Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Obama’s Afghanistan speech: We will not try to make Afghanistan a perfect place


9/11 in the first sentence. Very Giulianiesque.

U.S. MOTTO: ROUTING THE TALIBAN SINCE 2001: “In the days that followed, our nation was united as we struck at al Qaeda and routed the Tahleebhan in Afghanistan.” Just has to stress that second syllable, doesn’t he?

SPENT ENORMOUS BLOOD: “Then, our focus shifted. A second war was launched in Iraq, and we spent enormous blood and treasure to support a new government there.”

EIGHTH, ACTUALLY, BUT DOESN’T TIME FLY WHEN YOU’RE HAVING FUN? “By the time I took office, the war in Afghanistan had entered its seventh year.”

WHAT WE ARE MEETING: “Thanks to our men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals.” For some reason, he offers no proof of this.

So he’s offering to reverse the 2009 “surge,” i.e., to reduce the number of troops he has in Afghanistan to the number there were when he took office, by, oh, just about election day. “After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan Security forces move into the lead.” A steady pace. Could mean 10,000 a year, could mean 3 a year. But at least it’ll be steady.

ALSO, LIFT AND SEPARATE: “Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.”

TAKE OUT MENU: “Together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of al Qaeda’s leadership.” Although in the Pakistanis’ case, this means taken more than half of Al Qaida’s leadership to dinner and a movie.

OH, AND DID I MENTION LATELY THAT WE KILLED BIN LADEN? “And thanks to our intelligence professionals and Special Forces, we killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader that al Qaeda had ever known. This was a victory for all who have served since 9/11. One soldier summed it up well. ‘The message,’ he said, ‘is we don’t forget. You will be held accountable, no matter how long it takes.’” Way to spin the complete failure to find bin Laden for a decade as a sign of American perseverance, one soldier.

WHERE WE HAVE PUT AL QAIDA: “But we have put al Qaeda on a path to defeat”.

SO YOU MIGHT WANT TO GET COMFORTABLE: “This is the beginning -- but not the end -- of our effort to wind down this war.”

He favors “initiatives that reconcile the Afghan people, including the Taliban.”

WHAT WE WILL NOT TRY: “We will not try to make Afghanistan a perfect place.”

ENDURES & ENSURES: “What we can do, and will do, is build a partnership with the Afghan people that endures -- one that ensures that we will be able to continue targeting terrorists and supporting a sovereign Afghan government.” Forever and ever and ever.

IS IT AT THE END OF A TUNNEL? “And even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance.”

NOTHING SAYS “ANCHOR OF GLOBAL SECURITY” LIKE BEING ENGAGED IN FIVE SIMULTANEOUS WARS: “Some would have America retreat from our responsibility as an anchor of global security, and embrace an isolation that ignores the very real threats that we face. Others would have America over-extend ourselves, confronting every evil that can be found abroad. We must chart a more centered course.” Phew, for a minute there I thought he’d advocate one of those less centered courses.

WHAT WE MUST EMBRACE: “Like generations before, we must embrace America’s singular role in the course of human events.” This is just a badly written speech. Who inserted the latter phrase, from the Declaration of Independence, in a sentence about embracing America’s singular role, whatever that means. Is it anything like American exceptionalism?

AS PRURIENT AS WE ARE PRIAPIC: “But we must be as pragmatic as we are passionate”. Just can’t resist an alliteration, can he? Also, could Obama possibly be less passionate about Afghanistan?

“In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power -- it is the principles upon which our union was founded. We are a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law”. For example, we shot bin Laden in the head and dumped his body in the ocean, but adhering to the rule of law.

WHAT WE STAND NOT FOR: “We stand not for empire, but for self-determination. That is why we have a stake in the democratic aspirations that are now washing across the Arab World. We will support those revolutions with fidelity to our ideals, with the power of our example, and with an unwavering belief that all human beings deserve to live with freedom and dignity.” Unless they live in Bahrain or someplace with oil or US military bases, obviously.

WHAT WE MUST RECAPTURE: “And most of all, after a decade of passionate debate, we must recapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time of war.” Revenge?

HEY KIDS, WHAT TIME IS IT? “America, it is time to focus on nation-building here at home.”

Kept saying we need to end the war “responsibly.” Responsible to whom, he did not say.

Another Obama speech with no obvious purpose. If he meant to inform us of his vague timetable for troop reductions (what will the 2014 transition from combat to support mean for troop levels, when if ever will all troops be out of Afghanistan?), a three-sentence press release could have handled it. If he was looking for the active support of the American people for something, I missed hearing that call. I think the upshot was that the war is kind of slowly winding down – he actually used the phrase winding down! – so if we all stopped thinking about it and talking about, that would be okay with him, and it’ll probably all turn out more or less okay.

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