Obama may regret giving this speech

Tonight President Barack Obama addressed cadets at West Point and announced:

And 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. […]

The 30,000 additional troops that I am announcing tonight will deploy in the first part of 2010 – the fastest pace possible – so that they can target the insurgency and secure key population centers. They will increase our ability to train competent Afghan Security Forces, and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight. And they will help create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans.

Charles Lemos posted the full text of the speech here. My comments are after the jump.

Raise your hand if you believe that a surge in Afghanistan is going to stabilize that country and allow us to bring our troops home sooner. I doubt escalating our involvement will solve any problems in the region or make us safer. In particular, it won’t address various security issues related to Pakistan.

After seeing how Obama kept a bunch of Republicans on at the Pentagon and then heeded their advice on Afghanistan, I have become more convinced that he would not have voted against the original resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq if he had been in the Senate at that time. He has not bucked the beltway conventional wisdom on any security issue.

I feel angry when I remember how Obama stood before Congress in September and said he wouldn’t sign a health care reform bill that added a dime to the deficit. Here is he, proposing at least an additional $30 billion in expenses for war, with no plan to pay for it. This plan for Afghanistan will wipe out any savings from drawing down our troops in Iraq (if indeed Obama sticks to the timetable for getting us out of there).

I want Congressional Democrats to force Obama to propose tax increases or defense spending cuts to pay for this war. If he really thinks this is a wise course, he should take on some political risk to pay for it. House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin have both called for tax increases to pay for escalating this war.

The Des Moines Register’s recent Iowa poll found 38 percent of respondents approved of his handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while 49 percent disapproved. I don’t have a clue whether tonight’s speech will improve or erode those numbers, but I suspect that over time, fewer Americans will support keeping large numbers of troops in Afghanistan.

Also worth reading on this subject: A Picture Speaks 1000 Words Mr. President and U.S. Senate candidate Bob Krause’s statement opposing a troop surge for Afghanistan.

UPDATE: I’m not reassured after reading this White House “fact sheet” about Afghanistan.

Chris Bowers spoke with “three senior Obama administration officials” tonight:

In regards to President Obama’s statement that “after 18 months, our troops will begin to come home,” I asked for clarification on how many troops would be coming home in eighteen months, and at what rate would they be coming home.

The answers made it clear that there is no actual timeline for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan:

   * There is no defined rate for, or number of troops involved in, the 2011 withdrawal.

   * They will be “taking conditions on the ground into account” in determining the withdrawal.

   * The withdrawal is “a goal.”

That is not a timeline.  At best, it is a message to the Karzai government that the Obama administration doesn’t want to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely.  However, there was plenty of room open in the response that they could stay there indefinitely, given the vagaries of the timeline.

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Representative Eric Massa of New York spent 24 years in the military. His comments on the escalation are worth your time.

  • frankly....a terrible speech...........

    in one sentence, telling us that the war is critically important for us to win for the benefit of the world, and the VERY NEXT SSENTENCE talking about a projected withdrawl timetable in 18 months….

    incredibly bad.

  • Obama's speech

    I see the strategy announced as the same as it has been for Iraq.  After all, this is not the type of war where you negotiate an armistice with the enemy so everyone can safely leave the theater of war and go home.  Even if he said openly that we are leaving, this is over, exiting has to be a more nuanced and difficult operation.  I think he is saying that – we will do our best to create “stability” (or as close a facsimile of it as can be created in Afghanistan) and then we will leave.  What is the alternative?  If you decry his approach, please identify a better one.  John McCain’s “breaking the will of the enemy” is not counterinsurgency.  It’s nonsense in the conditions of Afghanistan.

    • I don't think it is possible

      for us to create stability in Afghanistan by sending more troops there. I am with Representative Obey and Senator Feingold.

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