American Elephants

The Grudging, Graceless Speech from the Oval Office. by The Elephant's Child

I have continued to think about President Obama’s oval office speech.  There were some disturbing things. There was concern about whether Obama would thank Bush for the surge that saved our effort in Iraq, pushed through against almost universal disapproval.  It was an unusually courageous act, one of the most impressive among recent administrations.

Of course Obama  didn’t.  Neither did he appropriately acknowledge many of the things achieved in the Iraq war — deposing an aggressive and malevolent dictator, fostering a representative government (though imperfect) in the heart of the Middle east, bringing Iraqis to the polls proudly voting for the first time in free elections, and establishing a constitution of their own.

Richard Epstein, Professor of Law and Economics at the University of Chicago, who knows Obama, says that he has the perfect political disposition.  He is absolutely in control of himself and reveals almost nothing of himself.  He also said that he is completely dogmatic and does not change his mind.

That makes the damage  that he did to our effort in Iraq and in Afghanistan clearer and more troubling.  He said:

Within Afghanistan, I have ordered the deployment of additional troops who-under the command of General David Petraeus — are fighting to break the Taliban’s momentum. As with the surge in Iraq, these forces will be in place for a limited time to provide space for the Afghans to build their capacity and secure their own future. But, as was the case in Iraq, we cannot do for Afghans what they must ultimately do for themselves. That’s why we are training Afghan Security Forces and supporting a political resolution to Afghanistan’s problems. And, next July, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility. The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will endure. But make no mistake: this transition will begin— because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.

What he did here is underscore and deepened his commitment to the arbitrary summer 2011  drawdown date.  His statement that the pace of troop reductions “will be determined by conditions on the ground” was drowned out by Obama’s declaration that our forces will be in place “for a limited time.” and that we should” make no mistake; this transition will begin because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.”

What our enemies will hear is that they only  have to wait us out.  Our  commitment is limited, and we will leave on time and on schedule.  Surely he has heard all the many voices that tell him that you just don’t say when you are quitting, and doesn’t care.

Obama also complained about how much the Iraq war cost (over 8 years) and how it was nearly as much as the deficit.   CBO says a total 8-year cost of $709 billion — to be compared to the stimulus spending — $816 billion in just 18 months!  The Iraq war spending accounted for just 3.2% of all federal spending while it lasted.  Not even 15% of the total deficit spending in that time frame.

[Last night] the President of the United States used what should have been a straightforward, bug-hearted celebration of a remarkable feat of American force and diplomacy to pursue instead his own narrow and, it must be said, increasingly desperate, political ends. (Peter Robinson)


2 Comments so far
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“What our enemies will hear is that they only have to wait us out.” That’s a very revealing comment.

Actuallty, at the end of the day, they are Afghanistan’s enemies — unless you are planning to add Afghanistan to the ranks of Guam and Puerto Rico. What about the Taliban and other bad guys in Pakistan and in Somalia? And the Marxists in India and Venezuela? And the drug lords in Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico?

I suppose if one takes a certain persective, America has enemies just about everywhere, and so is the answer that we should create an even bigger Military force, and go after them wherever and whenever they pop up, and occupy all these countries until the insurgency is wiped out entirely? Or we could try to build capacity in other countries to deal with their own internal problems, and not expose ourselves to the moral hazard created by giving corrupt regimes the impression that we will always be there to save their bacon when things start to unravel?

In any case, who knows what Obama is up to? When the British left British Honduras (now Belize), they hid a bunch of Harriet jump jets in the jungle and when the Guatemalans thought the Brits were out of the way they started marching towards Belize, with the intention of grabbing back some land that they coveted. Up appeared the Harriers, engines roaring, and the Guatemalens were sent running with their tails between their legs.

Perhaps announcing that U.S. troops will withdraw from Afghanistan next July (but not really meaning it) is a clever tactic to draw out the Taliban and catch them off guard, and make the Afghanis focus on the fact that America will NOT be there forever..


Comment by Subsidy Eye

The definition of “enemy” Subsidy, is the people you are fighting against. We are at war in Afghanistan. We call it “the War in Afghanistan.” We are also in conflict with al Qaeda in Yemen and pirates in Somalia. I suspect that Obama means it when he says we will withdraw in July of next year. He has heard from his generals and advisers and the best-informed people on the war that one doesn’t announce withdrawal dates in advance. He must be at least a tiny bit aware of that. Yet he not only emphasized but increased the emphasis on the date. Obama does not change his mind. And it all remains all about him.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

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