Today, President Obama essentially declared victory in Afghanistan. Just in time for his re-election campaign, of course.
First, he blamed President Bush for us not winning the Afghanistan war sooner. “Despite initial success, for a number of reasons, this war has taken longer than most anticipated,” said Obama. What were those reasons? “America spent nearly eight years fighting a different war in Iraq.”
Then he claimed credit for President Bush’s goals: “The goal that I set – to defeat al Qaeda, and deny it a chance to rebuild – is within reach.” Only that was Bush’s goal, not Obama’s. Obama was late to the party; he was busy accusing American troops of air-raiding villages and killing civilians.
Obama couldn’t avoid playing politics. After all, that’s why he was in Afghanistan in the first place, just in time for the anniversary of Osama Bin Laden’s killing.
And Bin Laden played a crucial part in the speech. “Over the last three years,” Obama said, “the tide has turned.” Except for the massive increase in American deaths and loss of control in Afghanistan, of course. Hamid Karzai has been busily working with the Iranian regime to ensure that he has support once the United States leaves.
Obama’s main point is that if he’s left in charge – if he’s re-elected – he will withdraw all American troops by 2014. Once again, we get his reiterated timeline – a timeline he spelled out last year, and that has not changed. So he’s reiterating what we already knew. In primetime.
Of course, Obama also made empty promises about how we would ensure security after pulling out (similar promises to those in Iraq have not been fulfilled):
The agreement we signed today sends a clear message to the Afghan people: as you stand up, you will not stand alone. It establishes the basis of our cooperation over the next decade, including shared commitments to combat terrorism and strengthen democratic institutions. It supports Afghan efforts to advance development and dignity for their people. And it includes Afghan commitments to transparency and accountability, and to protect the human rights of all Afghans – men and women, boys and girls.
Except that they will stand alone, since the United States will not even stand against the Taliban. As Obama said, “In coordination with the Afghan government, my Administration has been in direct discussions with the Taliban. We have made it clear that they can be a part of this future if they break with al Qaeda, renounce violence, and abide by Afghan laws.” Sure. No doubt the Taliban will make such promises. Then, when they regain power, we’ll do nothing. The pattern has already been established in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.
Obama knew that he would be excoriated for restating his Afghanistan withdrawal timeline, and pre-empted the criticism, stating, “The answer is clear: our goal is not to build a country in America’s image, or to eradicate every vestige of the Taliban. These objectives would require many more years, many more dollars, and many more American lives. Our goal is to destroy al Qaeda, and we are on a path to do exactly that.” How exactly would he ensure that al Qaeda and other terrorist groups wouldn’t re-establish safe havens in Afghanistan? He wouldn’t.
Then we got into the “I” section of Obama’s speech – a hallmark of all of his speeches. America won’t leave immediately because “I refuse to let that happen.” He’s a kind and considerate fellow: “I recognize that many Americans are tired of war.” He wants troops out: “I will not keep Americans in harm’s way a single day longer than is absolutely required for our national security.”
It only took Obama three quarters of the speech to mention America’s troops. And when he did, he used them as a political football to stump for his domestic agenda:
Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, coast guardsmen and civilians in Afghanistan have done their duty. Now, we must summon that same sense of common purpose. We must give our veterans and military families the support they deserve, and the opportunities they have earned. And we must redouble our efforts to build a nation worthy of their sacrifice.
In other words, re-elect Obama. For the soldiers.
As we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it is time to renew America. An America where our children live free from fear, and have the skills to claim their dreams. A united America of grit and resilience, where sunlight glistens off soaring new towers in downtown Manhattan, and we build our future as one people, as one nation.
One nation, under Obama.