power. The country was on the hunt for the people behind the 9/11 attacks and the Taliban government was clearly working hand in glove with them. When the trail went cold, the reason for us being in Afghanistan became far less clear. Are we nation or region building there? And if so, don't the myriad objections that Democrats and Republicans alike used to throw up in opposition to such efforts apply? If it's all about gutting al Qaeda and de-surging the resurgent Taliban, then what's with the timetable for exit?

At least since the end of the Cold War, U.S. foreign policy has been an ad hoc after-thought without a controlling idea or a national consensus. President Obama's speech last night exemplifies the lack of clarity that characterizes the past two decades' worth of fogginess. And offers up at least 30,000 reasons not to be impressed.

NEXT: Property Rights at the Supreme Court

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  1. Did you see the shots of the cadets in the audience? At least two thirds of them did look distraught. The remaining third kept nodding off.

    1. To be fair, my father went to a military academy and fell asleep while standing in ranks on more than one occasion.

    2. “The remaining third kept nodding off.”

      Hardly surprising. My experience as a cadet involved 4 years of more-or-less continuous sleep deprivation. Add some political windbaggery, and you’ve got a recipe for a narcolepsy epidemic.

      1. Sleeping during VIP speeches is a great army tradition. At CGSC in Levenworth, they have this huge theater where all the poobahs come to give speeches to the classes there. It is painted Carolina blue. They call it “The Big Blue Bedroom”.

  2. From a purely strategic point of view, it seems kind of dumb to tell the enemy when you’re gonna leave.

    Of course, we ain’t gonna leave.

  3. Putting a deadline on war is the most fantastically stupid thing a leader can do. This is doubly stupid in the context of war in the enemies entire strategy is based on wearing us down over long periods of time.

    I think the real problem here is that Obama and people who think like him have a widely exaggerated since of their own ability to plan and control events in general. This is double true for war. They really believe that if you’re smart enough and honest enough that you can put a war on a schedule just like you could do with a building project.

    I know people serving in Afghanistan now and my son might make it there with 18 months. I have skin in this game. I can’t believe a President of the United States would be so profoundly stupid as to send an enemy the message of, “hang on for 18 months and you win.”

    1. I agree with your opinion execept I’d modify it one little bit.

      …believe that if you’re smart enough and honest enough that you can put a war on a schedule…

      These people are from Chicago. Honesty is not seen as a virtue, but as some silly notion that stupid people in the ‘burb think is important.

      BTW, I also have family skin in the game. He is doing his Army equivelent of shore-duy right now after 15 months in Iraq, but since he is an EOD officer, we can feel assured that his services will be needed in Afganastan when he rotates.

      1. As an Illinois native, and resident of the Chicago area for 23 years, I think it is becoming more apparent that the key to understanding our President is that he is the product of a the corrupt Illinois political machine. Where being anointed by the powerbrokers in the Democratic primary is the key to winning. After that, ability, competence, actual accomplishments in office are not required. Out of this hothouse environment, our President nows steps into the wider world where there is real opposition. In his own party, the opposition party, let alone other countries. And his lack of any real ability, or experience becomes painfully clear.

      2. That might be true for the politicians, but I’ve lived in Chicago long enough to tell that Chicagoans are wonderful people, and honesty is as valued here as it is everywhere else. Don’t write off a city because of an interpretation of its politics.

        1. I appologize to all Chicagoians, it is not like live Chicagoians actually vote the pols in. It is the dead people of Chicago that I have a bone to pick.

        2. Chicagoans are wonderful people

          Eh, we’re OK. “Wonderful” is stretching it.

    2. I meant to add, best of luck to your son where ever he is sent.

  4. If the war is worth fighting, it ought to be worth fighing beyond the 2012 election. If it is not worth fighting, it isn’t worth fighting for another three years.

    As I said in the other thread though, I understand why he is doing this. He has to put some kind of deadline on it or his moonbat supporters will Johnsonize him, especially if they don’t get healthcare or cap and trade.

    In the end he is proably lying anyway. Clinton said we would be out of Bosnia by December 1996. It didn’t quite work out that way. And neither will this. This is just a punt to get people off his back about Afghanistan and hopefully give him some freedom to run to the center domestically.

