Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Is Obama Setting Up Our Troops For Failure in Afghanistan?

Speaking at the West Point Military Academy this evening, President Obama formally announced the deployment of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan beginning in 2010 for the purpose of "disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaeda."

The troop levels are 10,000 short of what General McChrystal wanted. It remains to be seen if our NATO allies can fill that gap.

But even if somehow that circle is squared, Obama is giving our troops all of 18 months to get this all sewn up. I cannot help but think that he is setting up our troops and our allies for failure.

No, we can't stay in Afghanistan indefinitely. Certainly it would be ideal if this could be accomplished in an optimal amount of time. But even if it could be done in 18 months why put that card out on the table? Suppose al Qaeda hasn't been disrupted, dismantled and defeated by the summer of 2011? What has priority? Defeating al Qaeda or beginning to withdraw troops? Not only does that send mixed messages it allows al Qaeda to bide its time.

There were also parts of the speech that I did not think were helpful:

Over the past several years, we have lost that balance. We've failed to appreciate the connection between our national security and our economy. In the wake of an economic crisis, too many of our neighbors and friends are out of work and struggle to pay the bills. Too many Americans are worried about the future facing our children. Meanwhile, competition within the global economy has grown more fierce. So we can't simply afford to ignore the price of these wars.

All told, by the time I took office the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan approached a trillion dollars. Going forward, I am committed to addressing these costs openly and honestly. Our new approach in Afghanistan is likely to cost us roughly $30 billion for the military this year, and I'll work closely with Congress to address these costs as we work to bring down our deficit.

The Democratic Party is a half century removed from JFK and it shows:

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

JFK never said "we shall pay any price as long as it doesn't exceed $30 billion."

Here's another passage which rings hollow:

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.

Well, what happened when Iran imposed its dark cloud of tyranny against its own people? Obama turned off the light of freedom and said it was not a matter about which America should "meddle." So what reason do the Afghans have in believing what Obama says any more than Iranians?

With all of that said it will be interesting to see if opposition in the Democratic Party congeals around Afghanistan. Some will view Obama's decision to send additional troops to Afghanistan as a betrayal of their core principles and won't forgive him this trangression. I can't imagine the Democrats voting en masse to deny funding for the additional troops. But I do think the resentment from The Left will linger.

I wonder if it will linger sufficiently enough that someone like Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold (of McCain-Feingold fame) challenges Obama for the Democratic nomination in 2012. If Feingold or anyone else challenges Obama from the left on Afghanistan it could mark the beginning of the end of his Presidency.

Make no mistake. Obama would turn back the challenge from Feingold or any other left-wing Democrat. But the damage would be significant enough that a Republican President would be elected in 2012. So in the long term tonight's announcement could prove to be a blessing in disguise.

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