A New Way Forward: The President’s Address to the American People on Afghan Strategy

Reposted and updated from Nov 25, 2009 — Edger

Barack Obama is scheduled to lay out his latest plans for the war in Afghanistan Tuesday evening, and by all reports will probably announce an escalation – a “surge” – of somewhere in the neighborhood of 35,000 troops, which will bring the total number of US Troops in Afghanistan to about 100,000 and will severely strain an already stretched military and leave the US with effectively no reserve forces.

For a taste of how mainstream US media will paint Obama’s moves, here is NPR’s take this morning (Nov 30):

As NPR’s Cokie Roberts told Morning Edition‘s Steve Inskeep, Obama will be addressing several audiences — including the American public, which wants to hear details about the goals and timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces; and Pakistan, which he will seek to assure that the U.S. won’t completely leave the region “for a good time to come”

Tom Engelhardt of The Nation Institute and TomDispatch.com has written an alternative speech for Obama that I would much prefer to hear from Obama’s own lips, that he calls “The Afghan Speech Obama Should Give (But Won’t)”:

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

A New Way Forward:

The President’s Address to the American People on Afghan Strategy

Oval Office

For Immediate Release

December 2nd

My fellow Americans,

On March 28th, I outlined what I called a “comprehensive, new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.” It was ambitious. It was also an attempt to fulfill a campaign promise that was heartfelt. I believed — and still believe — that, in invading Iraq, a war this administration is now ending, we took our eye off Afghanistan. Our well-being and safety, as well as that of the Afghan people, suffered for it.

I suggested then that the situation in Afghanistan was already “perilous.” I announced that we would be sending 17,000 more American soldiers into that war zone, as well as 4,000 trainers and advisors whose job would be to increase the size of the Afghan security forces so that they could someday take the lead in securing their own country. There could be no more serious decision for an American president.

Eight months have passed since that day. This evening, after a comprehensive policy review of our options in that region that has involved commanders in the field, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Security Advisor James Jones, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, top intelligence and State Department officials and key ambassadors, special representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, and experts from inside and outside this administration, I have a very different kind of announcement to make.

I plan to speak to you tonight with the frankness Americans deserve from their president.
I’ve recently noted a number of pundits who suggest that my task here should be to reassure you about Afghanistan. I don’t agree. What you need is the unvarnished truth just as it’s been given to me. We all need to face a tough situation, as Americans have done so many times in the past, with our eyes wide open. It doesn’t pay for a president or a people to fake it or, for that matter, to kick the can of a difficult decision down the road, especially when the lives of American troops are at stake.

During the presidential campaign I called Afghanistan “the right war.” Let me say this: with the full information resources of the American presidency at my fingertips, I no longer believe that to be the case. I know a president isn’t supposed to say such things, but he, too, should have the flexibility to change his mind. In fact, more than most people, it’s important that he do so based on the best information available. No false pride or political calculation should keep him from that.

Read the whole thing here:

Tomgram: “This Administration Ended, Rather Than Extended, Two Wars”

by Tom Engelhardt


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    • Edger on November 25, 2009 at 17:25

    (But Won’t)

  1. great stuff, just at a glance… will read in depth later. thanks edger!

    • Edger on November 30, 2009 at 15:47

    should come as no surprise to anyone who’s read the fine print and been paying attention since long before his election and even during his presidential campaign, when the neocons were (and presumably still are) very impressed with his foreign policy views…

    From July 2007:

    …the Democratic front-runners must promise voters that they will end the war — with not too many ideologically laden ifs, ands, or buts — while they assure the foreign-policy establishment that they will never abandon the drive for hegemony in the Middle East (or anywhere else). In other words, the candidates have to be able to talk out of both sides of their mouths at the same time.

    “The single most important job of any president is to protect the American people,” he affirmed in a major foreign-policy statement last April. But “the threats we face…. can no longer be contained by borders and boundaries…. The security of the American people is inextricably linked to the security of all people.” That’s why the U.S. must be the “leader of the free world.” It’s hard to find much difference on foreign policy between Clinton and Obama, except that Barack is more likely to dress up the imperial march of U.S. interests in such old-fashioned Cold War flourishes.

    That delights neoconservative guru Robert Kagan, who summed up Obama’s message succinctly:  “His critique is not that we’ve meddled too much but that we haven’t meddled enough…. To Obama, everything and everyone everywhere is of strategic concern to the United States.”  To control everything and everyone, he wants “the strongest, best-equipped military in the world…. A 21st century military to stay on the offense.” That, he says, will take at least 92,000 more soldiers and Marines — precisely the number Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has recommended to President Bush.

    From many reports lately, 2017 seems to be about the earliest possible year for exiting Afghanistan…

  2. I’d be pleased to hear this speech; or its opposite: a firm, unequivocal promise to fund and fight a war many believe can’t be won.

    Either position would allow allies to make better decisions about America’s stand. The current straddle is going to do much more harm than good, IMHO. Bush and McCain had the parts to make either speech. This guy doesn’t.

    Of course, some see that as a feature, not a bug.

    • Joy B. on December 1, 2009 at 17:58

    Opium Wars. Sure, 9-11 served as a good excuse everyone bought hook, line and sinker (despite the fact that it was Saudis who attacked us, if anyone did). We killed a lot of civilians. deposed the Taliban, bought random humans from warlords to incarcerate forever and torture to our hearts’ content, and installed the Perfect Puppet. Hell, we even got our pipeline and paid for with cash protection from the warlords we were buying people from. Now we can stay there forever.

    Afghanistan is and always has been the last barbarian stronghold (outside of the Balkans). Civilization can never ‘win’ anything there other than control of the poppy crop once it leaves the field. We should never have been there in the first place, can’t afford to stay. I say declare “Mission Accomplished” and bring ’em home. Afghanistan will still be Afghanistan, and the opium will still flow.  

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