    1. I wonder why everyone seems to believe these troops are gonna be sent at the designated time. Will that be the first thing this admin has done according to a timeline so far.

  5. Of course, we ain’t gonna leave.

    Hell, Alexander left a bunch of troops there. Their descendants are still up in those mountains, worshiping Greek gods. I saw it in National Geographic once.

    1. So in 2,000 years they will be worshipping the Bush and Obama gods which sent them.

  6. “The days of providing a blank check are over.”

    Best (bitter) laugh in a while.

    Oh well, I suppose we’re fortunate 9/11 wasn’t launched from China.

  7. I decided to watch Scare Tactics, and bits of South Park during the commercials, instead of the speech last night.

    In retrospect, I think I made the right choice.

  8. To be fair, Obama is walking a very fine line – serving the interests of his overlords and the owners of the country and seeming to give two shits about what is good for America and the desires of the American people.

  9. Announcing troop increases designed to protect the world and when they will come home strikes me as bad strategy, regardless of how you feel about the war in Afghanistan

    I think that’s the takeaway point. This is about political strategy and has nothing to do with military strategy.

    Obama: there’s a reason Lincoln is considered the hero of the Civil War and McClellan is forgotten. Lincoln put military considerations ahead of political ones, and McClellan did the reverse.

    1. The 2012 deadline is so phony and transparent. I can win the war just in time for the election. Like I said above, I just hope he is lying. If there was one lesson from Iraq, it is that you still win wars by breaking the enemy’s will to fight. Taking ground doesn’t cut it if the other guy is still willing to fight using asymetric warfare. We can’t break their will to fight if they know exactly when we are going to leave.

      1. As Mish wrote on his economic blog last night:

        Excuse me, but if the mission is vital to our national interest how can it possibly be correct to give a precise deadline to bring the troops home in 18 months?

  10. Most schizophrenic decision ever.

  11. Another interesting component of the speech and to to Obama’s interpretation of history: he foolishly, and certainly intentionally, left out a more important historical perspective – that of Afghanistan!

    1. You can say that again!

  12. Another interesting component of the speech and to to Obama’s interpretation of history: he foolishly, and certainly intentionally, left out a more important historical perspective – that of Afghanistan!

    1. Yup. It was worth repeating.

  13. DER SPIEGEL: ‘Never before has a speech by President Barack Obama felt as false’……..53,00.html

  14. If I thought Obama has any intention of abiding by a timetable, I’d be very worried. However, can anyone point out an instance where he said something that was true?

    1. The turkeys were pardoned. I really believe that.

    2. in 2005 he said he was not ready to run for president in 2008 because he hadn’t done anything yet.

  15. Other than the true believers that would have been satisfied had Obama done nothing but fart on stage, did his performance last night satisfy anyone else?

    I am in agreement with John and Abdul. His strategy is a domestic political one. 30,000 not 40,000 to show the military and his left that he can’t be pushed around*. Giving a solid pull out date is just plain stupid, whatever his strategy may be. Why would the Taliban not just hunker down for a couple of years? If BO doesn’t meet his self-imposed deadlines he has opened himself up for attacks from the right and left.

    Roll-on 2010. The BO will be so much less dangerous once the Dems loose at least one side of Congress.

    * I don’t know enough about the army to know if there is any real significance to the difference between 30k & 40k. If the deleted 10k were mainly logistics types and the difference is made up for with contractors, then the change might not mean anything at all. Maybe someone with more army experience might comment.

    1. “I don’t know enough about the army to know if there is any real significance to the difference between 30k & 40k. If the deleted 10k were mainly logistics types and the difference is made up for with contractors, then the change might not mean anything at all. Maybe someone with more army experience might comment.”

      I would have to see the plans. But, 10,000 is about the size of two combat brigades, which is pretty significant.

    2. The right number of troops is impossible to determine when there is no well defined mission for them. That is and always has been the problem with the war on terror, both Iraq and Afghanistan (and vietnam before that). The only purpose of the military is to crush, and destroy threats to the country. Not “nation building” and not “peacekeeping”. The only real solution to this problem is to fight an all out, total war against the real enemy (iraq and afghanistan are nothing compared to Iran). WW2 is the best example of this, and it was a success for us, and incidentally for the former dictatorships also. We should fight that kind of war, and then… be done with it. Come home. There is absolutely no reason why this should go on as long as it has, with no end in sight.

