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Obama's West Point Speech





jmi256
What did you guys think of Obama's speech last night? I missed the first 15 minutes of it, but it seemed more like a campaign speech to me. It looks like I wasn't the only one with that impression.

Quote:

Searching in Vain for the Obama Magic

Never before has a speech by President Barack Obama felt as false as his Tuesday address announcing America's new strategy for Afghanistan. It seemed like a campaign speech combined with Bush rhetoric -- and left both dreamers and realists feeling distraught.

One can hardly blame the West Point leadership. The academy commanders did their best to ensure that Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama's speech would be well-received.

Just minutes before the president took the stage inside Eisenhower Hall, the gathered cadets were asked to respond "enthusiastically" to the speech. But it didn't help: The soldiers' reception was cool.

One didn't have to be a cadet on Tuesday to feel a bit of nausea upon hearing Obama's speech. It was the least truthful address that he has ever held. He spoke of responsibility, but almost every sentence smelled of party tactics. He demanded sacrifice, but he was unable to say what it was for exactly.

An additional 30,000 US soldiers are to march into Afghanistan -- and then they will march right back out again. America is going to war -- and from there it will continue ahead to peace. It was the speech of a Nobel War Prize laureate.

Just in Time for the Campaign

For each troop movement, Obama had a number to match. US strength in Afghanistan will be tripled relative to the Bush years, a fact that is sure to impress hawks in America. But just 18 months later, just in time for Obama's re-election campaign, the horror of war is to end and the draw down will begin. The doves of peace will be let free.

The speech continued in that vein. It was as though Obama had taken one of his old campaign speeches and merged it with a text from the library of ex-President George W. Bush. Extremists kill in the name of Islam, he said, before adding that it is one of the "world's great religions." He promised that responsibility for the country's security would soon be transferred to the government of President Hamid Karzai -- a government which he said was "corrupt." The Taliban is dangerous and growing stronger. But "America will have to show our strength in the way that we end wars," he added.

It was a dizzying combination of surge and withdrawal, of marching to and fro. The fast pace was reminiscent of plays about the French revolution: Troops enter from the right to loud cannon fire and then they exit to the left. And at the end, the dead are left on stage.

Obama's Magic No Longer Works

But in this case, the public was more disturbed than entertained. Indeed, one could see the phenomenon in a number of places in recent weeks: Obama's magic no longer works. The allure of his words has grown weaker.

It is not he himself who has changed, but rather the benchmark used to evaluate him. For a president, the unit of measurement is real life. A leader is seen by citizens through the prism of their lives -- their job, their household budget, where they live and suffer. And, in the case of the war on terror, where they sometimes die.

Political dreams and yearnings for the future belong elsewhere. That was where the political charmer Obama was able to successfully capture the imaginations of millions of voters. It is a place where campaigners -- particularly those with a talent for oration -- are fond of taking refuge. It is also where Obama set up his campaign headquarters, in an enormous tent called "Hope."

In his speech on America's new Afghanistan strategy, Obama tried to speak to both places. It was two speeches in one. That is why it felt so false. Both dreamers and realists were left feeling distraught.

The American president doesn't need any opponents at the moment. He's already got himself.

Source = http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,664753,00.html
lagoon
The soldiers were impressed, apparently.
deanhills
People have probably become "speeched out". Maybe all of Obama's dithering also created expectations that were unrealistic. I don't think there is anything wrong with his strategy, there are no real surprises in the speech, the only part that is really negative for me is his dithering and taking so long to make decisions. Also are 30,000 troops really enough? I recall our previous discussions when Ocalhoun made a very good point. Either the US has to throw in massive weight, or withdraw. Too little will turn into something really bad later.

I wonder what McCrystal's reaction is to this, as I would have have thought that he would have been disappointed. Gates has been talking and underlining the importance of keeping the Taliban in their place, but no word from McCrystal perhaps yet? Can he say something, or is he supposed to leave that for Gates?
jmi256
lagoon wrote:
The soldiers were impressed, apparently.


