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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Obama Ups the Stakes in Afghanistan

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. . . .

If the video doesn't display, watch it here.

I have to believe what he says:  I have no training whatsoever in military science, and to tell you the truth, with few exceptions international relations hold little interest for me.  From my little outpost here on the windswept prairie, it's all very far away, incredibly complicated, and does not directly affect my day to day life one way or another.  Though of course I realize there are important indirect effects; and certainly where our national security is concerned, and the protection of American lives, and humanitarian concerns in any quarter of the globe, there needs to be an adult in the White House with a clear gaze and a steady hand on the levers of the greatest military and economic might the world has ever known.

Disappointed as I am - and nearly heartbroken - over Obama's failure to live up to his stirring promise to be a "fierce advocate" for gay rights, the fact nonetheless remains that he is a brilliant man; and he has access to all the detailed knowledge of people, places, and situations abroad that can be determined.  And whatever the reason for his footdragging on gay rights, I do believe his heart is in the right place, and his values good.  So I have to trust that he is doing the right thing here, what is ultimately in the best interests of the nation and the world.

Certainly I trust him to do the right thing infinitely more than I ever trusted that lying, conniving, manipulating, prevaricating, mendacious, monkeybrained son of a bitch who had the job before him. Not to mention his nefarious, slime-sucking puppetmaster cohorts. Though to give the devil his due, Bush at least has had the decency to come home to Texas and just shut the fuck up, as far as I know; whereas Cheney is reprising his role as National Bogeyman, and going for an Academy Award with it.

I'm not a warrior at heart; I don't like to kill things, though I would and I have when absolutely necessary.  In a general way, it hurts to think of more young troops going off to fight somewhere in some unpronounceable place on the other side of the world, to bleed and suffer and die for an uncertain result.  The British in the days of their great Empire tried for a hundred years or more to put a lock on Afghanistan, and couldn't do it.  Back in the 1970's, the Soviet Union, with all its immense resources right next door, tried to subdue the place, and they couldn't do it.  How can anyone ever really win a guerrilla war against fanatical fighters in a mountainous country? 

Being ignorant, as I said, of military science, I don't see how it's possible; no matter how many guns and bombs we bring to the field, there's no definite fighting front, and there's always another cave, another rabbit hole they can hide in, and come back to fight another day.  Or if not in a mountainous region, in a steaming jungle like Vietnam - which the President says is a false analogy.  Let's hope he's right about that; he knows much more about it than I ever will, and by this point he should have a very sharp idea of the odds.

Occasionally, I meet soldiers here, either just back from overseas or about to deploy.  I talk with their wives, see their kids.  These young people in uniform are very decent, ordinary, small town folks; flesh-and-blood human beings who live, love, laugh, and work, and go off to war believing sincerely that they are in some way helping protect all those they leave behind.  They're not just numbers on a chart, they're my neighbors.

So - God help our troops, and God bless America.  What else can an old shitkicker say about all that?

After the jump, a few excerpts that I found particularly compelling from the President's speech tonight at West Point.  Full transcript here.

Continued after the jump . . . .

It's important to remember why America and its allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place. We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001, 19 men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000 people. They struck at our military and economic nerve centers. They took the lives of innocent men, women, and children without regard to their faith or race or station. Were it not for the heroic actions of passengers onboard one of those flights, they could have also struck at one of the great symbols of our democracy in Washington, and killed many more.

As we know, these men belonged to al Qaeda -- a group of extremists who have distorted and defiled Islam, one of the world’s great religions, to justify the slaughter of innocents. Al Qaeda’s base of operations was in Afghanistan, where they were harbored by the Taliban -- a ruthless, repressive and radical movement that seized control of that country after it was ravaged by years of Soviet occupation and civil war, and after the attention of America and our friends had turned elsewhere.

Just days after 9/11, Congress authorized the use of force against al Qaeda and those who harbored them -- an authorization that continues to this day. The vote in the Senate was 98 to nothing. The vote in the House was 420 to 1. For the first time in its history, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization invoked Article 5 -- the commitment that says an attack on one member nation is an attack on all. And the United Nations Security Council endorsed the use of all necessary steps to respond to the 9/11 attacks. America, our allies and the world were acting as one to destroy al Qaeda’s terrorist network and to protect our common security.

Under the banner of this domestic unity and international legitimacy -- and only after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden -- we sent our troops into Afghanistan. Within a matter of months, al Qaeda was scattered and many of its operatives were killed. The Taliban was driven from power and pushed back on its heels. A place that had known decades of fear now had reason to hope. At a conference convened by the U.N., a provisional government was established under President Hamid Karzai. And an International Security Assistance Force was established to help bring a lasting peace to a war-torn country.

Then, in early 2003, the decision was made to wage a second war, in Iraq. The wrenching debate over the Iraq war is well-known and need not be repeated here. It's enough to say that for the next six years, the Iraq war drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention -- and that the decision to go into Iraq caused substantial rifts between America and much of the world.