      1. Drop the bomb. Eliminate them all.

        1. You dont have to eliminate them all, just make them renounce their aggression. This worked in the past (Japan), and we did not annihlate them all. We did have to kill a large number, but that is what it took to show them that they could never succeed.

          1. The difference being that with Japan, you didn’t have a billion other buddhists waiting to take their side.

            1. Are there more Islamic fanatics than there were Japanese imperialists? I’m not sure. Virtually the entire population of Japan believed in the rightness of the Emperor, and that Japan was destined to win. The civilian population was ready, or supposedly ready, to make the final banzai charge. But the US showed them that they would never get the chance. Their cause was hopeless. So they finally stopped. The same thing could be done with the Islamic fanatics. If we show them that their cause is hopeless, it doesnt matter how many of them there are. Maybe they wont renounce violence as Japan did. Perhaps they will focus on killing each other. As long as they dont fuck with us, who cares?

          2. I think The Gobbler was making a film reference.

    3. The most interesting part of all of this (and the most underreported) is that the administration is actually using fuzzy math to get to that 30k number (shocking, I know). He is including about 10-12k that were already in the pipeline to head over in 2010. Remember King George’s last minute “quiet” surge of troops to AF in 08? Well, many of the troops Obambi is including in that 30k were already committed as a part of that RFF (Request for forces), and Big Stan McChrystal asked for an additional 40k, so the difference in what was asked for vs. what was given is a bit more significant than it appears, like McChrystal is getting half of what he asked for and being told to shut up and color.

      Regardless of troop numbers, we still have no definition of what a win would look like.

      Deny AQ safe haven? Irrelevant unless you declare war on Pakistan, and half of Eurasia for that matter. Afghanistan may not be a safe haven in the end, but as long as Pakistan is still an issue, the point of Afghanistan is moot.

      Establish a functioning democracy? Not if Afghan culture has anything to do with it. Western-style democracy will never take hold in Afghanistan where patronage and parochial interests rule supreme, unless of course we’re willing to stay there for 2 generations and force them into it.

      Defeat the Taliban? Not likely. They’ve been successful in framing the discussion as evil occupier (the US) versus popular rebellion (the Taliban). Sure, they might not be winning, but they don’t have to, all they have to do is not lose.

      Nothing resembling our American idea of “victory” is even remotely possible in Afghanistan. There will be no Yorktown, no Appomattox, no Versailles, no USS Missouri. We lost the initiative in 2005, and sadly it will take another 30k troops going through the meat grinder to realize it.

  16. I can remember a few years back when neocon talking heads were claiming that Bush had won in Afghanistan. Heh. I hear a lot of people claiming victory in Iraq now.

    Apparently the definition of “victory” for a given war is when Wolf Blitzer stops talking about it.

    1. Isn’t Wolfie hosting a news game show on CNN now?

  17. The pullout is to be contingent on “conditions on the ground.” If you were a Taliban leader wouldn’t you tell your men to bury their weapons, go back to goat-herding for a short time, make the Great Satan think everything was hunky-dory and slack off on training the “Afghan” army? Let Obamessiah declare victory early due to the peaceful conditions, and pull out. Then we dig up our weapons and strike! I can never understand why these nitwits continue to get pummelled by Marines, etc. when laying low will result in the American citizenry demanding its troops be sent home, as they should be.

    1. You would think so, but they are not that smart and things are not that simple. Had the insurgents had any brains in Iraq, they would have done nothing for the first year. Things were so euphoric after the run to Baghdad, Bush would have sent everyone home and declared victory in time for the election. Once we were gone, they could have taken the whole country. But they didn’t do that. And neither will the Taliban. The Taliban has the added problem of us being there and hunting them.

      1. But they did lay low, for roughly a month or two after the invasion of iraq. Then they realized that they can kill infidels without having to even leave their own neighborhood, since we constantly show them our ass. Running gas stations, conducting census operations, building sewers, and driving around, giving them every opportunity to shoot us and blow us up.

