Tonight at 8 PM EST, I’ll be liveblogging Obama’s speech on Afghanistan. So, if you’re watching, make sure to head over to RWN, refresh to read the real time commentary, and chip in your two cents in the comments section.
7:25: Supposedly, Obama is going to set up a “timeline” in this speech. That was a dumb, politically motivated idea in Iraq and it would be even dumber in Afghanistan because it lets the bad guys know exactly what you’re going to do. If they know all they have to do is hunker down in some village in Pakistan for a while, then you’ll leave and they can get what they want without fighting, well, why wouldn’t they do that?
8:03: Here we go…
8:04: Dull history lesson here…
8:05: West Pointers look bored.
8:06: Now we play the blame Bush game, despite the fact that things in Afghanistan and Pakistan have gone backwards under Obama…
8:07: We haven’t “successfully” left Iraq anywhere yet.
8:08: Bush didn’t deny troops to any commanders in Afghanistan. That’s simply not so.
8:09: No, Afghanistan wasn’t moving backwards under Bush for several years — it has moved backwards rapidly under YOU, Obama.
8:11: Let me be clear — there has been no delay — knew there was a lie coming after that. That’s his explanation for dithering.
8:12: 30k US troops are going to Afghanistan and in 18 months we’re coming home. That’s splitting the baby in half for the sake of politics.
8:13: If the security of the United States is at stake in Afghanistan in Pakistan, how can we set a timeline and say we’re coming back, win or lose?
8:14: We’ve apprehended terrorists from Afghanistan/Pakistan here in our country.
8:15: If we fail in Pakistan, Al-Qaeda gets nukes — so we’re setting a timeline and leaving, win or lose?
8:16: I’ve asked our allies to send more troops. Good.
8:17: In July of 2011, we’re going to start leaving — taking into account conditions on the ground. Setting a timeline for failure helps who? Us or the Taliban? Politically it helps Obama. The troops, it hurts. The Taliban, it helps.
8:18: We’re going to try to fix the corruption in Afghanistan and help them with their agriculture. Good luck on fixing the corruption there.
8:19: We will support Afghanistan if they want to cut deals with Taliban who are willing to stop fighting. I support that. Some other people won’t.
8:20: There’s danger in Pakistan, too. Very true. The Pakistani army has gone into Swat. We are with the Pakistani government against extremists. We will work with Pakistan — Bush was doing that, too. Better than Obama has been doing.
8:22: The three prongs are relatively detail free.
8:23: I’m glad he’s noting Afghanistan isn’t Vietnam. It’s not. But, his arguments are lame. Vietnam was lost by foolish politicians. He didn’t address that.
8:23: We can’t go forward without adding more troops. We need more troops to have a chance.
8:24: We must have a timeline because some people want to be there for a decade. Ehr, I haven’t heard that. We need to motivate the Afghanistan gov’t. We will, all right. I hope we won’t motivate them to cooperate with our enemies because we won’t be around.
8:26: We can’t afford the war in Afghanistan — says the man who has pushed a stimulus bill, cap and trade, and socialized medicine.
8:28: Blather, blather, blather…
8:29: We have forged a new relation between America and the Muslim world….ehr, since when? When did that happen?
8:29: I’m closing Gitmo.
8:30: Notice how the applause lines didn’t draw any applause? Obama sounds like what he is: A sleazy politician playing political games with our soldiers’ lives?
8:32: Finally, some reluctant, half hearted applause.
8:33: More sleepy, polite applause.
8:34: Yes, we were united when this war started — then all the liberals blew it.
8:35: How can our resolve be unwavering when we have a timeline?
Summary: Shorter Obama: I blame Bush for all the problems! I’m sending 30,000 troops. This is a war of necessity and my commitment is unwavering — but, here’s a timeline for when we’re leaving, win or lose.
Obama is obviously playing politics with the war and the audience at West Point, young though they may be, seemed to sense it and were cold to the speech. On the one hand, Barack Obama said, “I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” He also said, “Our resolve (is) unwavering.” Then, why are we setting a timeline to withdraw, win or lose?
All in all, it wasn’t a great speech. It was passionless, intellectually incoherent — and it sounded weak. If you’re the Taliban, you’re greatly encouraged after hearing this speech. If you care about winning and a Commander-In-Chief who’s committed to victory, you’re greatly discouraged. Grade: D-
Update #1: The full text of the speech is here.