Thursday night and I am back in the mix. Sorry to all that I was unable to write last night. I had a lot to do around the house the last couple of days, putting lights up, making the house like Christmas. I know that D13 has offered an analysis on the Obama speech the other day. I have intentionally not read his post on it. I have also intentionally not listened to any Fox News or anything else for that matter on the subject. I wanted to offer an analysis that was mine and mine alone. Without any thoughts from the MSM clouding my mind and making me pay attention to the parts that I don’t think are important. I have watched the speech, and I have read the speech twice. I will say up front that I think that the strategy and the speech were failures in my eyes. And I can honestly say that I don’t feel that it is simply because I don’t like Obama and nothing he would have said would have been good enough. I was looking for a few things from him. I didn’t get them.
First for the big parts. He is going to send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan to deal with the insurgency and resurgent Taliban control there. Good for him. A 30k boost in troops could have been the right move to make. At this point I don’t think it is the right move to make for reasons I will address in a bit. 30k, 60k, the entire US military…. whatever. I am still sore about the amount of time that it has taken to come up with a plan and make a decision. He did not explain to me a significantly different plan that warranted the 4 extra months that it took to make a decision and move on it.
He made the statement in the speech, “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.” To be honest I don’t care if this is true or not. I believe this to be true, for the record. McChrystal’s plan, as I recall, asked for roughly 40k troops beginning in early 2010. However, I expect the Commander in Chief to make a thorough assessment immediately upon taking office. He ran on a platform of getting after it on the war in Afghanistan immediately upon taking office. And he then took ten months to approve this farce of a plan rather than truly re-assessing the situation and formulating a worthy plan. On January 21st, he should have called a meeting of the Joint Chiefs and said, I need a plan on my desk by February 28 that details how we can quickly win this conflict and bring our boys home. He is the President. It’s his job. He doesn’t need a General to tell him that we need to act on the war. He needs to tell them that we need to act, then accept their plan if it is feasible.
And it is not lost on me that the 30,000 troops are nothing more than a appeasement to the Republicans. I have to be honest here. I don’t want the President making any decisions to appease anyone. Ever. His job is not to appease people. His job is to be the Commander in Chief and make the right decisions for this country. Screw the Republicans. If they don’t like his plan, they can try to come up with a better run campaign next time around.
But of course he had to also appease the Democrats. And in doing so he made perhaps the biggest bonehead move of the entire speech. He decided it was a good idea to announce a timetable to the world. We will begin to leave in July of 2011. Brilliant. Just brilliant. Allow me to offer a little background on what really happened in Afghanistan over the last 8 years, since he so conveniently left out this part of the situation.
The Taliban knew ahead of time that they could not stand up to the United States military . Therefore, the had a different plan. When things got tough, the plan was to disperse. Merge into the population and lie low for a couple years. They knew the US would get complacent, reduce troop levels, feel like they have the situation totally under control. And then, BAM, re-emerge rested and re-organized against an unprepared smaller military force. Do some research. That was an organized plan. And it worked brilliantly. The resurgence of the Taliban is not an accident. It was a coordinated lay low and emerge later plan.
So our brilliant strategy, meant to appease the high school dropouts of the United States Congress, is to announce to the Taliban and Al Qaeda their new timetable of lying low and waiting to re-emerge. I think this sort of brilliance should be implemented in all our government agencies. From now on all hostage negotiations will have an announced timetable. Hostage takers will be told, “we are going to wait you out for 34.5 hours. At that time we will pack up our stuff and go home. Throw down your arms and come out now. We only have 31 more hours to get this situation resolved.” I have tried to think of a more boneheaded move to announce, but cannot come up with any. Does anyone think it is a coincidence that we announced our timetable to withdraw from Iraq and immediately saw a reduction in insurgents crossing the border? Is it possible they just figure that at this point they can wait it out and begin again after we go? After all they have the date set to an alarm on their iPhones.
But here is my problem with this plan on the “macro” level. I think that this plan is, in fact, a simple continuation (with a few slight variations) of the status quo. Maybe I am missing something here, but I don’t see any significant changes to the strategy of the last 8 years. We increase troops, train the government forces, root out the Taliban, blah blah blah. I made my position on this issue clear a while ago. I felt that we had to do one of two things. We have to:
- Blow the whole strategy up and go with an entirely new plan that is tougher, meaner, more devastating, and more controlling OR
- Call the game, chalk it up to experience, and bring our boys and girls home.
