Later today, President Obama will address the graduating class of West Point and, according to reports, outline a bold new foreign policy framework that will simultaneously explain how everything he's already done was exactly the right thing to do and how going forward he will be even more perfect. Or something.
But as Daily Beast reporters Eli Lake and Josh Rogin point out, the president has already signaled he's going keep upwards of 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, the longest-running war ever for the U.S. and one of our biggest failures.
President Obama is poised to keep nearly 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan until at least 2016. Some top intelligence and military officers now fighting that war say the number of troops under consideration by the White House should be just enough to prevent al Qaeda from re-establishing a safe haven. Others aren't so sure that 9,800 troops can keep the terror group and its allies at bay.
The decision to attack Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks was both understandable and defensible. But what is the mission in Afghanistan now? Or more precisely, what was it the minute the Taliban was deposed and the trail for bin Laden went cold? Was it nation-building? Was it creating one more spot on the planet where goodwill toward America could dissolve into the sand once again?
Whatevs. Republicans bash Obama for being "weak" and "indecisive." Like in Libya, where he dispatched American force without even pretending there was an imminent attack on the U.S. or even consulting Congress. How'd they work out again? (Memo to Republicans: The means and shitty outcome of our intervention into Libya is the scandal; Benghazi is a horrible sideshow.) Here's Sen. John McCain, who's never met a war anywhere he didn't want to join:
"The president wants to be able to say in January 2017 that he got us out of both wars. The tragedy of that is the chaos that he is leaving behind," McCain said. "I'd like to hear how he will restore the reliability of the United States in the world, which has dramatically eroded. I have no illusions that that will happen."
Until the Republicans admit that it was precisely stupid, ill-conceived, and poorly prosecuted U.S. foreign policy that has contributed so much to instability in the world, don't expect foreign policy to get better. Especially when the Democrats refuse to admit that their guy in the White House has been a disaster for related but also distinct problems (one of which is never admitting his mistakes, a la Bush, but always blaming others).
And for the 10,000 troops who will be cooling their heels doing god knows what in Afghanistan for a couple of years: You're going to need. Hopefully none of you will the last man (or woman) to die for that mistake. Which is a memorable phrase once uttered by the current Secretary of State, John Kerry, who inspires confidence in absolutely no one as a diplomat or guardian of young soldiers.