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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

 
The Afghan War Gets The Speech It Deserves

by tristero

One of the strangest things about Obama's strange speech last night was that it was awful. What a mess of a speech, from the person who often spoke so eloquently during the campaign that people like Garry Wills actually compared his oratory to Lincoln's! That this made the final draft simply defies belief:
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...
I'm hardly an expert on formal English so maybe some professional can explain away what appears to me both an egregiously bad mixed metaphor (does a trial actually have storms? I thought it had challenges) and an improperly formed parallel construction (shouldn't it be "trials"-plural- and "storms"?). But even if this phrase is technically acceptable, it sure is terrible writing, and terribly unpersuasive.

As was the content. What are those troops being sent to Afghanistan to do, exactly? It sounded to me like Obama was saying they would mostly be training the (corrupt) Karzai government's troops and doing little fighting. But if mostly what they're doing is teaching, then why are 30,000 more American soldiers needed in Afghanistan?

That's for starters. If the Afghan war ever made sense - it never did to me: I opposed it in '01 and continue to - certainly it doesn't now. Here's what Obama said he wants the buildup to accomplish:
...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.
So Obama's goal in sending more troops is to "seize the initiative." What the hell could that possibly mean? Not destroying al Qaeda, surely. Not even crippling al Qaeda. It appears that Obama's is seeking not to eliminate a threat to the United States, let alone end the war, but rather merely to stop losing so badly. For 18 months.

And Obama expects Americans, not to mention Afghans and others, to lay down their lives for such a ludicrous, not to mention puny and obviously ineffective, objective?

Later in the speech, Obama does seem to imply a slightly broader military goal beyond simply "not losing." But exactly what that goal is remains maddeningly unclear. Is it to capture/kill al Qaeda's leaders? But they're not in Afghanistan and American troops are not (officially) in Pakistan. Is it to destroy the Taliban? Evil people they certainly are, but the Taliban didn't attack the US, al Qaeda did.

And so on. It just doesn't add up.What Digby said:
I am sympathetic to many of the difficult decisions Obama has to make. This one, I have little doubt about. Escalating the war is a mistake. There is no "winning" and establishing another imperial outpost in the area is provocative and dangerous. This is not like health care where you have to weigh whether it's better to take half a loaf than nothing at all --- it's a crystal clear issue of liberal principle.
Indeed it is.

There surely will be anti-war marches in the months ahead and I'll be there. But as far as expressing effective opposition to Obama's nonsensical strategy, marches and demonstrations are hardly sufficient. Liberals need to make it crystal clear that Democrats who support this folly can depend upon zero support in the upcoming elections. I say this fully aware that witholding support could very well lead to the dreadful result of more Republican extremists in Congress, something this country really can't afford.

But we have no choice. If the Democratic party today doesn't have viable candidates who are prepared to oppose this crazy policy, it sure as hell will have them two elections hence. I realize that opposing the election of Democrats at a time when the opposition party has literally gone off the deep end puts this country at serious risk of another extreme rightwing takeover. But I don't think liberals have much choice but to take that risk. We are talking about potentially thousands upon thousands of human deaths for an utterly pointless war. This liberal - and I'm hardly the only one - can neither support nor excuse what is now officially the Obama/Afghan War.

No way, no how, under no circumstances.


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