Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Right Policy Too Late?

Watching the President last night one thing is certain; you could see that he knew he was making the unpopular decision, that he was set to anger those who'd voted for him, and fail to appease those who didn't. One conservative friend commented via twitter, "Have to wonder what the cadettes sitting in the stands thought of this weak man before them." I, too, was wondering what the cadettes thought of him, but not because he was weak. I think it took a tremendous amount of strength to go forward with that difficult decision in the face of overwhelming opposition. But strength of mind does not make you right.

Beyond announcing the 30,000 troop surge to "finish the job" in Afghanistan and be back in time for July 4th fireworks in 2011, President Obama also went through great pains to tell us that a) the delay in announcing the decision wasn't really a delay since the plan he was asked to consider doesn't go into effect until January, b) we are progressing in the plan to get out of Iraq, even if we haven't really noticed any difference yet, and c) Afghanistan is where we should have been putting our efforts in the first place, as it was from here that Osama bin Laden planned the 9/11 attacks.

I don't think anybody can seriously argue against 'c' - whether or not you believe Iraq was justified or just a distraction, bin Laden is the confessed ringleader behind 9/11, and he was certainly on the run in Afghanistan. And, on at least one occasion following 9/11, we had him in our sight and failed to capture or kill him.

But that was 2002 and this is 2009. What makes us realistically believe we have a better chance at getting bin Laden or neutralizing al qaeda today? What makes us realistically believe that more foreign soldiers on their soil is going to help de-radicalize the Afghan populace? And by what magic leap of faith do we believe that 30,000 is the magic number of troops to finish it all up in eighteen months?

As eloquent and powerful as the words he spoke were, these are the questions that were left unanswered. Many good things were said, and much that I agree with. But it all fell short of selling me on the surge. Yes, if either war was justified it was the one in Afghanistan. But has the opportunity for success there passed? Is the mision still relevant? And do the American people have the will to support it? I'm afraid the time has passed. The right idea, just a few years too late.

Looking back at my archives here, I found my review of the speech in which President Bush announced his "surge to the finish" in Iraq, back on January 11, 2007. What I wrote about the Iraqi surge that day was;
... it's not exactly the same failed strategy. It's more of the same failed strategy. It's the same, but different.
Well, as they say, history repeats.

The one highlight last night was shortly after the  speech when The Onion came out with the headline Obama Tells Nation He's Going Out For Cigarettes. In the Onion story, the President gets a paragraph or two into his speech and says,
"Anyway, I'm going to go get some smokes, but I'll…be right back," added Obama, his voice trembling slightly. "Don't wait up."

We won't wait up.

1 comment:

  1. Good post Ken.
    As you say, any action in Afghanistan is/was more relevant than anything that happened in Iraq. But, as with all these overseas ventures, we should have looked at the history of other invaders first. I remember the Russians invading Afghanistan back in the 80's. Look what happened to them.
    And are we really in the right place anyway?
    From what i can gather, most of the insurgents & Islamic miltants are trained & harboured in pakistan. it's certainly wher us british have had the most problems from.
    So why not invade Pakistan? Oh yes, they have nuclear weapons. Silly me, i forgot....
    Maybe this should have been a blog?


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