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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Analyzing Obama's West Point Speech

The speech was actually a bit dull and the headlines will be the surge in troops. The president has announced a surge in troops of thirty thousand new troops. Those troops will be in country for eighteen months and then they will begin to be drawn down. Still, that will be conditions based. So, it's not entirely clear if conditions will be the driving force or if the time line will be the driving force.

The three pillars of the strategy are as follows. First, there will be a surge in troops that will try and bring security to the areas of Afghanistan that are unsecure. Second, it is working with the Afghan government to root out corruption and incompetence. Third, it is working with Pakistan so that Al Qaeda doesn't take root there.

The problem with the speech is that often he would set up a stark scenario and then say that we need to get out by 2011. The president made it clear that if Al Qaeda takes hold in Afghanistan that this will lead to another attack. Yet, he also says that we will try and get out by 2011 and one reason is that our economy is sputtering. If this is a matter of life and death, how is our economy a factor in when we leave. I, personally, didn't get the feeling that he wants to win and will refuse to accept any other outcome.

This speech was full of equivocation. It wasn't a speech of someone determined to win. It was the speech of someone that wants to try to win. In order to win a war, there must be 110% commitment from everyone involved. This president convinced no one that he is 110% committed to winning. He didn't give the full contingent of troops asked for. He set a timetable though he said it was conditions based. He talked about cost and the economy along with the necessity of war. He talked about all sorts of things in the speech and victory was one thing I heard very little.

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