I will say that at this point I am for option #2. And here is why. We cannot and will not be able to set a course for what Afghanistan will become. Only the people of Afghanistan can do that. The second we leave, be it 2011 or 2061, the people will determine their own fate. We have to stop believing that we can alter the fundamental underpinnings of cultures that we cannot begin to comprehend. Our form of government will not work in Afghanistan because it is not something that jives well with their culture. The bottom line is that the US needs to revert to a defensive only posture. Secure our own borders and stop meddling and punish harshly those who attempt to attack us going forward. But the US will not take option #2 because to do so would be an admission of defeat in the eyes of most Americans. We don’t like to lose. And we will waste trillions of dollars and thousands of lives trying to find a way to lose without losing.
So we will attempt option #1 without actually attempting option #1. You know what was missing from this speech? Reality. Here are some of the realities of Afghanistan that we are not willing to address:
The “elected” government in Afghanistan is a farce. A fraud. “President” Karzai won a rigged election, and is a key player in all the things that are wrong with the Afghan government. The President made the statement, “Although a legitimate government was elected by the Afghan people, it’s been hampered by corruption, the drug trade, an under-developed economy, and insufficient security forces.” He is afraid, as the leader of the most powerful country in the world, to speak the truth. A legitimate government was NOT elected, there is massive corruption IN THAT GOVERNMENT, a drug trade SUPPORTED BY AND PROFITING that government.
Al Qaeda and the Taliban may share a common purpose and have long late night chats on the phone, but they are not one in the same. And you cannot continue to pretend that they are. Al Qaeda is a terrorist organization that got safe harbor in Afghanistan. We ended that safe haven for the most part. They will be forced to move on. When can “fix” Afghanistan (hypothetically) and Al Qaeda will never come back. They will instead operate from Pakistan, or Somalia, or Libya, or Saudi Arabia, or Venezuela, or Russia, or some other part of the world that likes their cause (and if their cause is to oppose the US, there are plenty who like that cause, some publicly, some not so much). We have to stop pretending that “winning” Afghanistan actually means that Al Qaeda will be defeated. It won’t. They are already rebuilding throughout the world. Somalia is teeming with them.
So if the US insists on staying in Afghanistan, here is what they need to do. Send over about 150,000 more troops, including all of 3rd, 5th, and 7th SFG (Those available, I know that some are already engaged elsewhere). Start on one side of the country and sweep across. Wipe out every insurgent, Taliban, Al Qaeda, supporter, etc. Set up a new secure border that will not allow them to re-enter through Pakistan or anywhere else. While sweeping across the country, burn every poppy field you come across. Eliminate the drug trade as the primary means of funding. Route out the corruption in the Afghanistan government, beginning with the crooks we put in place. Teach the country a new way to support themselves. Tell them that we are now leaving. And threaten them the same way my father used to threaten me. If we have to come into that back seat again, you will wish that I didn’t know what a belt was or that you were paralyzed from the waste down so you wouldn’t feel it.
Remember, I don’t support this plan. I want us out of there. But if you are going to fight a war, you fight it to win, and do so in devastating fashion. War isn’t nice. And you can’t win one by playing nice.
And now I will discuss the speech on the micro level. I will attempt to address some of the things that he said individually. I am sure that some will say I am petty with some of the things I address, but so be it.
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.
The Taliban was a ruthless government and I have no issue with this statement except for the last part. We turned our attention elsewhere because what happens in another country is none of our damn business. This is a statement that sets up the idea in the heads of the American people that our negligence is partly to blame for the situation that unfolded there. That is false.
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 98-0; the vote in the House was 420-1.
Yes, in days we declared war on Al Qaeda. Perhaps we should have thought more with our heads instead of our hearts. Perhaps Al Qaeda was behind 9/11 and perhaps they weren’t (I personally believe they were). Those votes were worthless. There was no debate and the penalty for voting “no” was far too high.
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.
Article 5 is a crock of bull. In my defensive only posture stance, an attack on one nation is an attack on that nation. Article 5 is nothing more than a way to give nations that want to wage war an excuse to do so at the slightest provocation.
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.
After escaping across the border into Pakistan in 2001 and 2002, Al Qaiea’s leadership established a safe haven there.
Over the last several years, the Taliban has maintained common cause with Al Qaeda, as they both seek an overthrow of the Afghan government. Gradually, the Taliban has begun to control additional swaths of territory in Afghanistan, while engaging in increasingly brazen and devastating acts of terrorism against the Pakistani people.
