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)


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