        They still have a good chance of taking the whole country. They think long term, throughout generations even. We will eventually leave, after handing them billions of dollars in equipment and training (equipping the enemy, as was done in the 80’s in Afghanistan). All we have done is strengthen and embolden them.

    2. creech, I would say that Obama is hoping that the Taliban does exactly that. He doesn’t really care if Afghan turns into an Islamofascist hell state after 2012, as long as he can declare victory and come home in time for re-election. He’s practically begging the Taliban to help him out here, in classic Chicago one-hand-washes-the-other style. “Hey, if youse guys can keep it on the down-low for a few years, then youse can have the keys to the whole joint. I just gotta get these voters off my back.”

      1. Chicago functions politically like a medieval kingdom with lots of little fiefdoms. Obama’s administration is behaving like every other presidential administration. There is plenty to smear about either, but conflating them does not make a lot of sense.

  18. “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.”

    …so says the Associated Press, Reuters, and the White House website. Obama is trying to channel Abraham Lincoln here, when Lincoln said in his Cooper Union address,

    “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it”.

    Twist the meaning all you want, Barack. It sounds an awful lot like fighting terrorism by espousing the favored logic of the terrorist.

  19. This is what the Presidential Suit should do:

    He should send Mister and Missus Salami (the GateCrasherGate power pair) to Afghanistan. They can use their mad Jedi Mind Control skillz to convince the Taliban that the war is over, and we’re all happy friends, now.

    That’s what I’d do.

    1. These are not the innocent civilians we are looking to bomb.

  20. re: Taliban laying low. I think it would depend on how much we try the whole “nation building” thing while they lay low. If the Taliban stops their military strikes and we see it as an opportunity to force western values on them, it ain’t gonna work. IMO what the Taliban wants more than anything else, is for us to leave their culture alone.

    1. IMO what the Taliban wants more than anything else, is for us to leave their culture alone to subjugate women.


      1. Still not my problem.

  21. I wonder where he keeps his peace prize…

  22. Just as long as those troops are used to destroy the poppy crop, it will all be worth it.

    1. Why?

      Prohibition only makes the price go up and the raises the stakes. You do know that when the Taliban in 2001 destroyed poppy crops it was to drive up the price of their stored product right? The UN report at the time laid it all out, though it was kind of lost in the shuffle.

      If you meant that comment tongue-in-cheek, consider me hornswaggled by it.

      1. yes, I can see the day where everything will be better because Heroin addicts can get as much as they want for a cheap price.

    2. I sure will, to the Outfit.

  23. I loved afterwards when that Chris Matthews described West Point as being Obama’s “enemy camp”. What a fucking shithead that guy is.

    1. No tingles up the leg in that audience?

      1. More like tinkles on the leg as they piss their pants thinking of fighting a war with McHopeAndPoliticalExpediency calling the shots.

  24. All I can do is agree with the consensus here. Not good.

  25. On Anderson Cooper-
    Dennis Kucinich denounced the new surge, but stated he thinks Congress will approve it.

    AC asked talking bipolar head who shows up on every show about that.
    He said I will pass on Kucinich.

    A correspondent who visited AFIRAQSTAN
    said he visited several police stations.
    One had a huge pot farm next door. IN one everyone was sitting around doing nothing. In a third, the Taliban was using it for a hideout. He said the police are afraid to leave the station. He said most Afghan cops are illiterate, you can’t give them a manual. Good luck in training forty cops, never mind 40,000

    1. I am for to hardly understanding your as can is been the writing you comment, but it has am can made your point I got (I think). Usually when you sometimes.

  26. I hate to say it, but the training of the “security forces” in both countries is a show. They are totally incompetent. They are however, becoming better equipped, by us. But thats a bad thing. Why, oh why do we believe that they will not turn on us down the road? We have seen in the past so many times, that appeasing and treating your enemy as your “friend” always backfires.

