From Mr. Obama's speech on Afghanistan given at West Point, on Dec 1, 2009:
"I opposed the war in Iraq precisely because I believe that we must exercise restraint in the use of military force, and always consider the long-term consequences of our actions. We have been at war 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." [my italics]"Polarized and partisan?" So, whose fault was that? Bush's? Why?
"The wrenching debate over the Iraq War is well-known and need not be repeated here. It is 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."If the wrenching debate need not be repeated here, why are we repeating it here?
But since he brought it up, the indispensable Mr. James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal has pointed out a subtle admission: "There weren't a lot of surprises in President Obama's Afghanistan speech... but here's one: The president quietly repudiated the myth that Iraq has nothing to do with al Qaeda." He did so in this passage:
"We must keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region. Of course, this burden is not ours alone to bear. This is not just America's war. Since 9/11, al Qaeda's safe havens have been the source of attacks against London and Amman and Bali." [my italics]Taranto noted that the Amman bombing, which killed dozens and injured hundreds, was masterminded by one Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the "Jordanian-born leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq," according to the New York Times, which adds the following to Mr. al-Zarqawi's resume:
"The only attacks outside Iraq known to be directed by Mr. Zarqawi were in Jordan, said an American counterterrorism official who spoke on condition of anonymity because his agency does not permit him to discuss such matters on the record. Those attacks include the 2002 murder of Laurence Foley, an American diplomat; a foiled plot in 2004 to attack the United States Embassy and Jordanian intelligence headquarters; and bombings of three Amman hotels in November that killed 60 people."Taranto can't help rubbing it in: "Little wonder Obama also said in his speech that 'the wrenching debate over the Iraq war is well-known and need not be repeated here.' That's easier than admitting that he has changed his mind and now regards Iraq as having been an al Qaeda safe haven and source of international terrorism."
Wrenching debate or not, the good news is that America helped Mr. al-Zarqawi become the late Mr. al-Zarqawi. He communes with the worms today, courtesy of the United States Air Force and President George W. Bush.
Continuing on now with Obama's speech:
"Today, after extraordinary costs, we are bringing the Iraq war to a responsible end. We will remove our combat brigades from Iraq by the end of next summer and all of our troops by the end of 2011. That we are doing so is a testament to the character of our men and women in uniform. Thanks to their courage, grit and perseverance, we have given Iraqis a chance to shape their future, and we are successfully leaving Iraq to its people."Thanks to... what? The policies Obama opposed? You mean... the surge worked?
"This vast and diverse citizenry will not always agree on every issue -- nor should we. But I also know that we, as a country, cannot sustain our leadership, nor navigate the momentous challenges of our time, if we allow ourselves to be split asunder by the same rancor and cynicism and partisanship that has in recent times poisoned our national discourse."Nice. Noteworthy here is that when it was Mr. Bush's war and Mr. Obama was the dissenter, opposition was about "exercising restraint" and considering "long-term consequences." Now that it is Mr. Obama's war, he preempts dissent by labeling it "rancor", "cynicism", "partisanship", "poison."
As Paul Mirengoff at the Power Line blog observed, it's "Non-partisanship for thee, but not for me."
Ah, well. Like Rush Limbaugh, I want Obama to fail to implement his domestic agenda, but I support his decision on Afghanistan, as far as it goes. The only caveat I would offer is, er, uninspired by words like these:
"Finally, we must draw on the strength of our values — for the challenges that we face may have changed, but the things that we believe in must not. That is why we must promote our values by living them at home — which is why I have prohibited torture and will close the prison at Guantanamo Bay."Forget the partisan shot on the issue of "torture." The best interpretation of this passage is that Obama is just not being serious. Closing Gitmo will mean either freeing enemy combatants (including terrorists), or relocating them (in which case, big deal), or (what else?) bringing them to U.S. soil for trial in our civilian courts -- thus equipping our foreign enemies with rights under the U.S. Constitution. This is a brand new thing. In wars past, enemy combatants who were uniformed members of another country's military were treated not as U.S. citizens, but as prisoners of war, and as such were protected by the Geneva Convention, not the U.S. Constitution. Enemy combatants who were not in uniform were considered spies, and were afforded a fair trial by military tribunal -- followed by a first-class hanging.
Is it really in America's best interests to grant constitutional rights to foreign terrorists? To "promote our values," will soldiers from now on have to read to captured prisoners their Miranda rights? And supply them with public defenders? Do we really want to go there? "If the bomb doesn't fit, you must acquit?" Is it too late to point out that these people do not share our values, and do not respect them, and will exploit them against us?
"And we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples. That is who we are. That is the moral source of America’s authority."I know Obama intended this passage to be inspirational, and... hey, look, I'm trying, alright? But liberals just don't speak the same language as the rest of America. He's saying: Listen up, all of you poor folks who live under oppressive tyranny, help is on its way! America will speak out for you! There! Take that, Kim Jong-Il! Pow! Take that, Ahmadinejad! Biff!
"Tend to the light"? Despite all the encomiums heaped on Obama's rhetorical gifts, they are still underrated, aren't they? Wow. I haven't been this inspired since Lawrence Welk hawked Serutan ("That's 'Natures' spelled backwards!") to millions of constipated grandparents.
Sorry, but if America has any moral authority, it is in its willingness to take down tyranny, not just talk about it.
But maybe Obama is trying, too. We'll soon know if his heart is in it. Sending thousands more troops? Just sending the troops is probably not enough -- and certainly won't be if they are made to follow rules of engagement that were crafted not by experienced battlefield veterans, but by an administration whose primary focus is the desire to be perceived as the "good guy" by people who will hate us no matter what.
Obama wants to defend the U.S. with a pretty war. Sooner or later, he'll have to choose between "pretty" and "defending the U.S."