After last night's speech, not every liberal in America agrees with Jacob Weisberg's assessment of "Obama's brilliant first year." Some of the raspberries:
I did not think he would lose me so soon—sooner than Bill Clinton did. Like many people, I was deeply invested in the success of our first African-American president. I had written op-ed pieces and articles to support him in The New York Times and The New York Review of Books. My wife and I had maxed out in donations for him. Our children had been ardent for his cause. […]
He said that he would not oppose war in general, but dumb wars. On that basis, we went for him. And now he betrays us. Although he talked of a larger commitment to Afghanistan during his campaign, he has now officially adopted his very own war, one with all the disqualifications that he attacked in the Iraq engagement. This war too is a dumb one. It has even less indigenous props than Iraq did.
It is already a 30-year war begun by one Democratic president, and thanks to the political opportunism of the current commander in chief the Afghanistan war is still without end or logical purpose. President Barack Obama's own top national security adviser has stated that there are fewer than 100 al-Qaida members in Afghanistan and that they are not capable of launching attacks. What superheroes they must be, then, to require 100,000 U.S. troops to contain them.
He's convinced his admirers that this is a form of noble "pragmatism" but, far more often, it appears to be a mishmash of political calculations bereft of principle and plagued by numerous internal contradictions that make it impossible to understand, let alone defend. Everyone gets to read into it whatever they want to see.
What Obama needed to announce was not just a timeframe for troop withdrawals to begin, but a detailed timeline all the way to complete pullout. He needed to put forth unambiguous benchmarks by which to measure success. And most importantly, he needed to explain precisely what happens if the benchmarks aren't met—i.e. if things don't go according to plan. Because they won't.
Instead, after announcing the deployment of 30,000 additional troops, Obama said that he will "begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011." He provided no sense of how quickly that would take place, or when the withdrawal would be complete, saying that would depend on "conditions on the ground."
To their disappointment, and Nick Gillespie's, I would add only this: The opposition party criticizes Obama's strategy on grounds that it does not escalate enough. As ever in 21st century America, there is no such thing as actionable anti-interventionism in either major political party. Even after the "anti-war candidate" wins the election.