I see this as nothing more than the beginning of making a case for why we should have troops operating in Pakistan as well. He mentions the safe havens in Pakistan several times in the speech. I understand that this is an issue. How about we secure the borders and don’t allow them back in to Afghanistan any longer. I know that is a tough task, but possible (with my massive troop increase).
Commanders in Afghanistan repeatedly asked for support to deal with the reemergence of the Taliban, but these reinforcements did not arrive. And that’s why, shortly after taking office, I approved a longstanding request for more troops.
Oops, make that two shots at Bush. I find this one a bit offensive. President Bush was a lame duck President at best during the last two years of his Presidency. He couldn’t make the decision to send more troops without vastly jeopardizing the Republican party in the upcoming elections. Obama attempts here to paint a picture of his taking action and making the right decisions that the previous administration couldn’t or wouldn’t make. That is dishonest at best.
Since then, we’ve made progress on some important objectives. High-ranking Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed, and we’ve stepped up the pressure on Al Qaeda worldwide.
Again taking far more credit than he deserves, and everyone knows it except the most far left of pundits.
As your commander-in-chief, I owe you a mission that is clearly defined and worthy of your service.
You owe them more than that, sir, you owe them a strategy that actually has a chance of succeeding. You have not delivered a mission that is that or either of the two things you mentioned.
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.
I was a little bothered by this statement. Because I don’t like that fact that he sat on this decision for so long, then offered 30,000 troops as an appeasement strategy for the right. He is now attempting to appear as though he is a real, live decision maker, who is making the tough calls. I resent that he is taking so much credit for being such when he is not one at all.
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.
I would say you played your part in creating that highly partisan and polarized backdrop, sir. In fact I think you are one of the top ten antagonists for said polarization. Between the Executive branch and the Congress, the last 8 years of partisanship and polarization are indeed a blight on our country, but let’s not pretend that you didn’t help cause it, and that you are doing absolutely nothing to even begin to curb it. I haven’t seen you putting the brakes on partisanship or polarizing speech and actions from the Congress controlled by your party.
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.
A very interesting statement. I would offer a question to the President. How exactly does whatever we accomplish in Afghanistan do much to increase the security of the United States and the safety of the American people? Oh I understand the nominal gains of winning there, but there are far better ways we could spend our money if security and safety are our true objectives.
I, at this point, skip over the three strategy points he made because I have been clear what an effective strategy must look like. I will address the three criticisms that he chose to address.
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.
No, we were not attacked by Afghanistan, or even from Afghanistan. We were attacked by Al Qaeda, and they have no borders. This is a bit more like Vietnam than he admits. The government simply does not have the will or the desire to win this war. Much like Vietnam, they will prolong it only long enough to find a way out that they hope will save face. Also, much like Vietnam, we have soldiers in a war zone who are acting with their hands tied by ridiculous rules of engagement, faulty SOP’s, and objectives that don’t make sense and undermine the capabilities of the US military.
All told, by the time I took office, the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan approached a trillion dollars. And 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.
Close runner up as the most idiotic statements in this speech. At what point did someone decide that a war will be fought based on cost analysis? What the President is basically saying here is that we are going to move forward with a plan of fighting a war on a budget. That is just dumb. You fight a war by providing whatever is needed to take the best course of action going forward, costs be damned. “Sir, we can take out the base with 3 Tomahawk missiles and have no troop risk.” “No, we have to think about costs. A few soldiers cost less than those Tomahawks. Let’s find another way that is cheaper.”
We will have to take away the tools of mass destruction. And that’s why I’ve made it a central pillar of my foreign policy to secure loose nuclear materials from terrorists, to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and to pursue the goal of a world without them, because every nation must understand that true security will never come from an endless race for ever more destructive weapons. True security will come for those who reject them.
And while you go about the world talking about eliminating Nuclear weapons, the other countries of the world, such as Iran, have no intention of playing nice in the sandbox with you. The idea of what he is saying sure sounds good, but it shows him to be naive at best, incompetent on top of that.
We have joined with others to develop an architecture of institutions — from the United Nations to NATO to the World Bank — that provide for the common security and prosperity of human beings.
And those organizations are just as bad as can be. We dump billions into them, and for what? They accomplish nothing other than to erase national sovereignty.
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.
And piling debt on my teenage son is good for him exactly how?
So there you have the official USWeapon review of the speech.