How so? Everyone who I've spoken to who is either in the military or are former military are quite "unimpressed" by Obama.
deanhills
jmi256 wrote:
lagoon wrote:
The soldiers were impressed, apparently.


How so? Everyone who I've spoken to who is either in the military or are former military are quite "unimpressed" by Obama.
I guess they have no choice as their opinions do not count. They're supposed to follow orders, not question them so need to show their support for the President, even if they have different opinions.

Tom Shales of the Washington Post seems to have picked up on the same thing as you have. He is convinced that Obama tried to sell a "used war" to the people:
Quote:
Would you buy a used war from this man? Americans might be seeing their bright, young president in a dark, new light this morning after watching his televised speech Tuesday night centering on escalation of the war in Afghanistan.

.........
Shales concludes with the following paragraph:
Quote:
Perhaps Dec. 1, 2009, will become known as the night the Obama honeymoon ended decisively -- largely because a great communicator placed too much faith in his own powers of persuasion and his celebrated mastery of a medium.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/01/AR2009120104884.html?wprss=rss_print/style
ocalhoun
Did I predict that he would try to find a middle ground? I think I did, but I don't remember...

In trying to make everybody happy, I think he made nobody happy.


He did, of course, make the right choice politically though. Send more troops to make the right-wing happy. The left wing will stay with him no matter what; it's not like they're going to try to elect a new candidate instead of letting him run for reelection. Sending less than the asked-for amount gives liberals a token response to keep them from thinking he's gone to the other side.
deanhills
ocalhoun wrote:

He did, of course, make the right choice politically though. Send more troops to make the right-wing happy. The left wing will stay with him no matter what; it's not like they're going to try to elect a new candidate instead of letting him run for reelection. Sending less than the asked-for amount gives liberals a token response to keep them from thinking he's gone to the other side.
He probably did not have a choice, and if one really thought about it carefully, he was selling a "used war", not a new one. He did not firmly commit to a long-term war and chose his timing very carefully for working on a plan to bring the troops back when the next election campaign starts. Only part that is worrisome though is whether the number of troops are sufficient for what is needed to do the job decisively and properly? The one part I really liked is his going to other countries and asking them to contribute troops as well, but the countries who have committed themselves, like Italy, have not come up in huge numbers though. Italy for example will only be sending 1000 troops. The EU was talking about 5,000 and perhaps Italy's 1000 is part of the 5000?

That cartoon about those tall mountains and deep ravines however does make a person think about the terrain that the troops have to negotiate with, it is a very harsh environment, and also a society that no one can really trust so the army has to watch its back with the local population as well as the Taliban.
ocalhoun
deanhills wrote:
and also a society that no one can really trust

Unfortunately, the society can't even trust itself.
The corruption in the newly-minted government is one of the things that will cause the most trouble.
jmi256
deanhills wrote:
jmi256 wrote:
lagoon wrote:
The soldiers were impressed, apparently.


How so? Everyone who I've spoken to who is either in the military or are former military are quite "unimpressed" by Obama.
I guess they have no choice as their opinions do not count. They're supposed to follow orders, not question them so need to show their support for the President, even if they have different opinions.

Tom Shales of the Washington Post seems to have picked up on the same thing as you have. He is convinced that Obama tried to sell a "used war" to the people:
Quote:
Would you buy a used war from this man? Americans might be seeing their bright, young president in a dark, new light this morning after watching his televised speech Tuesday night centering on escalation of the war in Afghanistan.

.........
Shales concludes with the following paragraph:
Quote:
Perhaps Dec. 1, 2009, will become known as the night the Obama honeymoon ended decisively -- largely because a great communicator placed too much faith in his own powers of persuasion and his celebrated mastery of a medium.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/01/AR2009120104884.html?wprss=rss_print/style


Soldiers are required to follow orders (and for that matter be respectful to the office), but they aren't required to show support if you mean to cheer, etc. (Unless of course they are ordered to.) As much of a supporter of the military as I am, I think I would be a bit nervous if the military supported anyone too much.
lagoon
I suppose they have to stay politically neutral in the execution of their duties, but not in their spare time.
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