Today, after extraordinary costs, we are bringing the Iraq war to a responsible end. We will remove our combat brigades from Iraq by the end of next summer, and all of our troops by the end of 2011. That we are doing so is a testament to the character of the men and women in uniform.  Thanks to their courage, grit and perseverance, we have given Iraqis a chance to shape their future, and we are successfully leaving Iraq to its people. . . .

As cadets, you volunteered for service during this time of danger. Some of you fought in Afghanistan. Some of you will deploy there. As your Commander-in-Chief, I owe you a mission that is clearly defined, and worthy of your service. And that's why, after the Afghan voting was completed, I insisted on a thorough review of our strategy. Now, let me be clear: There has never been an option before me that called for troop deployments before 2010, so there has been no delay or denial of resources necessary for the conduct of the war during this review period. Instead, the review has allowed me to ask the hard questions, and to explore all the different options, along with my national security team, our military and civilian leadership in Afghanistan, and our key partners. And given the stakes involved, I owed the American people -- and our troops -- no less.

This review is now complete. 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.

I do not make this decision lightly. I opposed the war in Iraq precisely because I believe that we must exercise restraint in the use of military force, and always consider the long-term consequences of our actions. We have been at war now for eight years, at enormous cost in lives and resources. Years of debate over Iraq and terrorism have left our unity on national security issues in tatters, and created a highly polarized and partisan backdrop for this effort. And having just experienced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the American people are understandably focused on rebuilding our economy and putting people to work here at home.

Most of all, I know that this decision asks even more of you -- a military that, along with your families, has already borne the heaviest of all burdens. As President, I have signed a letter of condolence to the family of each American who gives their life in these wars. I have read the letters from the parents and spouses of those who deployed. I visited our courageous wounded warriors at Walter Reed. I've traveled to Dover to meet the flag-draped caskets of 18 Americans returning home to their final resting place. I see firsthand the terrible wages of war. If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow.

So, no, I do not make this decision lightly. I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak. This is no idle danger; no hypothetical threat. In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror. And this danger will only grow if the region slides backwards, and al Qaeda can operate with impunity. We must keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region. . . .

The 30,000 additional troops that I'm announcing tonight will deploy in the first part of 2010 -- the fastest possible pace -- so that they can target the insurgency and secure key population centers. They'll 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. . . .

I recognize there are a range of concerns about our approach. So let me briefly address a few of the more prominent arguments that I've heard, and which I take very seriously.

First, there are those who suggest that Afghanistan is another Vietnam. They argue that it cannot be stabilized, and we're better off cutting our losses and rapidly withdrawing. I believe this argument depends on a false reading of history. Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our action. Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency. And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border. To abandon this area now -- and to rely only on efforts against al Qaeda from a distance -- would significantly hamper our ability to keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and create an unacceptable risk of additional attacks on our homeland and our allies.

Second, there are those who acknowledge that we can't leave Afghanistan in its current state, but suggest that we go forward with the troops that we already have. But this would simply maintain a status quo in which we muddle through, and permit a slow deterioration of conditions there. It would ultimately prove more costly and prolong our stay in Afghanistan, because we would never be able to generate the conditions needed to train Afghan security forces and give them the space to take over.

Finally, there are those who oppose identifying a time frame for our transition to Afghan responsibility. Indeed, some call for a more dramatic and open-ended escalation of our war effort -- one that would commit us to a nation-building project of up to a decade. I reject this course because it sets goals that are beyond what can be achieved at a reasonable cost, and what we need to achieve to secure our interests. Furthermore, the absence of a time frame for transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government. It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.

And finally, we must draw on the strength of our values -- for the challenges that we face may have changed, but the things that we believe in must not. That's why we must promote our values by living them at home -- which is why I have prohibited torture and will close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. And we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom and justice and opportunity and respect for the dignity of all peoples. That is who we are. That is the source, the moral source, of America’s authority. . . .

For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for -- what we continue to fight for -- is a better future for our children and grandchildren. And we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity. . . .

It's easy to forget that when this war began, we were united -- bound together by the fresh memory of a horrific attack, and by the determination to defend our homeland and the values we hold dear. I refuse to accept the notion that we cannot summon that unity again. I believe with every fiber of my being that we -- as Americans -- can still come together behind a common purpose. For our values are not simply words written into parchment -- they are a creed that calls us together, and that has carried us through the darkest of storms as one nation, as one people.

America -- we are passing through a time of great trial. And the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear: that our cause is just, our resolve unwavering. We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might, and with the commitment to forge an America that is safer, a world that is more secure, and a future that represents not the deepest of fears but the highest of hopes.


Stan said...

Yeah that's what gets my goat is how Bush is down there on his ranch with his feet up after he's left this country in a shitpile for Obama to mop up.
There's just no accountability still for Bush and Cheney's actions that's put us in such a mess. I just don't get how these criminals get off scott free without so much as a whimper from the country they fucked!

Russ Manley said...

Yeah well in a truly just world they'd be doing hard time right now for all the crimes and corruption they practiced in their filthy fascist regime . . . but don't hold your breath, none of 'em will ever see the inside of a jail, you watch and see if that isn't how it goes down.

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