  27. Obama is the shepherd I did not want.
    He leadeth me beside the still factories.
    He restoreth my faith in the Republican party.
    He guideth me in the path of unemployment for his party’s sake.
    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the bread line,
    I shall fear no hunger for his bailouts are with me.
    He has anointed my income with taxes,
    My expenses runneth over.
    Surely, poverty and hard living will follow me all the days of my life,
    And I will live in a mortgaged home forever.
    I am glad I am American,
    I am glad that I am free.
    But I wish I was a dog?
    And Obama was a tree.

  28. I am not buying this used war from this used-warsalesman any more I bought new wars from the new-warsalesmen eight years ago.

  29. It’s vital to our security but I can gaze into my (Mc) crystal ball and know that I’m yanking these guys out in 18 months

    Translation: we sure as hell aren’t gonna bring any of ’em home before the 2010 elections. And then, after that election is safely over, there’s a strong probability that we’ll reannounce a pullout date after the 2012 elections. But we won’t say the latter part out loud.

  30. Best illustration of the schizophrenic nature of this decision was the headline in my local paper this morning: “End of Afghanistan war in sight; Obama to commit 30000 more troops”. I thought for a moment I was supposed to circle the correct headline.

  31. I was dozing off with some of the cadets for the most part – I was hoping for one of the cadets to pull out a Chapelle Show “Wrap It Up” box. Yo, we’re gonna be in and out. Uh, let’s say 30,000 troops – sounds good. It’s at least as arbitrary as the tax penalty for not purchasing insurance.

    However, I couldn’t help but to be awe inspired when “World Peace Organizer”-in-chief gazed into the camera and addressed the people of Afghanistan directly. A teared rolled down my fat cheek (the salty solution breaking through fat-free fudge sauce) when I envisioned the Afghan people earlier that afternoon, with eagerness, letting their children open up early Christmas LED flat panel HDTV’s to plug into the newly built GE smart grid and watch our humble leader lay out a “strategy” for their future.

    I wonder if the President naturally pronounces Tollyban or Pockistan or if the teleprompter has that responsibility. Ah, the memory of the vicarious embarrassment for W – “we’re gonna win; it’s in my gut. Fool me once …….you can’t fool me again ….I’ve already been fooled.”

    On a positive note: I’m pretty sure I saw the Salahis in cadet uniforms. Also, I heard she had an affair with Tiger.

  32. “The country was on the hunt for the people behind the 9/11 attacks”

    Then we should have invaded the White House. Also the Bank of England or wherever the Rothchilds do their bussines.

    1. Here is what you don’t realize, Obama is the secret owner of the Bank of England, he is the secret power behind the curtain masquerading as a mere puppet.

      It is BRILLIANT!

      This act of him being an idiot, is better than the act that Bush ran, because he REALLY IS THE POWER BEHIND THE CURTAIN.

      He just pretends to be the dupe in front of it.

      Obama designed the highway that goes from Mexico to Canada

      Obama supervises the underground FEMA concentration camps guarded by lizard beings.

      Those meetings that Alex Jones snoops on; Obama runs them.

      He is a squirly one that one.

      The energy beam that brought down the twin towers; Obama pulled the trigger.

      He is one smart Kenyan.

      He actually gave the idea to the Nigerians about how to run an internet scam.!

      1. His full name that the press won’t mention is
        Barry Hussein Rothschild Bildenburg Obama.

  33. “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.”

    This was the cream of the statist-bullshit that was this speech, IMO.

    Can anyone find anything creepier? Maybe how Obama talks to the American public like our entire knowledge of history and foreign affairs comes from Schoolhouse Rock and a few History Channel re-runs?

    1. Well, that’s an improvement from the way Bush Jr. talked to us — like our entire knowledge of the world outide of our protective bubble came from what our handlers told us 30 minutes ago.

  34. I was dying to make a comment here from work this morning. Okay, now. Reasonoids are somewhat familiar with the concept of doing good by doing nothing. Think of the reduced blood, sweat, toil, money, tears that would result from ending the international hysteria over certain drugs. Say poppies, for example. Okay, now think of how much of the perceived “issue” with Afghanistan would be “cured” by ending the hysteria. My conservative guess is 65 percent. Maybe it’s only a “housekeeping” thing of mine, but let’s end the War on Drugs so we can discover what the hell is REALLY going on way the fuck over there.

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